This is an uncertain time for South African business owners, yet, it might be an opportunity to, focus on the factors that are within your control and steer your way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some ways to help weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown.
Nine ways to help small businesses weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Curate credible resources for COVID-19 information
- Adjust the way you do business
- Find ways to support employees
- Figure out what you want to say to customers
- Make it easy for customers to contact you
- Stay top-of-mind with content that helps your customers
- Craft smart emails to communicate with customers
- Encourage support for fellow small businesses
- Stay healthy
Curate credible resources for COVID-19 information
From health advisories from international organisations to must-know COVID-19 information from the local authorities, there are resources available to help you, your employees, your customers and your community for assistance through the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Visit: co.za/ or join the WhatsApp group on 0600 123 456 to receive the latest government updates.
- Read President Ramaphosa’s full speech about the lockdown.
- Register here if you plan to seek assistance from the Debt Relief Fund.
- Learn about social distancing.
- Keep an eye on news from the South African Revenue Service.
- Learn how employees can claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Adjust the way you do business
You might have been caught off guard with just three days to prepare for a national lockdown of all non-essential businesses. If so, take the time you’re working from home to outline a plan and prioritise action items in anticipation of further disruptions.
- If you rely on a single global supplier, consider diversifying your supply chain.
- If you need to focus more on a specific aspect of running your business, look into outsourcing other tasks. For example, you might hire a freelance writer to help with customer emails or blog posts. Or you might hire a virtual assistant to answer the phone and manage your calendar, freeing you to do business-critical work.
- Show customers how much you appreciate their support. Think about how you can help support them through the COVID-19 crisis.
Find ways to support employees
If you have employees, will you need to make changes to support your workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are some things to consider:
- Communicate with your employees on the steps you’re taking. Provide an easily accessible FAQ sheet to keep your team updated with COVID-19 news.
- Review paid time off and sick leave policies.
- Listen with empathy. Similar to about everyone else, your employees probably have concerns about COVID-19. Be available to hear them and respond in the best way you can.
- If you didn’t have time to do so before the lockdown, think about how you will enable remote work / work-from-home options in future.
Figure out what you want to say to customers
Many companies have been doing their best to keep people up to date with what they’re doing in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. You’ll want to communicate with your customers even if it’s just a statement you post to your blog or website, in addition to emailing it out.
Some messages you might want to share with your customers includes:
- Thank them for their support.
- Explain what your business is doing and how it affects them.
- Detail the changes you’re making to your website and products and services.
- Share your updated refund and cancellation policies, if applicable.
- Share best ways to get in touch with you.
- Reassure your customers that we’re all in this together.
Make it easy for customers to contact you
Here are a few measures you can take to make it easy for customers to connect with you:
- Website. Display your contact information prominently on your website.
- Online business listings. Ensure your contact information is up to date on online business listings like Google My Business.
- Email. Make sure to include up-to-date contact information in all email correspondence with customers.
- Social media. Let customers, as well as other business owners, know you’re active on social media to connect with you and drop you a message. Include links to your social profiles in emails, blog posts, etc. so customers know they can also connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other networks where you have a presence.
- Chat apps. Using tools like Facebook Messenger and letting customers know that you’re available during certain hours, can help customers feel connected to you in real-time.
Produce content that helps your customers
While most businesses are updating their marketing, customers may still appreciate some well-thought-out content during this time. You many want to consider providing useful how-to’s or case studies to help them in your field of expertise. For example, if you run outsourced payrolls, help businesses understand their options for reducing payroll costs without leaving employees in the lurch. Some other ideas:
- Blog posts. Article ideas include “How Can You Do Indoor Exercise During the COVID-19 Shutdown? (for a personal trainer or gym),” or “What We’re Doing During the COVID-19 Shutdown.” (for a retailer selling essential products that is open during the shutdown).
- Videos. Take your blog articles above and tell stories about them. Videos are a great place to tell stories, not just relate lists of information. Also, consider doing some video interviews with colleagues.
- Podcasts. Consider starting an audio podcast. Record them with a basic voice recorder app on your phone, or use a programme on your laptop like Audacity and GarageBand
- Webinars. Webinars are a great way to educate people about your company’s offering and to share your sector knowledge. Premium webinar packages include GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams Live Events, Zoom, and free options include Google Hangouts or YouTube Live, can help get you started.
- Social posts. Social media is one way many of us are coping with social distancing. Connect with your customers on social media to give them real-time updates on how you and your business are handling COVID-19. You can build community through asking and answering questions.
Craft targeted emails to communicate with customers
We are all in this together, so your customers will appreciate you helping to bolster a sense of solidarity. Emails you send to your customers should address the crisis upfront. In these messages, you can:
- Talk about how the pandemic is impacting South Africa, your sector and your company.
- Discuss what you’re doing differently in its wake.
- Be upfront about what you plan to do for your customers during this challenging time.
- Discuss how COVID-19 might impact your ability to serve your customers, if relevant.
Encourage support for fellow small businesses
Government’s resources to help small business owners in South Africa through the COVID-19 shutdown and its aftermath may be limited. Small businesses have an opportunity to get through this is together. Work closely with your business partners and suppliers to share knowledge and work together to help navigate your way through this difficult time. Passing on leads, sharing resources and buying from one another are some good ways for small business to help each other.
While you’re staying at home, you need to keep looking after your physical and mental health. Some tips:
- Limit consumption of news and social media about the pandemic.
- Exercise: You can stretch, do yoga, or follow an aerobic fitness routine from YouTube.
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Socialise with friends and family via the phone or through video calls.
You can extend these ideas with your employees and business partners as well. This can take many forms including:
- Sharing information about COVID-19 with your employees.
- Offering flexible schedules.
- Reducing workload expectations.
- Offering paid time off if you can.
The COVID-19 global pandemic is causing unprecedented disruption to individuals and small businesses around the world. But we’re all in this together. Use whatever strategies in this article you feel can help you steer your unique venture through the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re a GoDaddy customer, don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help along the way.