The last two weeks have been a wild ride. As the number of Coronavirus cases increased in the Seattle area businesses were impacted drastically. The impact on small businesses started with major tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft asking their employees to work from home (WFH).
Eventually, Small businesses that rely on foot traffic were emptied. It was further impacted by the cancellation of major Seattle events such as the Emerald City Comic-Con. Tourism came to a halt. And small businesses were even more impacted as government directives related to social distancing initiatives became mandates.
Many “non-essential” businesses were forced to close. So the question that small business owners should be answering right now is “What can I do to keep my business alive?” In this blog, I want to break down what I’ve seen resilient business owners do despite the chaos.
Start Creating Your Game Plan Now
It’s only a matter of time before this spreads so start creating your game plan today. If you’re in other parts of the country, you still have time. Start by educating your employees on what’s happening and how they can help you put a plan into action. If tourism is a major part of your business, you need to immediately explore other revenue streams.
Many small businesses here in Seattle, especially in retail, restaurants, tourism, and recreation, cash flow has literally come to a halt. Local 360, a restaurant that has been in the neighborhood for over a decade, permanently closed. The owner predicted a loss of $75,000 in reservations within two days after the cancellation of Emerald City Comic-Con. I’m sharing these stories with you not to scare you but motivate you to take massive action. If you’ve hit a wall on creating ideas, schedule time with me to talk.
Shifting to Online Strategy
There’s a silver lining to this because some companies are fighting back. For instance, a small Pike Place card shop went online for the first time. They are offering to mail cards for you to loved ones. You can even purchase cards with a message for first responders, grocery store workers, and the elderly that you don’t even know. Given that gyms are closed, studios and gyms here in Seattle are offering online workouts both live and downloadable.
Now’s the best time to start thinking about taking your business online if you haven’t already. We just did a workshop on creating powerful emails that get results. Email is still one of the most powerful channels generating $40 of revenue for every $1 spent. At this moment, you should be exploring all marketing channels that fit your business.
Applying for Funding
Check your local government to see what type of funding they may be offering. At the national level, The SBA (US Small business administration) announced it would offer disaster assistance loans for up to $2 million for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. These low-interest loans are available to businesses that have sustained “substantial economic injury” due to the spread of the coronavirus. Small businesses with no available credit qualify for an interest rate of 3.75%, and nonprofits will have an interest rate of 2.75%. You may want to determine what loans apply to you.
For more information go to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)
Switch to Appointment Only
I’ve noticed some businesses have temporarily switched to appointments only. With the limit on the number of people in a crowd, some businesses have been able to make this adjustment work. For example, one of our coworking spaces decided to do appointments only tours to keep doors open.
If you provide a specialty item such as wood decor items or sell jewelry, you may want to give this a try. You can test having people come by your location or you visiting their location.
Doing to-go Orders
The restaurant industry has been hit the hardest due to the nature of its business. That has not stopped some brave companies from taking on the challenge. Seattle restaurants and coffee shops have been mandated to provide to-go and delivery only. For the businesses that already have this in place or planned ahead, this has been a seamless process.
A week before most businesses understood the impact of the Coronavirus, Canlis, a formal dining restaurant where plates are typical $150.00 closed their formal dining room and created a “to-go burger restaurant” in their parking lot where people pick up burgers and fries in paper bags with a contactless payment system. They advertised and are currently causing vehicle traffic, which seems to be nonexistent elsewhere.
Wineries all throughout Seattle are offering curbside pickup. When you get to the winery you call in and they will bring your wine out to you. Some bookstores are offering the same service. Ask yourself, how can my business provide a “contactless” service?
Now more than other businesses are relying on their email to get information out to their customers. To be ahead of the game, small businesses should spend some figuring out how you’re going to operate in light of COVID. It will be important to share with your clients how your business is evolving and changing during the time of a Coronavirus pandemic so they can know how to contribute.
If you’re looking for resources and ideas on how to protect your business during the COVID 19 Pandemic, schedule a call. I will be doing weekly web conferences with digital marketing professionals to provide strategy and resources.