I could sit here and give you a load of statistics about falling footfall and stuff, but let's be honest - all you need to do is look out of the window to see that the penny is finally dropping across the UK: people aren't going out. Staying in business during lockdown is going to be tricky, but absolutely not impossible.
An amazing number of small businesses went into this lockdown without having a website or any real social media presence. For some, no amount of money thrown at a new web page will help and there is unfortunately no option to but wait it out. But for a huge number of us - maybe even the majority - there are a plethora of ways that you can still make money from what you do without having physical contact with anyone.
You had targets before this, you'll have targets afterwards. All you need to do is tweak your approach and make sure that you're covering the basics. So here we are with another Top Five: Staying In Business During Lockdown.
1. Change Direction
Maybe you already offer a service which can be done remotely. If so, well done, you're set. If you sell a service or product, however, it's likely you can't just send your area of expertise down the phone line to your customer... at least, not without a bit of work.
In this example, we'll think about a hairdresser. Unless you have arms like Mr Tickle, you probably couldn't cut anyone's hair without being within 2 meters of them. So you can't make any money, right? No, wrong.
The nation is locked away. The nation's hair is still growing. So tell them how to cut their hair. Make a short video, write a guide, take some photos of techniques. You don't need to give away all of your secrets, but the more you teach, the more you can charge for the information. Heck, you could be a total maverick and GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE... imagine how much publicity it would give your social media channels once people start to share it. Your name will be spread around, people will thank you, plus current AND FUTURE customers will think of you when they next need their hair cutting once we're allowed outside again.
Painters - teach the nation how to paint a wall. People will still pay for your services in the future, most likely as they'll need you to fix the dodgy job they've done themselves during lockdown, but you'll be the person they think of when they need work doing.
Private tutors - you can use Zoom, or Skype, or Face Time... or any video chat system. Your lessons can carry on, you can even reach wider audiences: no need to keep limiting yourself to the pool of people near you who need your help.
2. Design a simple website
Okay, I make websites for a living, so I am obviously going to be an advocate of having one. But can you really give me one reason why your business SHOULDN'T have one? The only two I can possibly think of are expense or knowledge, so let's hit them head on.
At digital starter pack, we make websites from £199. We have even introduced a new option to pay over 12 months to make it even more affordable. I think we're already pretty cheap cost-effective - but there are even cheaper options: making it yourself. With the right system, like WiX, you can get yourself online in a matter of hours. Ok, chances are it won't look great and it wouldn't be something to serve you long term, but for the purposes of getting you online, it's better to have a mediocre site than no site (as long as it follows the tips here).
Of course, you are limited by knowledge. You're a great hairdresser, that doesn't mean you can make a website. Systems like WiX allow you to drag and drop your page together. You could even have a bash at using a simple WordPress theme in order to get something made.
The point is, for the investment of a very small amount of money - you'll need a domain name and hosting - and a lot of time you can make yourself a website, meaning your services, your products and your expertise are still available for people who can no longer get to your shop or invite you around to do what it is you do.
Or you can get in touch with us and see how we can help you get online with website design from £199.
Make sure your business is set up on Google My Business. It doesn't take very long, and it means the information YOU want the world to know about your business is available to the world. Also, set up a Google Merchant account to get your stock to show up when people are searching for it. Being Norwich's finest purveyor of ceramic ducks counts for absolutely nothing if the residents of Norwich who are Googling "buy a ceramic duck" can't see your ducks. So for ducks sake, get your ducks in a row... and onto Google.
4. Get Social
This kind of goes along with point one. Pretty much none of us will get rich through social media. Having 1,000 likes on your page doesn't count for much most of the time... but looking after your followers is key. The odds are that the people who like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter have an interest in what it is you do. So while you're plugging your latest new online course, just tell them what you're doing to pass the time. Explain how you got into your industry of choice. Share things which made you laugh. STAY IN PEOPLE'S MINDS. Your Facebook page will not make you a millionaire, but it will keep you connected to your clients, who will be allowed out again in the future... plus if you've listened to point one, you can still be selling them stuff in the mean time.
Maybe you already have a customer file or an email list or something. Now would be a great time to get in touch, check they're ok. Show you care, that you're going to be there for them when all of this calms down.
5. Stay On Target
We don't know when this is going to end. We don't know when people will be permitted to start walking around again, going to shops, going to gym classes. None of us has a clue when we'll be able to get plumbers back in to fix that wonky tap, or have our conservatory sorted. Weddings are being postponed..
But the bride and groom will eventually need a photographer again (unless it doesn't go too well during their enforced isolation, of course). This will end. Eventually, life will go back to as close to normal as possible. And when it does, all those dreams you had for your business can restart. So make sure you keep in mind what it is that you want to achieve. Remember to stay relevant, keep your customers connected. Stay in the hearts and minds of the people who used to pay your bills, and who will pay them again in the very near future.
Stay on target, so that when we all reach GO again you are primed and ready to go, not desperately playing catch up.
And of course, you can get in touch with us if you have any questions. Get your flyers ready and designed, give your website a refresh (or, you know, make one in the first place). Get your 2020 Part 2 brochures ready to hand out. Get prepared, be ready and stay on target.