This is the first of a four-part series from Alkaloid Networks member, Matt Schwartz of Inspry, a digital web design agency specializing in web site design, web development, and e-Commerce in Joomla, WordPress, and Shopify. Matt and his team develop and maintain the sites for many Alkaloids including Alkaloid Networks, ArtsATL, and the Atlanta Coworking Alliance to name just a few. In an effort to help other Alkaloid Networks members minimize disruption, we offer his tips to the broader community.
A few weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic and residents across the nation are buckled down in anticipation of the outbreak’s peak. Meanwhile, local businesses continue to reel from the overarching impacts of social distancing measures and shelter in place orders. Whether you’re seeing a sharp drop in demand, or if you’ve been forced to halt physical operations entirely, here are 7 steps you can take minimize disruption from the effects of COVID-19 on your business.
During uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to keep your customers informed. Updating your Google My Business profile is a quick, easy way to answer common questions, and do a little free advertising as well. Make changes to your operating hours, mark any temporary closures. Edit your business description to include any products or extra services you’ve added, like delivery or curbside pickup. You can even add photos, videos, or a personal message with a call to action. Alkaloid Networks hosted a free educational session on how to create better local SEO that you can view here.
2. Publish a Coronavirus COVID-19 Statement or Advisory
Create a non-invasive banner for your website. Reach out through email or a blog post to let visitors know how you’re responding to the coronavirus situation (like Alkaloid Networks did here). Whether you’ve implemented new sanitary measures, enabled home delivery, or begun no contact service, it’s important to get the word out. Keep the message concise and relevant to your products or services. Get specific with what you’re offering or doing to provide value to customers. Squarespace is currently offering an announcement bar for free with all plans, while WordPress has a free plugin available here.
3. Pivot More of Your Core Services Online
Further minimize disruption by thinking creatively about the services you provide and how to reach your customers at home. Take advantage of tele-conferencing and video options like Zoom or SignalWire whenever possible. For direct sales, it may be possible to provide quotes or consultation services through video chats. If you’re unable to provide services in person right now, remote tele-consultations can help develop leads. You will have the added benefit building your customer database while waiting for normal business to resume.
4. Upgrade Your E-Commerce, but Watch Your Supply Chain
While you’re making the transition from in-person to online sales, be sure to keep your inventory updated. Highlight any newly relevant or in-demand products, and consider sharp discounts on underperforming items. Keep shipping and production delays in mind. With some e-commerce sites you have the option to set a catalog mode. Customers can browse inventory and contact you directly for final sale, or you can add delay advisories and continue taking orders online. To avoid dealing with orders you can’t fulfill, make sure you have plans in place for supply chain interruptions or bottlenecks. To minimize disruption, you may need to source alternate vendors or explore other delivery options.
5. Use Discounts or Gift Cards to Get Paid Up-Front
Gift cards and discounts on future services are a great way to inject some much needed cash flow into your business. Be prepared to offer a discount or bonus as an incentive to your customers. And consider collaborating with other businesses to take advantage of co-marketing benefits. You can currently find gift cards being offered for free with all Shopify plans. If you use Square, it’s free to create digital gift cards. Gift Up! is offering no fees on the first $5000 in gift card sales. You can pick up a gift card for future coworking at Alkaloid Networks here.
6. Explore Small Business Loan Options
Depending on where your company is located, federal, state, and local governments and organizations are offering low-interest loans to qualifying small businesses. You may need funds for payroll, interest on mortgages, rent, or utilities. Your business may be eligible for a forgivable small business loan under the Paycheck Protection Program included in the recent congressional stimulus bill. You’ll need to find a lender near you and apply through their system. The Small Business Administration also has a Disaster Loan Assistance application available online. The site helps to determine if you’re eligible for a low-interest SBA loan. Don’t forget to check for local small business loan opportunities as well, like those available through InvestAtlanta.
Note: Due to demand, InvestAtlanta is not currently accepting new applications. Check back to see if this changes as they seek additional funds.
7. Invest in Password Management and Crisis Mitigation
Finally, if you aren’t already using password management, now is a great time to start. In the event you become ill, you don’t want your business gridlocked over lost passwords or inaccessible files. Expanded trials and free services are now available from companies like 1password or lastpass. You can create and manage vaults for individuals and teams, so everyone has secure, remote access to what they need, when they need it. When you set up two-factor authentication, remember to add another authorized user so more than one person can authenticate for access.