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How to Open Your Business During COVID-19

As our world (or our little corner of the world) prepares to re-open businesses, nonprofits and community centers, there are many best practices and tips to help you prepare for the day you can see your customers again, face-to-face.

Chris Guizlo of Seattle-based public relations firm The Fearey Group joined us here at the Better Business Bureau NW+P, via webinar, to share tips on re-opening, or if you’re still under quarantine, using your time to work on bettering your business.

Guizlo points out that the coronavirus pandemic offers businesses a rare chance to take a step back and look at what’s working well with their business and what’s not.

Here’s how he suggests companies – from small to large – leverage any down time to plan for the future.

First, Guizlo says it’s important to evaluate the tools you’ll use to keep your and customers team safe – right now, as you re-open, and into the future.

 Next, it’s time to think about innovation. As the adage goes, never waste a crisis. Use any down time to identify ways to innovate. Little innovations matter! You don’t have to be a Silicon Valley tech mogul to innovate. Some tweaks to your business can often yield big, money saving results.  

 Third, get in touch! Talk to your professional network, business mentors and advisors to ensure you’ve accessed all local and national support systems you can. Someone in your network might know about funding opportunities you haven’t heard about yet.

 Don’t forget about your employees! Everyone’s workday probably looks a little different, acknowledge that and ask your employees what they need to better thrive during these uncertain times.

Lastly (and very importantly), check in with your vendors and customers – what do they need? Don’t check in just to close a sale. Check in with genuine interest in how your customers are doing. They will remember how you treated them during this time.

So, you’re ready to open your doors. You’ve done the prep work, but you still have questions. We’ve got you covered.

Here are some definite “do’s” as you flip your sign to “open.”

  •  Do share what you are doing to address COVID-19 and to safeguard your employees and customers. 
  • Do be true to your brand/personality. 
  • Do continue to respond to customers’ inquiries and questions. 
  • Do inform customers of new offerings or changes to your schedule or menu. 
  • Do show empathy and care for your community. Do join community conversations. 
  • Do match your tone to the situation. 
  • Do remember that it’s ok to be positive, but also be realistic. 
  • Do check in and engage with your customers; ask how they are feeling and how can you support them.

Don’t forget to update your Google My Business profile to ensure that it reflects accurate information on your hours of operation and whether your storefront is open to the public or only for curbside, takeout or delivery options.

Facebook also needs attention. Make sure you are updating your business page to include new hours and offerings on the “about” section. Don’t forget to post consistently about product and service offerings, community outreach efforts, promotions, staff news, etc. It’s social media – so BE SOCIAL (Don’t forget to respond to people and throw them a “heart” or “like”)!

Consider using Facebook Ads to boost posts about re-opening or other big news. The same methodology applies to Instagram business accounts: post consistently, consider using ads to spread the word, and consider using “stories” to help tell your story.

Whatever social media channel you chose to use, don’t forget to let the spirit and personality of your company shine through. Nobody likes stock photography and canned responses. Your customers fell in love with you because you’re awesome – now remind them why they should stick with you!

Now that you’ve got your “do’s” in a row, here’s the short list of “don’ts,” which you probably already know.

  • Don’t be overly self-promotional (check in with customers before you try selling something). 
  • Don’t go completely silent (unless there’s a good reason). 
  • Don’t share news or information from unvetted or unverified sources. 
  • Don’t be tone deaf and pretend like nothing is happening.

Using a mixture of good old-fashioned customer service combined with modern tools to reach the masses, businesses can stay nimble, even in a pandemic.

Need more hot biz tips? Head to trust-bbb.org/coronavirus.

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Written by BBB Staff

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