With the whole of the UK going into another lockdown and small business owners worrying about how they will keep afloat for a second time, John Attridge, CEO of BBX UK gives his tips on how SMEs can continue their current success and maintain momentum, despite the restrictions.
“Although we may not be able to physically engage with customers there is still lots we can do without having to leave home. Facing the crisis head on and being agile to change, could ultimately make your business more resilient and your team stronger than ever before”.
- Make Sure You Are Set Up to Work from Home
With most SMEs being able to effectively operate from home it is crucial that you have your team set up and ready to go for lockdown 2.0. This will include sourcing all equipment that they may need such as computers with webcams if you plan to host meetings on Zoom, desks, chairs and phones. It is also important to maintain communication with your team so that they feel supported and team morale remains high. Likewise, you could offer flexible working to employees to help them cope with any extra responsibility that comes with working from home such as childcare. This way you can keep your team happy whilst ensuring that you can still work together efficiently, which is vital to your business’ survival.
2. Maintain Customer Engagement
The customer’s experience should be your number one priority during this time, make sure you engage yourself with previous customers, current and potential future customers. Ask for brand/product testimonials that you can use on your website and social media, follow up with current orders and see how you can help your existing customers. If you are a retailer, be upfront and honest about any changes to customer orders or delivery times. This will preserve your loyal following whilst building positive relationships with new customers which can help you survive another lockdown.
Research into future trends that reflect your brand and see how you can invite new customers to your business by acknowledging these trends and being prepared for them. Use a website like The Future Laboratory to do this. People want to support small businesses during this time so you could use that to your advantage.
3. Keep Connected with Your Community
With the UK in lockdown but still craving communication with the outside world, the use of social media has skyrocketed with platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok amongst the most popular. Social media has become a prominent marketing tool nowadays as it enables businesses regardless of size to market themselves, add colour and personality to them all whilst building a loyal community following. This acts as a good platform to offer discounts, special deals but more importantly engage and build a degree of loyalty with customers for the long term.
Use this time at home to ensure your brand/product or service is using the appropriate social media channels, if you’re not, sign up and start building your presence by seeing what similar brands are doing. If you’re using the correct social channels look at what you can improve and how you can engage a new customer base.
Create a content calendar for the year ahead, planning is the key for success. Use a website like Loomly to get started, you can also analyse your social media with this tool, allowing you to discover your most successful content, and what you should be doing more of.
4. Improve Your Website
Using this time to really focus on your brands aesthetics will set you above the rest. Work on your website, ask yourself; is it user friendly? Does the branding need to improve? Are your services clearly displayed? See if you are duplicating content and delete unnecessary items on your website. By taking the time to do a full website audit you will set yourself up to only improve and when the time comes to activate your business again, it will lead to a better customer journey.
Let your customers know that you are still open during lockdown, just that you are operating from home. However, if you are a retailer, make sure that you are managing their expectations with regards to orders and any other factors that may be affected by the restrictions. By uploading these details to your website, it will maintain trust with your customers and offer any reassurance that they may need.
Using online networking platforms such as BBX is also a good method to reach larger audiences. It provides a marketplace enabling businesses to trade goods and services with each other. This opens up opportunities for small businesses to grow by accessing new customers and build better relationships. Business owners can also source marketing tools and supplies, such as website designers and social media managers, to help promote the business without effecting cash flow in the same way.
5. Enhance Your SEO
Whether you are an SEO novice or a seasoned pro, the industry is constantly changing. It’s important to keep yourself updated on everything from SEO algorithm changes to how you can optimise your own SEO. Small businesses should use this time to invest in the improvement of their own SEO as this will ultimately make it easier for current and potential customers to find them online. Use an SEO checker website like Seobility to see where you could improve, your website host or designer should be able to offer insight on how to work on your SEO also.