Crazy times, am I right?
The current situation has left small business owners reeling. For many, business has slowed almost to a stop, with no way of knowing how long the downtime will last.
More than ever, these small businesses are drawing on their adaptability, resilience and fortitude to find new ways to get things done in the changed environment. That’s OK. We’re scrappy, driven and strong. We got this.
Small business owners are also great at turning a negative into an opportunity. And many are finding that they have suddenly been gifted that thing they always wished for most – time.
What can small business owners do with downtime during COVID-19?
When circumstances leave very little work to do IN the business, it does leave time to finally work ON the business. Far from being mere busywork, a structured approach to working on rather than in can help your business become fitter, leaner and poised to weather the stormy times ahead.
So why not give that to-do list a workout with these 15 tasks to tackle during downtime.
1. Update your business plan
Or write one if you don’t already have one! A business plan is something every small business should have, and there are plenty of great templates available online. Even if you update your plan regularly, you might find Coronavirus means you need to adapt your short term goals and strategy.
2. Establish marketing objectives and plans
By working out your marketing goals, and then tying those goals to a formal plan, you set yourself up to succeed. Having objectives in place means your marketing efforts remain consistent and purposeful. Writing a plan means that even when you get busy again, you can continue to roll out the plan with a minimum of effort.
3. Create a blog on your website
It’s one of those things a lot of people mean to do and never get round to. Now could be the time to finally build that blog page, and get 6 months or a year’s worth of content planned out. Blogging consistently improves your search engine ranking, engages your social followers and helps you promote your business. When things are hectic, it can be hard to do the planning needed to get a blog up and running, so a slowdown is the perfect time to take on this task.
4. Research, trial and set up some new apps
Nowadays, there are apps and software solutions to streamline practically any task. Use your downtime to identify the procedures and workflows that could benefit from a leap into the modern age, and then find the perfect app for the job, This is a great quiet time project because it gives you the breathing room to test out a few different options, and then get your chosen one fully configured.
5. Create some new offers or business ideas
Because when things zig, you gotta zag! Savvy small business owners are using the slowdown to adapt existing products and services to the new climate, as well as searching for new ideas that fit within the new normal. Think outside the box and leverage your relationship with existing customers to research your ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what their new pain points are, and to offer trials, discounts and maybe even freebies to get their feedback on your new offers.
6. Do some market research
While we’re talking about touching base with your customers, why not consider using downtime to conduct some more detailed market research? Check out some stats, investigate your competition, put out a survey or find out who is engaging with your content.
7. Re-brand your business
Naturally, this one is my favourite! But in all seriousness, designing a new logo and corporate identity – or giving the old one a polish – is a good way to use your downtime. Especially if you have spent some time writing a marketing plan, creating new offers, or drilling down on your target market. Good branding is aligned with your target audience and exists to support your marketing objectives.
8. Audit your online presence
Taking the time to check that your business name and contact details appear correctly and consistently everywhere can help improve your search engine rankings and the overall image of your business.
9. Set up a strategic partnership or loyalty program
Designing a loyalty program for customers can be a great way to help them make the shift to online services or differences in your offering. Naturally the whole thing needs to occur in the digital space now, so consider a loyalty plugin for your website or even track and implement rewards manually with a spreadsheet and your trusty email. Teaming up with another business is another way to fight the economic slowdown. Consider ways you can buddy up to provide unique products and services and find strength in numbers.
10. Update your social media plan and schedule
With almost everything set to happen in the online world over the next few months, social media will link you and your clients more than ever. Every business should have a social media plan that outlines what you are posting when – and more importantly why. But this is another one of those jobs that tends to go by the wayside when we are flat out. Your social media plan works as an extension of your marketing plan, and ensures that everything you post has a clear objective. And just like your marketing plan, scheduling now means you can set and forget when you get busy again.
11. Make some content
If you really want to use this downtime to become a social media ninja, why not start creating content for the next 6 months or more? Generating a good mix of posts, articles, downloads, videos, images and curated content is a time-consuming process. But getting a jump on it now leaves you free to focus on getting your business up and running later.
12. Work on your SEO
Search Engine Optimisation is an absolutely HUGE topic. There are so many layers of work that can be done to get your website ranking higher in search results, and now is a really great time to work on your site with an SEO specialist. But there are many simple, DIY tasks that can help your site to start making its way towards that coveted first page. Researching a few target keywords and adding them to your site, creating a Google My Business account and requesting some online reviews from your customers are all great ways to up your SEO game.
13. Audit your office procedures
With the switch to remote working, and business offerings adapting to the new environment, this is a great time to make sure you are working smarter, not harder. Why not give your systems and procedures a bit of a checkup, and take the time to generate any new forms, documents or SOPs you might need? Staff can be brought up to speed and trained in the changes via video conferencing. Which is also fantastic opportunity to make sure everyone knows how to use this soon-to-be-ubiquitous method of doing business.
14. Do some online study
It’s time to watch all those tutorials you have bookmarked, sign up for that online course you never have time for, and generally take stock of your skill set and find out how it can be adapted to meet new the challenges. Linkedin Learning provides a huge range of online courses and offer a free trial month. Perfect!
15. Run those updates on your computer
Yep. The time has come. You finally need to let your computer run all those updates it asks for and you never have time to shut down for. OK, so that won’t necessarily change the state of play as far as business goes, but you might as well do it now!
Work on, small business heroes, work on.