If you ever needed proof of the popular saying, "Life comes at you fast," the last few weeks would provide ample evidence. The economy is changing rapidly in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Markets are panicking. Grocery stores are packed. Toilet paper is mysteriously disappearing, and no one can say why except that everyone is buying because everyone else is buying. It almost feels like the world changed overnight and we just missed the memo.
Small business owners everywhere need to adjust quickly to staggering financial and societal changes. But where do you even start? And how can you possibly plan for success with the ground shifting under your feet?
Time for a Little Introspection
Introspection? At a time like this? It may seem counterintuitive to look in the mirror during an ongoing crisis, but in fact, there has never been a better moment for it.
You need to ask yourself who you are as a small business owner and think about the reasons you decided to go into business to begin with. What is your core offering? If you took away your storefront, your advertising or your website, what would your business be at a base level?
Understanding the foundational essentials of your business is important, because, in this stripped-down economy, the essentials may be all that remain. As a thought exercise, write down exactly why you are in business, and then write down what you offer to customers. Knowing the why and what will make it a lot easier to answer the next big question: how?
The Times They Are A-Changin'
You may have heard examples of businesses already changing their approach to evolve with the times Distilleries making hand sanitizer. Yoga studios offering online classes. Restaurants offering free delivery services. These are only a few examples.
The important lesson here is not in the specifics of each but the rationale behind them: in cases where businesses can alter their product or service offerings to allay customer fears and maintain engagement, they should do so, and they are, in ever-increasing numbers.
Taking the time to carefully examine your company's core mission and purpose will help you better understand how you can keep offering the essential thing you provide during the outbreak. But maybe you're getting hung up on one central problem that you can't seem to get around. Let's consider a few examples.
I sell handmade products at art markets; there are no more art markets. Cardboard boxes are your friend. Take advantage of modern eCommerce capabilities, sell online, load your products in boxes and ship them to your customers.
I'm a fitness coach, and the gym is closed. Get your clients on Zoom; they can sweat it out remotely while you critique their form via webcam. Just don't try to spot them.
I'm a cook, and my restaurant is shut down or limited. More people are home now than ever, and a lot of them don't know how to cook like you do. I bet they would love some online cooking lessons though.
I'm a consultant, and I usually meet my clients face to face. This one's easy. Get remote, get online and get on the phone.
I'm a tutor and I can't meet with my students. Meet remotely and start advertising your services more widely. There will be many parents who decide to begin homeschooling because of coronavirus concerns. If you have any special expertise in that area, that's a huge plus.
I'm a stylist and personal shopper, but no one's looking to shop right now. Provide closet evaluations and hair and makeup tips via FaceTime or WhatsApp. Your clients might not be buying new clothes, but now is the perfect time for a little Marie Kondo action with overflowing wardrobes. And just because we're shut indoors doesn't mean people won't be trying to look their best from the waist up for video calls.
I'm a landscaper, and I don't want to put myself at risk. Your customers likely don't want to either, but growing grass and wild weeds wait for no one. Take on jobs that you can handle solo; show up alone, mow, edge, mulch and then have your customers pay you via PayPal. Be sure to follow all local restrictions regarding sheltering in place.
When you find success as a small business owner, it's easy to become comfortable with certain ways of doing things. As we plunge into the corona economy, the rug will continue to fly out from under us. You will have to fight, adapt and improvise to find success in a market that, in many ways, may start to feel completely unrecognizable.
Fortunately, you have a few things going for you.
1. Your core business idea. That moment of reflection earlier? It should have helped you boil down your product or service offerings to their essential components. You know your fundamental idea is a good one and that it has legs; it's why you got started in business to begin with. You don't have to give up on that idea. All you need to do is find a new means of leveraging it during the outbreak.
2. Online capabilities. In a digitally connected world, the show goes on through websites and eCommerce. It's more important now than ever to ensure your online presence is robust and that your digital marketing is reaching the right people. Can you think of a better time to start building your own website than being stuck inside all day? Dive in with our website builder. You'll be amazed at what you can make.
3. Creative thinking. Music lessons on the phone? Step-by-step plumbing instructions over Skype? Pizza delivery via drone? OK, that last one might be a bit outlandish— or is it? Small business owners are among the smartest, most creative people on the planet, and they aren't going to let a virus prevent them from working hard to make their dreams a reality. Now isn't the time to hedge your bets. Go big, get creative and outwork the competition. You were born to do this.
If you need any assistance with the online side of things, the Web.com team would love to help. We're your partners in what is becoming an increasingly digital world, and we know what small business owners need to succeed. Give us a try. We'll do everything we can to help you thrive in the time of coronavirus.