No matter which way we turn at the moment, businesses are still being majorly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though the Government has lifted restrictions in most sectors, some have only just been able to re-open their doors and others are still being hampered by localised lockdowns or quarantine restrictions.
So what can you do to help small businesses not only survive but also grow during these challenging times?
Here are 7 suggestions and the great thing is, many of them don’t cost any money, just a small amount of your time:
1. Get Social
Social media platforms are businesses too, so unsurprisingly they want to charge people for their advertising services. Right now, however, ‘paying’ to be seen is something many businesses simply cannot afford to do. So your support can be extremely valuable.
Just 5 minutes spent each day finding a favourite local business on one of your social media channels to visit, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ can make a huge difference.
Engaging with their social media posts by way of a like, a comment, or a share can really help boost their organic exposure for free.
Perhaps you know of a local business that has only just reopened and would appreciate your help in spreading the word about them and their products or services?
2. Reviews, Testimonials, and Recommendations
When was the last time you took a moment to formally compliment or recommend a business?
Give a small business something to smile about. Write a post about one on your own social media profile, providing a link to them. Or pick an online review platform and leave a review, testimonial, or recommendation. Here are just a few places you can use to get you started:
- Google My Business
- Their own website
Could you find at least 3 businesses to do this for today?
3. Shop Local
If you can’t or simply don’t feel comfortable venturing out to a bricks & mortar store just yet, before you make your online purchase via one of the standard ‘big multi-product’ e-commerce stores, take a moment to check and see if there is a local business you could support instead.
Many businesses have had to quickly pivot, creating some sort of online presence from a full-blown website to a simpler social media marketplace presence with local delivery and/or collection options.
Remember, whilst the big players are convenient, the fees they charge their sellers may mean you actually get a better deal by buying directly from the individual business’s own website.
4. Consider Online Solutions
The online world has exploded in the last few months. Analysts predicted it would eventually happen, the pandemic has just accelerated things, forcing businesses to adapt and embrace change to survive.
A while ago (before COVID), I took part in several online networking events. It seemed a little strange at first, but once I got the hang of the format, I found I actually preferred them to the standard in-person format. They are more time-efficient, I’m getting to meet and speak with people from a wider catchment area, and awkwardness of ‘joining’ a group in mid-conversation has been eliminated.
Since lockdown, I have delivered digital marketing coaching via Zoom, my husband has delivered badminton coaching to overseas players via Skype, and my eldest son has received private tutoring online from a local business, which will stay online in the future as it is more convenient.
Is it time for you to explore and find an online service to use?
5. Buy Local Gift Vouchers
I know this is a tricky one, after all, you don’t want to spend money in advance with a business if there is a chance it won’t survive. That said, many are now open so buying a gift voucher for a friend’s birthday or other special occasion, which they could choose to use relatively quickly, will minimise the risk and really help with a business’s cashflow.
It is worth noting that some gift card purchases may be covered in the event of business failure if bought using a credit card. This tends to be for amounts of over £100 and you will need to check your individual credit card provider’s terms and conditions.
6. Don’t Cancel – Postpone Instead
If you can (I accept that some situations are time-specific), instead of insisting on a refund for services you have already paid for, be happy to accept a postponement and work with the business to re-book for a future date.
7. Be Kind
I was going to put this first, but then decided it would be good to finish with it in the hope it would stick in your mind more.
Whether you are a business owner, an employee, or a consumer, it has been a testing time for ALL of us, with many suffering mental health issues, perhaps for the first time. We are tired, our patience levels have hit rock bottom and we just want to know when it will all be over.
Sadly, however, as a result, the #bekind message is regularly being forgotten.
Take, for example, the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ Government Scheme which was introduced to help boost the hospitality sector. Recently I have seen reports of restaurants pulling out of the scheme due to unacceptable customer behaviour. People need to accept that:
- Restaurants and pubs must comply with social distancing rules, which has resulted in a reduced level of table availability. If you can’t book your first choice, don’t get annoyed, or expect them to extend the scheme to other days, simply be happy for them and try somewhere else.
- If a restaurant is working with reduced table numbers, the chances are they will need to cut their overheads and operate with fewer staff. This may well have an impact on customer service. Allow for the fact it may take a little longer to place your order or receive your meal. A little patience and understanding goes a long way.
Next time you find yourself getting angry over ‘one way systems’ (I’ve been guilty of this one), frustrated by longer queues or disappointed by lack of availability, please take a deep breath and remember, we are all in this together, so BE KIND.