Do these 5 things if business is slow during COVID-19

Even with the promise that pandemic restrictions will be lifted in the coming weeks, people have a lot of time on their hands. That’s also true for many companies that are experiencing a slowdown as they wait for their communities to reopen for business.

During this slowdown, entrepreneurs can boost their business and prepare for a positive resurgence when the country begins to recover from COVID-19 and its economic impact.

Connect

Now is the time to reach out to customers, but without the sales pitch. Your customers are most likely struggling and stressed over everything from work and income to their kids.

Instead, connect with your customers on a more personal level. Ask how they are doing. Find out what they need in terms of advice or resources. Share what you’re doing as a business to help people in your community. Consider creating your own online course or a video guide series for your customer base.

Balancing your news with genuine interest about your customers’ welfare will help you get to know each customer on an individual level.

Research

You probably now have time to get to all that research you filed away to read before you had to shelter in place. Why not conduct market research to grow your business and explore opportunities for expansion?

Start your exploration with industry organizations. These groups typically produce research reports, studies, and surveys to alert member companies to trends, regulatory issues, challenges, and opportunities. Check out what your competition is up to and compare strategies.

Another market research tactic is to ask customers directly if they would participate in a survey, video conference focus group, or one-on-one interview. Since your customers may also have more time, they might be amenable to participating, particularly if you offer them a gift card or other reward.

Develop

When you’re running a business, there’s never enough time to work on your own professional development goals. But with the current business slow-down, you can carve out time on your calendar for one or more of the many online courses available on digital learning sites.

Whether it’s a skill you want to learn or improve on, or a more formal goal of finishing or adding a degree, you’ll find lots of resources to help you meet your development goals. From online sites like Udemy to universities, courses are available on subjects from cooking and martial arts to business and marketing skills.

There are endless opportunities to transform into a better version of yourself. Libraries and audiobook sites are now offering free access to a wealth of knowledge for your personal and professional development.

Train

While you work on yourself, ask your employees if there are skills they want to refine or company improvements they want to suggest to take the business to the next level. You can conduct online training sessions now so that your team will be ready to put that training to work to provide better customer experiences when restrictions are lifted.

Many training sites understand how tough COVID-19 has made it for companies and are offering free or reduced-cost access to their online training programs and course materials. Examples include Coursera, OpenSesame, GoCoach, Intrepid, and more. These organizations also provide webinars, articles, worksheets, and other resources for all aspects of your operation so that you can build a better company while you’re waiting for COVID-19 to pass.

Pivot

If your market research has identified new opportunities, this could be the time to alter your business model. Though you should make a plan and take a tactical approach, you can launch fairly quickly without a complete model in place. In doing so, you may find that business picks up.

With the COVID-19 crisis, your audience is likely more forgiving and has lowered expectations. You can stumble and learn as you go with much less judgment.

Many in your audience will be happy, even relieved, that there’s a company responding to their need to make sheltering in place easier. See if you can provide a product or service that helps frontline workers, or that addresses a remote work or online education problem.

Lessons learned

This unexpected economic downturn may cause irritation, stress, and worry, but it’s important to develop a different perspective. Be proactive in assessing how you can transform the negative of a business slowdown into something that will make business better now and well into the future.

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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