The COVID Effect and Your Business – Four Things We Learned
An event like 2020’s COVID-19 outbreak affects everyone and that includes owners of small businesses. For all of us it was a steep learning curve that involved unprecedented events and a need to adjust the way we did some things.
Here are four things we learned.
1. If you’re going to thrive in a crisis, you’ll need a digital presence.
Believe it or not, some small businesses experienced an increase in sales over the COVID period! You’re probably wondering how that can be; who are these businesses?
They are the businesses who already had a proactive digital presence. They were already using social media to promote their products. They were already building and utilising databases to keep in contact with existing and potential customers. And, they had a website that was easy to navigate and provided an online point of sale.
Without even knowing it, they were prepared for the crisis before it even began.
2. Even in a crisis, people expect quick (perhaps instant) answers.
You’d expect that, in a crisis, people would cut companies a little slack; that they would expect responses to questions about products and services to be delayed a while.
Not so. Over COVID-19, the expectation of the public for instant advice and answers to product requests increased. When contacting a company, whether by phone, email or website, the expectation was that queries would be answered quickly.
This has forced businesses to look at their websites and promotional material through new eyes and ask questions like, “Can my clients find the answers and advice the are searching for?” and “Is my website and advertising material customer focused to the point where people feel valued by the way we seek to inform them?”
The lesson many businesses learned is, if I’m not providing potential clients with the information they are searching for, they will go to a competitor’s website to find it.
3. The urgency to adapt and do things in a new way is on!
I enjoy art. I’m not a connoisseur but I do like to purchase the occasional print to hang on a wall at home and enjoy. One company I often purchased prints from were based in a small studio in the city. People would come from quite a distance to browse the art on display and the owner prided herself on being a little old-fashioned and not giving into online shopping or digital marketing like so many other studios had.
COVID changed all that. For six weeks, following the March 26th lockdown, she received no clients, which meant no income. This caused the studio owner, like many small business owners, to rethink the way she did business.
As soon as the Alert Levels allowed, she met with a web-designer to talk about developing her brand and establishing an online presence. Up to this point, her studio didn’t even have a name. If her studio was to survive, it was time to adapt to doing things a new way.
A couple of months later, when the move to Alert Level 3 was announced, she was ready. She sent emails to the database she’d established and began to promote her studio’s website on social media. In that month, sales were 275% up on her usual September sales.
Her story is a reminder to all businesses, the urgency to adapt and do things in a new way is on. Those businesses who do nothing, will almost certainly be left behind.
4. Sometimes we suffer because we think, “She’ll be right.”
When we go into business, we usually have some aspirations for growth and long-term success but that doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work and perseverance. That’s never been as true as it is right now.
As Kiwi’s, it’s very easy to think, “She’ll be right. It’ll all work out right in the end.” But these are unprecedented times. For many businesses, it’s not going to work out alright in the end. Those that survive will be those who are proactive in their strategy and decision-making and who are willing to take a bit of a risk.
The challenge for us all, at this time of crisis and beyond, is to consider what our business requires in order to survive and thrive. Ask the difficult questions of your business. Examine each aspect of it and, if it’s not adding to your business’s forward momentum, let it go.
Think about the things you need to do in order to grow. Almost certainly, what you’ll be asking is, “How can I gain more sales? How do I get more customers?” Ask the questions, and then have the courage to do something!