Let’s face it, the entire economy has been impacted by COVID-19. Many businesses have been or still are unable to function and others are operating at limited capacity. So it’s extremely easy to feel disheveled, disorganized, and unproductive. Luckily, there are a few things you can be doing to improve your business right now! This blog will outline a few different ideas to start implementing asap.
While there are definitely many things outside of our control, it doesn’t mean that we should sit back and wait for everything to return to normal. Because, when will that happen? And what will the new “normal” look like?
There’s a long list of opportunities you can take advantage of to inject some cash flow, streamline operations, retain customers, and bring your business back to life.
This way, when things do return to “normal”, your business will actually be in a prime position to hit the ground running. Here’s a few strategies and actions you can launch to improve your business.
............yes, even during a global pandemic.
1. Start Sending Surveys
Since you probably have a bit more time on your hands, you can focus on things that you might have neglected in the past. There’s no better time to gather feedback from current and past customers than when most of them are also stuck at home! A little feedback goes a long way. You can begin improving your product or service offering in a way that aligns with your top customers - so you will then attract more customers as a result.
If you have an email list of customers and you aren’t using it, then launching an email campaign to gather feedback would be one the wisest things you can do. Ask for testimonials and quotes regarding their experience or customer satisfaction - which you can then turn around and use on your website and social media accounts. Also consider guiding them to leave you a review on a third party site like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Facebook to share their feedback.
A solid way to gather quality testimonials is to give guided prompts and have your customers fill in the blanks Mad Libs style. Ex. I really love going to (your business' name) because ________. They really make things easy by _________. They're my favorite place to go for ____________.
You get the point.
Write directed and intentional sentences stringed together to make an epic testimonial. This makes it easier for customers, so you may get a greater response!
If you already have a survey gathering strategy in place, find ways to leverage your time to incentivise customers even further. Maybe sending out handwritten notes, small gifts, redeemable coupons/gift cards for when you open, and even cold calling larger customers. Any of these activities can go a long way to getting amazing feedback and bringing in repeat business.
2. Uplevel Your Social Media Presence
If your restaurant, store, or business is currently closed to customers - consider using this time to upgrade your social presence. Start by taking high quality pictures - the camera on your phone is likely good enough to do the job but investing in a DSLR camera or hiring a professional photographer can really upgrade your social media game.
Interior and exterior photos are an great place to start. Include some products shots as well, of course. Either relating to your menu items, products you sell, services you offer, etc. Batch a ton of photos within a few days and then upgrade your social media posts over the next few weeks and even update your website with the new images.
Also, don’t forget about your listings on sites like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook - which can help you reach and engage with more customers. Include as much information as possible about your business and ensure everything is up to date. Think about optimizing SEO while writing your business description as well.
Further, if you don’t have a content plan in place - it’s time to make one! You have the high quality pictures now, so PLAN how you will use them. Consider giving people a behind the scenes look at your operations with short vlogs on social media, giveaway some industry secrets on your website's blog, and make sure you tell the story of your company everywhere!
If you’re stuck on content ideas, checkout what your most popular competitors are doing. Search out their highest performing content and then revamp it to make it your own.
3. Setup Other Sources of Revenue
Do you offer gift cards? If not, now is the perfect time to start. Gift cards are like interest free loans and can give your business some much needed cash flow right now. Use them to build customer loyalty through repeat business, as giveaways in social media contests, or as a response to customer complaints (hopefully this one doesn't happen too often).
Consider offering additional coupons with the purchase of gift cards to keep incentivising customers to come back. These work especially well if you make the usage date a month or two in the future.
If you happen to sell high dollar items, explore alternative payment options and offering installment plans. Remember, it’s likely that people still want your high dollar products, they just may not have the means to afford it all right now. Payment plans could bring in more customers and more sales.
If you're a restaurant, consider offering frequent discounts or free appetizers with the purchase of an entree! Also, you NEED to connect with online delivery services like DoorDash, Grubhub, and UberEats to spread your reach while people are eating at home more.
Remember that your customers want you to succeed and they will find a way to support you if you get creative with these revenue sources.
4. Give Your Business a Face Lift
An empty business has one advantage: it’s easier to clean and decorate!
Use this down time to do some deep cleaning (and not just because of COVID-19). Steam clean your carpets, power wash your entrances, have your floors professionally buffed and waxed. These are all things that are difficult to schedule when customers and employees are always on site.
If you’ve been wanting to remodel, now’s the time! If it’s not in the budget, consider investing in items that save you a bit of money long term like CFL light bulbs, LED lights, and solar energy. It’s a great time to upgrade appliances to more energy efficient models as well.
You could also consider rearranging your restaurant or store to change things up and give it a fresh start for reopening! This wouldn’t cost you anything. If you do have a little room in your budget, look into redecorating your table tops, display tables, etc.
Another area of improvement that is often neglected is security. Changing out locks can be a pain in the you know what when people are always in and out. Good thing is, right now you can get it all done in one go! Consider upgrading to something more modern like keyless locks and adding camera systems to reduce theft and protect yourself from liability claims in the future.
5. Streamline Communication and Operations
There’s no better feeling than upgrading your efficiency and finding a better way to operate your business. Take this extra time as an opportunity to uplevel your operating procedures. Audit your marketing spend. All inefficient processes must go!
Finally, consider shopping around for software that can make your business more organized and efficient. Modern point of sale systems with touch screen interfaces and emailed receipts cut costs and speed up check out times (which will be very nice when you are up and running again).
Whether your business is shut down currently, utilizing remote work, or operating at a low capacity - team communication is VITAL for you to survive. Look for a communication software that can keep your team in touch and up to date. Of course, ShiftNote is my go to recommendation for upgrading communication and employee scheduling to streamline operations and reduce payroll costs.
What are you doing to strengthen your business right now? Share your story in the comments below! Let’s help each other out during this time of need.