In the middle of a pandemic, it is understandable that struggling small businesses are wondering when they will be able to get back to operating as they did before. The short answer is that, in most cases, they cannot.
The pandemic has not only affected the businesses, but also their customers. In retail customers have had to embrace online shopping. While it started as a necessity, it has proved to be much more convenient in many areas.
I, for one, don’t intend carrying heavy supermarket shopping when the shop will deliver at little or no cost. Which means that supermarkets need to adjust in order to satisfy this increased demand together with reduced footfall.
The same is true for restaurants who have been reduced to takeaway services. This was once the province of pizzas and curries but is now the provider of a whole range of restaurant foods. As lockdown eases, don’t imagine people will be in a hurry to mix in crowned restaurants again.
The same is true for other retail outlets. As people search online for products during the pandemic, they are discovering a variety of online sources they never knew about before Covid-19.
There are many other examples of the ‘new normal’, but for small businesses, there are many things that can be done to prepare for the end of the pandemic while stuck in lockdown.
To do this, it is essential that businesses understand what ‘new normal’ means. Whilst there will be businesses that need face to face contact, such as construction in many forms is required, much more business will be done online. That in turn has hastened the move to a cashless society which creates more adapting.
This means that now is a good time to review the use of online marketing within the business. Businesses need to make sure that websites are secure and up to date and that the content changes regularly in order to ensure people return to the site on a regular basis. This is also a good time to get someone to review whether the logical links of the site still work.
Social media also needs to be reviewed. If businesses have social media sites, they need to be kept up to date and the content needs to be relevant and non-repetitive. Defunct social media accounts need to be eliminated, as do those that yield no benefit. Professional businesses do not usually enhance their reputation through using things like Facebook.
Businesses also need to look at their business to see if their business processes are ‘new normal’ friendly. If online communication can be used, is the business prepared for this? Does the business recognise that hardcopy materials are less and less needed? Even business cards are replaced by smartphone interchange as face-to-face meetings reduce.
Now is the time to review the whole marketing strategy. As well as identifying customers, it is re-evaluating how the business reaches them. Look at the marketing material you have from pre-pandemic and ask why is it with you and not customers. Find ways to make marketing more efficient by implementing ways to measure effectiveness. How many pieces of business did you really get from that Facebook page?
The ‘new normal’ is not the time to cut back on marketing, but to get smarter at it. The way to cut costs is to use measurable methods of marketing as well as cheaper and more environmentally friendly methods of marketing. Also remember that PR is not just for large businesses and it is free!
None of this is rocket science and there will never be a better time to do it than now. That time you used to spend in travelling for business can be well served in establishing new marketing strategies with effective measurements, reviewing and improving your online presence and adapting your processes to a more online and less face-to-face environment.
Many have talked about the need for children to continue their education in the pandemic, and the same is true for businesses.