In the midst of the toilet paper panic, you might be wondering if there’s a way to profit from this madness of the crowd and quarantine time.
Of course, there is. But there’s a better (and perhaps more ethical) way of doing it rather than stockpiling hand sanitizer in your spare room. There are real needs that large markets of people will soon discover. If you can be the first to provide that need, the world will beat a path to your door.
Can you think of the new wants that will result from more people working at home, student classrooms relocating from the physical plant to the web and leisure activities moving from arenas and theaters to gaming systems and online movie archives?
It is possible that after COVID-19 most companies will leave a partial online business model, which will reduce costs and cover a larger flow of clients. So use your quarantine time properly, strengthening current business-ideas and generating new ones. It helps you to keep regular customers and attract new ones.
Expand your market
In some cases, your existing clientele just won’t be able to make use of your products or services. For example, Cleaning service Aman for Home services had to find new clients because their regular customers understandably didn’t want people coming into their homes.
Instead, they began offering sterilization and disinfection services for entrances of buildings that were still in use. The demand isn’t as high as normal, but it allows them to continue operating during this unprecedented period.
Similarly, many distilleries have shifted to making hand sanitizer. Some, like Litchfield Distillery in Connecticut, are giving it away for free, which serves as a great marketing strategy to increase loyalty down the road. Others, like Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire, are selling sanitizer in order to keep their business operating during the crisis.
Consider new ways to deliver your product/service
Many dine-in restaurants and bars are offering online ordering and curbside pickup. But other brick-and-mortar businesses need something more personal.
When your business model involves people coming in to browse or interact with you, you need to figure out how to make that happen virtually. For this you can use the Google Form, mimicking the kinds of questions you ask when a customer walks in or calls you. From there, you can work with the customer virtually to find the perfect product.
Necker’s Toyland, a toy store in Simsbury, Connecticut, that’s been in business since 1948, also had to get creative. They’re offering a FaceTime browsing option, virtually walking kids around the store, so they can pick out something that’ll keep them busy during the quarantine. Then they’re offering curbside pickup or delivery to nearby towns.
Service-oriented businesses are doing something similar. McAlister Training in San Luis Obispo, California, like many fitness studios, has taken its classes virtual. They’ve also taken the opportunity to expand their market, offering classes for kids who are at home with some energy to burn. And the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is offering online tours of the historic—and strange—landmark.
Partner with other businesses
Some struggling businesses, like Metro Bis restaurant in suburban Connecticut, are partnering with other, less-affected businesses. Metro Bis has been selling prepared meals at a local grocery store to make up for the lack of business in-house. This partnership gives them a way to safely serve their customers.
Stay connected with your clients
Your customers may not be buying from you right now, but you’ll need them more than ever once things settle down and they can come back to you in person. That’s why it’s so important to stay connected through virtual channels. Here are a few ways to make that happen.
Send an email
Email your customers to let them know how they can get your product or service during this time. Are you doing curbside pickup? Offering virtual consults?
Update your website
Of course, an email will only reach the people whose contact info you have. For everyone else, you need to update your website.
Folks who come to your website need to know what you are—or aren’t—offering. If you’re still operating in some way, make that clear front and center on your homepage, so you don’t miss out on potential business. If you’re completely out of commission, let people know why: by showing that you’re prioritizing the safety of your employees and community, people might be more likely to support you when things settle down.
Don’t have a website? Create a Facebook page to get some visibility and give people insight into what you’re up to.
Ask for ideas
No one knows better what your customers want than your customers themselves. Everyone is dealing with social distancing differently, so it can benefit you to just ask—what do folks want from your business right now?
Invest now in your business future
While business is slow, you can use the time to figure out what you can streamline for when your business is back in action.
For starters, identify what processes you can automate. If you’re not sure where to start, there are a few kinds of tasks that are ripe for automation:
1.Tasks you have to do frequently or on a schedule
2. Tasks that involve moving information between apps
3. Boring tasks that don’t require higher-order thinking
4. Tasks that take you away from what you really want to be doing
5. Automating your processes will help you now if you’re short-staffed, but it’ll also pay dividends in the long run.
By investing in this effort during this slowdown period, we have positioned ourselves to be more successful and efficient when business picks back up.
Another way to invest now for future gains is through your content marketing. Creating high-quality content is something you can do by yourself, on your own schedule. You can send it to your email list and post it on social, keeping your customers engaged during social distancing. But it will also serve you in the long run, especially if you keep SEO in mind.
This is an unprecedented time for small businesses, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Try some of the strategies above.
REMEMBER: the main task during this time is to raise brand awareness for your business and increase the number of people interested in your services or products.
In the meantime, don’t forget to wash your hands and get ready for the big leap.