5 Uncommon Strategies to Grow Your Business During COVID-19
Small businesses should seek temporary solutions to survive COVID-19 losses and engage longer-term strategy for success.
The world has never known a deadly disease like COVID-19. With Its effects on the human body largely unknown, it spreads swiftly across communities, leading to millions sick and many thousand, dead.
With widespread lockdown of global economies, especially at the peak of the pandemic in April/May 2020, millions were suddenly out of work, the world over.
In the U.S., stay-at-home orders during lockdown affected small businesses the most, leading to about 60% of them losing income, while 13% had no revenue at all. This led to more than half the small businesses laying off some employees, while 14% laid off all their employees. While about 4 in 10 closed their on-site operations, around 14 million businesses feared getting wiped out. As Satyam Khanna, of the New York University School of Law, said, “If they were grouped together, small businesses would be among the country’s biggest employers.”
Even as bars, dental clinics, beauty salons, small offices and other storefronts seen along the streets of every American city and town, closed temporarily in March, now they fear that closure may become permanent, with a resurgence of the virus. Official orders to go slow are irreversibly affecting businesses in many states, especially Texas, Florida and California.
According to currently available federal data, Texas has 1,787,607 small businesses.
Look for Financing from Different Sources
The problem for most small businesses is their financial fragility. Many such businesses will need to reach out for federally-subsidized aid and business loans. But they are fully aware of the bureaucratic hassles and difficulties in establishing eligibility associated with such aid. While anticipating hiccups and long waiting times, businesses should consider applying for short term loans to enable them to handle immediate cash crunches, until the federal aid arrives.
If a business can identify loyal customers who would want to show their support during hard times, it can consider reaching out to them. Online fundraising is a way loyal customers can step up and help, when a business is most in need.
Use the Time to Build Your Online Presence
During these uncertain times with a virus waiting to infect the unwary, many people prefer delivery and online options for products they need. Taking online orders is now easy with platforms like Shopify, Squarespace and GoDaddy. Once an online presence is created, a business can create or update its Google My Business listing, and social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram, to let customers know it is still open for business.
Negotiate to Keep You Going
Another possible short-term measure is to negotiate with clients, suppliers and vendors, to lower payments or for easy payment terms. A method to ensure faster payment from clients is to consider invoice factoring or financing. While ensuring faster payment for its financial needs in this manner, a business can prevent a tight cash flow situation by making minimum payments on its credit cards.
Also, lenders to small businesses do not want them to default on payments. Therefore, businesses unable to pay bills due to loss of business during COVID-19, should talk to their lenders to restructure debt for the near term.
Find New Customer Targets
Even as businesses look at temporary solutions for survival, they need to seriously consider longer-term prospects for success.
For instance, businesses need to be aware that Millennials and the younger Gen Z account for 50.7% or 166 million of the U.S. population. Furthermore, Gen Z currently accounts for over 40% of consumers in the U.S., with an estimated annual purchasing power of $44 billion.
Gen Z is defined as “America's largest, most diverse, best-educated, and most financially powerful generation” and the marketing world is currently trying to understand how best to appeal to them. As experienced marketer Mary Ellen Dugan, says, “Gen Z are digital pioneers in that they charted the path for the rest of the world to go fully digital, and marketers ignore that path at their own peril.”
During stay-at-home orders in most of U.S., at the peak of COVID-19, billions of people were working, studying, and even just staying in touch, digitally. Businesses have known for years they had to focus their marketing more on digital platforms. COVID-19 forced them not just to accelerate plans, but to make them happen immediately.
Gen Z’s only concern is, that the physical and digital worlds should provide for seamless movement between the two. For instance, 48% of Gen Z adults enjoy shopping in-store. But their purchase choices are made after reading expert reviews online, or influencer opinions on social media platforms. They expect seamless, quick and convenient service, and will remain with small businesses if they are able to live up to expectations.
Businesses also need to be critically mindful that Gen Z, unlike even the millennials, are more concerned about values, and the truth. They want to save the planet, conserve the environment and stand for what is right. Gen Z’s view of being a consumer is access, rather than possession, with customized products that have ethical value in their origin. Therefore, in the long term, small businesses have to align with the needs of Gen Z, if they are going to survive and thrive.
Build a Brand
With the majority of people working remotely and all shopping taking place online, now is the time to build your brand. Engage with current and prospective customers through any and all digital channels possible. Email, social media and search should be your main focus.
In addition, revisit your website branding. How are you positioning your brand to your target market? Does your branding align with what’s important to your audience? Qamar Zaman, Founder of Kiss PR, explains, “Understanding the psychology of the target audience is quite important.” Empathizing with faltering businesses in Texas and elsewhere due to COVID-19, since March 2020, Zaman has given away over 1,400 free stories to businesses, and over a million dollars in free marketing help, through his Kiss PR - Free Press Release COVID-19 Fund. His motive was “to allow new businesses to grow in the gloomy economic atmosphere during COVID-19.” His advice to discouraged businesses is, not to give up in the face of hardship.
This perspective is mirrored in the words of former U.S. President, Barack Obama, “The future rewards those who press on… I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.”