So, let’s get into it. Here’s what you need to know to navigate the reopening of your business.
What Are the Key Considerations for Reopening?
If your business is in a state where reopening is an option, you’ll still need to think about the logistics of reopening before you decide to move ahead. Here are the primary considerations:
The nature of your business plays a role as well. If you can safely maintain social distancing between employees and customers, it will be easier to reopen than it would be if your employees will be in direct contact with customers.
Of course, the safety of everybody involved must be paramount.
Prepare Your Office or Store for Reopening
Once you’ve decided to reopen, it may be helpful to create a checklist. You can use it to work through your state’s requirements and any additional precautions you’ve decided to take. Here’s a basic checklist from the US Chamber of Commerce:
Prepare Your Employees for Reopening
The health and safety of your employees must be a priority when you reopen. Your communication with them must be clear and compassionate. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Create Customer Guidelines
Once you have addressed the needs of your employees, the next step is thinking about your customers or clients. What do you need to do to keep them safe as you reopen? Here are some pointers.
Monitor the Situation
Finally, you’ll need to monitor the situation as you reopen. It may be that some of the guidelines you put in place need to be refined or adapted to the reality of doing business.
If you can’t reopen and have not yet received government assistance in the form of a PPP loan, remember that you can still do so. The application is on the SBA website, here, or you can apply through your bank or credit union.
You should also be aware that on June 3, 2020, Congress passed a PPP reform bill that allows business more time and leeway in how they spend PPP money. You can find the details here.
Reopening your business requires careful planning and attention to details. Provided you adhere to the appropriate guidelines and prioritize the safety of your employees and customers, you will be able to navigate the process successfully.
If you need a way to manage your data and assets online, so everybody can access what they need, here are some suggestions.
Time Tracking Tools
If you bill clients hourly – or pay employees hourly – then you need a way to track time spent on projects. Here are three tools to try:
Virtual Meeting Tools
Virtual meetings are everywhere these days, and I’m willing to bet you’ve already tried some of the tools I’ll cover in this section. Keep in mind that some of these may be useful for keeping in touch with friends and family as well as for business meetings.
Remote Login Tools
Depending on your situation, you or a member of your team may need to log in to a computer in your office while you’re at home. Here are some tools that can help you.
Project Management Tools
Even small businesses may have ongoing projects where multiple employees must collaborate to complete their work. Here are some of the best project management tools to try.
Buckle up and let’s hit the road! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Simplify Your Forms
There’s lots of evidence showing that simple forms get more conversions than complex form. In fact, removing a single field from your form could boost your conversions by as much as 26%.
As of 2020, the average number of fields for online forms is five. I recommend paring your forms down to include only the information you need. In many cases, you will need only the lead’s email address and first and last names.
That said, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for additional information if it is necessary. The idea is to make your forms easy to complete to minimize the risk of a potential lead becoming annoyed and navigating away before they have submitted the form.
Add a Pop-Up to Your Site
Pop-ups have a bad reputation, but I think it’s largely an unfair reputation. Why? Because some annoying folks overdo it, setting up repeated and intrusive pop-ups that lead to frustration and irritation.
The key is to add a single pop-up to encourage people to sign up for your list or fill out a lead form. You should time it to appear 30 seconds or a minute after a visitor lands on your page. That way, they’ll have time to read some of your content before it appears. An alternative is to trigger the pop-up when a lead scrolls to a certain point on your page.
For the best results, test multiple offers to get people to fill out your lead form and then stick with the one that gets the best results. Also, make it extremely easy for people to close out of the pop-up, but make sure to have a static call to action on the page where they can get your offer later if they want to.
Eliminate Excess Content
A lot of businesses make the mistake of using the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to web design. They have a lot of bells and whistles on their landing pages and they don’t realize that much of the content serves as a distraction from the main objective: conversion.
The best way to identify content that’s not serving your goals is to use a heat map or a click map. You’ll be able to spot the sections of your page that aren’t grabbing visitors’ attention.
The goal should be a simple, focused page with a clean, easy-to-navigate design. Making simplicity your target will make it easier for potential leads to learn what they need to know about your product or service and to get to the point where they’re ready to fill out your form.
Add a Third-Party Signup Service
You have probably noticed that a lot of websites have an option allowing visitors to sign in using a third party. The most common options are Facebook and Google.
I understand the desire to have customers create a unique log-in for your site but allowing them to use an existing account to sign in removes a potential obstacle to conversion. 86% of web users say they’re bothered by having to create a new account.
Social log-ins simplify the conversion process. You can add a social log-in using a simple plugin such as Facebook Login to your WordPress site. Research shows that using social log-in can increase your conversions by up to 20%.
Improve Your Call to Action
There’s nothing wrong with a simple call to action. After all, “Sign Up” and “Subscribe” can get the job done. The problem is, they’re just not exciting.
One easy way to increase your conversions is to spice up the calls to action on your site. Here are some suggestions and statistics:
Address Potential Objections
It’s a marketing truism that your content must overcome obstacles in a potential customer’s mind to make a sale. That’s just as true when the goal is conversion as it is for sales.
Ask yourself what the most common objections to filling out your form are. Some may be solved by programming – for example, by reducing the number of fields in your form. However, some may be issues that you haven’t addressed on your page.
Here are some examples:
Does any of this mean that you shouldn’t try to attract more traffic? Of course not. But you may find that you get better results if you use the methods I’ve outlined here to convert more of the traffic you’re already getting.
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program is administered by the Small Business Administration as part of the CARES Act, which was enacted into law last month.
The purpose of the program was to enable business owners to continue to pay employees even if they have closed as a result of the pandemic or if they have experienced a significant decrease in revenue.
The PPP allows small business owners (defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees) to borrow up to 250% of their average monthly payroll costs for 2019. The note is a two-year, 1% note with payments deferred for six months. However, the loan may be completely forgiven.
Any amount that you spend during the first eight weeks after receiving the money will be forgiven if you spend it on:
The PPP began accepting applications on April 3 and the $349 billion allocated to help small businesses had been depleted by April 16. However, the program has been replenished and the loans are still available.
One thing you should be aware of is that if you apply for and are granted a PPP loan, you will not be eligible for our next resource. Keep that in mind.
Employee Retention Tax Credit
The Employee Retention Tax Credit is an alternative to the Payroll Protection Program. Given some of the ongoing issues and loopholes with the PPP, if you have not already applied, you may want to consider opting out to get a tax credit instead.
The ERTC is available to employers who have:
Employers may claim a maximum of 50% of employment taxes up to a maximum of $5,000 per employee for wages paid between March 12, 2020 and January 1, 2021. As I mentioned above, any employer who receives a Paycheck Protection Program loan is ineligible for the ERTC, and vice versa.
Because you cannot claim both the PPP and the ERTC, my recommendation is to think carefully before choosing. If you have already received a PPP, you cannot get the ERTC. If you missed out on the first round of PPP loans, take a few minutes to calculate which option is best for you before deciding what to do.
So far, I’ve focused on financial resources. But, with more states talking about how to reopen businesses – and many medical experts suggesting that there may be a lull in new cases during the warm summer months – it’s important to think about how to reopen your business safely.
Reopening is not something you can without a plan. One resource I like comes from the Small Business Development Center, which works in tandem with the SBA. You can read their full reopening guide here, but some of the things you’ll need to address include:
The business reopening guide isn’t the only free resource provided by the SBDC. They also have a series of free webinars for small business owners. They include:
The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, or SBE, has a special page dedicated to resources for business owners. It includes:
#1: Remind Customers About Appointments
If you allow clients to book appointments with you on Facebook using the “Book Now” button, then you should be using Facebook Messenger to follow up and remind them about their appointments.
To turn on the button, simply click the blue call to action button on your business page. Choose the “Book with You” option and fill out your appointment preferences. When you’re done, go to your Inbox and click the Automated Responses menu.
Scroll down until you see the Follow-Up options, then click to enable Appointment Reminders. Messenger will send an automated reminder 24 hours before the scheduled appointment.
#2: Start a Conversation
Do you have a killer piece of content to promote? If you do, then I strongly recommend using the “Get Messages” feature on your next Facebook post.
When you create a post on Facebook, you’ll see a list of options below the message space. One of them is “Get Messages” and it allows the people who see your post to click to send you a message.
The best use of this feature is to promote a lead magnet. When someone wants the content you’re promoting, they’ll click the Send Message button to request the content. You can then get their contact information and send them a pdf of the content or redirect them to your download page.
If you don’t have content to promote, you can still use this feature to allow people to request more information about your business. It’s a great way to initiate a conversation. Just keep in mind that Facebook has rules about how often businesses may send messages to people. Make sure you stick to their guidelines.
#3: Answer Frequently Asked Questions
Most businesses have Frequently Asked Questions on their websites, but you can use Facebook Messenger to provide responses to your followers as well.
To set up FAQ on Facebook, you’ll need to go to your Facebook inbox and scroll down to Automated Responses. Then, enable the option for Frequently Asked Questions.
You’ll get a screen that allows you to tap a plus sign to add questions. It works a little differently from a regular FAQ. When someone messages your business page, they’ll get a list of FAQs and can tap the question they want answered. When they do, they’ll get the response you entered.
To make the best use of FAQ on Facebook Messenger, follow these best practices:
#4: Message People Who RSVP to Your Event
If you use Facebook to create events and invite people to them, you can set up Facebook Messenger to allow attendees to message you and to start conversations with them.
When you set up an event, you’ll seen an option that says, “Allow Guests to Message [Your Page] About Reservation.” Once enabled, you’ll get an automated message whenever someone makes a reservation for your event. You’ll be able to respond, thus starting a conversation with an attendee who may turn into a paying customer.
Of course, this option works in reverse too. Attendees will be able to message you directly with questions about the event.
#5: Create Ads Targeted to People Who Have Messaged Your Page
While all the above methods for using Facebook Messenger can be effective, I’ve saved the best for last. You can use Custom Audience feature on Facebook to create ads targeted to people who have messaged your business page in the past.
You can choose any time frame. Simply click the “Add People to Your Audience” option and then select “People who sent a message to your page” option. Next to it, you can fill in your chosen time frame. I recommend going back a full year unless there’s some reason that you want a narrower time frame.
You can get even more detailed if you want to. For example, if you’ve ever used Facebook Messenger to conduct a survey, you can create ads targeted to specific responses. If you gave your respondents four options, you could create ads targeted to each response.
What I like about this tool is that it offers a very affordable way to engage in targeted marketing. When you take the high open rate for Facebook Messenger into consideration, there’s a good chance that your targets will see your ad. That’s not something you can count on with traditional Facebook ads that display on the News Feed.
Facebook Messenger is more than a fun way to connect with friends. If you use it properly, it can be a powerful marketing tool that allows you to connect with your customers on a personal level, boost your conversions, and increase your profits to grow your business.
US Chamber of Commerce
The US Chamber of Commerce has created a comprehensive guide for small business owners that includes links to many useful resources, including:
Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides resources to small business owners all the time, including small business loans and government grants. They have some special resources for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:
Even if your business does not qualify for an EIDL, you may still be able to get a $10,000 emergency grant to help you meet your payroll commitments and other business expenses.
Centers for Disease Control
While many small businesses are closed with employees working from home, some are still open. Restaurants have retooled as takeout and delivery services, and some other small businesses have been identified as essential.
If your business falls into one of those categories, then the Centers for Disease Control website has a resource that you’ll need: Resources for Businesses and Employers. The page includes interim guidelines to keep your business safe, recommendations for cleaning and sanitizing your workspace, and a link out to OSHA guidelines for COVID-19.
US Tax Credits
Expanded loans and payroll protection aren’t the only things in the CARES Act designed to help small business owners. There are also several tax benefits that may help you recover lost income.
Here are a few highlights.
Finally, you should know that the Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline for paying taxes to July 15, 2020. You are still required to file by April 15, but you may wait until the extended deadline to pay any taxes you owe.
Google Small Business Fund
While some big companies are asking for government handouts, others are doing what they can to help small businesses in this time of crisis. A good example is Google, which announced that it has created an $800 million commitment to help with the pandemic.
There are two key elements of the fund that apply directly to small business owners. The first is a $200 million investment that will be given to non-profit organizations and financial institutions to provide bridge loans and assistance to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
The second is a $340 million commitment to provide Google Ads credits to every small business with an active account in the past year. The credits will appear automatically on your Google Ads account and may be used on any of Google’s advertising platforms (including YouTube) through the end of 2020.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google is providing support and funding to any manufacturing business that can retool their facilities to produce needed materials, including hand sanitizer and Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers.
State Relief Programs
In addition to small business relief programs at the federal level, most states have programs to help small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find a partial list in this Forbes article. It includes loan programs, grants, and other assistance.
If you don’t see your state on the list, you an either do a Google search for your state + COVID-19 relief for businesses. You can also find your state governor’s website on this page.
Keep in mind that some states may be lagging on offering assistance simply because they have not yet been as strongly impacted by the virus as places like Washington, California, and New York. Based on projections, that is going to change pretty much everywhere, so if you don’t see something now, keep checking back.
Facebook Small Business Grants Program
Another big company that’s doing something tangible to help small businesses is Facebook, which recently announced the creation of a Small Business Grants Program.
The program will provide up to $100 million in grants to 30,000 eligible small businesses in 30 countries around the world. The grants may be cash, ad credits, or a combination of the two.
There is limited information available as of this writing, but if you click on the above link, you can sign up to receive updates and get more details as they become available.
For businesses in the UK, there are several assistance programs available. There are too many to list all of them here, but some highlights include:
The Australian government has provided some resources to business owners with more expected to be announced. Here are some of the highlights of their response:
The Canadian government has responded vigorously to the pandemic, providing multiple assistance programs for businesses impacted by the outbreak. They include:
New Zealand Resources
In New Zealand, the following resources are available:
The resources we’ve listed above are some of the most widely available and directly useful, but we also found an array of other resources that you should know about.
America’s Small Business Development Centers has created a comprehensive resource page for small businesses. It includes some of the same information we’ve covered above, as well as additional resources that you may find useful.
Small Business Majority has a collection of resources, as well, which includes live and recorded webinars to help small business owners cope with the crisis. You can find it here.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has a resource page that includes webinars, legal resources, FAQ, and more. You can find it here.
The ICIC has a resource page that includes webinars, a network for members, and federal and banking resources to help small businesses with their financial needs during the pandemic. You can find it here.
SCORE has a web page dedicated to pandemic-related resources for small businesses. It includes remote mentoring, webinars, and local chapter workshops and events. You can access it here.
Finally, you can access FEMA’s emergency plan for businesses here. It includes guidelines to help you plan and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This list is as comprehensive as we could make it, but there are likely to be additional resources that we didn’t cover as well as new resources that become available in the coming weeks and months. We will keep you posted, but we also encourage you to seek resources on your own. If you don’t see your country represented, we suggest starting at the main government website, where you should be able to find announcements and links to resources.
The best thing you can do at this time is to educate yourself about the available resources and be as practical and calm as possible. The more you know about what’s out there, the easier it will be to choose the resources that are most helpful to you and your employees at this difficult time.
Zoom software allows multiple users to connect to a meeting, and they have a free option that you can use if you don’t want to (or can’t afford to) pay for a service.
Zoom’s free plan includes:
You may also want to use some of the following tools:
Set Up a New Routine
One of the most important things you can do for your staff is to create a new “normal” so that they know what to expect every day. Some of y our employees may need guidance on how to work from home, and some may need more structure than they normally do.
Here are some suggestions for setting up your new work routine.
Connection and compassion go hand in hand. If you want your employees to feel connected to one another and to you, it’s essential to let them know that you understand and respect their feelings – and to give them room to feel them.
The answer for most businesses is going to require creative thinking. Here are some tips to help you find your relevance and maintain your audience during the global crisis.
Start with Your Customers
In a time of uncertainty, it’s always a good idea to let your customers lead the way. Ask yourself what your customers need from you right now – and what they’ll need from you a month from now. Better yet: ask your customers what they need.
While there’s certainly a lot of stress involved in running a business during a pandemic, it’s important to remember that we have resources that are still available to us even if our offices and stores are closed. We have technology to help us keep in touch with our audiences. That’s not a small thing.
Your customers may need you to deliver services in a new way. They may need your services or products to adapt to their current situation. You won’t know unless you ask.
Embrace Creativity to Retain Your Customers
Once you know what your audience wants, it’s time to figure out how to adapt your business to provide it. The answer may be an obvious one. For example, many restaurants have transformed into takeout and delivery services. Diners may not be able to come in and sit down, but people still want to support their favorite eateries.
Here are some other suggestions that may inspire you:
No business will survive the current crisis that doesn’t take the situation seriously. This is not a time to take the pandemic lightly or act as if the safety of your employees and customers doesn’t matter. People are being hit hard by an ever-worsening reality and they won’t thank any business that’s dismissive of their fears.
Some of the things you can do to show you care and that you take your customers’ health and safety serious include:
Embrace the Uncertainty
Uncertainty can be difficult to cope with, but the truth is that none of us knows what tomorrow will bring – or next month, or the month after that. Despite hopes that social distancing would be a temporary measure, the rising number of cases suggests that we’ll be battling this virus and its devastation for a long time.
One difficult decision that’s on the horizon for some businesses is the need to lay off employees. If you can’t meet your payroll, then it’s best to lay people off now and file a claim with your local department of labor or unemployment office. When you file as the employer, you’ll be smoothing the way for your laid off employees to collect unemployment benefits.
The businesses that will survive this crisis are the ones who manage to maintain their agility in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. As a business owner, you’ll need to lead your employees in a way you never have before, providing steady guidance and reassurance even if you’re filled with doubt.
Take Help If You Need It
Finally, and this is important, don’t hesitate to take help from any source that will provide it if you need to do so. I’ll go into greater detail about the help that’s available in another article, but you should be aware that the Small Business Association is providing disaster loan assistance to qualifying companies. You can learn more here.
Not every business will survive the COVID-19 pandemic. The ones that will are those that listen to their customers, get creative, and find ways to stay relevant. It’s going to be a long road, but your business can get through with some hard work and luck.
Here are the boxes your program must tick:
The Best Rewards Programs
Now, let’s talk about how to build your rewards program. We’ll take these options in order from low-tech to high-tech.
A punch card is the least expensive option to put in place and arguably, the least effective. While punch cards are cheap to produce, they are also disposable and don’t link to your point of sale or to a customer email. That means the customer must have physical possession of the card to benefit from it. It also means you can’t communicate with the customer about their rewards.
If you’ve got a restaurant or service-based business like a salon or spa punch cards are an effective tool to earn repeat business – and a punch card reward program is better than no loyalty program at all, but it won’t get you much beyond surface loyalty. It’s all about the data.
If your company’s ethics are part of your brand, then you may want to consider a charity program. I already mentioned TOMS loyalty program, which donates shoes to people in need. Another example is The Body Shop’s Love Your Body program, which allows members to donate the vouchers they earn.
There’s plenty of research to show that younger consumers want to support brands that support charitable causes. Teaming up with a local or national charity could be a good way to encourage them to buy from you.
Points programs are usually linked to a customer via their email or mobile number. They enable customers to earn points each time they buy a product and redeem them against future purchases.
The key to creating a successful point program is to have a clear value assigned to the points you reward and communicate it to your customers. For example. North Face’s VIPeak rewards program allows customers to earn 10 points for each dollar spent in stores or online and five points for purchases at their outlet stores. Smile.io logo sells software you can use to manage your points program.
Do you want a way to reward new customers and your most loyal, highest-spending customers according to what they spend? If so, then a tiered program might be right for you.
There are lots of examples of effective tiered programs. I already mentioned beauty retailer Sephora. Their Beauty INSIDER program is the first tier of their rewards program. Members get one point for every $1 they spend. Once they spend more than $250 in a year, they advance to the VIB (Very Important Beauty) tier, where their rewards increase to 1.25 points for each dollar spent, and then to the Rouge tier, where they get 1.5 points. Members of the higher tiers get additional rewards and access to special events, as well.
While tiered programs require a bit more work than regular points programs, they also add levels to incentivize customers to spend more.
Paid programs don’t require any more technology than tiered programs, but they are more work because you must convince customers to buy a membership. The most successful example of a paid program is Amazon Prime, which charges an annual fee but offers customers a host of quantifiable rewards, including free two-day shipping and free streaming of Amazon Prime videos.
If you decide to try a paid program, you must make it clear that the benefits of joining outweigh the price. A clearly stated value proposition will ensure that your customers understand what they’re getting if they join – and why it’s a good idea.
It might surprise you to learn that 56% of all loyalty programs employ game mechanics to encourage members to spend more. Of course, gamified programs involve more technology than other rewards programs and cost more money to implement.
The great thing about gamifying your rewards program is that it encourages customers to buy from you and sing the praises of your brand. The best game-based programs reward a variety of behaviors, including:
There are plenty of companies that gamify their rewards programs. NIKE is a good example. Their program offers rewards for purchase as well as for meeting fitness goals. The program ties in nicely with their “Just Do It” slogan and their brand.
If you don’t already have a loyalty program, now is the time to create one. It may cost you a bit of money to link the program to your point of sale, but the benefits are huge in terms of customer retention and increased profit.
The Elements of Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation is the total of everything shown or said about your company online. That means that all of these play a role in creating your reputation:
How to Get a Handle on Your Online Reputation
Not sure what your online reputation says about you? The first step is doing a reputation audit. That means Googling your company and getting into the nitty gritty of what people are saying about you – and what they think.
I suggest starting with Google and scrolling at least the first three pages of results. Visit any sites that mention your business and read what they say about you. Make notes of any factual inaccuracies or negative comments – you’ll need those down the line.
Likewise, track your social media mentions. If you don’t know what people are saying about you on Twitter or Instagram, it’s possible that you could be allowing incorrect or negative information about your company to spread.
Make a list of all review sites where consumers have reviewed your company. At the same time, audit your NAP listings so you can standardize them and consolidate your online presence.
Claim Your Listings on Review Sites
Next, visit every review site where your company is listed and do what you need to do to claim the listings. The process may be involved, so it’s important to start as soon as possible.
Once you have claimed your listings, you should:
Get More Reviews
Reviews play a huge role in your reputation because more than 80% of all consumers read reviews before purchasing a product. Old reviews don’t carry as much weight as new ones. That means it’s your job to encourage your customers to leave reviews.
Here are a few creative ways to get more reviews:
Make Reputation Management a Priority
The key to keeping your reputation strong is to make managing it a priority for yourself and your employees. That means doing the following:
Ultimately, your online reputation plays a big role in your success. In just a few minutes a day, you can implement procedures that will ensure your online reputation remains strong – and helps you to attract new business and retain your most loyal customers.