No matter the size of your business, it probably has been caught in the crosshairs of COVID-19 in one way or another. The pandemic has brought businesses to their knees, fighting to keep customers and finding new ways to stay innovative and grow.
Businesses can survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s going to take a lot more than government-driven financial aid to do it. The real work starts behind the scenes with business leaders. From mapping out a new financial strategy to overhauling your current business operations, the work you do now could take your business successfully into the future.
Financial relief alone isn’t enough
In April 2020, CNBC reported that 7.5 million small businesses in America could potentially close because of COVID-19 effects. Since then, the government has released financial help in the form of the CARES Act. Still, about 25% of small businesses don’t believe that financial relief will help their business enough to remain open.
Financial relief alone isn’t enough to pull businesses out of the deep waters that COVID developed. It also takes a long, hard look at business finances, operations, and employee and customer strategy to find growth opportunities after the pandemic.
Finance is a primary consideration for businesses that COVID-19 have affected. How will a business survive during COVID-19 and after? Here are a few financial tips that could help:
Reduce Overhead and Go as Digital as Possible
Businesses that move from physical spaces to digital spaces could be the ones to beat in the future. Giving up a physical office can save your business on overhead costs and other expenses required for operating your business in person. Employees can work from home, and office supplies no longer become as necessary on a large scale.
Businesses nationwide are beginning to open more, but that doesn’t equate to consumers visiting as much as they used to. Some families continue to quarantine at home or refrain from going out as often as they did before COVID-19. Data suggests that department store sales will likely drop by 60% by the end of 2020, while online sales will grow by about 20%.
If you haven’t yet thought about making your operations as digital as possible – or, at least, with less of a physical footprint – you could be hindering your business’ potential for future growth.
If you aren’t on board with going fully online, you might consider adding a delivery or customer pickup option to your business plan to cut costs and cater to customers. Online ordering with in-store pickup has increased by 259% in August 2020 from August 2019.
Reconfigure Your Budget for Now and the Future
Grants and government loans can help you stay afloat now, but future financial gains depend on a healthy budget. Now is the perfect time to reassess your budget, cut unnecessary expenses, and see where you might have room to grow your revenue. Depending on your business type and model, this could look like:
- Finding low-cost marketing opportunities with big results
- Tapping into financial forecasting
- Paying smaller debts as quickly as possible with the debt snowball method
- Cutting subscriptions and services that aren’t helping you grow
- Scaling back on employee overtime
- Putting a temporary hold on company retreats
- Searching for vendors that could save you money
- Using services like invoice factoring to improve cash flow
You can take more steps now to lower expenses and increase your revenue to raise your chances of scoring a sound financial future. You’ll gain economic momentum as you get used to operating with your new budget, so when the pandemic dust settles, your new way of operating won’t feel like such a significant shift. You can always adjust your budget again when business picks up.
Look at Your Contracts and Insurances
Do you plan to continue leasing property for your business? What kind of contracts do you have in place for payroll? You might be able to cut some of those costs by renegotiating contracts. Other companies could understand your situation if they’re going through something similar.
Your landlord might be willing to temporarily lower rent for a few months, especially if you offer to pay interest for the favor when business picks up. Your payroll company might provide a longer-term contract for a lower price per month.
You can also try to renegotiate business loans and credit cards. Ask for lower interest based on your on-time payments thus far. Or, offer to pay a lump sum to settle the account for less than the full amount. Credit companies could bite if you offer them a guaranteed payment.
Business insurance costs might also have some wiggle room for cost adjustments. You can also look over your insurance to see if it will cover interrupted business operations – known as business interruption insurance – to curb the effects of lost income from the pandemic.
Changing or adapting your business model to customers’ ever-changing needs and your business growth is essential for every business. During the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep your business flexible. That could mean changing the very foundation that you built your business upon, but it could also keep your head above water during these unprecedented times.
Make Your Business More Noticeable Online
An online presence is gold right now. If your business operated only physically until now, it’s time to move it into the digital world, too. Consumers have generally moved more toward online shopping and digital services than taking advantage of physical stores and services, even as lockdown orders lift. Your presence online could be what gets your business noticed.
A website will act as the hub of your business. Make one if you haven’t yet or focus on making your current one as user-friendly as possible. And, make sure your site has a blog. Companies with blogs on their websites get up to 67% more leads per month than those without a blog.
Build your presence on social media, too. Spend time every day posting relevant industry information to your channels, asking thought-provoking questions, and interacting with your current and potential customers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. Top-performing social media content for many businesses include:
- “Day-in-the-life” posts about what your team is up to
- Personal stories from team members
- Quote graphics
- Industry-related humor
- Questions about what consumers need or want
- New product or service promotions
- Live videos
- Case studies
- Share about industry-relevant brands, products, articles, etc. that you love
Think About the Now to Grow Later
As tempting as it is to get through the right now that you’re struggling with, it’s crucial to look beyond the short-term aspects of your business. Your goal isn’t to just make it through the pandemic; it’s to figure out how to thrive beyond the pandemic, too.
What changes can you implement now that could help you later? For example, you might lower some of your products or services’ prices to appeal to a lower consumer budget. Or, reconfigure your service offerings to make a completely free version with limited features for people to try. Those people could turn into paying customers when they have more money to spare.
If your budget allows, you might also consider services or programs to invest in, like customer relationship management (CRM) software. You might get locked into lower prices right now, too, that could save you money in the future.
From offering more remote opportunities to reconsidering your employee roles, your business can thrive despite COVID-19.
Keep Employees Productive
COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed how businesses operate and employees work. The pandemic made companies realize that many of their employee roles were remote-friendly, allowing them to continue completing their work tasks from home to date.
According to the State of Remote Report by Buffer, 98% of surveyed workers want to have the option of working at home at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. In another survey, 75% of employees feel that they have been more productive working from home than not.
Time will tell if the upwards productivity trend will continue further into the pandemic. However, businesses can help by boosting collaboration. Remote collaborative tools, like Slack, Google G Suite, Trello, and Basecamp, can keep the team working together and on the same page. Collaboration is especially crucial for positive morale and catering to employees on the more extroverted end of the spectrum.
Consider New Employee Roles
New business changes may call for shifts in employee roles. The employees who you have now are some of your most significant assets, but their jobs may not be as relevant now as they were six or seven months ago with your reconfigured business strategy.
How can you still make your employees relevant if their roles aren’t? By giving them new responsibilities.
Someone who was once in charge of managing an in-person team might now do the same remotely. You can also have that employee add some customer service management tasks to their plate. In doing so, you’re keeping your employees working and giving them new tools to carry with them when business picks up again.
You might also consider utilizing freelancers to assist with new tasks that arise as you shift operations. Freelancers can help with customer service, social media marketing, website design, grant writing, etc. Freelancers can save money on payroll because their non-employee status doesn’t make them eligible for employee benefits.
Your customers are the backbone of your business, now and in the future. Now is the time to really tap into their needs and find business solutions that keep those needs at the forefront.
Consider Your Customers’ Needs Right Now
The customer experience has changed for many businesses since the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers’ needs have also changed, and they need the support of the businesses they frequent.
Your primary goal for customers should be meeting those needs in any way possible. Reaching out to customers to see what they need from you can help. You might also:
- Temporarily reduce pricing on select products and services
- Offer contactless delivery or pickup
- Digitizing as many business operations as possible
- Provide plenty of discount codes and promotions
- Creating new products or services that meet their needs through the pandemic
- Offer digital demos of your products or services
- Host free online events
- Connecting with customers on social media and via email
Marketing and Growth for the Future
The number one point to remember about marketing right now is that consumers don’t want to hear about your business and what it does. They only want to know how it can potentially help them through this unusual time in their lives. Tapping into your customers’ pain points through your marketing can build an emotional connection between them and your brand.
Marketing has changed as much as business has changed from COVID-19. Building relationships through virtual means is more important than ever. Stick with marketing tactics that make sense for a more digital world, like social media marketing and email marketing.
Content marketing is one of the best ways you can do this. Content marketing is low-cost for you, costing about 62% less than other forms of marketing, according to DemandMetric. The same guide notes that, despite its lower cost, content marketing can produce an ROI that’s three times higher than traditional marketing.
How Businesses Can Survive During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Businesses can survive during the COVID-19 pandemic if they reimagine their financial, business, employee, and customer strategies. But moving beyond the pandemic into a post-COVID world relies on the business’s ability to continue to adapt and consider its customers’ needs in new ways.
Things like marketing, customer relationships, business operations, and employee roles may look different now; but, your attention to them can make all the difference to your business when it’s time to step on the gas pedal once again.