With social isolation an enforced reality because of the coronavirus pandemic, many small business owners are finding themselves unable to work as they did before. Their businesses may have had to close temporarily because of the need for social distancing, or it may have become simply impractical to continue with business as usual at this time.
While there is the obvious pain of reduced income when unable to work, this moment in time also offers an unprecedented opportunity. As a small business owner, why not use this time to take a step back and have a good look at how your business functions, so that when life returns to normal, you can be even more productive and successful than you were before?
Have some rest
Being unable to work as you did prior to the pandemic means you probably have much more time on your hands. You can use some of that time to have a genuine rest. Sleep a bit more than you normally would, watch a few movies, take up a new (home-based) hobby, get some exercise, and generally disengage your brain from some of your normal patterns of thinking.
Find new ways of working
You’re currently in a situation where you’re either unable to work, or you’re looking for new ways to work, depending on the nature of your business. Many businesses are now using online tools in order to continue their business activities, whether using some form of remote working, video conferencing or other tools that enable them to remain productive. You may even find new ways of working in your current context that you will be able to utilise when things return to normal and social distancing becomes a thing of the past.
Redefine your vision
Now is a great time to think through where you want your business to go, what you want to achieve, and how you can get there.
Do you have short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals? How do you want your business to grow? Who are your customers and what is your target market? Are there different markets you want to tap into? Do you need to outsource some of your current activities? Do you need to look at taking on additional staff in order to achieve the outcomes you want?
Study your competition
Take the time to have a look at what your competition have been doing.
Maybe you don’t even know who your competitors are. Pick a search term that people might use to find your business online, type it in to Google, Bing, or whatever search engine you use, and see what other businesses are listed there. Then visit their websites to see what they say about themselves and see if you can glean anything of value to you. We can always learn from the activities of businesses in our own industry, but also from those in other industries that are doing things entirely different from our own sphere of activity.
When you’re busy working day to day you often lack the time to upskill or take on any training that would actually enable you to do an even better job. This time of enforced social isolation is a great opportunity to go online and learn some new skills.
You may already be aware of gaps in your knowledge that you could fill through a combination of reading appropriate learning materials or watching instructional videos. You may even be able to practice your newfound skills if the resources you need to do so are readily available. In addition to this, why not consider some more formal online training, or maybe even gain an additional qualification through online learning?
Take charge of your marketing
Perhaps you’ve outsourced your marketing to a specialist company, partly because you’ve been too busy actually doing the work, and partly because you don’t consider yourself to have the necessary expertise in this area. I’m thinking here primarily of digital marketing, whether through paid advertising online, search engine optimisation (SEO), or social media. This could be a good time to assess whether you’re happy with your current digital marketing agency, or whether you might consider an alternative company, or even do some of these activities yourself.
Are you happy with the content of your website and how it looks? Do you need a new website? Is this something you might even consider designing yourself? There are plenty of platforms around designed to enable you to do this. You might use Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, or another of the platforms available.
You may be marketing your business through Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising or Facebook Ads, which are pay-per-click (PPC) platforms. Now is the time to review your PPC marketing and to assess whether the ads you’re currently serving are giving you a satisfactory return on your investment. Study the reports provided by your digital marketing specialist in more detail than you normally would so that you gain a solid grasp of whether these have actually been working for you.
Perhaps you haven’t considered PPC advertising before. This could be the time for you to investigate this marketing opportunity and determine whether it’s something that might benefit your business.
Search engine optimisation
SEO relates to the activities you undertake with the objective that when people search the internet using terms related to your business, they will readily find you. Ideally you’d like your website to appear on the first page when people search the internet using one of these terms.
You may already have a digital marketing company performing this function for you. Do they send you regular reports, detailing the specifics of what they’re actually doing for you each month? This is a great time to assess whether you’re making progress towards achieving the outcomes you’re targeting.
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube: you may be using one or more of these to promote your business. Or have you created a Facebook page or set up an Instagram account but never actually posted anything there? Of course you need followers in order to derive any value from your posts, and one great way to start off is by emailing your previous customers to ask them to like, follow or share your page.
Your digital marketing agency may already be looking after your social media marketing for you but it’s easy for this to become rather impersonal. If this is the case, now is your opportunity to think through how you’d like to be showcasing your company through whichever social media channels are appropriate for you. There is no more authentic voice for your business than your own.
Never before have we lived through a period in time like this and who knows whether we will ever do so again. Take the time and use the opportunity to prepare your business to come back even stronger after the pandemic is over. In years to come, you may look back on this time as a time of unprecedented opportunity. The choice is yours.