How to keep your business going through coronavirus
We've rounded up the best ideas and advice from small business owners and industry experts to help your business survive – and hopefully even, thrive – during these incredibly difficult times.
1. Boost your customer communication
Using email, texts, social media is a brilliant way of showing you’re open for business while adhering to social distancing – and even self isolation – rules.
Take, for example, Bionic customer Lost Boys Pizza, who took to Twitter to let customers know where and what they are now delivering.
And check out how north London restaurant, Korto, has gone from an eat-in-only eatery to a successful delivery-only service.
BIONIC BIZ TIPS
“If you want to be creative in promotional and marketing material, make sure you have consent to communicate to your customers and you’re using the channels they agreed to. If your customers only agreed to receive emails from you, you have to stick to that. ” - Aylara Hadjimova, Marketing Automation Manager.
“This also includes gift card promotions. As for social media communications, you will only need consent to tag, direct message or post to customers if you are marketing your products to them. If you are answering questions, or promoting to all your followers, that would be fine.” - Matt Baxter, Compliance Manager.
2. Make social media your best friend
Social media is more important now than ever, so if you can, get busy – or even busier – on there.
Instagram works brilliantly for B2C businesses, such as hospitality, retail, beauty and wellbeing, while Twitter and LinkedIn are great platforms for B2B businesses.
For social media novices, Google run some handy free courses for getting yourself set up and digital media-savvy - find out more at https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage.
3. Start delivering
When independent cake shop The Cakery in Leamington Spa closed their doors to the public, they introduced ‘drive-by cupcakes’.
How does it work? You call them with your order and they deliver your cakes to your car, from a 2-metre distance, using an ingenious contraption that looks like a litter picker.
The initiative’s been so popular, the bakery’s just recorded its busiest Mother’s Day ever. They’ve made the best of social media, too, posting all their glowing customer reviews on Instagram Stories.
We’ve also seen fishmongers, spurred on by wanting to keep their elderly customers fed, start their own delivery services.
BIONIC BIZ TIPS
"If you are starting to offer a delivery service, make sure you have the right insurance in place. You might be taking tools and equipment with you, and are more likely to accidentally damage customers' property.
You also need to make sure the vehicle you're using is insured for commercial use (most normal car insurance policies don't cover this) and there are different covers available for the stock/goods you are delivering to customers.
It sounds complicated but claims may not be paid out if you have not told your insurance above this activity, and a good broker can help you choose the right cover. Being insured for a costly loss is even more important when the purse strings are tight". - David Woodfield, Insurance Director.
If you're planning on selling takeaway alcohol, you'll need to check your premises licence to make sure you're covered. For more information, check out our ultimate guide to running a cafe.
4. Shout loud about health and safety
People have a lot of questions right now. How safe in that delivery? How safe is that takeaway?
Share photos and words about the measures you’re taking, on your social media channels. Show pictures of you and your staff in your masks and gloves, working at a 2-metre distance.
Tell your drivers to leave packages a metre away from people’s doors and stick to the 2-metre rule themselves. Broadcast to your customers this is what you’re doing.
5. Offer special shopping hours for the elderly or vulnerable
Iceland started the trend and other supermarkets have followed.
Run a small grocery or pharmacy? Why not follow suit? You can announce your plans on social media – and/or the old fashioned-way by placing a big poster in your window.
Set a customer limit – two in the shop at any one time, for example – in order to allow for two-metre distancing. And place a reminder on A-board outside your premises, reminding anyone who might form a queue to leave the same distance.
6. Take it online
Bricks and mortar retail business? Now’s the time to go online? You can learn about how to set up your own online retail business at Shopify.
Crafter? Yoga teacher? Trainer? You could move your teaching and offer live, paid-for webinars, in which you can share your skills and expertise in social distance-safety.
Midlands-based social media company, The Social Media Facebook Hub, run by social media specialists Laura Moore and Laura Davies, are ahead of the curve.
Last week they ran an hour-long paid-for webinar, advising social media trainers how to take their training sessions from real-life meet-ups to live, monetised webinars. It’s an idea that could work for a number of small business owners.
You can get more tips at the Social Media hub on Facebook – along with more tips on setting up a webinar here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/blog/webinar/how-to-organise-a-webinar-ds00
7. Share the love in your community
Use social media to call upon your local community for support, using popular hashtags, such as #SupportLocal, #supportLocalBusiness #SupportLocalRestaurants
We’ve seen businesses inviting their Instagram and Twitter followers to post photos of their products/cakes/meals/you name it, using these hashtags to help spread the message.
Business owners pay it back by giving thanks and shout-outs to their customers and other local businesses. It’s a great way of bringing your community together – with the added bonus of boosting your business.
8. Encourage customers to buy gift cards
We’ve seen businesses doing this for a while now, and it’s a great way to make money while adhering to Social Distancing measures.
BIONIC BIZ TIPS
"When you’re promoting gift cards, you'll need to create a set of terms and conditions. These don't need to be too complicated, the main things they need to include are:
- How you will deliver the gift cards to your customers
- How long the promotion runs for
- Who is the promotion targeted at, and - what are the criteria for entering.
"You also need to make sure your promotion isn’t accidentally a lottery, as this would breach the Gambling Act 2005 and open you up to penalties.
"A list of rules for competitions and promotions can be found on the ASA website here: https://www.asa.org.uk/type/non_broadcast/code_section/08.html." - __Matt Baxter__, Compliance Manager
9. Turn your side hustle into your main hustle
Sadly some business owners and self-employed people will have no choice but to shut up shop. Becky, who lost her full-time theatre job recently, has channeled all the extra time she has on her hands into turning her part-time handmade baby clothes business, William And The Wolf, into her new main source of income.
Making the most of Instagram, Becky recently ran a live online market, on Instagram TV, where in which she posted all the items which were ready to ship – from wellbeing items for adults and burp cloths for baby. Her free shipping code was: CLEANHANDS
10. Get financial help
There’s financial help out there for you, from government grants to cover wages and business loans to cover any number of urgent spending needs. Small business owners can even claim back two weeks' worth of statutory sick pay from the government.
All of which can be quite a lot to take in, but we’re here to help cut through the noise.
For more information, read our guide - 'Help with business finance during the coronavirus pandemic UK lockdown'.
We hope you enjoyed reading about how your fellow small business owners are staying upbeat and afloat during these incredibly testing times.
We plan to keep updating this blog with new and novel ways to help keep your business going, and will keep you posted when we do.
In the meantime, take care and stay safe.