The current pandemic is proving to be a difficult time for businesses around the globe. Between lockdowns and the uncertainty of the situation, small business owners are scrambling for ways to stay afloat despite numerous setbacks. And although COVID-19 is an enormous challenge, it could also prove to be an opportunity for growth.
While some industries are, naturally, struggling, others have begun to thrive in the last couple of months. E-commerce, for example, has risen to its potential by allowing people access to essential goods without the need to leave their homes. Similarly, online medical services, entertainment, and education have all witnessed a significant increase in demand.
And even if your company doesn’t fall into any of these categories, it’s still possible to find new business opportunities during this time.
Are you ready to rise to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic? If your answer is a yes, then read on for a few pieces of advice on how to get through.
Taking Action & Making Changes
As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. In difficult times, we need to do our best to find the good in all the bad around us.
When it comes to the current situation and your business, look for ways to make the circumstances work in your favor. Yes, this may require changes and innovation. But coming up with new solutions may just happen to be the thing that opens up new doors. Here are a few actionable steps you can take:
1) Identify Your Biggest Obstacles
The first thing to do is to look at how the pandemic is affecting your business. While some companies are having trouble continuing production due to staff safety reasons, others have come up against problems in their chain of supply. Furthermore, some retailers have had to close down their physical locations, which means that customers are unable to make purchases from them.
What this means for you is that your first task should be identifying the setbacks you’re up against. And not just those that you’re currently dealing with, but more importantly, those that are yet to come.
Taking an objective look at the challenges you’re faced with will give you a good idea of how they’ll affect your business. Yes, they may be temporary, but very few entrepreneurs can afford a cash flow crisis – even if it only lasts a couple of months.
Once you have a clear idea of what you should expect, you can then go on to make plans on how to set things right. For most, this will consist of crisis management. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and try to find ways to make any possible limitations work to your advantage.
2) Think of Possible Solutions
Safety comes first. But, does that mean that you should be completely shutting down your production and possibly leaving your employees without a source of income? Well, not if you can help it.
Consider scaling back on operations but still keeping them going. Perhaps you could ensure safe conditions if your production process took place in two shifts instead of one? Or maybe some (or all) of your employees could switch to a remote way of working? Yes, these changes are difficult to implement and will need time to get used to. Nonetheless, they could very well be the measures that will save your business during this period.
Now is also a good time to look for ways to diversify your supply chain. Although getting everything from the same place is convenient, situations like the COVID-19 pandemic are showing us the importance of having more than a single source for essential components.
3) Stay on Top of Demand
One of the things that both small and big companies are doing well during this period is making adjustments in terms of their offer. Luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (who owns Dior, Givenchy, and Guerlain) has announced that they would focus on producing hand sanitizer to be used by medical institutions in France. Similarly, brands such as H&M and Inditex have taken on making face masks for medical staff with limited or no access to protective equipment. Numerous small businesses and entrepreneurs are making their own contributions as well.
The takeaway from these global efforts is that many businesses do have the opportunity to adjust to the current situation. Temporarily concentrating on hard-to-get products or services could, potentially, allow you to keep on working. It could also allow you to cut your losses to a minimum.
Additionally, you may find that developing essential products or helping those in need has the potential to open up new opportunities for your business. After all, showing that you’re willing to create solutions to current problems is an excellent testament to your potential as an entrepreneur.
4) Apply for Government Funding
If money is tight at the moment, consider all the options before closing your company’s doors. Governments around the world have come up with emergency funds aimed to save and aid private businesses. The great thing about these is that they’re available to almost anyone, and can do a great deal to help.
There are two main types of financial aid available in the USA. These include the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which allows you to get a loan up to $10 million, with a 1% interest and 6-month grace period, as well as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan by the SBA which can get you up to $2 million depending on your credit.
The best way to use these resources would be to cover payroll. This would allow your team to continue working through the pandemic, without jeopardizing supply or production, as well as opening up space for maintaining cash flow.
How to Find New Business Opportunities During the Coronavirus
Once you have a clear idea of what you’re up against, as well as what it is that you can do to stay afloat, you should take the time to turn to the future. In fact, many companies are doing just that. And for them, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a turning point in how business is being done.
Even if things are running slow in terms of sales, you can turn your energy towards redesign, marketing, and recruiting. With these being time-consuming tasks (and ones that usually pay off in the long run), you now have the perfect excuse to reevaluate and fix some of your company’s foundations.
SEO, Marketing, & Customer Outreach
One of the best ways of opening up new business opportunities is to invest yourself in your company’s online presence. This means implementing several strategies that will work together, widening your reach, and highlighting the uniqueness of your company.
To start with, this is the time to invest in content creation. With huge numbers of people being stuck at home, there’s a high demand for entertaining and educational content. You could easily use this demand to reach new audiences. Whether you opt to create DIY guides, work on your ephemeral Instagram content, or start a podcast, it is entirely up to you. But the fact is, you can definitely expect it to show results.
Another thing you should aim to do is employ a few effective SEO strategies (if you aren’t doing this already). Make sure your website has quick loading times, improve user experience, optimize for mobile devices, or simply decide to finally get started on your blog. You’ll also need to build high-quality links to help boost your site’s keyword rankings. The right actions will ensure that your website ranks higher on SERPs, which will, in turn, lower the amount you need to spend on PPC marketing campaigns.
Of course, don’t forget about the importance of social media and email. Use them to keep your clients up to date on what you’re working on, how they can reach out, or if you have any special offers they would find interesting. Moreover, do your best to engage with your customers during the pandemic. You might just find that increasing your activity on certain social media platforms could help establish a deeper connection that’ll lead to increased customer loyalty.
Do Research & Learn
In addition to dedicating time to SEO and marketing efforts, you can also use this period to reevaluate your website’s performance. Take a good look at your analytics, including bounce rates, conversions, and average time on page, and see whether there is anything you should be looking to improve.
Perhaps modifying your CTAs, or simplifying your checkout process could help make more sales? Or, you might find that there’s room for advanced functionalities on your website, which would give you an edge over your competitors.
Keep in mind that product quality and price points aren’t the only things driving sales, and invest in the things that will create added value for your customers. This could be a more varied selection of shipping options or just making sure that your customer service is second to none. These will have definite positive impacts on your long-term goals, so now’s as good of a time as any to invest in them.
Focus on Your Team
Although adapting to changes (such as switching to a remote way of working) is a challenge, it’s important to keep in mind that it can also be an excellent learning opportunity. If your employees have never worked from home before, you now have the chance to experiment with a model that could, in fact, increase both productivity and job satisfaction. Plus, it could even help you minimize your overhead costs.
You can look for tools to streamline your work process, find new, effective ways of communication, or come up with team building activities that will allow everyone to feel like a part of a collective. The thing about being forced to make changes is that often, it leads to finding efficient and time-saving ways to complete everyday tasks.
Another thing to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing on new team members.
Unfortunately, many people have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus, with the US workforce being particularly hard hit. Nonetheless, if you had plans to expand your team, this could be a good time to do so. Not only could you help someone in need, but you might as well get valuable new talent on board.
If your economic situation doesn’t allow you to hire new people, you could still consider offering educational opportunities to existing employees. Right now, there are numerous discounted (and even free) learning opportunities, so taking advantage of those should definitely be high on your list of priorities.
Reach Out & Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
Finally, you might want to use this time not only to find but also to create new business opportunities for your company.
Think about it this way: if you’re already taking the time and effort to come up with new ways to run your business (expanding your line of products and services, making improvements to your work process, having your team acquire new skills), you should also make sure to put these efforts to good use. After all, what good is doing something great if no one gets to know about it?
That’s why you should take this time of adaptation and innovation, and use it to establish new connections. Perhaps there’s someone you think could benefit from your services? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to collaborate with a certain company, but never had the time to reach out before? Perhaps you’ve always been just too busy to perfect your elevator pitch?
If any of these are true, take this chance and use it to forge new connections. There’s no doubt about the fact that the world will be a considerably different place to run a business in once this is all done, so why not head into the future with great things to look forward to?
The way things are going right now, we can expect to be feeling the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for quite a long time. But the thing is, hardship has a great way of making us innovate.
So take this time, and devote it to making your company reach its full potential. Don’t be afraid of change, and don’t shy away from bold solutions. In the end, they may turn out to not only help you get through but even to create exciting new opportunities to grow your business.