How to protect your business from the next pandemic (and survive this one)

In this 6-minute read:

  • Get ahead of inventory and supplies
  • Build up your emergency cash reserves
  • Exploit and maintain online/alternative sales and delivery methods
  • Communicate your plans and status with current and potential customers
  • Apply for emergency funding or business loans when available
  • Improve/increase your marketing efforts
  • Ask your customers and community for help!
  • Stay on top of your online reputation

The economic impacts of a pandemic have never been felt to the degree that they have been during 2020, due to COVID-19 and the resulting shutdown of businesses, schools, public spaces, travel, and more. The business closure rate due to COVID-19 was staggering, and many businesses have never reopened.

However, believe it or not, some good can come of this. What small business owners have learned during the crazy-tough times of the “coronavirus pandemic” can help them be better prepared for the future, whether it brings another pandemic or some other economic disaster.

Keep your customers informed! With Womply Email Marketing, you can turn customers into regulars and get more repeat business with targeted emails that send automatically when customers transact with you. Learn more when you sign up for Womply Free!

Let’s go over how you can better prepare for the next pandemic (and also help recover from the current one).

It’s worth noting that the tips below will all be similar to a list of things that will help you recover from the current pandemic. So whether you think of these action items as “pandemic recovery strategies” or “pandemic preparedness strategies,” hopefully you’ll find them equally useful.

Get ahead of inventory and supplies

The COVID-19 pandemic may go down in history due to its famous impact on ordinary supplies, from toilet paper to beef to chicken to pickles. As frightened consumers and business owners tried to react to the constantly changing economic and supply-chain conditions, there were droughts of many common goods, foodstuffs, and sanitization supplies and equipment.

In some cases the supply chain is still recovering (as of October, 2020) and many of these items are being rationed to consumers who may want to purchase more than usual to try to get a little cushion in case of future shortages.

However, it’s a good idea to try to gauge what are your key supplies and components, without which you can’t conduct business in anywhere close to your normal fashion, and purchase extra where possible. 

If you can build up a reasonable inventory, it can help you weather all sorts of natural and/or socioeconomic turmoil and help you sleep a little better at night.

Human nature being what it is, when the worst of a crisis is over, we tend to make like all is well and go back to “business as usual.” Hopefully, smarter business owners will learn from this experience and keep a larger cushion of key inventory to see them through the tough times.

Build up your emergency cash reserves

Similarly to how smart managers of a household’s finances will budget for long-term/emergency savings, business owners should do likewise. This can be very difficult for many businesses, particularly restaurants where margins are super-thin. However, lots of business owners have had to see the light during 2020 and will be more amenable to sacrificing in order to build up more emergency cash reserves in the future.

piggy bank with graphic overlay of economic crisis

Womply’s data shows that 1 in 5 small businesses wouldn’t survive if their revenue stopped off for 30 days, and more than half couldn’t survive 3 months (and that survey was taken well before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shaken everything up). As 2020 showed, many businesses had to close for longer than that, and it could certainly happen again.

So maybe hold off on the corinthian leather lounge chairs for the lobby, and put a bit more cash into your emergency fund.

Exploit and maintain online/alternative sales and delivery methods

Thousands of businesses across the world have had to scramble to develop online sales avenues, delivery strategies, or both, during the pandemic. We’ve been saying for years that local businesses need to move toward a so-called “omnichannel” sales model that caters to our increasingly online marketspace.

If you haven’t already, consider getting your business set up to sell online. If you sell goods or food, you should definitely be offering curbside pickup and/or delivery. Many small businesses have found out that up to 50% of their business (or more) now comes from online ordering and pickup or delivery, and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing to that trend. 

When your business is shut down to customers on-site due to a pandemic, you still may be able to remain open and selling if you have established alternative sales and delivery methods.

Communicate your plans and status with current and potential customers

Communication is paramount when people are worried and unsure. Be sure to keep your online business listings and review profiles updated with your current, accurate hours, status of your lobby (if you have been forced to close your business to on-location sales or service due to government mandate), and any other relevant information.

Blast it out on your social media channels, and don’t forget your email marketing lists!

If you have to increase prices, let your customers know why. If you have to temporarily shut your doors, let your customers know. If you are offering pickup/curbside/delivery, make sure your customers are aware so you can keep those sales coming.

Apply for emergency funding or business loans when available

It’s always hard to want to borrow money when you aren’t getting the profits coming in to pay it back, and only you will be able to determine if it’s time for you to get a business loan. 

These article may help, depending on whether any future government assistance programs are similar to the “PPP” (Paycheck Protection Program) emergency relief during 2020.

The good thing about the PPP of 2020 was that, although it was deemed a loan, it basically became a grant if you followed the rules and spent it in the right way. In other words, you didn’t have to pay it back.

Obviously, most other business loans will need to be repaid, but under economic crisis or during a pandemic, many organizations may be more flexible on repayment terms, interest rates, and fees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many lenders waived their typical fees and offered much more lenient repayment terms. 

So be sure to develop a good relationship with your small business lender, as they might just save your bacon if and when this craziness happens again. And if you need emergency cash, be sure to apply for “PPP” type funding if and when it becomes available. 

Click here to check out our small business loans resources. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

Improve/increase your marketing efforts

It may be tempting to cut back on your marketing budget when revenue slows down during a pandemic. Every business situation is different, but this might be exactly the wrong thing to do.

Whether there is currently a global pandemic or not, you still have a business to run, and that business needs regular and new customers. Marketing is how you get your name in front of new customers, and keep your current customers coming back to spend with you.

So, in most cases, you probably shouldn’t decrease your marketing efforts if at all possible. In fact, we’d argue that you may need to increase your efforts in order to adapt to current social behaviors and reach new customers. 

Continuing your marketing efforts is going to help you in the long run, so don’t stop now. Here are some major benefits of marketing your business during a pandemic:

  • Keep up with, or even get ahead of competition
  • Learn more about your audience as you adapt your marketing to their changing wants and behaviors
  • Continue to grow your business relationships with current customers
  • Set your business up for greater long-term success after the coronavirus

Go deeper: How and why you should modify your marketing plan during a pandemic

Ask your customers and community for help! 

The coronavirus pandemic sadly killed many local businesses, but it also brought the plight of small businesses to the forefront of American culture and public discussion. There are hundreds of stories of local shops that were on the brink of closing down forever, but that were brought out of crisis when their local fans and customers heard about how truly bad things were.

save local businesses graphic

You may have regular customers who are fanatically loyal to your products or services, but who have never expressed that to you. So don’t be shy about letting your community and customers know if you’re in real trouble. When they think about the possibility of you closing down for good, they just might go out of their way to send some extra dough and referrals your way.

Stay on top of your online reputation

During a pandemic or other crisis, your online presence is even more important than normal, as more customers will be searching online for local businesses that are open and offering goods and services.

Womply Reputation Management can help you monitor and respond to your all your online reviews from one dashboard with one login, help you encourage customers to share their feedback with you, and even set up customizable auto-responses to reviews if you choose.

Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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