Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton
In the summer of 1967, thousands of young Americans headed to the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco for what later became known as “The Summer of Love.” The movement signaled the arrival of the hippie revolution. I suggest that you look at this July 2020 as your “Summer of Love” – with your customers.
LOVE YOUR CUSTOMERS
The nascent economic recovery is looking shakier and shakier. Some cities are already shutting down again their bars, restaurants, and other gathering spaces where large numbers of people have been congregating. In many of these businesses, people who have only recently been rehired are going to be laid off again. The most recent jobs report, which on the surface appeared very positive, was released just before the huge spike in COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks which has caused shutdowns to begin again. The report also did not take into account the thousands of jobs that have been permanently eliminated and those that will be permanently eliminated in the near future. The economy is definitely improving, but not as fast as it appears on the surface. Although customers are always important, they are even more critical now than ever before because there may be fewer of them. Besides, the patrons that remain may not be spending as much as before. The American savings rate has taken a huge jump and that is money that the customer is not going to spend at the moment.
SO HOW CAN YOU SHOW IT?
People like communication, whether in a work situation or personal interaction. Do your customers even know whether or not you are still in business? Do they know that you provide X (whatever X may be depending upon your business); Curbside pick-up? Free delivery? Discounts? Is there anything you are doing now that may be different from what you were doing before that could be to a customer's benefit? For these things to be known, you need to go "all-out" using every means of communication available to you to let your customers know you are still in business, the additional services you are providing for them, and that you still value them. This is why an online presence is more important than ever - communication. Possibly one of the most important things to communicate is your message that your safety protocols are at the highest standard possible. This is an opportunity to use something like Instagram to show pictures of some of your safety protocols. Fear is everywhere. Unless you live under a rock where there is no internet connection or Wi-Fi, you are exposed to endless news reports of increasing cases, increasing deaths, increasing job losses, and anything related to the spread of the virus. This is creating a climate of fear. If your customers are worried about whether or not your business is safe, they probably aren't coming. You need to do everything possible to minimize the potential fear of customers coming to your place of business. Everything that you can do to stay in touch with your customers is a step towards improving the economy.
This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug is a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at email@example.com.