Online tips to help small business cope with COVID-19

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We understand small businesses are being greatly impacted by the COVID-19 Health Crisis, with mandatory closures and social distancing measures being put in place.

During these difficult times, small businesses are looking at new and temporary solutions to help them operate and communicate through these times.

There’s been an optimistic push to continue to support local business through this very real threat. Consumers can choose to do their stocking up through smaller retailers (for example picking up coffee beans from your local coffee shop), consider delivery options by independent restaurants and providers, purchase gift cards for future use and buy goods and merchandise online.

Same-Day Local Delivery Instagram Post

Here are some steps small businesses can take.

1. Look at options for selling through your website.

Selling online may help continue a source of revenue through government-mandated store closures. This can easily and quickly be done by setting up a solution like PayPal and adding to your website. Consider selling gift certificates for customers wishing to support your business, offering delivery and in store pickup capabilities, or selling on Amazon.

2. Collect donations.

Everyone is facing this crisis together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If it makes sense, consider asking for donations. There are online tools like Fundly that make it simple.

3. Update Google My Business with any changes to your hours.

A lot of businesses are posting shortened hours. Make sure to keep your hours up to date, especially on Google My Business which feeds into Google Maps. When consumers search for your business by name on Google, your Google My Business profile is likely what comes up.

Google My Business Hours

Start by claiming your Google My Business account if you haven’t yet (which is also a great way to take step to improve your online visibility): https://www.google.com/business/.

4. Take it online.

What can you bring your customers through live video streams? As people are self-isolating at home, they are tuning into new and favorite businesses for live exercise classes, tutorials, private lessons, etc. Group and private lessons in music, tutoring, and other services are continuing as planned via Skype or other video services. Businesses appealing to communities with free content, like a yoga studio streaming free classes may be asking for donations.

Yoga at home with live-streaming

Instagram and Facebook are both free, easy platforms to start live streaming. Here are the instructions for Instagram: https://help.instagram.com/292478487812558.

5. Keep your website and social media updated.

Use visuals that are easy to find and identify as your official update on your status through this crisis. No designer? No problem. Free tools like Canva are easy to use to create visuals for social and online through a simple online editor, and have created templates on Coronavirus response measures for businesses.

Canva online design application

There are also templates to use for posting informational posters for employees, visitors and customers on hygiene best practice.

6. Start communicating to a customer subscriber email list.

Use email marketing to keep existing customers informed about hours of operation, pick-up and delivery options, or just let them know you’re still in business.

Posting on social media is helpful, but email is the most proactive way to get in front of customers with offers or updates to your business—including for those businesses that have temporarily closed their doors sharing once you’re able to re-open.

Most email marketing tools provide instruction on capturing emails on your website or through other means. Look at VerticalResponse for example.

7. Use any downtime to get ahead online with customer reviews.

People are looking for ways to help. Those that aren’t able to contribute financially may be able to support your business in other ways. Consider asking loyal customers for a review of your business.

82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews.

BrightLocal, Local Consumer Survey Review, 2019

Reviews on your Google account helps your credibility and Google uses the number of reviews and your rating as factors in your search engine ranking.

Below are some helpful sites customers can leave reviews. Some may be more relevant to your business vertical:

  • Google (through your Google My Business profile)
  • Facebook
  • TripAdvisor
  • Yelp
  • TrustPilot
  • Amazon

 

We understand this is a new and challenging time; we’re all in this together.

We’re here to support you as best we can. The safety and security of our employees, customers and communities is top of mind. Let’s trust everyone is doing the best they can to weather this uncharted territory. Consider and share ways to support your local businesses, and your neighbors.

By Mahrie Boyle

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