As the owner of a small business, you’ve had to make incredibly difficult decisions recently that you’d never anticipated. Maybe you’ve had to furlough employees that feel like family, use your savings to pay suppliers, find new sources of finance to protect your cashflow or temporarily close your business altogether. 54 percent of small businesses in the US report that their businesses have shut down or expect to shut down in the next few weeks. Throughout this unsettling time, there is one constant: your customers. You may have closed your doors for now, but your customers remain, and they want to support you more than ever. Buyer behaviors are changing due to restrictions on travel. Consumers remain in their neighborhoods, shopping locally. Some are buying essential items and groceries online from local stores offering delivery. There is a collective goodwill in our communities to support our 30 million small businesses. Your customers share this commitment to supporting you, but many are unsure how to do this. Here are five ways you can stay front of mind with your customers so that when you reopen for business, you’re off to a flying start.
Stay connected with your customers
If you do nothing else, stay in touch with your customers. Thank them for their business. With many people self-isolating, your interactions will be appreciated more than ever. In these exceptional times, use your social channels in different ways than usual. One ecommerce firm currently closed to new orders is using its Instagram channel to run virtual mindfulness sessions, fitness classes and share motivational quotes rather than promoting fashion. You could send an email or handwritten, mailed note explaining what you’re doing to keep your employees and customers safe and that you’re looking forward to reopening when the time is right.
Demonstrate your values and purpose
At Pitney Bowes, we’ve built our business on the values of doing the right thing, the right way. If your small business has similar values and a strong brand purpose, let people know. During times of uncertainty, values hold fast. You’ve built relationships with your customers and community. Now is a good time to strengthen those ties. Are there different ways you can assist your customers and your communities? Maybe you have access to delivery vehicles and could use them to deliver medicines, or you could support your local nonprofit with care packages.
Suggest things your customers can do now to help your cashflow
There are some things your customers can do now that will make a big difference to your cashflow. Identify these and tell your customers. These might include:
- buying gift cards online for future use
- rescheduling rather than cancelling their reservations with you
- retaining subscription-based services and continuing regular payments – you can make up the service at a later date
- ordering takeout from you if you’re still able to offer it
- following your social media channels, sharing and interacting with your posts
- Writing online reviews for you
Continue to offer a service
Encourage clients to ask the questions they would if your doors were open. Whatever your specialism, you can be available to offer advice and answer the most commonly asked questions in a digital newsletter or in daily social posts. Whether you’re a hair colorist or accountant, an IT consultant, caterer or acupuncturist, you have a skill that your customers need. You might not be able to deliver it in person, but your expertise is highly valued.
Many small businesses have shifted offline services to digital services with the help of cloud-based videoconferencing platforms and collaboration tools. Yoga classes, language learning sessions, dance classes and life coaching have all pivoted their organizations to offer services and products in an alternative way. Others have moved events to live streams or webinars. Trialing these alternative channels – even if they don’t work – demonstrates your commitment to your customers and your drive to deliver, even during challenging times.