As most of the UK heads into deeper and more restrictive Covid19 restrictions, small businesses yet again face an indefinite period of uncertainty, worry and fear. From high street retailers to local tradespeople. From childminders to dog groomers, there’s not many areas of small business which aren’t suffering the impact of the pandemic.
Here’s 5 ways you can help your local small business right now:
1. Shop Local, anywhere you can
It sounds obvious, but if you can ‘shop local’ you should. If you need to buy something, try and buy from a local business. Shop local and shop small. Sorry Tesco, but your profits should see you ok over the next few years… my local butcher however is a different matter. Your nearest corner shop, your independent take-away, your local DIY or gift shop, they all need your support right now.
Remember that shopping local doesn’t just mean physical passing trade. For many, the doors are shut right now, and so shopping local means buying from them, wherever they allow it. Their ecommerce website, their new phone ‘click and collect’ service, their Facebook live chat. And don’t forget about the likes of Amazon or Ebay. Many small businesses trade on these global platforms, so don’t think of it as helping the big guys make more profit – see it as helping the wee guys survive!
2. Engage with Small Businesses on Social Media
A simple way to help small businesses achieve more ‘reach’ on social media – pop by their Facebook page and give them a like. Just by engaging with a small business on Facebook (or Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest of them) you’re helping them market themselves to new and existing customers. Find a promotion they’ve posted and ‘comment’ on it. If you think your friends would be interested – ‘share’ it to your own network.
Social media platforms all use algorithms to determine if a business post should reach people, and one of the basic questions Facebook asks is “are people engaging with the content”? Help your local businesses by taking the time to like, comment or share. It makes a huge difference to their social impact.
3. Post online reviews of your favourite businesses
Bought from a small business and had a great experience? Don’t just keep it to yourself – tell the world, and help that business sell more in the future. Online ratings, reviews and recommendations hugely influence other people and their shopping decisions, so help your favourite local businesses by posting up positive online reviews on Facebook, Google, Trust Pilot, TripAdvisor or wherever they promote themselves.
Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool for any business, and while you’re unable to tell people about great products or service from businesses while waiting for the school pickup, sitting in the staff canteen, or chatting in the pub, make sure you keep telling people online.
4. Be patient with them
Even in good times, small businesses don’t have the same resources available to them compared to big recognised national brands, so during these times of lockdown, please be even more patient with them. Cut them some slack when it comes to prompt email replies or answering the phone. Don’t judge them because they haven’t replied to your Tweet within the hour or dealt with your complaint on Facebook as quickly as you’d expect.
Many small business owners are under enormous pressure right now. Juggling running their businesses with home-schooling their kids. Some have limited access to their equipment, stock or premises, and all of them currently anxious about the future and if they’ll even survive the next few months. Go easy on them and be patient.
5. Adapt with them and be flexible
As small businesses have to adapt to a new way of doing business, customers need to adapt with them. If you cannot buy the actual product or service right now, could you buy a gift card to use in the future. If you normally eat out in your favourite restaurant on a Friday, could you instead order from their new take away menu. Rather than demand a refund, could you be more flexible, and accept their offer to postpone and reschedule for the future.
Any business owner knows that ‘cashflow is king’ when it comes to staying afloat, and as typical revenue generating activities are taken away from them, small businesses are adapting and thinking on their feet. Work with them, support them, and help them see out the storm.
We need our small businesses to survive the current Covid19 restrictions, and any future challenges they face. Our town centre high streets, local communities, friends and families depend on them. The whole UK economy depends on them, and we need to ensure we all do our bit.
Despite what you might have heard in the media, many local business owners haven’t received any financial support at all – not a penny. And even for those lucky enough to take advantage of staff furlough, the bounceback loan, or the hardship grants, the current (and possibly future) lockdowns and other local restrictions means that many small businesses won’t make it.
It needn’t take much to show your support, and as a small business owner myself, trust me – your support means the world.