Photo by Kristin Wilson
The past 18 months has been the toughest time many businesses and business owners have faced. With Covid restrictions in most sectors across the United States, many businesses have had to either close or radically adapt their business model to attract customers and bring in some revenue. With this post, I would like to suggest a couple of ideas which can help you get you back on your feet and adjusted to the way customers now need and want to be dealt with.
Assess the Changes Made — are they good enough?
With restrictions in place, there was a sudden never-before-seen rush to get online. In some ways it was a positive thing for certain businesses which flourished with a new and expanded customer base. However, there were also a large number of rushed websites which fail to attract customers or don’t have the functionality required.
With this in mind, it may be prudent to look again at your website and ask yourself these questions:
· Is it attracting customers?
· Are customers happy to buy through your site?
· Are people contacting you and mentioning your website?
· Is your website as good as your competitors’ websites?
If you answer “No” to one or more of these questions then it is important to take action. You could decide that a website upgrade or rebuild is necessary. The key factor here though, is to make sure it is done well this time. Even if you aren’t planning to build the website yourself, it is important that you are involved in the process. By involved I mean do some research, understand what is involved and what the options are — most importantly, find out how to build a website so that you can judge what needs to be prioritized and what you can leave out. With this approach you can be sure that the site will be far more effective this time.
Do you need to make adjustments to your premises?
With social distancing, space has been an issue for many businesses. It is time to look around and see what is really necessary for your business and what can be removed/replaced. If you can create space without affecting your product/service offering too much then this is of course the first action you should take. In reality, even outside of restrictions, it is a good idea to reassess your business’s layout and floorplan as your requirements can change over time.
Once you have assessed this, if you are still in doubt then you may need to consider expansion, relocation or other solutions. Look at all options and remember that it is likely that there may be a wide range of other premises on the market at reduced rates due to the unfortunate closure of other businesses. It could be an opportunity to expand, pivot or otherwise improve your business so be sure to take the time to look around and see what is available and at what price.
Make sure you can be found!
With people becoming so used to online shopping, it is imperative for bricks-and-mortar businesses to be visible and easy to find. This means having an easily identifiable shop front, proper signage and a friendly and warm atmosphere. However, you should also ensure that your business can be found online through the number one place people search for businesses, products and services in their area — Google.
Google is exceptionally important for local businesses and has established useful tools and services of their own which can be used. Many of these are even free! One of these is called Google My Business (GMB). This entails a variety of things but the main part is placement on Google Maps which is widely used by people to search for locations in their area. Google Maps also shows up when people Google something.
Having a listing on GMB will undoubtedly help your business and ensure people can find you easily. It is well worth taking the time to fill out as much of your information as possible, such as:
· Name, address and phone number(s)
· Website address
· Other relevant information such as a menu or booking options
· Add nice pictures of your business to showcase your goods or services
· Share regular updates such as special offers and new products and services
Remember the things you used to do well
Before all of the craziness and uncertainty of the past 18 months, you had a successful business and a loyal customer base. Consider what it was that people liked about your business. Focus on these elements and ensure they are restored, whatever they are — examples could include:
· Great customer service — be a positive place to visit for your customers
· Friendly staff — engage with and perhaps retrain your staff, not forgetting that it has been a tough time for them too
· Fresh/local/great value/unique/reliable — whatever made your products and services great, ensure they return to their former glory
Finally, it is likely to take some time for things to really get back to normal. Use this time to engage with customers about how they are feeling, what they need or want from you, and how you can make things that bit better for them. In this way, you are sowing the seeds for growth in the not too distant future as well as making people’s lives better.