To say COVID-19 shook the small business world would be an understatement. It saddens me that so many small businesses were unable to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Many small businesses were extremely ingenious in pivoting their business and this was instrumental in keeping them alive during this tough time. I put out some feelers asking how small businesses had to make changes to stay afloat and how the change affected their business. Hopefully these ideas can help others:
One of the things I’ve done since COVID struck the world is I hired Virtual Assistants to help me with my business. Because people were strictly prohibited from going out during the first few months of lockdown, they had more time in surfing the internet and the impressions on my website have recorded a huge increase! I had to hire additional help from freelancing sites and I found some great talents there who are helping me with my day to day operations.
Never be afraid to open yourself to getting help from others. There are so many experts in these freelancing sites who are only waiting to be discovered.
-Lewis Keegan, SkillScouter.com
One marketing challenge we faced with this pandemic was not being able to sell life insurance face-to-face due to social distancing. We were doing a combination of face-to-face selling and telesales (remote selling). After the pandemic business restrictions were forced on us, we decided to go with 100% telesales. This strategy has proven to be a terrific business move, as it has shortened our sales cycle and allows us to be more profitable. Our clients also love our new system because we can now get the approved easier and is less time.
Every entrepreneur who wants to succeed in business must learn to adapt to the new normal. Adaption may not be easy, but we need to do it to ensure business continuity and profitability. Do your research and do not be afraid to embrace change. You will discover that it will be beneficial in the long run.
-Randy VanderVaate, Funeral Funds
The fitness industry was one of the first industry’s to be hit hard during the start of the pandemic, as thousands of gyms and studios had to close immediately. As the main software provider for these gyms, studios, and fitness businesses needed to act fast to come up with a solution to save our clients, their customers, and our own business. Our team of 14 people worked day and night for two weeks straight, to fully integrate with Zoom just in time for the lockdown to begin in the states, and before our customers in Europe had to shut down completely. With our Zoom integration, our customers worldwide were able to launch online classes from their homes and still be able to connect with their customers and clients. Not only did this help our customers’ businesses avoid full closure, but it also helped them grow their businesses as they were now able to reach new audiences and customers who would not normally be able to attend classes in their physical location.
The most notable challenge our small business has faced during the pandemic is the abrupt loss of nearly 50 wholesale accounts. When all of these accounts were then closed simultaneously, we realized we needed to pivot from B2B and shift our focus entirely on D2C sales in order to maintain our growth. Our first initiative was to increase website traffic. Generating this new web traffic was crucial, and leveraging various social media marketing techniques to convert a good percentage of these visitors into product sales was vital to the success of our small business. Literally speaking, we had to learn new social media marketing techniques to leverage our newly generated web traffic. The most important strategy we learned was the benefit and opportunity that can be achieved through an initial sacrifice. The result of that sacrifice is our small business not only sustaining, but growing considerable during this otherwise terrible time.Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There is always a way to grow and a way to succeed. Sometimes it might not be written on the wall, and other times it may take some initial failure in order to break through. However, you only really lose when you give up. Everything else is learning, building, and growing.
-Patrick, EKZO, LLC
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we pivoted 180 degrees and began producing essential sanitation products to the mass market. That was a very challenging pivot as our company was an oral care company. We saw the need, and instead of procrastinating, we viewed it as a once in a lifetime opportunity and executed on it right away. We grew our business and customer base astronomically in a short period. Then we nourished the customer relationship and made it a priority to take care of each new customer we had acquired. The biggest challenges were that the supply chain had gotten affected by the pandemic, which caused a deficit of raw ingredients and packaging material for our products. Our director of procurement had to work extremely hard to source resources, and we had to pay a premium to get everything we needed in our facilities to fulfill orders. It was difficult, and at times impossible, but we did it.
Take every opportunity that comes your way and execute it immediately. Don’t wait, don’t procrastinate.
-Dr. Pooneh Ramezani, Dr. Brite
We decided to get more creative and seek opportunities to become innovative. We immediately started offering local delivery and unique coupon codes on our website. I reached out to large brands and small businesses to offer social media giveaways. We were able to help each other gain new sales while growing our community – a win, win! Our staff immersed themselves in online marketing resources and took advantage of online classes. There are a lot of companies and organizations offering free or highly discounted classes. We reopened our brick and mortar, in August, and we’re continually thinking of ways to adapt with 2020. We’re currently offering pop-up shops to local vendors and selling tickets for DIY classes for soaps and bath bombs.
I quickly learned that a company shouldn’t wait for a pandemic to change their strategy. It’s truly been such a unique year that no business plan was prepared for. I realized how much my company had grown during the pandemic, and I want to continue changing my strategy for the better!
Continue finding ways to be innovative. Your business, all businesses, are in a tough spot right now. I encourage businesses to get creative with their community.
-Autumn Grant, The Kind Poppy
We recognized the need for a dedicated workspace with strong internet connection, therefore we equipped our employees with internet connections at their residences and also had proper office ergonomic furniture delivered to their doorstep. We also expanded and strengthened our internal collaboration and productivity tools to support entire teams make the shift towards a virtual work environment, painlessly. Apart from the above we also understood that our employees were worried due to the pandemic and therefore we had our HR conduct regular check in with all employees specifically those residing alone.
-Shihab Muhammad, Survey Sparrow
I have offered my employees regular coaching sessions with experts that would help them remain productive and efficient. I know that COVID has put a lot of pressure on people and I wanted to figure out a way of making things easier for everybody. I know that my business directly depends on my employees so I put all of the efforts into support and empowering them. The results were amazing and almost all of my workers reported feeling much more relaxed once they started with regular coaching sessions. In turn, my business suffered minimally and we were able to keep our performance at a very high level.
-Tom Winter, DevSkiller
We are a small jewelry business that had to close our brick and mortar store during the pandemic. We had to come up with different strategies to keep business going and we did this through digital marketing. Two weeks into the crisis we started doing live streams through Youtube and Facebook. These live streams were both educational and commercial in nature. These live shows allow visitors to view our items, buy online and ask questions. It is something we had discussed in the past, but never went through with, due to time constraints. We advertised our live streams beforehand through emails, our website, and social media. We are now getting about 1000+ viewers watching our show each time. Not only has it helped to stay connected with our customers, it has generated a ton of sales for our business. It has been so successful that we have continued it, even with our store now being open. It has really helped in terms of revenue with the reduced amount of people coming into our store.
-Jeff Moriarty, Moriarty’s Gem Art
With people shying away from brick and mortar stores, due to the pandemic, our sales have actually increased by 20% compared to pre-COVID numbers. Engagement across our social media handles has also increased by 30-35% during the lockdown. We achieved this by moving to automated organic marketing instead of paid. The best results with no investment of time and resources were through Pinterest. What we did was automate Pinterest (Organic) – We used to post manually on Pinterest every now and then and didn’t attract any customers/visitors to our eCommerce portal. A few months ago, we installed a website plugin to automatically push product’s shoppable posts to Pinterest. The results were unexpected: We now have around 930k monthly Pinterest viewers with 26k followers without spending a penny on Pinterest. We are based in India and offer International shipping. Most of the Pinterest customers are located internationally, primarily within the US, UK and Canada with a sizeable number in the MENA region.
Do not ignore any social media platform, automate the ones using their APIs or SMM tools if you can’t afford manually updating them regularly.
-Akram Tariq Khan, YourLibaas.com
I think staying connected and putting extra emphasis on communication is vital in the current climate of working remotely. As a leader, I’ve been more present and available to my team members. I do daily check-ins with employees to keep them on track but also to listen to any concerns or feedback they might have to offer. It is extremely important to me to keep my team happy, comfortable, and optimistic. We have put trust in our employees to handle the return to the office as they feel it is safe for them to do so. We do have the offices open, but we only offer non mandatory meetings as a team once/twice per month. We get all the team building activities done then and everything else is done over video conferences. The biggest challenge of a remote workplace is the limited ability to collaborate. I recognize that in-person collaboration is always superior, but with technology advancing rapidly we have many tools that help us combat this issue.
-Ashwin, WOW Skin Science