For businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses without large cash cushions, the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be enormous, affecting cash flow, sales, jobs and business survival rates.
As a small business owner, I know how, where and when I communicate with my clients during this crisis will greatly influence how my business will fare during the crisis and when it is over.
Take a moment to go over this small business crisis communications checklist to help your business remain healthy.
1. We are here! We are here!
In the words of Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who, you need to let your customers know you are still running your business and making every effort to keep your services/products available any way you can. You can’t assume your customers know you’re still operating (even in a diminished capacity), so make sure you tell them right away what you’re currently offering and that you’re working on a longer-term game plan.
Emailing your customer list is likely the quickest and easiest option. If you send out a regular e-newsletter, include your message in there as well.
2. Going on hiatus?
What if your business is closing—temporarily? Some businesses will have no choice but to close their doors. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from retailers announcing they’re closing for several weeks. All have mentioned their websites are still operating and many have eliminated or reduced shipping fees. If you’re in retail, now’s the time to ramp up your e-commerce business, and email marketing, again, seems like the fastest way to spread the word. Also consider social commerce, selling via your social media channels.
3. What should be on your website?
Where are your clients going to check first for information about your business? If you said your website, you are right and so you should have already posted information about any changes to the business such as new store hours, delayed deliveries and the best way to reach you. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge the crisis, offer advice and words of comfort. To be really helpful, post links to resources for more information on the crisis.
4. Email to stay in touch
After your initial outreach to your customers, it is imperative you keep the lines of communication open. If you’ve been communicating primarily by email, continue to use that channel. If you’re open for business, whether you’re selling products online, meeting with clients via telecommunication tools (Skype, Zoom, etc.), or selling food via takeout or delivery, consider emailing your customers and clients weekly. Customers will be bargain-minded, so offer incentives and promotions to persuade them to buy.
Many people are encouraging consumers to help out local businesses by buying gift cards now, for use later. This gives the businesses an influx of cash. So make sure you offer gift cards and visibly promote them.
Think about what your customers want to hear from you, in addition to discounts and other promotions. Can you offer information to help get them through the next few weeks or months? My hairdresser already texted me instructions on the right way to trim my own bangs. Depending on the type of business you operate, consider offering relevant tips, such as how to be productive working from home, tech tools, ways to entertain the kids while you work, best music or movies to help pass the time, favorite recipes, exercises, etc.
Consumers are stressed right now and would welcome hearing from a familiar business owner once or twice a month.
And make sure you let your customers know when you might be open for business again. When my dentist called to cancel my upcoming appointment, they rebooked me for a month from now, but added they’d be in touch with regular updates.
5. Start a dialogue on social media
Isolated consumers will be turning to social media for news and to make social connections. Start with the social platforms you usually use to engage you’re your clients and customers. But explore other social channels to find out where the conversations are. Ask open-ended questions to get a conversation going and make sure you answer questions customers have for you.
What you do not want to do is act the expert on the coronavirus. Refer people to the CDC website for the latest information.
6. Get creative
Now may be a good time to try communication channels you haven’t used before. Consider live streaming to show customers how to use your products, starting a podcast, or beefing up your YouTube channel.
What about holding virtual meetings with your clients over video chat, especially if your customers want face-to-face interactions, or you need to show charts or other visuals? Consider hosting webinars so you can interact with many of your clients at one time.
How are you planning on keeping communication going with customers during this global pandemic? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah./servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3367-416250/Rieva+headshot.png/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3364-414071/Rieva+headshot.png
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned. All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky.
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