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“Adapt or perish” may feel like the small business mantra of the moment, but there’s good news: your customers want you to adapt so they can keep patronizing your business! If you were deemed a “non-essential business” in a state with a “shelter in place” directive, you no longer have the option of attracting foot traffic through your brick-and-mortar store or traveling in person to clients, which means it’s time to get creative to connect with them in new ways.

You could:

  1. Add delivery and/or curbside-pick-up “touchless” sales strategies. While this may seem an obvious and not-so-creative answer, there are ways to make these strategies fit your business, fit your customers, and set you apart. Consider reduced or free shipping or delivery charges, personalizing deliveries for customers to send to friends (think candygram style), ask customers where they want their orders to be placed upon delivery, or offer deliveries as a subscription service for regular drop-off of items like food stuffs.
  2. Take your services online. This is your chance to deliver above and beyond a simple service or product. Find a way to combine the two! If you sell flowers, then host a class on flower arrangement; if you sell packaged ingredients for baking or decorating a cake, then post a step-by-step-video. Turn a paint and pour class into a live stream event where customers can join in and watch you. Same goes for book clubs, workout classes, home decorating—the list goes on and on. Consider how to attract new customers by partnering with another local small business to make videos or other live-streamed events online where customers can interact with you and others.
  3. Make a new product or service. If you have the opportunity to create a new product to help customers in this uncertain time, go for it. See if you can revamp your existing offerings to cater to those working from home or having to teach or entertain their kids.
  4. Helping over selling. People respond to companies who have adopted a “help first, sell second” mentality. Think about your community’s deepest or unmet needs. How can you meet them? Be a part of a chain of charitable giving. Offer customers a chance to give back by offering them a match program: when they order X through you, you’ll donate X to a local non-profit in need. Provide free tips that relate to your primary product or service. As you can see, the list of ways to help and give back is long!
  5. Improve your online presence. Now is a great time to revamp your website or create and implement a social media strategy and presence. Find how to engage meaningfully with customers, especially when many are struggling with social isolation. At the moment, with so many people looking for brand engagement online, create content to spread brand awareness and investigate online paid advertising.
  6. Keep your team busy and optimistic about the future. Even if you’ve had to furlough employees or drastically reduce your employees’ hours, you can offer them ways to prepare for business and the world after lockdown. Are there training opportunities that can help them in the long term? Can you update your work or vacation policies to keep your team healthy? How about having employees fill new roles? Have them tackle “back burner” or passion projects. And finally, check in with them. Knowing you care about their physical and mental health can help them cope with so many changes.