As the coronavirus crisis continues to escalate, many small business owners are losing hope of navigating their business successfully through the pandemic. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported that on March 23, 2020, 76% of small businesses said they had already been negatively impacted by the current public health crisis.
Instead of waiting in limbo while their company awaits word from the local and federal government regarding funding and shutdown timelines, some local businesses have figured out how to become proactive in ensuring their livelihood. Read below about 15 types of local SEO survival efforts that local businesses large and small are making with success.
15 Tips Every Small Business Should Follow to Survive
- Be Adaptable and Willing to Try New Things
Coronavirus has fundamentally altered the meaning of “normal” for society, and it’s critical to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of the market. There has never been more reason to try those new business strategies that are outside of your comfort zone but could save your company. Here are a few examples of businesses that spotted needs in the market and successfully adjusted their products and services to fill those holes:
- The Park Cafe: This local Salt Lake cafe created a social distancing-friendly drive-thru system to drum up business in support of employees instead of closing its doors.
- Ogden’s Own: It’s no secret that hand sanitizer is in short supply. So, in response to the growing demand, Ogden’s Own Distillery halted vodka and whiskey production and got clearance to start making hand sanitizer instead.
- Wriggles Wraps: This casual eatery added sharable, freezable menu items that can easily be brought to neighbors or added to frozen food storage. The company paused catering to provide meal donations to first responders and healthcare workers and ease the burden of the pandemic on their families.
- Yaymaker: This company, known for its social art events for people ages 21+, is no longer able to offer in-person paint classes. But they’ve seen that parents are struggling to entertain their kids at home, so they have begun to offer online classes at a reduced rate to aspiring Picassos of all ages.
- Show What You’re Doing to Protect the Public
During times of crisis, consumer confidence is more important to have than almost anything else. How are you keeping your customers safe? Whatever you’re doing, make it visible to your target audience.
Brooker’s Founding Flavors Ice Cream exemplifies what every company should be striving to do right now. This new colonial-themed Utah ice cream shop has begun offering drive-thru/curbside service with employees waiting outside to receive your order from you at your vehicle. Brooker’s has publicized this service far and wide and have even teamed up with Doordash to offer free delivery for first-time orders. Employees wear gloves, use hand sanitizer, offer contactless pay-ahead options — and they post photos on their Instagram page every day, showing how they’re proceeding with caution for the safety of the public.
You’d think that a small, nonessential business like this would struggle during a difficult time, but the company is seeing hundreds of customers every day, because of its unique adaptation endeavors.
It’s also a good idea to issue safety statements to let people know what you’re doing to keep your business safe and clean, such as keeping people six feet apart, offering hand sanitizer, and having no-contact payment options. These small efforts keep people coming through your doors. Utah First Credit Union’s COVID-19 safety statement is a prime example of an effective safety statement:
- Make Employees Feel Safe and Appreciated
Employees are the power source that makes your company’s gears turn. You need a strong, united team in place to survive an economic downturn, which requires communication and transparency on your end. Workers will work harder and feel safer when you express your appreciation and earn their trust, so be kind and communicate honestly and effectively with your staff during this time.
A recent survey by Achievers revealed that employees aren’t engaged and are twice as likely to quit within a year if they do not feel recognized for their achievements.
- 26% feel undervalued and unappreciated, which is one of the biggest barriers to engagement.
Do everything you can to show that you care and make your workers feel appreciated for being diligent amid such a disruption, and, depending on your industry, risking their health and safety to do so.
Harmon’s, for example, is a local Utah grocer that has not only reduced its operating hours to allow employees more time to rest and be with their families, but it has also put up glass barriers to minimize customer and employee exposure to the virus.
- Jump on the Meal Delivery Bandwagon
With so many households hunkering down under government order, food delivery services aren’t just surviving — they’re thriving. Doordash, GrubHub, and UberEats have become essential, allowing communities to continue supporting and enjoying their favorite restaurants despite the lockdown.
Earnest Research data recently looked at anonymized transaction data from millions of customers and found that, on the week of March 25, 2020, DoorDash saw a 72% increase in sales from the year before.
If you are a restaurant and you haven’t made your menu available through one of these delivery services, it’s time to do so. There’s no way to know when life will return to normal, and in the meantime, you need all the advantages you can get.
- Offer Incentives to Save
Social media is an excellent tool for letting customers know that you’re still providing your services. With everyone working from home, doing school online, and finding entertainment on the internet, social media is a surefire way to make sure people see your posts and know that you’re still open for business.
Once you’ve established the availability of your services, use your platforms to offer saving incentives. Considering the state of the economy, consumers are going to be pinching their pennies, but if you offer deals and discounts, they’ll appreciate being able to enjoy your offerings without spending as much.
Returning to our favorite revolutionary war-themed ice cream parlor as an example, Brooker’s Founding Flavors Ice Cream offered a promotional discount for buying in bulk. Those who visited their drive-thru during the first week of lockdown could get four pints of ice cream for only $30. In the second week of lockdown, the deal changed to six pints for $50, which encouraged spending but also made the ice cream more affordable for those with large families.
- Support Other Businesses
What goes around comes around, they say. If you want the community to support your business, it’s time to ramp up your efforts to support other companies in return. When you see other local businesses doing great things, give them a shoutout on social media, consider giving them your business, and write them a Yelp/Google review. They just may return the favor. After all, we’re all in this together, and we need to foster a sense of community by supporting one another. It’s more important now than ever.
The popular Provo-based 2for1 Mobile App is setting the standard in Utah for business-to-business support in its recently launched initiative called the Utah Restaurant Resurgence. The initiative started in response to the statewide stay-at-home order and subsequent decline in dine-in customers as well as Governor Herbert’s challenge to order takeout three times a week to support small, local restaurants.
As part of the Utah Restaurant Resurgence, 2for1 partnered up with the Gregory and Julie Cook foundation and purchased $100,000 worth of food from local restaurants (equating to around 10,000 meals) in order to serve app users for free. The primary goal of this initiative was to drive consumers to order more takeout from restaurants all over the state, and so far, it’s been a great success. Businesses like Burgers Supreme saw that those redeeming the free offers were also spending money at the restaurant as they’d hoped.
As 2for1’s CEO said, “Restaurants are facing a big challenge right now, and we want to offer our support in a meaningful way. We want to keep restaurants from having to let go of employees or permanently close their doors. What better way than to let the 2for1 app users enjoy a free meal and grab something extra while trying out a new restaurant?”
You can participate or learn more about this initiative here.
- Post Pictures or Videos of You Doing Your Part
Consumers admire businesses that do their part for the community. When your employees are practicing social distancing, sanitizing the surfaces of your place of business, or otherwise ensuring public health, take pictures or videos and post them so the public can see how you’re helping. Crumbl is effective at publicizing its coronavirus guidelines:
Not only does this promote feelings of positivity toward your brand, but it could also save lives.
Utah Orthopaedic Specialists is another worthy example. Their staff is still working from the office as usual, but they took to TikTok to show, in a fun way, how they’re wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and staying safe: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-sOSzSHsBw/
- Earn Social Media Shares
When you do good for the community, the word gets out. This shouldn’t be your primary motivation to do good deeds in your community, but it’s definitely effective, as can be seen in Glossier’s April 14 post in which they reshared a post from nurses on the receiving end of their donations. This post was visible to their nearly three million followers and the general public:
You have the power to create a similar effect. If you are a restaurant, for example, and you have a health care worker visit your drive-thru in his or her scrubs, offer them a free meal. This action will either get shared on social media or by word of mouth. It’ll ear you publicity, and you’ll also feel good about supporting those on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus.
- Run Post-Pandemic Promotions
Post-pandemic promotions are a savvy way to get business to flood back to you when the pandemic is over, especially if you’re a nonessential business such as a salon, spa, movie theater, boutique, etc.
If you were a small clothing retailer, for instance, you could use social media or paid ads to run a promotion that encourages your customer base to spend $100 on your website and earn a $70 in-store credit to use when your storefront is back open. This gives people something to look forward to, creates positive feelings about your business, and makes people want to spend money at your store. Best of all, it increases your odds of a strong rebound when this is all over.
- Repurpose Social Posts About Your Company
Did you know that, with the owner’s permission, you can repurpose the positive social content your customers have shared about your business? When consumers share reviews and good experiences, they usually do it with the intent of helping the company, so get as much mileage out of it as you can. This repurposed content may even give other customers new ideas about what they can do with your product(s) and how they can make life easier during the quarantine.
Lately, Crumbl has been especially proactive and diligent about reposting Instagram stories of families bonding over Crumbl cookies in quarantine. One family’s content was repurposed with the caption, “The best stay-at-home activity,” encouraging other families to follow suit.
- Encourage Customers to Help Out
When you’re doing your part for your customers, don’t be afraid to ask for a little help in return. Let them know that their purchases and donations keep you in business and that, without their support, you’re at risk of going under. This is your opportunity to help your audience know exactly what they can do to support you.
Crumbl has asked for support in any of its various forms:
- Update the Public on Service Updates
Continue to post regularly on social media, so your company remains near the forefront of peoples’ minds. Also, make it easy for them to find out whether or not they can still come to you for business.
Whenever you make an update to your operations or services, you should update your customers as well. If you haven’t already, modify your menus or service lists so they can be easily viewed online, making new take-out or curbside versions if needed. Leatherby’s Family Creamery simplified and condensed its extensive, four-page menu into a convenient one-page curbside menu, and they’ve announced the change and made it easy to find on their social platforms:
- Engage and Connect With Your Community on Social Media
Businesses large and small are cornerstones of all communities. When customers are no longer on your premises interacting with you in person, they expect you to engage them on social media. There are endless ways you can stay connected to them and show your continued value in peoples’ towns. Here, we list some ideas:
- Contests: Leatherby’s Family Creamery is hosting a coloring contest just for fun. The winner will receive a prize, and their artwork will be hung in the store windows. What better way to engage and connect with those around you?
- Offering giveaways: Want to give away product to draw in new business? Encourage your followers to tag their friends and spread the word for a chance to win free merchandise, food, or whatever your offering happens to be.
- Streaming live videos: Video streaming is a valuable opportunity to give your followers a “behind-the-scenes look” at how you do certain things or what life in your business looks like from the inside. You don’t have to give up business secrets, but transparency humanizes a brand. You could even take this chance just to open up a discussion about how you got started. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, so long as you’re starting a conversation.
- Hosting Q&A sessions: Find out what your customers want to know or see from you. Post a question on your Instagram story and give them the answers you never knew they wanted!
- Creating polls: Social media polls give you the chance to conduct market research and collect data insights for your customers’ benefit. Which of your top-performing products do your consumers prefer? Pit two products against each other and find out if your assumptions are correct or if you need to rethink your current understanding of customer needs.
- Posting community experiences: Chick-fil-A has begun a campaign called #thelittlethings that positions its brand as a connection point within the community. This campaign involves posts showing their customers and followers uplifting others with their food and their shared values. In what ways do your products and services connect people?
- Update Google My Business
If you don’t have a Google My Business account, now is the time to get that done. If you already have one, review your account to ensure everything is correct and up to date. Keep your COVID-19-specific hours updated on your listing as well so customers know when you’re actually available. Include any new curbside menus or product lists if those have been impacted in the last month. Include your URL and a number of pictures, and make sure you fill out as much of the information as possible. Once it’s complete, don’t forget to double-check and verify all your information one more time.
- Go the Extra Mile
To anyone reading this, it’s time to up your game as a business. Humanize your company by posting more content, writing more reviews, sharing more experiences, engaging with your audience, and finding out how you can give back to local businesses. You don’t have to stretch yourself thin, but give whenever you have the means to make sure that your favorite places are still here when business resumes as normal.
The Best Way to Protect Your Business Is to Look After Others
As you can see, small business survival during a crisis doesn’t always come down to protecting cash flow or making budget cuts. Sometimes, it simply comes down to showing some heart and community spirit. Local businesses are proving that ways can be found to come out of this pandemic stronger, by looking out for others — your employees, customers, and other businesses in your position. Ultimately, we can’t get through this without each other.