With the quarantine and shelter-in-place orders, celebrating a special occasion is tough. I've seen people doing car parades where they drive by a home and honk in celebration. I've seen some walking parades while maintaining the 6-feet safe distance orders. Those are sweet gestures for people to give and receive given what is happening right now.
Well, our youngest son turns 13 tomorrow. I wanted to do something special given the circumstances but he's not a parade kinda kid. In our family we consider 13 a “big” birthday. As in, we usually get friends together and let the birthday boy decide how they will celebrate.
Our oldest son went to an indoor water park with friends. Our middle son did something, and since he's the middle child I cannot remember now (sorry Caleb!). At any rate, I wanted to acknowledge his special day somehow since we couldn't do the normal celebrating.
I decided to order him one of those card signs for our yard. I'm sure you've seen them. I requested the sign to say “THIRTEEN & QUARANTINED” because I knew he would find that funny. In fact, I thought many of our neighbors would find it humorous as well.
This morning when I sent a reminder to the yard card company about tomorrow (since I originally had the wrong day – problems from a mom of 3 kids with birth days close to one another), I got the reply that they may not be able to deliver the sign.
After a few emails back and forth, it appears the city sent a letter telling them to cease operating because they aren't considered “essential.” I know the rule is in place to keep people safe but the business doesn't come in contact with anyone so it's safe. In fact, it seems like an error that will get resolved, but may not be resolved before tomorrow. The fun idea I had to celebrate our son is now a bust (well, not as much as I can help it anyway, I'll scramble to buy something to make tomorrow special for our son).
His birthday will be fine in the grand scheme of things however it turns out.
It got me thinking though. With all of the things happening today, something could shut down your business without notice. For a brick & mortar business this can be financially devastating. In fact, I shared ways businesses can increase customer engagement and sales in a quarantine a few weeks ago given the interaction limitations that were in place at the time.
With the PPE loans being out of funds already (and hopefully they will return for small business owners to actually benefit from), is your business feeling the effects of this too?
My other blog talks about how to save money and get out of debt, those actions can have you personally in a good place if something unexpected occurs like being laid off and unemployment taking forever to be processed. Many of those strategies work if you're a business owner as well (same philosophy just different bank and people). Are you prepared if something unexpected occurs?
Is Your Business Essential?
Many are not considered essential in the traditional sense. You aren't selling toilet paper, face masks or providing medical care. However, people still need your services or goods. How are you providing those during this time?
Here are a few ways to make your business essential no matter the external circumstances:
Provide Excellent Customer Service
Your customers are getting slammed with advertising all over the place right now by savvy marketers who are capitalizing on fantastic ad rates. You need to be at the forefront of their mind when they see those ads so they remember, “Oh that's nice but I really love how XYZ offers this. I'm so ready to get back in there and support them.” Yes, people actually think that and they DO because of customer service and the relationship you have built with them!
Stay Connected to Your Customers
Social media is a great channel to do this, but I prefer email. Send them an email a few times a week that aren't about selling them anything! Maybe it's a link to a few articles you read that will help their kids stay engaged or a recipe that you tried and your family loved. Email service like ConvertKit are offering totally free plans right now (up to 500 customers/email addresses) to make emailing super easy.
Make it Easy to Buy from You
Provide a way that they can buy your product or service. Get a Shopify storefront up asap! There are other options, but if you are low-tech this is the easiest way to go! Make it easy for them to support you whether it's buying a product that you can ship (even offering house “drop-offs” as a courtesy right now) or a way that they can purchase gift cards so they can shop when this has passed.
Think outside of the box for what your business offers. If you make custom t-shirt orders, pivot and start making custom mask orders. I would order all day from a local business before going online to a random person. The florist in town had an amazing idea and hand-delivered custom easter baskets. She didn't market it well though as many people heard about it afterwards and said they would have ordered had they known. I would have ordered to support her business! That's why staying connected and at the top of mind is so important!
So how can your business become essential right now?
I firmly believe that there is a part of everyone's business that CAN be essential. You just have to think out of the box. It may not even be something you continue long-term. As long as it's something that serves people and answers a problem right now, it can help to pay the bills so you survive this.
If you want some brainstorming ideas, comment below with your business and who you serve. As long as I'm able to, I'll answer comments with a few things to think about for your niche or industry.