Businesses, large and small, are being smashed by the massive slowdown to all industry from the coronavirus lockdown. For many, business has simply moved from normal to non-existent overnight. While that's causing everyone a lot of stress and heartache, there is also a silver lining – as thin as it might be. You can spend some time working on your business instead of in your business. Here are five things you can do during the business slowdown.
1. Update your website
During your normal busyness it can be hard to find time to update your website with new images, updated information and perhaps even a design refresh.
Over recent years, search engines have changed their rule. So things like having an adaptive design that works with both desktop and mobile browsers and the use of HTTPS to secure the connection between your site and readers are important so that your site gets ranked higher in search results and to ensure you're looking after the cyber safety of your site and customers.
If you don't have a website – over half of Australian small businesses don't have a website at all – this is a good time to invest the time and effort to create a site. These days, the costs are low and tools such as Wordpress make it super easy to do and don't require any coding expertise. There are heaps of attractive free templates and piles of online video tutorials to help you along the way.
2. Improve your marketing materials
If your brochures, business cards and flyers are looking a little stale, now is the time to give them a refresh.
Given you have some extra time available, it's also an opportunity to take that free software that came on your computer for a run. Look at the great templates that come with Microsoft Word or Publisher if you're using a Windows PC and have an Office 365 account. On a Mac, Pages offers lots of great templates as well. There's also the Australian design platform, Canva, who has free templates.
Start playing with them and experiment with some different designs and give your marketing materials a boost.
When normal business resumes, you'll be ready to hit the tradeshows, letterbox drops and other marketing efforts with lots of updated materials so you stand out from your competitors.
3. Plan new products or services
As many of us prefer face-to-face interactions for business, we tend to design our products and services to be either sold or accessed that way.
But is there a way to transform what you're doing or to take the skills you have and translate that into an online service? For example, most training and consulting services can, with a little creativity, be transformed into an online opportunity.
While that can help you to keep working during the lockdown period, it also means you'll have more services to offer when normal business resumes.
4. Streamline processes
There are probably a bunch of things you do that you know could be done better but you lack the time to stop what you're doing and objectively assess whether with there's a better way. A great example is customer management. Can you easily answer questions like what they last talked to you about, what they ordered or when they will order again?
Or perhaps tasks get missed as your team loses track of who's doing what.
There are lots of tools for doing these things and more. And while they can cost you some money, there are a few that have limited free offerings that are good enough.
For example, Hubspot is a powerful CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that offers a very good free tier that supports up to 20,000 contacts, lets you create custom newsletters, and ensure you know everything about your customer. It also integrates with popular email platforms so messages are logged, making it easy to find all the communications you've made with your contacts.
Another great tool is Asana. It's an online project management tool that is free for small teams of up to 15 users. Although it lacks some of the features of the paid versions, it's a great option for teams just embarking in the use of cloud project management tools.
And when it comes to communications with a team, tools like Slack and Zoom are great as well. Slack is a messaging platform but it integrates with Hubspot, Asana, Google apps, Office 365 and just about anything else you can think of. it makes it super easy for dispersed teams to collaborate and communicate.
Zoom is fast becoming the de facto standard when it comes to corporate video-conferencing. The free version supports up to 100 participants with video and sound for meetings of up to 40 minutes. If you use both Slack and Zoom, you can integrate them so simply typing "/zoom" to someone in Slack automatically starts a video call once you link the two services together
5. Learn new or update professional skills and accreditation
If you've been thinking about taking an online course to add a new skill to your repertoire or bump up your accreditation, now is the perfect time. You can use the extra time you've got to focus on your professional development.
Even if you don't want to do that formally, you can watch YouTube videos, learn how to code, pick up a new language or do something else to enrich your mind and boost your knowledge.
The next few months will be hard on almost everyone. With movement and interactions limited, we're all going to be looking for ways to fill the time. Spending that time on your business is a great way to be ready for when the doors open and things start to get back to normal.
And while normal might be different to things before the coronavirus pandemic, you can be ready to pick things up and run into the new future.