Update January 1, 2022: It’s the first day of 2022 and I’ve revisited this post. I originally published it in March 2020 and updated it in October of that year. Things are still uneasy in our world and so I am revisiting this content yet again. It is not easy to be a small business during times of upheaval. I hope you find ideas in this article for actions you can take that will help sustain your business during this time. The article has been updated to include additional content and edited for clarity.
Update October 21, 2020: I first wrote this post in March 2020 when people in the United States locked down due to COVID-19 concerns and fears. It’s now fall 2020 and COVID restrictions are still an issue for many, but the reality is that this type of situation can happen to any of our businesses, for a variety of reasons and at any time. As a result, I’ve updated the post to give you tips for what to do during times that are uneasy. It could be a natural weather event, a virus, political unrest, or something else.
Action Cures Fear
When fearful and uneasy times strike – we can take action to abate the fear.
I’ve been through a few uneasy times in my career:
- A massive flood hit my region in 1994
- The same region was buried in the blizzard of 1996
- September 11, 2001
- Financial and housing crisis of 2007-2008
- Most recently – the COVID-19 pandemic
During each uneasy time I’ve picked up tips from mentors and watched others navigate the uncertainty in positive ways.
In this post I share those ideas with you. You’ll find actions that you can take during any difficult time to sustain your business and meet the needs of your customers and followers.
While these tips are geared to our clients (health, wellness, and disability businesses), any small business will find helpful ideas here that you can work with!
1. Keep Messaging
Keep putting out content.
Remember that “content” can be a lot of things. It can be any of the following. Text and image content can be delivered both electronically and via print (think of direct mail and package inserts).
- text (blog posts, email, printed newsletters, FAQs, specials and discounts, quotes, testimonials, flyers and handouts)
- images (photos, graphics, illustrations)
- audio (podcasts, social media)
- video (YouTube, Vimeo videos, social media, even a short film)
It is good to acknowledge the situation in a way that suits your personality and brand. I’ve seen some brands proceed as if nothing is occurring and that always feels disingenuous to me. I don’t think we need to constantly message about whatever is happening – the media takes care of that for us. Instead, we can recognize the issue and then proceed with helpful content that benefits our followers, customers, and business.
2. Project Calm
Publish content that is fun, inspirational, happy, entertaining – positive in some way. In the midst of challenges it can feel like everything is dark and scary – but there are silver linings to be found. If you know of one and can talk about it authentically in your content, then you will be providing a benefit to your customers.
Be sensitive to the current issues, while offering something that will bring smiles to people’s faces. We can be like the character Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books – when he said that all we needed to do was remember to turn on the light during dark times.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
3. Address Questions
Are there questions your customers may have as a result of the situation?
Questions that you can help with?
Examples could include:
- Do you sell a food product? Perhaps address hygiene practices in the preparation, storage, handling and shipping of your product.
- If you sell non-food products, you may also want to address hygiene practices related to packaging and shipping of your products.
- Perhaps there will be delays related to shipping or production.
- Your customers may need to know if you are open for business (yoga studios, wellness centers, doctors offices, restaurants and other local businesses).
- Are you doing anything special as a result of this situation? Let them know.
- For those in health and wellness businesses – what information and ideas can you share from your knowledge that will help people during this time?
If there are questions to address for your customers and audience – think through the answers, develop the messaging to share those answers, and then send out your messages.
4. Repeat Content
Are you really busy? Struggling to keep up with everything? And feeling that there simply is no time to create new content?
That’s when you turn to the content marketing strategy of REPEAT.
Look to content that you already created. Anything that is evergreen content can be repeated. Evergreen content is just like the trees – it’s green (or valid) all the time.
It is a good thing to repeat content. Customers like to be reminded. It helps them structure your information and remember what is important about your product or service.
In a time of struggle repeated content can be best of all. It jogs their memories and reminds them of things they want to do that are important to them. Such as purchasing a quality food product that helps their health, or remembering to do self-care with a yoga class or chiropractic treatment.
5. Keep Using C.O.P.E.
Remember to practice the content marketing strategy called “C.O.P.E.”
With this strategy you create your content and then you publish the same content on all the platforms you use. From website, to email, to social media.
6. How Can We Help All Small Business?
Most of the small businesses we know and work with experienced significant anxiety during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Concerns ranged from how the situation would impact their businesses and their livelihoods to the health and wellness of themselves, their families, and their staff.
In Pennsylvania, where I live, the schools closed in mid-March 2020 and remained closed for the rest of the school year. One impact of that decision was that many workers who are paid hourly, such as bus drivers and aides and custodial staff, lost their income. While the government made relief available, it did not match their previous income. That shortfall ended up impacting their ability to purchase services and products! And that situation affected many small businesses – because their customers could not buy from them. And that was just one group of individuals – think of the many people who were hit hard by the restrictions.
What can we do about it? How can we get creative?
Here are a few ideas we came up with that you could use in this or similar situations:
- Take payment in trade: barter your services/product for services and product that you can use
- Establish delayed billing and/or payment plans allowing customers to settle up with you at a later date
- Look for where there is need AND the money to pay for services and products to meet that need.
7. Look for Opportunity
In spite of the chaos there is always some type of opportunity. Be watching for it.
I once worked at a hotel in a city that experienced a flood. Two weeks worth of conferences and overnight reservations cancelled within 24 hours. It was an enormous loss of revenue. But guess what happened? FEMA employees descended on the city and what did they need? Hotels to stay in, restaurants to eat at, and places to meet. Presto! Business!
Look for these types of opportunities for your own business! Here are two ideas we came up during COVID-19 that could apply in many future scenarios:
- People need credible health and wellness information. What can you share that will help them boost their physical and mental health during this time? As people working in health and wellness we have an arsenal of knowledge that is deeper than the average person. How can we share that wealth? Pen a quick eBook and offer it at an affordable price. Start a Facebook Group where you can deliver information, answer questions, and moderate discussions. While not paid, this type of activity will lead to paying business.
- Consider offering product discounts and sales. Reduce the price of your products temporarily to account for the situation. These types of gestures produce goodwill with your customers!
Would you like support as you sort out what to do?
We’re here for you and very happy to support you if and when you face a situation like the COVID-19 crisis.
A call with a peer in the space can be very helpful for sort out messaging and actions. This is not our first rodeo with this type of thing – we have been through September 11, severe weather, local disasters, and high security situations. We have lots of ideas based on our past experiences for how to weather this current event!
As a small business it’s common to be a little isolated and have all sorts of questions and ideas spinning around in your head. If that sounds familiar, please contact us and schedule a time to talk! We’ll help work through options and establish action steps!
Current and past clients please reach out to schedule phone or video calls.
New clients? Looking for help? We’d be happy to support you as well. Working through a situation like this one can be a great way to forge a new business relationship! As new clients we’ll request a credit card number to hold on file. Start by scheduling an Intro Call.
Stay strong and positive!