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At the time of writing this item, New Zealand has just survived nearly two month of the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 & 3. Like most of you we have had major disruption to our day to day business operation and a substantial drop in income with all our customers being forced to stop work for that time. As we now get back to operating with the level 3 alert status in place, the question is how do we operate now and for the foreseeable future?
While the level 3 alert was only for two weeks, there are still restrictions that are in place for levels 2, and considerations for how you can operate your business at level 1. Another matter to consider is the chance of higher alert levels returning as additional flare ups of the virus take place, leading to raising of the alert level and maybe even going back to level 4. It’s not unreasonable to assume that it will take at least 18 months to develop an effective immunisation treatment. Also assume that it will take many months to roll out this treatment worldwide due to there being a limit of how many doses they can manufacture per month. Finally, COVID-19 is a virus, which means there could be new strains occurring from now on, with the matching lags in development of treatments, just like each year they must develop new variants of immunisations for the flu. So, expect this situation to be the new normal for the next two years at least. So how can a business operate given the environment we now live in?
We’ve been talking about this in our blogs for years now. Your web presents is the first port of call for any customer looking for someone to meet their needs or fix their problem. Now more than ever a customer is going to google for someone who can fix their needs, as they don’t have the time, or aren’t allowed to just browse in a store anymore. If you can sell your product online, you need to have some sort of sales portal setup. What choices do you have if you want to set one up now?
Most people think that online shops only really work for product sales, not for service style business such as hairdressers, restaurants, or ‘white collar professionals. You might also think that more physically centred jobs, trades like builders, plumbers, repairmen, etc, would also be unable to sell their services via online means. We think otherwise, you can keep your business operating with an online ‘store’ but you just have to think laterally. Here are a few examples to consider.
A restaurant cannot function if people aren’t allowed to congregate in large enough numbers to make opening it viable. Instead you start making up meals that customers can buy. It can be the classic takeaways that people can collect or have delivered. Make up meal bags with instructions with all the ingredients portioned out, semi-food prepared or semi-cooked, the customers just finish off the process. If part of their point of difference is the spices, sauces, etc, then sell bags or jars of it directly to the customer so they can have that taste at home.
A hairdresser cannot run a salon if they are not allowed to be in 1 metre of a customer. Every salon I have seen has high end treatment products that you cannot buy through a supermarket, so it makes sense to sell those treatments through an online store during a no contact time. They will actively drive customers to book appointments now as slots will quickly fill up as soon as people can be in close contact with each other again. They can offer open time slot discount coupons so if people buy now, they get so much off an appointment with a window of three or six months to use it.
A builder might not be able ‘sell’ products, but they can sell their time. Encourage customers to book now and prepay for materials so the builder can buy them ahead of time to make sure they have the stuff they need when they start the job. They can offer an online consultation; all you need is a couple of cellphones and a video chat app to do the preliminary inspection to help cut down time when it comes to the onsite one. Offer discounts on labour costs for prepayment, so to lock in customers ahead of time so ensure a steady flow of work to keep operating when there is a lower alert level.
If you’re not sure if you can setup your store or what you can sell, there are plenty of people who can help you. Copy Express is one, after all you’re reading an article about doing just that. We can give you even more information and even start the process of setting a store up. Another source of help are your local business groups. Every chamber of commerce has guides on how to do it, lists of people who can provide the services you need, help you pool resources with others help all of you get through. A lot of cities have suburb-based business associations too, so have a chat with them on how you can get things started. Here are the points we recommend you think about when you start the process.
For those few businesses which feel they can’t set up a store front, because of the nature of what they do, here are a few things you can do during the high alert level times. The goal is to keep your business looking busy and productive. Why? Because a busy business is a popular business and the most popular businesses are the ones that are most likely to attract new customers. What can you do to appear busy when you’re not?
Hit the social media pages and post training or explanation videos about what you offer. Set up a blog and put articles about subjects related to your business. This has the dual purpose of not only showing that you’re an active business, but it gives you resources you can point people to answer those questions you always get asked. (That’s why Copy Express has this blog and we write four articles a month for you to read for free.)
Put posts that link to interesting websites/videos/articles that relate to your business in some way (but won’t take customers away from yours.) If you don’t feel up to the task of writing articles or creating videos, then become a curator of other people’s work. Put an excerpt of the item on your page/post, give a reason why you linked it, and even give comments about the item if there are points you want to explain in more detail or contradict.
Create templates or guides that customers can download. Depending on your business, having handouts, guides, and templates that customers can download for their own use. Again, it’s adding tools that are useful for your own business, reduces the amount of time you have to ‘explain the basics’ and gives people things to help them get prepared for when you do meet them.
Why do all of this? The simplest reason is that the more active your social media and website is by having new content, the more ‘interesting’ it is to the search engines and the social media sites. The greater the interest the higher you get listed or more likely you get shown, all of which improves your businesses chances to be seen when someone is searching for that type of business.
This has been an overview of what you can do to operate a strong online business ‘store front’ in this new complex world, no matter what type of business you do. Of course, you will be wanting more information on how to do this. Having a read of the other items we have on this blog is a good starting point. You also can contact us directly to have one on one meetings (online of course) to get the information and guidance to suit your businesses personal needs.