If your member businesses are wondering how to stay in business or are afraid of limitations that may be coming due to more COVID restrictions or lockdown, it’s time they make the switch or grow the online side of their operation. This article is available for your chamber to copy, paste and post on your website. The title image is royalty-free. We suggest you include your own images especially of your local businesses (get permission!).
The good news about a vaccine being available was largely overshadowed this week by the fact that 1.67 million people have died worldwide from COVID. Of those, 311,000 were in the US.
Talk of these numbers has many assuming further restrictions are unavoidable. If so, here are a few things you can do to stay in business without an open storefront.
First, Minimize Contact
When businesses are told to close, it’s not usually the selling that is prohibited. It’s the exchange and contact between people. Even if retail locations and storefronts in your area and industry are open, there are some cautionary steps you need to be taking.
People are scared, so you need to give them assurances.
The following basic precautions can help do that while you’re still open.
- Monitor and limit the amount of people in your business. When some leave, let more in.
- Mark 6 feet of space around highlight trafficked and waiting areas. Many printing companies have stickers and signs in stock now.
- Use text messaging to allow people to wait somewhere other than right outside your location or in a crowded lobby.
- Wipe down surfaces between every customer, including payment machines.
- Offer hand sanitizer, masks, and even gloves to patrons.
- Use a branded mask as a giveaway during the holidays. If it’s a cool design, people will wear them and that’s great advertising.
- Provide a concierge service and eliminate browsing. Have someone meet them at the front of your store and get the items for them.
- Wipe down shelves and items regularly.
- Keep records of when things were cleaned or how often employees are doing it. Don’t assume they know who’s doing what when. Post it.
In addition to these safety precautions, do your best to keep a very positive vibe in your business.
If people feel a strong, positive energy coming from your business, they will be more likely to return and recommend you to someone else. But know that positive energy is not enough to make people feel secure. You also need to show them the safety precautions you are taking.
Don’t wait to clean the store when you’re closed or no one is around. Let them see you doing it. They’ll feel better that you’re doing more than just paying sanitizing a lip service.
When people feel good about your business and the precautions you are taking, they will tell others.
Still, you can take all the precautions in the world, but if the numbers in your area increase, you may be forced to rethink how you do business outside of a physical location.
How to Improve Your Revenue When Your (Physical) Business Is Closed
If your storefront, office or physical location is closed, here are ways you can continue to bring in money without a physical location.
- Your Facebook page. Turn your Facebook page into a showcase of your offerings. It’s an ideal visual medium to show people your goods. They can ask you questions about your items and their friends may see their comments or that they like your page.
- Facebook Marketplace. Write good descriptions of what you’re selling and watch the inquiries you get through Messenger.
- Instagram. While you can’t put links in your descriptions on your images, you can place them in your bio or in the comments. Again, it’s a very visual medium and works well if you have a business that photographs well.
- Pinterest. Take pictures of your offerings and share them. People are likely to buy from posts on Pinterest.
- eBay. eBay and other auction sites are an ideal way to move merchandise without a storefront just make sure you have a good understanding of the costs of shipping. eBay newbies often underestimate the costs in shipping. Also,, remember from a psychological perspective, most people would rather pay more for a product than pay shipping. Offset or cover your shipping by asking a little more for your items.
- Niche sites. Depending on what you sell, there is likely a niche site where you can sell your items. Check out Amazon, Walmart, BestBuy, Etsy, and others. Do a search on selling online for specific types of items such as fashion items or whatever it is you are trying to sell.
- Podcasts. Create a podcast and grow your audience. You can eventually turn it into a revenue stream through sponsors.
- Grants. Okay, this is not a revenue stream but it is a source of money. There are a lot of obscure grants out there that your business may qualify for.
- Rent. You may be able to rent out part of your business’ physical space. If you own your location or can swing a sublet, rent out your space to a business that can be open when you are not. The restrictions have shut down certain types of businesses but not all of them. You might be able to find an entrepreneur looking for a temporary space. This can help you pay for space you’re not using.
- Services. Sell services with your items. What complementary services or expertise can you sell? Add value that you can charge for. For instance, if you sold art supplies, consider how you might be able to transition into a mural painting company while your store is closed.
- Delivery. Create a community delivery service to help out small businesses without an open physical location and that don’t have the resources to offer delivery.
- Facetime viewing sessions. People who don’t buy online usually refuse to purchase because they’re never sure what they’re getting. Anyone who purchases online regularly eventually orders something that is completely different from what they expected. In order to protect against that, some businesses have started giving showroom tours or personalized, private shopping experiences through Facetime.
- FacebookLive. You can have all sorts of fun selling through FacebookLive. From product demonstrations to auction type fun, there are plenty of ways to use the live video platform to draw in more sales. If you have a service business, you can sell classes online whether workout classes or showing someone how to do what you do online consultation fashion. Consider how the medical community is offering telemed. You could offer similar consultations or instructional sessions.
- Restructure. Many restaurants shifted their waitstaff to delivery. Are there ways in which you can restructure your workforce to make deliveries or other ways that allow you to make sales when your physical location is not open? You can also do it with your products. Distilleries starting selling hand sanitizer when they couldn’t be open for tastings. The Patio Cafe in Fresno, California (currently no indoor or outdoor dining in California, just takeout or delivery only) turned the inside of their restaurant into a “maker’s fair” featuring products like olive oil, soap and chocolates from local companies.
Additional Marketing Ideas for Selling Online
In addition to other ways to get your product to market outside of a physical location, consider options to reach your audience. Social media is a start but it’s not the only answer. Consider implementing:
- Text offers. Texts are more likely to be read than emails.
- Chamber and local business lists/websites. Take advantage of the chamber website or any other local group that is helping with shop local messaging. They may have a site where you can update your offers and hours.
- Facebook groups. Most communities have local Facebook groups. You can usually post offers and specials on them just check with the posting rules before doing so. They may have a specific day or format to follow.
- Virtual fairs or selling events. Some cities are hosting virtual events to help small, local businesses. Consult your local chamber to find out more about what groups are doing in your area.
This is a frightening time for a lot of businesses and for most of us, the answers seem to be online. It’s not difficult to sell online but it does take several things. You must establish know, like, and trust. By doing so, you can begin to build a relationship that will lead to a sale.
While moving online may take you out of your comfort zone, it’s the best way to keep your business going when physical locations are closed.