The U.S. economy is firing up its engines—it’s time to reopen businesses and rebuild our future. We know how hard the last few months have been, especially for small businesses like yours, and we’re here to support you. As a first step, we’ve put together 5 easy tips that you can apply right away to adapt and grow in this new normal.
1. Put a health and safety plan in place
The economy is starting to pick back up, but COVID-19 is still a concern nationwide. As a small business owner, you should be doubling down on health and safety measures, including basic sanitary guidelines and a COVID-19 preparedness plan (CPP).
Basic Sanitary Guidelines:
Here’s what you can be doing, at a minimum, to ensure safety for your employees and customers:
- Ask employees and customers to practice social distancing and wear masks
- Encourage regular hand sanitization and sanitization of high-touch surfaces
- Provide PPE gear to workers
- Establish fair work-from-home/telework policies
- Plan staggered shifts for employees and customers
- Conduct daily health screenings
COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (CPP)
In addition to necessary safety measures you’re likely already taking, you might want to consider a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (CPP), which is a more comprehensive and official plan outlining the measures you’re taking in your business to stay safe. In fact, a CPP is already mandatory in many U.S. states. To get started, refer to these guidelines provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Worried about managing safety protocols while also trying to focus on business growth? Consider appointing a workplace coordinator or a special task force, whose sole responsibility will be dealing with COVID-19-related issues.
2. Refresh your offerings to deliver more value
Consumer behavior has shifted drastically as a result of the pandemic, and businesses have to pivot fast to respond accordingly. The secret to success? Go digital.
A recent McKinsey survey reports a 20-40% growth in consumers who purchase online for most categories. To capture some of these sales for your business, consider these steps:
- Use tools like Zoom, or Google Meet, to shift your business online or sell products via a mobile app
- Repurpose virtual technologies to your needs—for instance, some museums have begun offering virtual tours
- Embrace new payment technologies that offer better terms to customers
- Rethink logistics, and switch to delivery-based models
- Cross-sell in-demand essential items, like sanitizers and face masks
- Offer weekly or monthly subscriptions to build certainty around your cash flows
The key here is to look for ways to deliver enhanced value to your customers.
To get more ideas, assess the competitive landscape, your market, and industry to identify unleveraged consumer needs and opportunities. Think about how your company can service your customers’ needs or make their lives better. Take, for example, Kevin Peterson and his wife, Jane Larson, whose inspiring story appeared in the New York Times. When ‘shelter-in-place’ orders prompted them to shut down their bar, Peterson jumped into action and developed a new product: Frozen juice cubes that allowed home bartenders to make their own drinks. Soon, the couple was drinking to their success, selling 750 cubes a week.
3. Maximize opportunities that optimize costs
When market conditions are unfavorable, tighter purse strings can help.
To cut costs, consider renegotiating terms with your vendors—in this environment, they’ll likely be more willing to offer price reductions or extend contracts at reduced prices. You can also check for discounts on bulk purchases, which may offer more savings overall.6
Banking fees and credit card payments can also add to costs. Try renegotiating your credit card terms and banking costs with your financial provider, or shop around for business-friendly fintech options.
To further optimize costs, consider investing in technology. Small businesses can benefit from new online payroll systems and expense tracking software like QuickBooks and Expensify to save on costs.
4. Reimagine your market
A surefire way to acquire new customers is to expand into new markets, either physically or virtually.
If you’re opening a physical branch in a new geography, be mindful of the incumbent challenges of expansion, including foreign tax, currency issues, as well as costs incurred on physical infrastructure, and investments in protective equipment for customers and employees.
If you have an online business model, you might run up expenses on storage and logistics, packaging material, online marketing, and shoring up back-end systems, like order processing tools, etc.
Don’t think expansion is the way ahead for you? You could acquire new customers by diversifying or modifying your core product or service.
For example, many gym trainers have started offering customized online classes designed for children, senior citizens, and other customer segments. On the other hand, a home-cleaning services company began providing sterilization services for building entrances and commercial spaces when their regular customers didn’t want other people inside their homes at the start of the pandemic.
5. Boost your marketing strategies
The current market conditions may be tough, but on the bright side, they’ve also given rise to a slew of affordable and impactful marketing options.
First things first, go social: According to an Adobe report, social media is the most relevant advertising channel for 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials. A few ways to engage:
- Simply ask your customers what they need to serve them better
- Offer freebies, discounts, and flash sales to attract new customers
- Leverage content marketing, influencer marketing, videos, podcasts, and webinars to gain more online traction
- Monitor conversations around your brand and industry (aka ‘social listening’) to unearth insights, and act on opportunities
Want to take it one step further? If your product can be sold online, try setting up a Facebook Shop, a new feature that allows you to build an e-store on both Facebook and Instagram.
Email campaigns are another must-have in your marketing arsenal; they’re a great way to stay connected with your customers and provide reassuring content that also adds value.
Looking for more cost-effective marketing tactics? Try co-marketing. Partner with other businesses to trade advertising space, bundle products together, or share each other’s content.
At the end of the day, the new normal is not without its challenges. But small businesses can weather this storm by being flexible, adaptable, and value-driven. Keep your target customer top of mind, and remember that these are challenging times for them too—any enhanced value and empathy you can provide will be well appreciated.
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