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Wuraola Ademola-Shanu: Worried About Your Business Surviving These Difficult Times? Read This!

Coronavirus or not, the future is virtual. I’d like to think that this pandemic is and should serve as a reminder to small businesses that the world is virtual. And every business, irrespective of its size, must adapt to the world’s ever-changing dynamics. Except you run a business where all your employees must be present, you should allow your employees to work from home or let those who must be ever-present at the office be there while others work from home.

Wuraola Ademola-Shanu

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Thanks to the current health and economic situation, many businesses are currently going through a difficult phase. However, some businesses, of course, are benefiting from the pandemic because they create products or services that are in high demand. Zoom, for instance, has been said to make billions of dollars thanks to the increase in data used for video conferencing as a result of many companies working from home.

The most important thing to know is that you shouldn’t panic. While it’s easier said than done; however, I’d recommend that you calmly and locally consider all your options.

How can you make money and boost sales when your business falls on hard times? You must be proactive. Here are strategies that can help you turn the current situation in your business’ favour.

Assess Your Business Situation

Take stock. Determine what really needs to be done now. Determine what strategies or activities need to be discarded and the new ones to be implemented. Sit down and give yourself the time to make a plan for what is happening. Get creative. This is not the time to just throw your hands up and accept defeat. No, you are better and stronger than that!

Employ Effective Communication

Talk with your employees and customers and let them know what’s going on. Let customers know if you are staying open and if your hours of operation will be changing. Let them know what procedures you have put in place to ensure their safety, or if they might experience delays in getting help; or receiving their orders.

Let employees know if you will need to change their schedules or the nature of the work you’ll need them to do. Let them know if you will be forced to lay off workers or if you will be able to let them (or require that they) work from home. If so, what procedures will they need to follow? Are there any resources you are making available to them such as online collaboration tools or a secure way to log into their office computer?

Reinvent Your Business

You don’t need to be a big business owner or have a team of advisors before you restrategize your business. For example, if you run a catering outfit, you can consider selling and delivering family meals to consumers. If your hot dishes could be frozen and reheated, or frozen uncooked and then cooked by the customer, offer customers the option to buy several days’ meals that they can store at home and cook as needed.

Asides looking at the immediate product demands, also look at your past sales. Were they increasing, staying the same, or declining? If sales were stagnant or declining before the pandemic, use this time to consider some new changes that can be implemented in your business when things are back to normal.

Start Selling Online (If you haven’t)

Are you selling your products and services online? If not, why not? It’s time to get your head out of the sand. Even when people buy in-person or on the basis of personal relationships, they are likely to research the products, company or consultant online before making a decision on what to buy and from whom to buy it. If you have a business, you need a website. The type of website, and what should be on it depends on what you sell. And if you are already selling online, this is the time to take your online game a notch higher.

Since people are beginning to get bored, you can throw a social media party where your customers can have fun or try a conferencing session using Zoom or Google Hangouts and let people log in, talk and see each other. Teach them about new things, do demos and point people to where to place an order.

Step Up Your Email Marketing Game

Hopefully, you already have a customer mailing list. If you don’t, start building an email list immediately! Use your list to communicate with your customers. Tell them what’s happening with your business. Give them tips on how to use what you sell. Tell them what products you have available. Include links to buy and your phone number. For example, if you run a gym, a physical therapy facility, or other facility consumers can’t visit during the pandemic, give them tips for staying healthy and active until you reopen.

Collaborate with Other Small Businesses

Think outside the box. Maybe you and another business can go in together and figure solutions to some problems. Two heads are better than one. For example, a shoes business owner can collaborate with another business owner selling fashion accessories.

Know Your Numbers

Business survival, now, more than ever, depends on knowing your numbers. If sales are falling, you can’t determine how to proceed unless you know what your fixed expenses will be in the coming months, what your discretionary spending is, what your normal sales are for this time period and a realistic guesstimate of how badly sales might fall. Go over your books or sit down with your bookkeeper and get all the numbers down on paper.

Be Strategic (and Brutal) About Cutting Other Costs

“Stay lean and mean. Being lean may be an asset in recovering more quickly. In addition to trying to reduce or postpone rent and loan payments, think about other costs you could reduce or eliminate to avoid business failure. Consider big expenses as well as little ones. Look at your credit card statements for recurring charges you’ve forgotten about and think about everyday activities. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Consider Reducing Payroll

In times like this, you have to be prepared to take cost-cutting actions you’d rather not take. One of them, unfortunately, may be laying off or firing employees or drastically reducing their hours. Your small business employees may seem like “family” (or may actually be family), and if you’re like many small business owners, you know a lot about their daily lives. But if there are few or no customers or sales, unless you have managed to build up a huge emergency fund, as much as it pains you, you’re going to have to make some unpleasant decisions.

If you can keep any employees working, keep those who are most productive and most necessary to your operation. Lay off the less essential workers, and fire those who are unproductive and who, perhaps, you’ve been unhappy with.  If you have to lay off employees who you would like to rehire if business picks up, be sure you have current phone numbers and non-work email addresses so you can contact them when you are ready to rehire.

Very Important: Change passwords and block access to any financial accounts, storefronts, customer data, or other sensitive information before you terminate anyone who has access to such things. It doesn’t matter how nice you think they are; they might use their access to harm you and your business. Even in good times, small businesses are often victims of fraud perpetrated by trusted employees.

Talk to Your Vendors/Suppliers

If you are a regular customer, talk to vendors about what they can do to help. Will they give you a break on prices? Can they provide anything you’re not ordering now that your customers are asking for? Will they let you delay payments? If you are a good customer (and pay them on time), they may be willing to work with you. If they’re not, start evaluating other vendors. If you can get lower pricing, get product samples or start with small orders to ascertain the quality, delivery and customer service of the new vendor.

Look Hard at Advertising and Marketing Costs

Depending on your situation, you may need to either reduce your advertising and marketing spend, increase it or change where you’re advertising.

If regulations are restricting your sales, you can’t meet demand due to inventory shortages or reduced staffing, or your customers’ aren’t buying because they are staying away from malls and shopping areas, see if you can temporarily reduce or halt advertising. Save your money for when the economy is poised to recover.

On the other hand, if you are open for business and customers don’t know it, if you’ve had to close your store to walk-in customers but you are offering take out or delivery service, or you’ve started selling online, you may need to ramp up your marketing to let your customers know. Be sure to watch your costs and choose the right media to target your customers without wasting money.

If you’re paying for SEO or search marketing help, take a close look at the results you’re getting now and what you were getting before the virus started to wreak havoc on the economy. If you weren’t happy with the results you were getting before the pandemic, this might be a good time to end the relationship. If you had been getting good results, evaluate your current ROI and decide if you should temporarily stop or reduce your spending.

Warning: Don’t let a service provider hold your site hostage! Before you make any changes to service providers, make sure you can log onto your site as the administrator and owner and make changes to who has access to the site. Then, before you tell the service provider their services are no longer needed, delete them as a user or change their password so they can’t delete or damage your site in revenge.

Contact Former Customers

Don’t assume that a former customer who stopped buying from you in the past will never buy from you again. Customers’ needs and circumstances change, just as yours do. The customer who went with a lower-priced competitor may be dissatisfied with the quality or service and be receptive to a call from you today. Never say never. Contact them.

Call Former Prospects

The bigger a business, the slower they are to move. The project that was put on indefinite hold last year may be urgent now. Or, some other project the company is working on may be right up your alley. Or they may need subcontractors to fill in because of new demand or employee illness. The more recently you’ve contacted a prospect, the more likely they’ll be to remember your name – and your phone number – when they are ready to buy.

Develop Multiple Revenue Streams

As a business owner, you need to find more ways to make money. When your business and the economy recovers (and they will), look for ways to diversify and expand your income sources. For instance, could you add graphic design and ghostwriting to your content strategy business?

What about paid consultations/webinars/classes and healthy meals at your natural spices business? If you are a social media manager whose market is dried up, hone your skills to design graphics for people. Or, learn to do website designing for businesses and individual clients and add that to the social media management service you offer.

Consider Remote Working

Coronavirus or not, the future is virtual. I’d like to think that this pandemic is and should serve as a reminder to small businesses that the world is virtual. And every business, irrespective of its size, must adapt to the world’s ever-changing dynamics. Except you run a business where all your employees must be present, you should allow your employees to work from home or let those who must be ever-present at the office be there while others work from home.

You should prioritize your business’ survival strategies and then act. As you review your business, you may see many areas that require change. The key to making change happen – and rebuilding your profits – is to list what needs to be done and estimate what effect each change will have on cash flow, sales and profits. Then prioritize the list.

What are the easiest ways to increase profits the most quickly? What should you be doing on a longer-term basis to ensure your business continues to grow and prosper? Revise your business plan based on your answers, and then start to work your plan.

Wuraola Ademola-Shanu is a copywriter, content creator and content strategist who help professionals, consultants and business owners align their stories with their ideal clients, refine their sales funnels and expand their online reputations. She is also a proofreader. You can connect with her via her IG page @thecopywritingchick

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