How Service-Based Businesses Can Stay Relevant During the Coronavirus
It’s not often that business owners lose their customers overnight. But for millions of
businesses around the U.S., that’s been the reality since mid-March. Stay-at-home and
shelter-in-place policies keep customers away, and in some states, nonessential businesses
are forced to close.
Amid all of these changes, service-based businesses are one of the hardest-hit groups, particularly those that did not make the cut for the “essential businesses” list. Business owners are left to pay rent, employee payroll, and other expenses while their income is essentially zero.
But some businesses are finding ways to adapt to the times and continue serving their customers, even from a distance. Below are some of the ways small businesses can change their services to continue to bring in dollars.
Perhaps one of the most popular trends for service-based businesses to get through the COVID-19
pandemic is to offer online trainings. Before you skip this section thinking that this isn’t
possible for your business, don’t. Even if your skill seems unpopular or difficult to teach,
you can probably find a way to make it interesting.
People are shuttered indoors, which means they have a lot more time on their hands. Plus, many of those people trapped inside are looking to learn a new skill or take on a new home project. You most likely have some type of skill that you can teach online.
The way to turn videos into profit is to…
- Put a paywall so that only paying subscribers have access to content
- Not charge anything for the trainings, but put a donate button below the video
- Make a video that is so interesting, it goes viral and you can make money on ads
One way to incentivize paying for your training is to charge those who want to choose their instructors, Peloton-style
But, besides being profitable, videos are beneficial because it can strengthen your connection to your audience. If you’re giving them daily workout videos or teaching them how to trim their kid’s hair or showing them the best ways to save on their electricity bill while working from home, you’ll gain their trust. They will get used to seeing your face, and they will be more likely to purchase your services or suggest them to a friend or family once this crisis subsides.
Shift Toward Delivery or Curbside Pickup
Just about any business in the food industry can — and should — find a way to deliver
their food or offer a curbside pickup service. With so many food delivery companies to
partner with, there’s almost no reason not to. Services like GrubHub, Postmates, Uber Eats,
and Muchery can help get your food into the hands of their consumers, so they can still get
their favorite comfort food while they are home.
Caterers can also embrace food delivery by targeting elderly individuals or families who are working from home while homeschooling their kids and don’t have time to cook meals.
Many coffee shops and dessert shops are making changes, too. Some are adapting to provide easy online ordering and curbside pickup. As you apply any of these changes, it’s important to remind your customers that you are taking every precaution necessary to keep your facilities and your employees safe and healthy. Be extra cautious with the sanitation of your foodservice locations, and market to your customers that your food is a way to “change things up” in their day-to-day WFH lives.
It’s also important to keep the ordering process as seamless as possible. Make sure your business is prepared to accept multiple payment types. Plus, keep the online ordering process simple. You want to remove any roadblocks they might come against while ordering from your business.
Host Virtual Gatherings
Similar to video training, virtual gatherings allow you to interact with your customers, but live.
You can teach skills during the virtual gatherings, or you can invite people to simply interact
and do things together.
The difference with a video and a live gathering is that a live video is more interactive. You can host a Zoom or Google Hangouts call so that other people can show their faces and talk during the video. Or, if you host an Instagram or Facebook live, people can ask you questions in or respond to your questions in real-time.
Virtual gatherings might be difficult to monetize, but they are a great way to stay at the front of your clients’ minds during social distancing. Similar to videos, they will strengthen their connection with you and be more willing to purchase your services in the future. For examples, look to many of the famous musicians, comedians, or other celebrities on social media. They are building their reputation with their fans (and gaining more fans) through live, virtual gatherings.
Shift Toward E-Commerce
With the monotony of many people’s daily lives, getting something in the mail is what gives
them joy. Home delivery kits are particularly exciting for people during this time. If you
have any products that you can offer in partnership with a home delivery kit, now is the time
to jump on that opportunity.
Along that thread of thought, any type of e-commerce businesses can truly thrive during this time. If you are a retailer and are not set up for online sales, there’s no time like the present. Grocery e-commerce sales in the U.S. grew by 25% in the middle of March when compared to early March. Businesses in the beauty industry might also embrace this time to develop their own product line.
Final Thoughts for Essential Businesses
There are many essential businesses that are able to stay open during this time. Unfortunately,
just because you are able to remain open, that doesn’t always mean that the phones are still
ringing. One of the most important step owners of essential businesses can take right now is to
let people know that you are still open. Blast messages on social media, your Google My Business
profile, and on your website. Let them know your hours, especially if they have changed, and inform
your audience that you have been deemed an essential business and are therefore in operation at this
Then, talk about the precautions you are taking to keep your customers and your staff safe and healthy. You can go into as much or as little detail as you want. The main message you need to convey is one of trust. Your customers should feel like you are their ally during this time, and you won’t put their health at risk. Continue to update your messaging as it pertains to the most up-to-date policies in your state. Show your audience that you are keeping up with the constant changes, and you are ready to provide top-quality services regardless of the quarantine.
On top of everything, small business owners should try to remain positive and active. You might not have a lot of time to work in your business right now, but what can you do to keep you and your workforce busy? What can you do to stay front-of-mind for your favorite clients and customers? Grit is something that you’ve developed while working to start your business, and you’ll need it now more than ever.