Three Important Steps to Take Before Reopening Your Business following COVID-19
In the strange and unpredictable time of now, some areas of the country are taking baby steps to reopen businesses. And while this can be a wonderful thing, our hopeful optimism is tempered by caution. After all, we’re opening up to a new world, and this is something we’ll all need to handle very carefully – starting with a new approach and some thoughtful considerations.
Wondering how to safely reopen your business? At this moment, here are the three best ways to re-enter the workforce in a strategic, safe and ultimately meaningful way.
1. Health and Hygiene Come First
Innovative businesses are extremely diligent in keeping both their employees and customers safe – and are finding new and interesting ways to do so (see below). As we segue into the next phase of reopening, we expect this trend to expand and continue. Here are steps you can take:
- Get Set Up for Social Distancing: State mandates limit the number of people in your space.
- Create Space: Consider also removing tables or displays for proper social distancing. Eliminate waiting areas by creating separate spaces. Mark spots in line and separate them with a self-standing foam board sign whenever possible.
- Keep It Interesting: You can get creative here and stay safe while staying helpful with verbiage like, “You’re on Deck,” or “Next Batter Up,” for a sporting goods store. Use eye-catching floor decals or signs like “Be Smart, Stand Apart” to remind people to stay safe – or post a sign outside encouraging people to wait in cars (“Park Here, We’ll Be Right There.”)
- Make the New Rules Clear: Many people haven’t set foot in stores since the stay-at-home order, so they may need gentle assistance. Set up signs reminding everyone about social distancing, clearly mark entrances and exits (keep them separate if possible) and put a sign on your door letting people know that masks are required.
- Keep It Squeaky Clean: Provide contactless hand sanitizing stations for employees and customers. Follow all CDC guidelines for cleanliness. Always have employees wear masks and gloves.
- Protect Your Customers: Many stores provide senior hours early in the day to give people most at risk the time and space to shop safely.
- Offer Reservations or Call-Ahead Seating: This limits groups that can congregate.
- Go Contactless:
- No Touch, No Problem: Offer to sign receipts for customers. Encourage paying online or over the phone with credit cards versus handling cash.
- Offer Curbside and Take Out Services: In addition to restaurants, businesses like wineries, bookstores and even veterinarians (in parking lots!) are offering these options to comply with social distancing rules.
- Start Delivering: Whenever possible, offer a delivery option.
- Sell Gift Cards: They can be purchased online; and since the average redemption is 80%, they make good fiscal sense, while encouraging future business. One local restaurant put 100% of the sales of these towards a relief fund for their employees. What a beautiful gesture!
2. Keep Communicating Through COVID-19
Now is the time to keep the lines of communication wide open. People are looking for connection and are hungry for good news. You can not only be a reassuring familiar presence in a tough time, but you can even be one of Mr. Roger’s famous “helpers.” Here’s how to handle it:
- Think Twice About Your Messaging: Striking the right tone of helpfulness and understanding is critical. Marketing messages that were perfectly appropriate in February can be perfectly tone deaf now, turning off customers now and for the future. See our recent blog to for the right communication techniques, approaches (with examples) in this delicate time.
- Communicate More: Since things are changing constantly, it’s important to keep in touch.
- Email Your Empathy: Check in with your customers and employees to see how they’re doing. You might even ask about what they need and how you can help.
- Update Your Site and Social: Post relevant news, offer your services, highlight neighborhood kids making masks or just send your good wishes out into the world. And if you’re helping out by donating your services or money, spread that love. For inspiration, look no further than actor and filmmaker (famously known as Jim from The Office) John Krasinksi’s “SGN” (Some Good News), a weekly report that highlights the power of good throughout the world.
- Send a Postcard: People love getting mail right now! You could create a “reopening” post card with the message “we have missed you!”
- Get Creative with Contests: Many organizations are running contests encouraging people to buy from local businesses. Entrants can win a gift card to these businesses.
- Post Reopening Signage: Make sure people know you’re open by hanging an “open” sign (seems simple, but it’s important); on the virtual front, update your Google information and ensure that you’re listed on the community or chamber of commerce sites that list open businesses.
- Start a Love Chain: Many groups of businesses are encouraging love chains, where you “pay it forward” by giving a local gift card to a friend. Keep the love going!
- Leverage the Lull: Since your competition may not be as active, it’s actually a very smart time to market. More people are online and they have more time. They’re also still buying. And many larger advertisers have decreased spend so now is your opportunity to make your voice heard.
- Prepare for the Future: It’s also a good time to create campaigns for the future. Take a good hard look at your business goals and your marketing plan, including all channels and messaging. Automate processes wherever they make sense.
3. Pivot: The New Buzz Word
Even if you can’t make masks or help with hand sanitizer, if you think differently about your business, there are some unique things you can offer:
- Partner with Other Businesses: Two businesses in Portland, Oregon teamed up: City Home interior design shop and Old Town Florist to deliver surprise bouquets with City Home's delivery service. Win win win for all: Happy customers, a coup for City Home, and new prospects for the florist.
- Reimagine Your Work: You’ve seen clothing companies making masks and distillers making hand sanitizers. When we took a step back, we realized that we could use our connections as a source. Working with our partners who have pivoted to create PPE, Ironmark now brings equipment we hadn’t previously provided to the front lines. We now provide face shields, KN95 masks, gowns, eyewear and more – and we’re working on expanding this service to the general public too.
- Go Virtual: If it makes sense for your business, move online. Offer a google questionnaire to replace the questions you’d ask IRL. Necker’s Toyland in Simsbury, Connecticut FaceTimes with families so they can look around the store – and then provides curbside pickup or local deliveries. It’s a great way to bring the experience to the customer who is not yet ready to come into the store.
Reopening After COVID: What’s Next
Just as two months ago is worlds away from where we are now, it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect in the next two months. But as we carefully and cautiously consider a reentry, we can move from “stay safe, stay healthy and stay home” to “stay together for a solution.” We are here to help, and we’ll be there for you as you reenter too.
We’ll make it through this tunnel to the other side, together.