by Jenna Kutcher
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This season we’ve suddenly been thrown into is heavy. It’s brought a lot of uncertainty and devastation and things are shifting rapidly. Businesses have bolted doors, schools have been canceled for the remainder of the year, and people who make a living off of hourly work are wondering when’s the next time they’ll be able to meet with clients, offer their services and make a living again. No one really saw it coming and no one knows when things will take an upswing.
With the arrival and consequences of coronavirus, it’s natural to feel unease and to question what steps you can be taking today to help you survive this season. And let me say up front, I have never been forced to stare my privilege in the face so fully until all of this started unfolding. I am so grateful to have an online business, a remote team, a nest egg to lean on. I have so much and I’ve worked so hard and so now I really do feel like it’s my responsibility to get resources into your hands to just very simply help, in any way that I can.
I have had MANY waiting seasons in my personal and business life, and I can tell you that time is the resource that can help you pivot, grow and expand the most. So while I hate the circumstance, my hope is that you take this time and space to breathe again, dream again, and put steps into motion to keep this thing running WELL after we’ve made it through this challenging season. So let’s get into the tangible steps to take right now to keep your business flourishing now and next week and next year and beyond.
Find SOME sort of community
Whenever seasons of unknown hit, it’s easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed. But that means it is ALL the more important to find safe spaces to connect vent, ask questions, and plan. Find an online community of other entrepreneurs to link arms with, virtually of course.
It could be forming a Slack group with people you already know, joining a Facebook group of likeminded people walking through similar business challenges, or creating a weekly connection Zoom meeting with other entrepreneurs.
Lead conversations in your online community
It’s natural to want to shrink away when things get hard, but that’s why it’s all the more important to stay visible and show up for your people. Continue to share, post content, let people in behind the scenes.
Your presence online matters and will help fuel your business when things pick up again. Don’t hole yourself up but instead share how you’re finding perspective, offering service and assistance to others, or working through the challenges inevitable to come during this time. That vulnerability is the thing that will connect us all right now when things are unpredictable.
Update your materials
So many entrepreneurs are normally so busy producing or offering that main service or product that your business revolves around, that they never get to update all the other, “less important” things in their business that can be detrimental to their success.
Use this quieter period of time to update your website, your customer relationship management system, your contracts, your email templates, your copy. All the things. There are so many valuable places your time can go to prepare you for when things get busy again. And they WILL get busy again.
So many times entrepreneurs are surviving on steps they’ve figured out and piecemealed together along the way. But what if you looked at your processes and created standard operating procedures or simple workflows for you or your team to follow, execute, and give each and every client and customer a great experience?
Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s just simply listing the smaller steps you take to complete one larger task in your business, and how to keep that task regimented and uniform. Just start with one simple process and build from there.
What to post online during this time
Now you might be wondering how the heck to show up for your people when you don’t even know what’s in store for your business. I know, I get it, there’s something strange about posting on something that feels so trivial as social media during a worldwide crisis. But in the midst of this chaos, small businesses like yours still need fuel to run, and that takes awareness and intention from you as much as your people. Which means it’s your responsibility to keep them in the loop regarding what you need in order to continue to serve them well. How do we do that? By keeping your audience informed with real-time updates and asks on social media.
If you have no clue WHAT to post right now, start by simply sharing honest updates on how your business is doing, how your products or services are available to clients and customers, what your plan is for the time being and how you commit to showing up for your audience in this season. Don’t be afraid to show the behind the scenes and let people in. Remember, humans are looking for connection in this isolation, so keeping it real will likely serve you well.
Next, ask your people for support by sharing the ways those that are able can lend a helping hand. Do you have gift cards available? Do you have specific products or services that would be especially helpful during this time? Would it be helpful for people to leave positive reviews until things are up and running normally again? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need because that’s what will keep the people who care about your business informed and aware of what to do for you. Give action items for those waiting in the wings and willing to help.
And finally share encouragement and free value by simply showing up as you. How are you handling this shake-up, truly? What takeaways or perspective shifts are you experiencing? Are you realizing things that would be valuable to share or do you have tips for others experiencing anxiety or fear? Giving away value will show people you care and will help you to continue building a strong foundation of realness and trust with your audience.
Need more ideas? You can download my free Small Business Survival Guide with my templates and post inspo.
What to do right now if you’re serviced based
Even though things are uncertain for the time being, they will likely pick up again and when they do, you will want to be ready and primed to leap into action. For service based businesses, start working on these things to prepare for the busy season that’s on its way once this is all over.
Update your website and offers since so many service based businesses get caught up providing their service that their materials are not up to date or reflective of your current brand. Reach out to clients to provide info, education and insight about what’s currently going on — they likely have a lot of questions so try to answer them and position yourself as an expert in your field.
Create the structure and systems necessary for you to be able to manage the workload for when it gets busy again. What can you do to prepare so you don’t burnout when things pick back up? Work on pricing guides, email templates, and delivery methods to create streamlined and epic experiences for every client. Publish content that will be helpful for your ideal clients in this season. What questions do they have? What are they googling? Create content that serves them and publish it.
What to do right now if you’re product based
As for product based businesses, I know this time can be hard when you aren’t able to rely on regular foot traffic to drive your sales. It’s scary and overwhelming, so I hope these ideas help keep cash flow coming in while interactions are limited.
If your products aren’t available online, let this be your first priority. Create a pop-up shop or even a curated look at your best sellers available online. Create a way for people to purchase gift cards to be used in the future. Make sure gift cards are easily available online and simple for people to purchase, and then share about this option on social media so the public knows they can support you in this way.
Take time to run your data and numbers so you can see which products are the biggest needle movers and push those. Information is power, my friend.
Reach out to your customer database to keep them in the know and to let them know how they can best support you. Start or grow your email list. If you don’t have a list of your customers that you can quickly communicate with, this is your time to build that and shine! Focus on nurturing this list. I have a free 5-day list-building workshop that you can take right now to launch an email list and grow it from 0 to 250.
And finally, let me talk to my online business babes. As your sister in this online endeavor, I bet you are feeling immense gratitude right now but that also doesn’t mean we can be stagnant. Serve, serve, and serve some more. This is your moment to become a resource and to shine for those who are looking to you for leadership, encouragement and education. How can you show up for a community that likely needs you right now?
Let people behind the scenes because for many of us online biz folks, working from home is an everyday occurance and most of America is getting a peek into our daily lives right now. Share your reality, tips, and tricks to help others feel less alone. Educate on what you do, why you do it, and what you’re passionate about. People may not be buying as much right now, but they are seeking information and distraction online, and you can certainly use this as leverage to grow your community.
Refine and hone your skills and if you have time, brush up on your knowledge or expertise with online learning because now, when things are a little slower and quieter, is the perfect time. Refresh your online presence by updating your brand, information, copy, images, and materials. Are there areas to improve? Is everything current? No better time for a facelift than now!
Show up for one another
With seasons of unknown, there’s inevitable worry about what’s to come but one thing I love about small business owners is the love and respect we have for others on this quest. So many of us are wondering how we can rally around others on parallel paths to ours and how we can all come out of this together.
If you’re looking for ways to give back and have the means, time, or energy to show up for your fellow business owners, even in small ways, it can be mountain moving. We aren’t meant to fix everything but we can move instrumentally in the littlest ways to help others make it through trying times.
Simply check in on the other entrepreneurs you know who are probably nervous or straight up frantic right about now, ask how they’re doing, and see if there’s any way you can be there for them in this isolating time. Consider featuring other small businesses on your platforms to support them virtually and celebrate others on this walk. Buy gift cards, leave online reviews, and see if you can support the independent contractors who make your life better.
I can tell you that we chose to reach out to our hair person, my wax lady, and our local favorite coffee shop to pay for our next several treatments and coffees in advance while they aren’t able to provide these services to the public. We had the means to do it and are so appreciative of their efforts and existence, so if you are able to, this kind of action is huge for service based professionals and hospitality based businesses.
There are also tons of nonprofits that survive on fundraising events that have been canceled for the foreseeable future, so if you’re able, just pick 1 to 5 companies or nonprofits that are close to your heart and give what you can. If we all banded together and gave even just a little bit, this sort of action can be absolutely life giving.
The Big Picture
If I know one thing, it’s that entrepreneurs are the most resilient human beings I know. While this crisis affects every single one of us, I believe in the grit and tenacity that comes with humans who are wildly passionate about what they do and who they serve. I don’t have a crystal ball but I do cling tightly to a belief that things WILL turn around and when they do, entrepreneurs will likely be in high demand to fulfill the needs of a world that has been in waiting.
It’s hard to know how and where we should be spending our time right now, but I want to encourage you to spend what you can building out systems that will support you when things pick back up again and you find yourself in the busy-ness of being in business. The BEST advice I’ve gotten in this season is: Don’t be so busy falling in love with your product or service that you forget to fall in love with your customer. So go get obsessed with adding value that people can’t ignore and can’t help but fall right back in love with you and become a fan for life.
The best way to increase your value in this downtime is by improving: improve your systems, improve your skill, improve your strategies. Focus on ways you can tangibly improve and better yourself. I know this is painful, I know we had no warning, I know some days, it feels impossible. But you are not alone, and I’m cheering you on every step of the way. Continue the fight, continue the work that you started and sustained thus far, and continue to hold fast to the faith that you won’t just survive this season, but that you will soon thrive. You are in my heart, and I’m rooting for you with every cell in my being.