The current pandemic has been hard on businesses of all sizes, but whereas larger companies have the resources to potentially survive the current revenue drought, smaller businesses aren't that well equipped. For small business owners, coming up with creative ideas to keep business afloat has become an almost daily concern.
If you're a small business owner struggling to survive the pandemic, here are some tips to get the idea wheels spinning. It is possible to survive the pandemic, but it may require a change in how you plan and operate.
Lenders want to help small businesses survive this pandemic. By providing access to small business loans, lenders are providing businesses with a means to make it through some of the roughest areas of the pandemic.
Depending on location, many areas are easing restrictions but there is no guarantee those restrictions won't have to tighten up again. At least there are breaks in which businesses can go back to operating semi-normally and catch up on expenses.
Business owners should keep a close eye on what their local, state and federal governments are developing and offering to small business owners during the pandemic. Some localities have been offering grants. The SBA could potentially offer another forgivable loan program, and the Federal Reserve has tossed around the idea of forming its own loan program.
Many individual lenders have always developed their own loan programs. Being aware of potential opportunities can open doors to funding at lower rates and longer repayment terms.
In the meantime, business must go on. Waiting on loan programs isn't going to help you keep up with expenses. This may be the time for your business to start focusing its efforts on beefing up its online presence. There are several ways to do this.
■ Focus on e-commerce
■ Build up an internet marketing campaign
■ Devise an SEO strategy
■ Design a social media campaign
Building an e-commerce site allows you to bring your business to your clients when they can't come to you. If you're new to e-commerce, it isn't difficult to integrate a commercial platform into an existing website. There are numerous online shopping carts that will handle your credit card processing and design your marketplace for you. The associated fees are minimal, especially as your business processes more orders.
Once your online store has been built, you'll need to make it easy for your clients to find you. To do this, design an internet marketing campaign. You might get better results by working with a marketing firm, but it's also possible to do it on your own.
Identify sites where your clients are likely to visit and engage. This could be social media sites or it could be shopping sites such as Amazon. It could also be in Google search strings. Pay-per-click ads have been around nearly as long as the internet, but they still provide results. The good thing about this type of advertising is you only pay for the click-through to your site.
If you're working with a marketing firm, they will most likely recommend you also develop an SEO strategy. This strategy uses keywords to lead potential clients to your site. The purpose of an SEO strategy is to strengthen your business's ranking in search results. The higher you rank, the more likely people looking for your services are to click on you.
The final part of beefing up your business's online presence is developing a social media campaign. Your social media campaign will require a coordinated plan of scheduling social media posts and focusing on certain products and business offerings at certain times. You may want to create a dedicated social media calendar.
An important part of operating your social media accounts will include being responsive with your followers. Also, mix up the types of content you post. Include useful content regarding your industry that can assist in consumer decision-making and general knowledge. This type of content is engaging and encourages your followers to return for more.
As you develop each of these four areas, it's important to realize each part of your online strategy is essential to its overall success. Leaving out just one is a lost opportunity for your business and can also have a negative impact on the other areas.
While the physical doors of your brick-and-mortar store may be swinging open less often during this time, by kicking your online presence into high gear you should be able to pick up a wider audience whether they're social distancing from their homes or not.
Now that you've set out the beacon to find new customers, you also need to focus on your existing customers. They were vital to your success in the past and they'll be vital to your success in the future.
Now is the time to reach out to them and let them know new strategies you've implemented to make doing business with you easier on them. Along with developing an online marketplace, offer them avenues for reaching out to you, whether it's by phone or web-based chat.
Setting up these channels of communication will benefit your new customers as well. Find ways to let all your customers know how much you appreciate them, and do it often. Customers want to feel like their business is meaningful.
The best way to assess your expenses is to create a new, detailed budget based on current revenue. Look at it six months out. This may be an eye-opener as you look at where your money goes. If there are some subscriptions you can let go of for now, you can always pick them back up once the pandemic is over.
You may have existing business loans, such as commercial property. Contact your lender and see if there is anything they can do to work with you on lowering your payments. They may even be willing to refinance any loans to help make your payments lower.
It's important to talk with your lenders rather than ignoring them if you can't make the payments. A lot of businesses are struggling right now and lenders are aware of how difficult things are right now.
Are there cost-cutting measures you can make as far as your business's utilities are concerned?
■ Have you been putting off updating your weatherstripping? You could save on heating and cooling.
■ You can cut down on electricity by unplugging all of your electronics when you close during the evening.
■ If you can rely more on natural light than indoor lighting for rooms with large windows, do it, but only if it's a room accessed by you and your employees. You don't want to create a challenging environment for customers who aren't as familiar with the layout.
■ Perhaps even consider forgoing outdoor sprinkler systems for the remainder of the summer.
Areas that can be pinched can always be pinched a little more. Keep analyzing every area of your business. All the small cuts will quickly add up and provide substantial savings.
As the pandemic lingers on, you are not alone. A lot of businesses are in the same boat and finding creative ways to ride out the storm. Talk to other businesses to see if they've found any useful tips for cutting expenses or finding new business. Fortunately, the pandemic will eventually end, and if you can make it through Covid-19, then your business has shown it has the strength to make it through nearly anything.
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