As different places begin to allow local businesses to open up, you’re not alone if you’re breathing a sigh of relief mixed with a gasp of worry. We all need the money. We all want to get back to being useful for the people we serve. And some or most of us are worried about what happens next. Let’s talk about some of it.
OPEN UP! It’s the Customers!
Remember this above all else: everyone is tense. No one will likely be their most courteous and their best behaved. No matter how grown up and strong we all our, this really counts as actual real mental trauma. It’s going to take a bit to get over it, and that means you as the business owner will have to smother their customers and prospects with kindness, but there’s a lot more.
1. Clean Up
Customers are going to want to understand how you’re handing a clean work environment after this pandemic. Even if you personally think it’s silly in some cases, don’t discount your customer’s vote on this one. Make it clear and obvious and explain how you are handling everything, even things you can’t imagine someone wondering about like whether you disinfect your cardboard before boxing up their product. (Turns out this is a big and common question now when people consider purchasing something online.)
2. Sell Online
Even after the big bad bug is finally vanquished enough for us not to care about it, people are used to ordering and buying online for many products and services you can’t even imagine people getting remotely. I have a friend who sells hay and the moment he got the web store live on his website, he had orders.
3. Communicate More
Partly because of online sales and definitely because of this “If I can’t see it, how do I know what’s going on?” mindset, people are looking for more “touches” between themselves and companies, even in B2B situations. If the order typically takes a week to build and ship, then give people updates every day or two. When I ordered DoorDash to get a burger sent to me during lockdown, I received five or six texts from the app, telling me the food was being made, the food was ready for pickup, the driver picked up the food, the driver is two minutes away, and the driver is here. Do something like that.
4. Consider New Payment Options in Two Ways
On the one hand, if you’re not using things like PayPal, Stripe, Venmo, and Cashapp, you might want to get some accounts setup. People are sending money through multiple channels. Second, you might realize that with nearly 30 million people unemployed in the US on the day I wrote this to you, cash is tight. You might have to sell “smaller bites” versions of what you offer, so that people can afford you. There are many creative ways to work on this.
5. Reach Out
It’s no surprise that this is my advice. I’ve spent twenty years begging companies to use tools like video and audio and good email marketing to reach potential customers. There’s a lot to this, it seems, but at the root of it all is the same goal: communicate and connect with the people you hope to help and earn the right to sell and serve.
To that end, Becky and Deb have a whole new program about learning to restart your local shopping. If that’s your kind of small town business, then it’s pretty important you check that out.
If not, realize that all businesses are going through some form of what you’re experiencing and that it’s important to accept that it won’t be perfect. But know this, also: people are really getting behind “shop local” in a way they’ve never expressed it before. This might be an ideal time to change up some of your work and really earn their money and customer longevity.
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