3 Ways to Help Your Business Recover Post-Pandemic
Back in pre-COVID times, when I planned out monthly blog posts for 2020, the post for early July was going to be about taking time at the midpoint of the year to evaluate your business – a sort of halfway check-up as to how things were going, and what needed to change in the second half of 2020. But then the pandemic arrived and the first – and possibly second – half of 2020 changed dramatically.
Many small businesses are now struggling badly; worse still, others have had to permanently close. Those that have survived are not – on the whole – likely thriving as they were a year ago. If the first half of 2020 was a disaster for your business, what will the second half of the year bring, and how can you best plan for a successful recovery or, at least, mitigate damage?
Your plan will, naturally, depend on the type of business you are in. Of course there have been winners during the crisis, as well as losers. This has been a tough time for small-business owners, forcing them to think on their feet and make huge changes to their business models in an incredibly short time – just to stay afloat. As we slowly embrace the “new normal,” how will your business cope?
Much of the advice that is applied to businesses in normal times is still appropriate now, possibly more so. Some ways to crisis-proof your business moving forward:
1) Improve cash flow
Easier said than done, right? But now is the time to take a good hard look at your cash flow scenario and see if there are ways to improve things. Not having the advantage of two to three months’ worth of overheads stashed in an emergency fund may mean that following an unforeseen disaster, your business quickly ended up in difficulty.
While governments in many countries have offered varying degrees of financial support to small-business owners, some of it has come with provisos that can’t always be met, and often it has taken the form of loans – which obviously have to be paid back. If you are in the position of having some government funds available – or you were lucky, or prudent, enough to have an adequate emergency fund, now is the time to see if your finances going forward can be adjusted to allow for building, or maintaining, a fund that will see you through any future crisis. If you are still barely hanging in there, it’s time to find some quick, short-term solutions to see you through.
If the number of your customers has dropped off, can you adjust your ordering to the current situation? Can you access goods rapidly when customer demand picks up? Is it possible to get customers to place orders in advance so that you can only restock as much as you know you can sell? If you still can’t fully open, can you offer gift cards to be used later in the year, and generate some immediate cash to see you through a difficult month or so? Also, take a good look at your outgoings. Can any of these be put on hold temporarily, or reduced?
2) Upgrade your website content
This is particularly important if your business is mainly online, but applies to pretty much any business. If quarantine closures left you with time on your hands, you have likely been using this time to think about marketing – and improving your online messaging. Your website is your virtual shop window – you wouldn’t leave the same old stale window display in situ for months or years, would you? You really can’t afford not to update your website just as often. This is particularly important now that customers are not sure who is open, when, and what protocols are in place.
Successful have been those businesses that were innovative enough to pivot rapidly from physical to online shopping, or take-out and delivery. It wasn’t an easy process for many, requiring hours of work to set up online catalogues and contactless payment systems where none existed previously – but the payoff was a continued income flow, even if it was lower than normal. If they’ve also continued to publish blog posts and newsletters to keep their customers informed on the latest changes, so much the better.
Less successful have been those businesses whose websites are either completely unchanged from pre-COVID days, even though opening hours and services, etc., are now completely out of date, or those that say “temporarily closed” with no information at all on reopening plans or any other customer information. I have personally struggled to find information on new hours, dates of reopening, etc., from the websites of a number of local businesses – it’s very disappointing for would-be customers and not likely to generate much business. Yes, it’s been a devastating time – it’s understandable that some business owners have decided it’s not worth the effort – but a website with either zero information or outdated information needs an overhaul ASAP.
If your business has remained open, or is totally online, it is still important to keep refreshing content. It is obvious from some of our clients here at Prompt Proofing that they have decided to do just that; we have definitely been busier than normal recently, writing articles and blog posts for business owners, or proofreading and editing website content they have written themselves.
3) Connect with your target audience
Again, this is standard practice, even in normal times but, nonetheless still good advice now. It’s possible that your previous market has changed a little. Take note of the customers that you are attracting right now – how can you best reach out to them? People may be shopping locally more than before, rather than travelling to larger urban hubs or out-of-town malls; in this way, some businesses will have picked up trade from those who didn’t necessarily frequent them in the past. You don’t have to compete with big-box stores with their ability to lower prices due to scale; friendly service, local delivery if you can organize it, and great after-sales service will mean that these ‘new’ customers remain over time. Many customers find that supporting local businesses ends up saving them money with no need for a long drive, with convenient service and the all-important personal touch. Do whatever you can to continue to attract these customers; once you have earned their loyalty, they will likely remain.
Updating your website with a weekly blog post or publishing regular updates on locally oriented social media can be a great way to reach out to these local customers; additionally, keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighbourhood; depending on the nature of your business, tying in to local events and festivals, and also charitable groups, can be a great promotion for your business. Point out to local customers the advantages of choosing a small, independent store over a huge corporation. Huge multinationals won’t support their children’s baseball teams, or donate to your neighbourhood theatre – your local business could, though!