Here in New Jersey, we were among the many states to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with stay at home orders in efforts to keep residents safe. Individuals, small and large companies alike complied with Governor Murphy’s March 21st Executive Order to close businesses throughout the state and, after what has proven to be a challenging couple of months during which business owners across the country could almost be heard chanting, #GoAwayCoronaVirus, we are thankfully starting to re-open.
But as eager as small businesses especially may be to get back to business, the era of COVID-19 has ushered in the need to create a new normal, and with that, necessary steps to take to ensure being ready. Is your business ready to re-open? And are you taking the appropriate measures in the meantime to not miss a beat in the transition back to business?
TODAY’S NEW TOOLS OF THE TRADE
There are many tools that small business owners can and should implement to keep their customers engaged while still using social distancing measures and to get their attention when they are open for business.
The tangible items that are useful for social distancing protocol include stickers on the floor offering customers directional guides, posted reminders of capacity rules, and to keep 6′ apart from others while visiting. Signage on or inside of your building can be an inexpensive and effective way of relaying general information such as hours, telephone numbers, website address, social media handles, and updates, as well as thoughtful, thankful, and encouraging messages—such as “we are in this together” or “thank you for your support.” It’s more crucial now than ever to maintain up to date directory and the ever-important Google ‘My Business’ listings. These listings let existing customers know you are still there and help new prospects seeking your services to find you.
WHEN YOU CAN’T BE THERE – OVERSHARE
Just as key, especially during the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape, is maintaining a steady social media presence. If you were already using Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube—great. You not only want to keep up with your presence there but double-down on posting engaging, informative content. If you have not been using social media, there are no longer any justifiable reasons not to. It is imperative to the survival of your business especially during this unprecedented time. We have the resources and offer social media support to help you get started today—from determining which platforms speak to your client base most effectively and helping craft relevant content to post, to managing your social media profiles so that you can continue to concentrate on running your business.
Out of sight does not have to mean out of mind. To the contrary, with so many people observing stay at home orders, online and social media engagement has increased. The email newsletter that may have just received a quick skim by a busy working parent is likely to be read in full now that there is time in which to do so. Make sure your content is rich and engaging. Even if you are not able to perform your business as usual, this is a great time to offer expertise in your field, ‘shout-out’ supportive services, create video greetings just to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you,’ or offer coupons and gift certificates for when business is open.
Post content that is not sales related: hopeful or humorous messages, pictures of you and/or your staff members submitted from quarantine, news tid-bits about your community or industry, non-COVID related info, “We Miss You” and “Thank You” postcards, etc.
BUSINESS AS NOT SO USUAL
If you are among the essential service providers that have been able to remain open and active through the pandemic, now is a good time to remind clients of that. Construction, painting, lawn care, plumbing, mechanical, and home repairs are just a few industries that had to carry on heroically through this pandemic season. Customers may need these or related services but are unsure of new processes, or fearful of in-person consultations. While some of the fears are understandable, those providing services can reassure clients of safety measures being taken by mentioning current projects, showcasing staff using safety measures, and by offering helpful tips for gearing up for the coming season. Email and direct mail newsletters are perfect vehicles for keeping in touch with customers while posting on social media allows more immediate reach.
Including this key information on your website is very important also. Incorporate SEO (search engine optimization) including updates about what your business is doing to keep its customers safe and how they can continue to do business with you—will make it easier for them to do so. Let them know their options, especially any that were recently implemented in response to COVID-19 — whether that includes calling ahead to order, online shopping with curbside pick-up or safe delivery. Do you have an app or other new feature? Keep them informed.
WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER, WE’LL GET THROUGH IT TOGETHER
You are not just providing goods and services, you are living through this, too. Be candid, yet optimistic, in how the pandemic has affected your mission, processes, your staff, or business in general.
The idea is to stay at the top of your customers’ minds and remain engaging. This time has been unsettling for most people, and one thing businesses can do is to offer even small sources of comfort in reminders of those activities and tasks that were once and will again be routine—such as the weekly trip to the dry cleaners or car wash, or picking up the morning paper and coffee.
Note the changes that have been or will be made, all with keeping the health and safety of your customers and associates in mind. All types of businesses have been affected, in very similar as well as widely varied ways. Retail, restaurants, and entertainment venues will likely be forever changed—yet must welcome customers back eagerly embracing those changes. If you’ve had to redecorate, change seating or service formats, install partitions to protect staff and visitors, add to or subtract from offerings, present these changes in a positive light.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has proven that work will never be the same. Workplace culture in the past few weeks has shown that companies CAN succeed with remote workers. Post pandemic it will not be ‘business as usual’ it will be a ’new normal of business’. This means leaders need to be agile, empathetic and willing to change existing structures to focus on ‘people first’.” Cheryl Cran – NextMapping, The New Normal of Work
THIS I KNOW…CERTAINLY EMBRACING THE NEW NORM
If things are uncertain – address the issue honestly, and thank your customers for their support. There is no need to address any of this alone. This is an opportune time for brainstorming and building business relationships with other new business owners while on a budget with Business Connects businessconnectsnj.com. For many different types of businesses, planning remains difficult as official guidelines for reopening are still being developed and gradually phased-in.
While circumstances may be uncertain, you can project an air of certainty about those things of which you are sure: we will reopen, we are looking forward to seeing you all again, we are anxiously awaiting the state’s guidelines, re-training staff, renovating, and taking every measure to keep everyone safe and well. Speaking of staff—as many move to semi- or fully virtual realms, it is important to keep communication open with employees. They need to know as soon as possible if they will return to work and when, whether working from home will be their new norm, and what new programs or practices they will need to learn to adjust to their new work environment. If your team needs training in social media apps, creating & facilitating virtual meetings, or MS Office apps, LinkedIn training, reach out to schedule one-on-one virtual training that will keep you all on track with delivering the results your clients are used to.
Should you require support or ideas, consultations are available. Looking for help to brainstorm what else your business needs during COVID 19, or getting ready to reopen your business in New Jersey? Whether it’s devising new marketing strategies to fit these times, optimizing your website for SEO, or even building a website to include e-commerce, Secretary Central is here to help. Let’s schedule a brainstorming session! 15-minute free consult link https://calendly.com/jennifer-223/15min
Let’s be ready to re-open, and remain hopeful about how life and business will go on in the days ahead because they will. we can and will get through this together!