Before you throw up your arms in despair, mulling over how horrible your timing is for starting a new business, consider using this time of Stay-at-Home orders and slow foot traffic to position your business in the right place for the coming recovery.
This, too, shall pass. One year from now when you look back at this time, will you be able to say you took advantage of the lull and unwanted free time? Here are some tips on how to make sure you use this time wisely so your business can thrive when the customers come back. (You can also read our prior article on 4 Tips on Sustaining Your Small Business During the Covid-19 Pandemic).
Give Your Online Presence A Makeover
When’s the last time you hit refresh on your social media profiles? Or your business’ website? Even though your business’ digital presence is one of the most vital ways to market yourself and reach new and old customers, it can be pretty easy to adopt a “set it and forget” mentality as soon as things pick up.
Now is the perfect time to finally inject new life into your digital footprint. Update your images and profiles. Sit down and brainstorm Facebook and Instagram posts for the first two months of the recovery so you can put out fresh content regularly. Use social media to educate your customers who are home looking for good content. Or, consider creating a fun user-generated content contest to spark engagement and awareness.
Is there something you can do on social media to generate some creative sales during this time. You can remind your customers that you are there for them with informative content or tips. Social media is a quick and easy way to notify your customers about new deliveries or curbside pick-up options.
Don’t forget your company’s website, too! Here are a few important areas you should spend the most time updating:
Your Website’s Design
First impressions are vital, so it’s important that you redesign your website regularly to stay on top of evolving design trends. Does your site look like it’s from the GeoCities era? Is it structured the right way? Take this time to make sure your site is clean, easy to navigate and nice to look at. If you are a Swyft Filings customer, you can take advantage of your free access to the Rocketbuildr web builder to update your site with fresh designs and increased functionality.
Your Website’s Security
Websites get hacked all the time. Before your homepage gets defaced or your entire site is wiped out, make sure you’re putting the right steps in place to protect your business. Whether you’re using Wordpress, Drupal, or any other content management system, making sure your website’s software is up-to-date is the easiest way to keep hackers out.
Your Website’s Content
The right content not only gets your customers to your page, but it encourages them to stick around. Consider adding clearer calls-to-action on your website so they don’t just skim through your landing page, but actually take action to learn more. Make sure your CTAs are clearly defined and are interesting enough to your visitors so they actually click on them. Here’s a little inspiration.
Have a family member or friend go through the website onboarding process with a fresh set of eyes to get more feedback on the customer experience. They may see something that has also turned off other potential customers.
Make sure you also take a look at the quality of the content on your site. Fine-tuning your web writing skills can increase your site’s traffic and authority. To do this, identify and target a few keyword phrases that are relevant to your business. Weaving those phrases throughout your landing page, supplemental pages and blog will make your content more relevant and help boost your search engine rankings.
Actually Create a Business Plan, Business Mission Statements, Values and Goals [or Refresh Them]
The business plan
If you were already in full business mode before the slowdown, you may have gotten too busy to ever sit down and create a business plan or craft your mission statement, vision or core values.
A quick Google search will show there is some debate as to whether a business plan is necessary. We strike the middle ground and think it is worth having some basics of a plan on paper. It does not need to be a plan worthy of a Harvard MBA class project, but it does help you understand the specifics of your business and the strategy to navigate your particular challenges. You can read more on how to create a business plan, but the exercise presents the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day and really examine where you are.
If you have already created one, then maybe it is time to dust it off. As a small business, things can pivot and evolve quickly. That’s why you should always revisit your goals on a regular basis.
Write down your daily, weekly and monthly tasks for the business. What’s taking up most of your time?
Now, take a look back at the goals you set for yourself (maybe it was to boost more sales, get more followers on Facebook or increase website traffic by 25%). What current tasks helped you make progress on those goals? And what time-consuming tasks aren’t contributing to those goals? This is a good way to realign and reprioritize the things that matter most to your business’ growth, so you can jump in at full speed when business picks back up.
Another detail to consider is whether or not your business entity still makes sense for you and your business where it’s at now—not where it was when you started. If you started your business as a sole proprietorship, for instance, there’s a chance you may have grown beyond that and need to form an LLC.
Vision, Mission and Core Values
Much like the business plan, many companies launch and get so busy they never get around to establishing their vision statement, mission statement, or core values. The problem is that your company will develop these things organically and it may not be the vision, mission or core values you want. Employees want to work for companies with a defined purpose so having well thought out and clearly defined statements can help develop positive work culture and loyalty.
The vision statement should be an audacious dream of a future reality based on the work you do. It should be so big, it feels nearly impossible requiring you to dream big. It provides a concrete way for stakeholders, especially employees, to understand the meaning and purpose of your business.
The mission statement, meanwhile, is more of a description of what you are doing now for the benefit of the company, its customers and other external stakeholders. The mission statement defines what you do, who benefits from it and how you do it. The purpose is to stay focused and help prioritize resources to confirm they align with your mission today that will help you shoot toward the broader vision statement.
You should also develop a shortlist of core values everyone in the company, including you, should live by. You should brainstorm as many that you can think of and then give each value a score of 1-10 from least important to most important in your mind. Here are some questions and tips to help you develop your core values:
- What do you value?
- What unspoken values have contributed to your success to date?
- What values/traits do successful employees share in common?
- What values should govern the way you interact with each other? and with our customers?
- What does this value mean to you?
- What does it look like in action?
- How might it be misinterpreted?
- How will you evaluate adherence to it?
- How will it change your relationships or your interactions?
- Should they be primarily customer-facing or internal facing?
Check back into our Learning Center soon where we will have more details on how to develop your vision statement, mission statement and core values.
Learn Something New
Have you ever found yourself saying, “I wish I knew how to do that?” Well, now is your chance to learn how to do that thing—whatever it is. Have you ever wanted to learn the fundamentals of coding so you can create a killer custom website? There’s a class for that. Or maybe you’ve always been curious about the nuances of Facebook Ads Manager to enhance your next digital marketing push. Do you need to brush up on accounting and finance? There are easy ways to get studied up on that, too.
Here are a few useful business skills that you can start studying up on today:
Social Media Advertising
Driving brand awareness, affinity, and action via platforms like Facebook and Instagram has become one of the most important ways to market your business. But with changing algorithms, you can’t rely on posting announcements organically and still expect them to reach your consumers. That’s where Facebook Ads Manager comes in. Learning how to allocate a budget to posts, target key consumers and optimize based on performance is a vital skill that’ll help get your brand noticed. The best part? Facebook Blueprint gives you free access to tutorials so you can master social media advertising in no time.
It’s time for your business to capitalize on the astronomical number of searches happening on Google every second. How? Learning how to use Google Ads, Google’s online advertising program that allows you to create online ads to reach your perfect audience. Google Ads lets you set your target keywords, your budget, and your target audience so your company pops up the next time someone searches for the exact thing you offer. There are tons of tutorials out there that can help you get started.
Finance and Accounting
We know a lot of you got into the business because you were passionate about baking, painting, animals, or some other passion that likely did not include finance and accounting. Anyone who has been in business, however, quickly learns how important this is an important part of “running the business.” You can brush up on your knowledge through online sites like Coursera, Udemy or free tutorials on YouTube.
Take Time To Appreciate Your Customers
Your customers are the No. 1 reason why you’re even in business. Use your downtime to show them some love! After you acquire their contact information from a sale, you can easily send out a personalized greeting to your customers, thanking them for their business. Consider including a short questionnaire in your outreach, so you can learn ways to better serve them in the future. Not only will you establish a meaningful and personal connection that’ll keep them coming back, but you’ll discover new ways to enhance your business and show that you’re always listening.
Take Some Time For Yourself And Have a Little Fun
Wait a minute—do something fun during this slow period? Even when it feels like there are a million other things to get done? Any big business executives will most likely say that the secret to long-term success is taking a break from work. We’re talking about leaving the laptop behind and setting that out of office email. Spend more time with your family. Read a book. Start a meditation habit. You’ll come back feeling refreshed, ready, and more productive than ever before.
To help you be productive during this time, we have curated the articles from our Learning Center to help you accomplish some of the things we discussed above.
- Read about business models and make sure you have the right one
- Why it may be a good time to start a business
- Maybe now is a good time to start a less risky micro business
- A detailed guide to starting your business
- How to start a home-based business
- How to start a business with little to no money
- When to incorporate your side hustle
- How to create a business plan
- How to start your business starting right
- How to start a nonprofit in 8 steps
- We also made an entire ebook on How to Start a Business From Scratch
There’s more in our Learning Center.