Maximising online opportunities for your business during the Coronavirus crisis

These are strange times for all of us, but for businesses this can also be an unsettling and frankly scary time.

For those who have flexible businesses and are already embracing the online world, this could actually be a great opportunity to up their game and attract new business. For businesses who are not online, this might be an opportunity to really think outside the box, innovate and embrace new ways of working. With people being at home more and potentially having more time on their hands this really could be an opportunity for a lot of businesses, if they can infiltrate their customers’ digital space.

This is obviously much trickier for some businesses then others, but all businesses can at least have an online presence in some way and stay in touch with their customers. And that’s crucial. Maintaining relationships with your audience and letting them know you’re still there is so important.

If you’ve never created an online shop before or booking system, now may be the time to do so. You can use targeted and inexpensive Facebook and Instagram ads to reach your target customers in your target location. You could also look to offer delivery for products you usually only sell in store.

Lean on your peers and fellow businesses. We’re all in this together. Skill swap with someone who can do things you can’t. Facebook is full of professional groups for businesses, so if you’re not in one yet have a look. We all have something to offer and something we can teach others. Make sure your website is up to scratch and make sure people know where to find it. Turn meetings and training sessions into Skype or Zoom calls and make the most of other free digital tools and platforms.

If you’re really struggling to think how you can sell anything you do online then it could be an opportunity to add something else to the mix…

If you’re an independent haberdashery, for example, why not create a little online workshop on crocheting or knitting with some creative ideas. With more and more people self-isolating they’ll have more time on their hands for hobbies like this!

If you’re a fitness instructor, you could try a live fitness class online or even digital personal training sessions through Zoom or WhatsApp. If you’re a florist, you could trial doing digital flower-arranging classes. The one thing that is on your side is your expertise and of course that more people are currently at home (and may be for a while) and will be looking for ways to occupy themselves.

If you own a pub or a restaurant could you offer deliveries to local people who would love a home cooked meal and a bottle of wine? Or perhaps you could create a personalised beer selection or run an online quiz. Start getting your regulars’ emails now, so you have a foundation for an email list you can build on. You can relatively easily create email campaigns in tools such as MailChimp, which is free if you have up to 2000 recipients. They have templates you can simply adapt, which saves you creating one from scratch. It also makes email management much easier and you’ll be able to see who is actually opening your emails and clicking on your links. Ask your customers to support you and tell them exactly what is going on. They will appreciate your honesty and want to support local business.

Create gift vouchers – if this isn’t something you have done yet, give it a go and make sure people can purchase them online. With a lot of people being stuck indoors, having a voucher for their favourite pub, restaurant or nail salon is something really nice to look forward to. You can also run online competitions – most of us are attracted to the opportunity to win something, so maximise this and use your social media channels to run a small campaign.

Host online events – Facebook is great for this and Zoom is also a good tool. If you’re a product-based business, you could invite customers to an event that they can join in the comfort of their own homes and you could show and demo some products for them and tell them about any latest special offers you might have.

Videos are a great marketing tool and this really is the time to start making them if you’ve shied away from doing this before. Take a leap of faith and start filming. You don’t need a fancy camera either. You can take perfectly good videos on your smartphone.

If you’re not shut yet – tell people. And show them how you have made sure that your shop or salon or whatever it is, is safe for them to go to. Do you have facilities for them to wash their hands on arrival and keep a safe distance from others? Can you assure them that all staff with any symptoms will be sent home? Show them this on your social media channels. Tell them you’re regularly cleaning your card machine and have hand sanitiser. Also ask them to not come in if they are displaying any symptoms at all, so that you can protect your business and stay open as long as possible.

Fundamentally, let’s not give up hope and let’s not give in. There’s no denying this could be the ultimate trial for our businesses, but if we try to support each other and keep asking the government for financial support where appropriate of course, I truly hope and believe we’ll get past this.