Like most sequels, Lockdown 2 might be worse than the original. For most businesses it means hardship, and for some businesses it’s the end of the line. However, for a few company owners, it can not only be weathered but embraced as an opportunity to transform and focus. As with anything that shocks us the first time, the second time we encounter it we may have learnt some lessons that are worth knowing.
Here are some changes that made a big difference for some small businesses during the first lockdown.
- Sell online
One thing we know about lockdown, is that we spend a lot more time in front of screens and if you want to buy something, apart from supermarkets there is only one way to get it. Obviously – if you can, sell online. Industry digital giants did incredibly well from the shut highstreets. Econsultancy reported that Amazon sales were up 37% year-on-year in Q3 of 2020, whilst Ebay revealed its revenue rose 25% when compared the same period of time in 2019. For small businesses, many with eCommerce platforms had to grow fast to keep up with demands, posting messages that there would be delays in delivery as the orders flooded in. With this shift in mind, digital marketing is something to drive hard in lockdown too.
- Cut deep and be lean
Something the pandemic has made business owners do is scrutinise their costs and try out alternatives to office-based working with remote home working solutions. For some businesses, this has been an experiment in understanding how lean a company can function and they won’t be going back, cutting down on office space. A survey of employees who were forced to work from home in the crisis found that 92% saw the change being for the better due to ditching the commute, less impact on financial savings and spending more time with family. To compound this revelation, 28% declared an improvement in focus and productivity. For an SME business owner, whilst it may seem more sporadic and fragmented, saving costs on square metres and desk space, office supplies and IT, it can be an eye-opener for accounts. Hot-desking is a good alternative to permanent 9-5 in office, if you wish to return post lockdown with flexible working. Sometimes this also means losing employees and suppliers, so this is not always without negative impacts but for survival, the oldest truth of making savings to survive is a reality.
- Create virtual walkthroughs
For the businesses that need customers to see and visit a physical space, create a virtual walkthrough. This is what happened with museums, schools visits and for estate agents. One fast growing Wiltshire estate agent, Complete Estate Agents, created walkthrough videos for viewings during the first lockdown. “We worked ‘ahead of the game’ with virtual viewings and were ready to open again, the minute we had permission to do so,” explained the business owner, Jonathan Webster. “We are benefitting from digital innovation. We have virtual tours that will show every aspect of the home from the comfort of an armchair.” Parents choosing a school this year may well have had a virtual tour instead of a visit to the school grounds and for museum venues like London’s natural history museum, it means people still have the ability to see the museum’s attractions, and if anything becomes great marketing for when the lockdown is over. Software for creating virtual exploration of spaces is an investment that is now reasonable for SMEs and not the preserve of big business.
- Adapt your offer
If you can change to eCommerce then do it but more than that, some businesses have to change completely to remain relevant. Taxi drivers have for example become delivery services, events companies have to become virtual meeting hosts. A great example of this turn-around is in a company called Ketso who sold hands-on toolkits for structuring group meetings. Group meetings in a physical space is clearly not so easy now. They developed a new kit during the pandemic that works for university students to make more of their remote lectures. Dr Joanne Tippett, creator of the innovation had a goal of keeping students engaged in online lectures. Her work paid off. She said she was “pleased that student feedback from trials of this hands-on kit has been incredibly positive,” adding, “It’s now getting orders and interest from universities in the UK, USA, Nigeria, France and Poland.”
It’s time to think about what your specialism is and how it can be twisted to help people in this unusual and challenging time.
- Give discounts and delight factors
Customers want two things now more than ever, value for money and to feel good about their purchase. Shout out the savings you can give, share the way you have made customers happy. Whether it’s a hand-written note or great packaging – giving a little more for a little less will help you keep customers that you find in the crisis. It’s true that businesses that retain a returning customer grow quicker, and whilst putting all your marketing into new business seems attractive, its your customers that have already been happy to buy from you that you should get friendlier with and you must keep them aware of your offers. They also become your brand ambassadors, giving you a good reputation for new customers.
- Ask loyal customers to support you
Adding to the last point – we are all in this together, so tell your loyal customers and new customers you need and value them and you could do with their support. We all want to support local independent businesses now because those businesses we have grown up with, love and cherish are under threat. Share your pain, share your need of support and you may get a little love back that you need.
By Richard Forsyth, Content Director at Find Marketing.
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