Running a small business isn’t easy. It’s a lot of hard work, smart choices, careful consideration and a big dollop of tenacity at the best of times, and when a crisis hits, it only gets harder. 92% of small businesses in the US said they’ve suffered negative effects from the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the situation in the UK is much the same. However, harder doesn’t mean impossible, as almost all small businesses will know already! In fact, a crisis can be an incredibly important time for your business, and if you can navigate uncertain waters successfully, when the storm clears you can emerge confident and with a strong brand, clear message and with a model that puts you in the best possible position.
Even at the best of times, your business news to be ready to adapt to the needs of your customers and of the market, but during a crisis, this is amplified 10 times over. When the going gets tough, your business should be asking itself a few different questions in order to get yourself to where you need to be.
When things get tough for businesses, it’s almost always tough for customers as well. Recessions, high unemployment rates, lockdowns and more all affect the way your customers behave. Do they have less to spend? Maybe you need to adjust your branding and pricing model. Are you getting less footfall in your brick and mortar stores? Can you move any of your operations online? Are they more conscious of their carbon footprint? What can you do as a business to reduce your environmental impact? Is there a new gap in their day-to-day that you can fill? How do you get that off the ground?
Maybe all of these won’t be relevant to you right now, but keeping a close eye on the way your customers behave, not just regarding your sector, but their lives as a whole can bring about opportunities and help you jump over the holes that crises can poke in your business model.
Listen to your customers – as their behaviour changes, so will their needs. Right now, it’s pretty likely that your customers will need to hear clear, concise messages about your operations, safety precautions and what they need to know when working with or purchasing from your business. This means clear communication both on and offline, including signage, information packs, clearly readable company policies and more.
Right now every small business has different needs and requirements that impact how they communicate with their customers, but the most important thing is to make sure you’re being clear and transparent in all your messages.
How do you usually communicate with your customers? If face-to-face communication is a big part of how you speak to your customers, then you might need to change your tune a little. Social media and other digital channels have never been so important, which is why having a strong digital strategy and visual identity has to be a vital part of your business strategy during a crisis.
This also applies to when you’re bringing your operations online – make sure your new online presence has the same visual identity customers have come to associate with you. A service like Design Cloud can be a cost-effective way to sharpen your visual brand and get you all the assets you need for your new service, website, portal, social presence, or whatever else it is you need to do to make sure you’re keeping up in tough times.
During a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for all of us, including small business owners, to consider what they can do to help our communities. This might be a charity fund, an hour set aside for elderly and immunocompromised customers, or home deliveries to customers who need it. It might just be a big, heartfelt thank you to your staff – whatever you can do in your situation, after all, everyone’s is different.