The COVID-19 situation has forced us to come and accept a new normal within how we interact with each other, especially when serving customers and running our business. Handshakes are no longer accepted, hugs are not being offered, and social distancing will be with us for months to come.
As we navigate through these tough times both economically and physically, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. We won’t be on lockdown forever, and we WILL get through these times.
Here at Alecan Marketing, we hope to offer some guidance and resources as to how your small business can open up safely and start growing as soon as possible. As lockdown regulations and restrictions ease up, we’ll guide you in how to adapt to this new lifestyle as we move forward together safely.
- Organizations & Resources To Follow
- Federal & State Government Resources
- Creating Your Guidelines For Your Business
- Workplace Safety
- Employee Guidance
- Customer Guidance
- Sales and Finance
- Small Business Marketing
- Be Prepared To Adapt
- Update Business States On Social Platforms
- Creating and Pivoting Your Strategy
- Additional Resources
Organizations And Resources To Follow
There are many organizations that are constantly giving out resources and guidance during this situation. We compiled some of the top organizations to help your small business decide when, where, and how to reopen.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce – This non-profit organization directly works with businesses both big and small to help provide information and resources. They have articles and additional guidelines to specific business industries during this situation.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Being one of the main resources for the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC lays out the recommended guidelines for what business should do once opening up and what to watch out for as the virus develops.
Opening Up America Again – These are the set of guidelines presented by the White Houses and acts like a checklist to make sure your business is ready to open up. It a three-phase set of guidelines for states to follow in order to ease restrictions. Please be aware that different states have a wide variety of COVID-19 situations, meaning some businesses may have to jump more hoops than others.
American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) – The AIHA is a professional association that has developed a concrete guideline called Back to Work Safely initiative with specific industrial health recommendations in mind. The association goes into specific sectors such as gyms, salons, retailers, restaurants, at-home services, and construction businesses.
Federal And State Government Resources
As the government tries to stabilize the economic impact of Covid-19, keep in mind that there are both federal and state financial aid resources that your small business can use. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), disaster assistance loans, and new proposals by the U.S Small Business Administration are constantly being created. Make sure to check with your local and city government to see if you they have any specific programs to help assist your small business.
- Federal Guidelines
The federal guidelines offer their own resources as a central hub to when to open your business. They have written a White House coronavirus guide to for everyone to access, as well as a three-phase guideline to give to states when reopening their economy. Remember that these guidelines are not necessarily requirements, but are a good starting point to see if your business is ready to open.
- State Guidelines
Every state is different when handling the easing of the COVID-19 guidelines. Make sure to search up what your state guidelines are to see if you can open up sooner than expected. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created an interactive resource for State-by-State Business Reopening Guidance. The faster you open up, the better faster it would be to start earning profit.
- City Guidelines
Depending on the city and county that your business is located, there might be different situations that might get brought up. For Los Angeles for example, businesses have the right to refuse to serve customers that are not wearing a mask. Check up with your local city and counsel members to get more specific program resources.
Creating Your Guidelines For Your Small Business
Having proper guidelines for reopening is important to navigating the way you get your business to stand out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a workplace resource to help business owners protect their workers during this time.
Providing a cohesive protocol in line for your small business is essential if you want to plan on reopening. Whether you’re planning to reopen partially or be fully operational, there has to be guidelines in place in order to make customers and employees feel safe.
Traditional office workplaces might see some changes as your small business reopens. With social distancing forecasted to be a new normal for months to come, make sure your company asks these critical questions before deciding to reopen.
- What Safety Protocols Should I Be Doing?
Depending on your business, think about the requirements you want to have when your employees are interacting with customers. Do you want your employees wearing masks? Do you require customers to enter while wearing a mask? These rules and regulations that you set for your business will let your employees know the best procedure when dealing with customers and with each other.
- How Do I Enforce Social Distancing in my business?
It might be time to roll up your sleeves and start thinking about the layout of your office space or storefront. Moving desks around to keep a 6 feet distance between your workers is a small price to pay to ensure their well-being. If you’re dealing with customers, put up signs or floor stickers to enforce them to keep their distance. If you’re crowded for space, think about setting up protective barriers like screen glasses to reduce the chance of the virus being spread.
- What Safety Procedures Should I Have in Place when Opening?
As a small business owner, you are required to ensure the safety and health of your employees and customers. This means discussing the safety procedures with your employees on certain precautions and different communication. You should have an accessible guideline that includes your safety procedures that is accessible to all your customers and employees.
- Should I provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for my business?
To be frank, yes you should. Providing your customers and employees personal protective equipment is essential. No matter the position you have on the COVID-19 situation, you have to ensure that.
Here is some of the PPE equipment you should have available to create a comfortable environment after opening up.
- Hand Sanitizing Stations
- Disinfectant Wipes
- Thermometer Checks
- Antibacterial Spray
Communication with your employees is essential as you start to open your doors. Make sure you have a strategy and foundation in place to help your employees navigate your changing workplace, interaction with customers, and systems within your company. Answering key questions like these will help your small business in guiding your employees.
- Should I Let Employees Work From Home?
Even as certain small business start opening up, some employees might be more comfortable working from home. As a business owner, we advise that you respect their decision, since it is pertaining to their mental and physical health. You don’t want to have an employee in your facility feeling forced to be in-house especially if work-from-home is an available option.
- Should I Hire The Employees I Let Go?
Although you’re not required to contact your past employees, it’s always a good idea to contact them first when filling positions in your company. As a small business owner, you may have had to make tough decisions when it comes to the employment of your staff. First off, don’t place the blame on yourself. With the COVID-19 situation, the whole economy has taken a hit.
Giving your employees the option of coming back shows that you care about the work they do for your company and you see them as an essential part of your team.
- How Should I Approach Reduced Hours for my Workers?
Make sure to outline the current financial situation of your business. This means that you should let your employees know they may have reduced hours and wages when coming back to their original position. Having open communication will let your employees know the goals of your overall business and where it stands financially.
- What happens if some Employees refuse to come back to the workplace?
Remember that if you’re ready to interact with customers, some employees might not be too comfortable coming back. Respecting their decision to refuse coming back to the office can show them you truly care about their mental health. Provide your employees with resources from your company to ensure them it is a safe space to work in.
- How do I respond to customer feedback?
Make sure you stay consistent with your messaging when receiving customer feedback whether they are positive or negative. Answering their questions politely and giving them the resources available is the best way to respond to their concerns and questions.
- What happens if a Customer Doesn’t Follow My Guidelines?
Remember that the reason you created your safety guidelines is to protect your customers and employees. If a customer doesn’t follow these guidelines, politely remind them that these protocols are in place for their own safety. If they still refuse, your business has the right to refuse service to the customer.
- How do I communicate with new customers?
If you have a business where physical engagement is essential, make sure to put up signs to remind customers to follow the social distancing guidelines. To ensure the safety of your staff, put up protective screens when they interact with customers if possible. If protective screens aren’t possible, try ensuring that any communication is done at least 6 feet apart.
Another way to communicate is digitally, meaning through outlets such as social media or Zoom. Make sure you have a dedicated system in place for communicating with your customers where they are most likely present in.
- What resources can I give to my customers?
Make your safety guidelines and procedures are available on your website and social media platforms for your customers to access. As you start getting FAQs about opening up, have a document outlining these specific questions and provide straight-to-the-point professional answers to give to them.
Sales and Finance
- How Should I Allocate My Finances?
One of the main problems you may have when opening up is allocating your finances to the needs of your business. Of course there is no one size fits all approach to this since every small business is different. Our advice is to start out slow and pay off basic costs such as rent, utilities, and wages.
- What Can I do if my Business Will Not Be Opening Up Anytime Soon?
As restrictions start to ease, some small businesses might not be able to open up due to their business model. The best thing to do in this situation is to plan out the changes you want to do and strategize the needs of customers. Stay active on your social media and let your customers know a timeline that you plan to open up operations. Being relevant in your customer’s mind is essential when growing your business as a whole. The last thing you should do is waste this time. Take the time to focus on your own business and what improvements you may have been holding off on for years.
- How do I Gain Back My Lost Clients?
To get clients that you might have lost takes a lot of communication and understanding. If you’re a small business that depends on how many contracts you establish, it’s important to be mindful that although you may be available to start, they might not be. Try to communicate as much as possible with your past clients to simply check up with how they are doing during these times. A simple phone call or text message can go a long way.
- What can I expect my sales to look like when reopening?
The economic impact of the coronavirus has truly changed the lives of many businesses and individuals in general. Saying that, prepare that your sales will not be coming in at high volume when you first reopen for the first few months. As the economy start to gain traction again and the unemployment rate declines, you sales will start to get better.
Small Business Marketing
Your small business marketing strategy has probably been hindered or paused because of the COVID-19 situation. This means customers will have a harder time finding you in the digital field and even know that you started operating again. Make sure that once you resume operations, you know you have adapted your marketing.
- Restart Your Agency Services
If you have an agency working on your digital marketing strategy, start your services as soon as possible when you plan on opening up. The reason for this is because you want to be ahead of your competition that has yet to open up. Become the early bird that gets the worm.
- Analyze What Your Competition is Doing
Being aware of your competition always provides great insight on what you should and should not be doing with your marketing. If you like a certain strategy of your competitors, don’t be afraid to tweak it around so it matches your business brand. Take a look at their website and social media platforms to see what types of posts or changes they’ve made. This will help you on your journey to reopening.
- Set Your Budget
Opening up to this new type of normal means your marketing strategy might not have the same budget as it used to. Take some time to look at your expenses and a set a marketing budget that your company can work with. The more outlined your goals are, the better chance you have bouncing back from this situation.
- Start Being Active On Social
If you stopped being active on social media, start creating content to announce that your business is going to reopen. Whether it’s on Instagram or Facebook, it makes for a great medium to announce to your customers that you are starting to open up soon. Communicating with followers is one of the biggest benefits of social media and a great way to stay on top of your followers’ minds. This can help ensure that they consider your product or service when you’re back open.
- Communicating Digitally
With digital communication on the rise, familiarize yourself and your employees to communicating digitally through Skype or Zoom. Provide them with resources they can use to make it easier for them to have a smooth transition.
- Send an Email Out
If your small business has a weekly or monthly newsletter service, start announcing to your customers that you are about to open up through email. Doing so will make sure that your most loyal customers get the message and come out to support you. Thank them for their continued support and outline what your business is doing to protect their safety. Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective strategies to getting your message out.
- Update Your Website
To avoid any confusion or misinformation, it’s essential to update your website in order to let your customers know your updated guidelines or hours. Think about making your home page like a main communication channel to answer any question your customers might have about your reopening.
- Create Helpful Flyers
Having a customizable coronavirus flyer is a cost-effective way to notify your customers about the guidelines and regulations in place when they enter your business. This effectively communicates what type of experience customers can get when working with your business during these times.Industries We Can Help
Be Prepared To Adapt
Communication with the public is key if you want to boost your customer’s confidence for doing business with you again. As a business owner, you have to understand the obstacles and even pushback you might have to overcome to support the reopening of your small business.
- Communicate with Your Employees
Checking up on your staff and employees is crucial as we navigate this global pandemic together. Simply ask your employees about their well-being while in the office and resuming operation. Lead an open discussion about what you can do as a business owner to make your employees’ jobs easier and have a better piece of mind.
- Taking Criticism
Push back from individuals from the public can occur during these times. As a small business owner, it’s important that you don’t engage in nonproductive conversations that may damage your reputation. Make sure to provide your community with specific guidelines in what you are doing as a business to protect the health and wellness of the public.
- Analyzing Sales Data and ROI
Whether you think the economic impact of the pandemic will be short or long-lived, it’s important to take into account that your numbers will probably not be the same before you closed up shop. Analyzing your sales data and analytics in a realistic manner will lay the foundation down for the growth of your business in the future.
- It Will Take Some Time Adapting
Keep in mind that you might need to change or tweak around some things days after deciding to reopen. If something doesn’t go according to plan, quickly adapt to the situation and make it right. Making mistakes is a big part of learning.
- Be Prepared To Close Up Again If Necessary
With so little being known about the virus and the future impact it will have when the country reopens, be prepared to close up again if necessary. It’s better to be able to have a backup plan in the worst-case scenario than have no plan in place at all.
Update Business States On Social Platforms
Keeping updated on your social platforms and what to do within them is a small, but important detail when reopening your business. Focus on social platforms that you know where your main audience will find you. Having updated and consistent information in all of them is critical to convey your messaging during this time.
Keeping up to date on your Yelp business page is critical for customers to know your current times and updates. Make sure to update your business profile to tell customers the requirements, if any, for your small business. For example, one point you can include is for customers to require face masks. If you run a restaurant, make sure to let customers know if you are only serving certain items off the menu. Yelp also has added a great feature that shows users if you’re open during COVID-19 or not.
As we mentioned before, responding to comments and reviews are important when opening up. Stay consistent with your messaging and update it as the COVID-19 situation is being processed.
- Google My Business
Being aware of your Google My Business profile makes you see what customers are seeing once they search up your company. Look at what pops up in the search engine results page (SERP) and update incorrect information. Companies have the ability to post updated information and operation hours. Similar to Yelp, Google My Business also offers specific messaging related to COVID-19.
Twitter is a social platform that is best for short and straight to the point messages and updates. Sending out a tweet of your operation hours for the day can answer customer questions before they ask. Clarifying certain services, such as accepting takeout orders through phone can also be information you can put out.
Professional guidelines and safety updates can be posted on your company LinkedIn page. This professional social platform is a great way to connect with other professionals and connect with them on a more personal level. Don’t be afraid to talk about the reasons that you are opening and how you are preparing.
If you have an active business page on Facebook with a large following count, you might post about your upcoming business reopening dates and time of operation. Since there are many types of posts you can put for your business page, direct your followers with new guidelines for your company. Targeting your specific audience is critical so they know about the updated information of your business.
Creating and Pivoting Your Strategy Accordingly
As you move toward unknown territory of not knowing what’s going to happen next, make sure you have strategies in place to adapt to the current situation. Actively listening and keeping up with information can help your business navigate certain situations.
- Listen to What Your Customers are Saying
As a small business owner, listen to the recommendations and concerns coming from your employees and customers. Having meaningful conversations and communication can lead to new ideas in how to overcome the difficulty of opening back up.
- Listen to What the Experts Are Saying
Closing off your ears to insights and advice from expert people can lead you down a path of confusion and consequences. Listen to what the experts are saying about the COVID situation and plan accordingly. If you need to make changes, do so with a clear mindset.
- Stay Updated with State and Federal Laws
The last things you want to do as a small business is jeopardize your livelihood by disobeying the law. Remember that this situation is constantly changing day by day, which means that regulations are constantly getting introduced and updated. Knowing what you can and can’t do will make sure that your business can still operate properly.
As we go through these uncertain times, here are some resources you can use to help guide your reopening. We will update this list as the COVID-19 situation progresses.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- State-by-State Business Reopening Guide
- General Resource Foundation
- Paycheck Protection Program
- Social Media Guide
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
It’s important to remember that just because the restrictions are lifted doesn’t mean that everyone immediately feels comfortable. The psychological effects of COVID-19 are going to last for quite awhile before everyone starts feeling completely comfortable again. Always keep this in mind when dealing with customers and employees to ensure you have a good understanding on how they may be personally dealing with this global pandemic.
As states start to ease restrictions, it’s a new opportunity for your business to lay the groundwork of operating in this new normal. Creating effective guidelines that protect the safety and well being of your customers and employees should be a top priority as a business owner. Remember that you are not alone in this situation.
We’ll help guide your small business through these times so you can come out on the other side more prepared, motivated, and successful.