Bento For Business

Advice for Small Businesses Right Now

The increase in remote work and the slowdown from social distancing has caught a lot of businesses unaware. We have some advice for small busineses managing through this era of social distancing.

It’s hard, too. Many small business owners pride themselves on their ability to provide a personal touch and face-to-face conversations. You can still do it, but not on site or over lunch. At Bento, we already have comfort with remote work because our team is divided among small offices in San Francisco, Provo, and Chicago. We do most of our marketing online, too. If you’re unsure what do, we have some ideas:

Advice for Marketing

1) What parts of your services can be done remotely, online, or by pickup and delivery? Once you figure that, tell the world! Update your web site to tell customers that you can ship. Remind them that you take phone orders. Send out messages on your social media channels. Send out a newsletter to your customers. Remember that their routines are changing. Maybe people isolated at home need a project. This is time for your paint store to talk about how it can mix colors based on an Internet image, drop off supplies, rent ladders, and offer online consultation for people unsure of how to get started. You can run a small test with a friend or family member if you aren’t sure about rolling out a new service. We know of a furniture retailer setting video appointments with its designers to help people re-do a room using the online shopping pages and a yarn shop setting up appointments for virtual shopping trips: people call in to discuss their projects and look at yarn.

2) Market, yes, but be sensitive to the fact that people are really on edge right now. Don’t even try to be funny; things that were hilarious or edgy two weeks ago will make people cringe today, and you don’t need a social media meltdown on top of everything else. Our advice for small businesses: when in doubt, don’t.

3) Join with other business in your community to create new promotions. In one Chicago neighborhood, they’ve organized a virtual restaurant week to encourage people to try new restaurants in the area – carry out or delivery only, of course.

4) Offer advice related to your business. This is a good time to interview your customer service folks and get information for blog posts, newsletters, or calls to see how your customers are doing. People are hungry for information, and you have some of value.

Advice for Managing

5) Most businesses are seeing a slowdown right now. Normally, the advice for small businesses in a slowdown is to start an aggressive marketing campaign, but this is not a normal time. Instead, use it as time to think about missing skills in your business. Assign your employees an online course in project management or reading on some new markets that you might consider when things go back to normal. This is an opportunity to do some deep work that you rarely have the time to do and a way to show your team that you support their development.

6) Communicate with everyone. Communication is always good advice for small businesses, and that’s especially true in unsettled times. Some of your customers are lonely. Some of your employees are overwhelmed trying to work with their family members also being at home. Consider something fun. How about a virtual happy hour? A user roundtable? At Bento, we have a Slack channel where employees post pictures of their pets. Or Baby Yoda.

7) Look for easy ways to cut expenses. That’s what we’re all about, but this isn’t self-serving advice. Eliminating waste saves jobs.