As different places begin to allow local businesses to open, you are not alone if you breathe a sigh of relief mixed with a sigh of worry. We all need money. We all want to be useful again to the people we serve. And some or most of us are worried about what will happen next. Let's talk about it.
OPEN! These are the customers!
Remember this first of all: everyone is tense. No one will likely be their most courteous and best behavior. No matter how strong and adult we are, it really counts as a real mental trauma. It'll take a little while to recover, and it means that you, as a business owner, will have to smother their customers and prospects with kindness, but there are many more.
Customers will want to understand how you are providing a clean work environment after this pandemic. Even if you personally think it's silly in some cases, don't overlook your client's vote on it. Be clear and obvious and explain how you handle everything, even the things that you cannot imagine that someone wonders for example if you disinfect your carton before packaging their product. (It turns out that this is a big common question now when people are considering buying something online.)
2. Sell online
Even after the big bad bug has been defeated enough that we don't care, people are in the habit of ordering and buying many products and services online that you can't even imagine that people get from a distance. I have a friend who sells hay and by the time he put the online store on his website he received orders.
3. Communicate more
Partly because of online sales and certainly because of that "If I can't see it, how do I know what's going on?" mindset, people are looking for more "contacts" between themselves and companies, even in B2B situations. If the order typically takes a week to build and ship, provide updates to people every day or two. When I ordered DoorDash to send me a hamburger during the lockdown, I received five or six text messages from the app, telling me that the food was being prepared , the food was ready to be picked up, the driver picked up the food, the driver was two years old and the driver was there. Do something like this.
4. Consider new payment options in two ways
For one thing, if you're not using things like PayPal, Stripe, Venmo, and Cashapp, you may want to set up some accounts. People send money through multiple channels. Second, you may realize that almost 30 million people were unemployed in the United States the day I wrote this to you, cash is limited. You may have to sell "smaller" versions of what you offer, so people can pay you. There are many creative ways to work on it.
5. Reach out
It’s no surprise that this is my advice. I have spent twenty years pleading with companies to use tools such as video and audio and good email marketing to reach potential customers. There is a lot to it, it seems, but the basis of it all is the same goal: to communicate and connect with the people you hope to help and earn the right to sell and serve.
Here is help
To that end, Becky and Deb have a whole new program to learn how to restart your local purchases. If this is your kind of small town business, it is very important to check this out.
If not, be aware that all businesses experience some form of what you are experiencing and that it is important to accept that it will not be perfect. But also know this: people are really falling behind in "local shopping" in a way they have never expressed before. This may be the perfect time to change some of your work and really make money and the longevity of their customers.