35 Business Improvements You Can Make During the Lockdown
The lockdown may seem daunting but there are still ways you can build your business.
It’s official. The UK is in lockdown and more businesses must close their doors.
It’s a bizarre time.
I first got an inkling on just how weird things had got on my weekly grocery shop. What meal do you create from a bag of frozen scampi and a packet of porridge oats? (Asking for a friend.)
The supermarkets are busy, shelves are at times empty and understandably people are concerned.
This lockdown, however, is vital to help decrease the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. And that’s a very good thing, as more than anything I want you all to stay happy and healthy.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, it’s a difficult time for businesses, but I do believe that if we stay positive we can get through it.
The government has put measures in place and there is lots of information for businesses on their website to help during this difficult time.
In addition and in the spirit of staying positive and trying to be helpful, I’ve put together 35 ways you can help boost your business working from home.
So without further messing, let’s take a look…
Sales, Marketing & More You Can Do From Home
#1 ~ Shift or Expand Sales Online
We’ll start with the big one that is on everyone’s mind. If you have a physical business location that has had to close then you may need to move your business online.
Currently, it’s hard to know how long isolation will last and waiting until your shop can reopen may not be an option for many small businesses.
For many bricks and mortar retailers, going online will mean focusing more time and effort on eCommerce. This could be via your own webshop, an online marketplace or social media. It could also mean taking orders over the phone or by email.
Happily, as long as you have access to a computer and reliable WiFi some form of eCommerce is going to be achievable for most companies, even those working in isolation.
Working remotely, staff can divide the tasks of running the website and communicate by telephone or business messaging services to keep on track.
#2 ~ Survey Your Customers
As well as communicating with your team online, isolation provides a good opportunity to talk directly with your potential customers.
Right now people may have a wide variety of unexpected needs, which you could solve.
Surveys can be set up easily online via form builder tools like Paperform or Google Docs.
Alternatively, you run a poll on social media or chat one-on-one with your customers via live chat or the telephone.
#3 ~ Add on Services
Once you have your survey results (no.2), you may discover that there are a whole host of “add on” services that you can offer to your customer base.
Things like sending gifts directly to a recipient, writing messages in greeting cards, gift wrapping products, local delivery or having a member of your team act as a personal shopper providing gift advice by phone or live chat.
Even in isolation people will still have birthdays and anniversaries and they may well be seeking to purchase the perfect gift online; by going the extra mile you can attract those online shoppers to your business.
#4 ~ Upgrade Your Website
Moving your sales channels online may mean self-isolation is the perfect time to upgrade your website.
As a website owner, I often find that there is a never-ending list of jobs to be done to improve the website.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to add live chat or create a press page, whatever is on your website wishlist, now might be an ideal time to get it done.
#5 ~ Start a Blog (Or Refresh Your Existing One)
When your considering website improvements you may decide to add a blog (or refresh an existing one).
Blogs have many uses, including establishing your expertise or showcasing your brand but for our industry, I think their greatest value is in improving customer service.
While most small card and gift companies will show their products in categories… birthday cards, good luck cards etc they rarely get more specific or share purchasing suggestions. With a blog, you can fill in the gaps; a post can highlight the greeting cards best for grandma or card & gift combination ideas for a 10th wedding anniversary.
Your blog effectively becomes a virtual sales assistant. Any questions a sales associate would answer in your shop (or on a trade stand if you only sell B2B) could be answered in the form of a blog post.
#6 ~ Review Your Supply Chain
With many companies working remotely there is going to be a fair bit of upheaval in the coming weeks and months. It might be wise therefore to use this isolation time to review your supply chain.
Knowing what resources you get, where you get them from and staying on top of your supplies might be essential moving forward.
If your business develops in a new direction during the isolation period it might also be necessary to source new suppliers.
#7 ~ Make Your Business PR-Ready
Getting your business featured in the press is a good way to boost your sales and marketing efforts.
With this in mind, you could use this time to get your company PR-ready; update your press biography, take new photos or start putting together a contacts list of journalists.
If you run a local business that’s now trading online you might want to skip the preparation and go straight to pitching your local newspaper; an article in the local paper could help give your online venture the attention it needs.
#8 ~ Carry Out Research
If you’re considering pitching your business to journalists then it’s worth doing a little bit of research first. You’ll need to investigate the best writer to approach and the type of story to pitch, based on the newspaper or magazine.
Research luckily is another task that can be completed working from home. In fact, there are several types of research you could consider undertaking while isolated.
As well as the media you could also look at researching your market or industry, products, competitors, consumers and potential stockists.
Gathering knowledge that can help you develop your product range or sell more effectively is hugely valuable but it’s often a task that is overlooked day-to-day.
#9 ~ Network Online
Being stuck in isolation for an unknown period of time may well send a few of us a little stir-crazy so it might be worthwhile using this time to work on your business networking.
Here in the UK, our next big “real world” networking opportunity is the Progressive Greetings Live trade show. As I write this the show is still set to go ahead on 2nd-3rd June, but that is over 2 months away.
While we wait for that event (and hope it can happen), call, text and email your industry friends, make new connections on social media and use the online world to strengthen your network, it might just keep your sanity levels steady as the isolation period continues.
#10 ~ Recycle Your Assets
Getting back to an income-focused idea, working from home some businesses in our industry the opportunity to review and recycle their assets.
Designers and makers, for example, could review their work and find a character or element from a greeting card design that would work on a different range of products.
Beyond being purely a trip down nostalgia lane, remembering that all of the designs you’ve created over the years are potential assets for your business will encourage you to think creatively about what alternative incomes your business could generate.
Which takes us nicely to our next tip.
#11 ~ Refine Your Portfolio
Working from home gives designers a chance to refine, update or even create a portfolio of their work.
Much like research (no.8), building a portfolio can often be forgotten when running a business, but it could prove to be a valuable tool for a commission or licensing work; adding another revenue stream to your business.
Whether you create a portfolio website, a PDF document or join an online portfolio site like Behance is up to you, the important thing is getting it done.
#12 ~ Get Social
Love it or hate it, self-isolation is a good time to review and improve your social media channels.
As companies work more online in the coming weeks’ social media is going to be a useful tool for networking, marketing, customer service and sales.
It’s important therefore that we’re doing it right.
Set aside some of your isolation time to look at each of your social media feeds and see what improvements could be made.
If you want a few objective opinions ask other people to take a look as well. Your social media accounts provide a gateway to your business so it’s important that they are providing the first impression you intend.
#13 ~ Learn a New Skill
Why is it so important? Well, many of the items on this list require knowledge. To improve your website (no.4), start a blog (no.5), optimise your sales processes (no.16) or utilise SEO (no.27) you need to know what you’re doing.
No one can be expected to know everything, so it’s important to keep learning and brushing up on your business skills.
Advances in online learning in the last few years means it’s never been easier to build your skillset from the comfort of your own home. For the last few months, I’ve been planning some in-person workshops on a variety of online sales & marketing subjects, as we’re all isolating now, I’m going to transfer these online (more on this coming soon!). If you want to have your say on what I cover please complete the short survey here.
#14 ~ Improve Your Copywriting
One of the most important skills you can learn as a business owner is copywriting.
From product pages on your website to your sales catalogue, copy (text), is everywhere and it’s vitally important.
The best copy can sell your products and have customers lining up to buy from you. Much like any change on your website or social media, improving your copywriting is something you can work on from home.
Devote some time to reviewing the written text you have for your business. Does it fit your brand? Does it describe your business well? If it’s not quite right, change it. It’s not an easy skill to master but even the smallest tweaks can make an impact.
Like I suggested with your social media feed (no.12), if you need an outside perspective, ask other people for their feedback on your text; an impartial point of view can often spot things the writer misses.
#15 ~ Add Automation Where You Can
Sales are going to be important in the next few months so now is an ideal time to see where you can add automation to your business.
The easiest place to do this is for your email list. Using email marketing services like Mailchimp you can automate the collection and onboarding of new leads into your business.
When someone signs up to your mailing list you want to turn them from a lead into a customer.
By setting up an automated sequence of emails you can make sure this happens over and over.
#16 ~ Create Systems
Alongside automated systems, self-isolation gives you the opportunity to review all of your business systems.
You can use this time to put processes in place that make life easier and your work more effective.
For example, you might want to create a system for scheduling and reviewing your social media updates. This could save you time posting to social media and give you the information needed to know what works best.
#17 ~ Build Sales Funnels
If you’re moving your business online during the isolation period you may want to use this time to build sales funnels.
A sales funnel is a series of steps that you push customers through in order to sell them a specific product.
As they are more focused than a normal eCommerce website they tend to be far more effective at getting people to buy.
Most card and gift business will have too many products to set up funnels for every product but it may be worth implementing funnels for your best selling products or any bundles you create (no.19).
#18 ~ Stock Take
For our smaller card and gift businesses, self-isolation might give you the opportunity to stock take.
If you’re a designer-maker already working from home this is nice and simple. It might seem like the last thing you should be focusing on right now but a stock take can give you a valuable overview of your business. Some stock might be easier to sell online and you can focus on pushing these items.
Other products might be timely to solving requests from your customers (no.2) and many of your products may complement each other, which take us nicely to idea no.19.
#19 ~ Create Product Bundles
One way to boost your sales is to get customers buying more than one item.
This can be done via up-sells or cross-sells or you can offer your products as bundles.
We see this all the time with boxsets, you’ll often see all 7 Harry Potter books sold together as a set. Or you can buy a boxset of DVD’s that will contain all the episodes of a favourite TV show.
By implementing this model for your own products you have the chance to gain higher value sales.
Instead of selling 1 greeting card for £2.50. You could sell a bundle of card, gift and wrap for £25.
You can also offer this on a B2B level by having a ‘Bestsellers Bundle’ for new stockists or a ‘Festive Bundle’ for the upcoming Christmas period.
#20 ~ Develop Your Branding
Your brand helps you connect with your ideal audience and attract the right buyers to your business so it’s important to get it right.
In an ideal world, your website, sales materials and marketing materials should all be aligned to your brand.
Whether it’s text, images or video, there should be a cohesive look and feel wherever your customers interact with your business.
If this is missing or could be improved then working on your brand from home is a great way to spend your time.
#21 ~ Advertise
Advertising is a great way to get extra attention for your business.
There are lots of options for advertising online and all of them can be organised from home with ease.
Similarly, if you want to place an advert in the trade or consumer magazines and newspapers you can usually arrange this by phone or email.
#22 ~ Spring Clean
As the government info for businesses (above) suggests being more proactive with cleaning business premises is going to be important going forward.
So as it’s the traditional time of spring cleaning, this could be the perfect time to do a little tidying and polishing.
Depending on the business you have this might be a virtual spring clean of the files on your computer or if you work from home it could be cleaning your workspace or office.
It might not be the most fun task, but put on some music, do some dusting and you’ll really appreciate the results.
#23 ~ Sell Your Expetise
If you’re keen to use your lockdown time to add new revenue streams to your business you could consider selling your expertise.
Website likes Skillshare and Udemy provide a platform for individuals to become online teachers.
In the card & gift industry, we have a heap of talent and the possibilities are endless but let’s consider a few ideas to kickstart the thought.
Designers could teach people how to draw, paint or use graphic design software.
Makers can show people have to print t-shirts or artwork.
Retailers can instruct fellow shopkeepers customer service or creating the perfect window display.
Whatever skills you have (and I’m sure I’m nowhere close in guessing what they are) they have value, so why not pass them on?
#24 ~ Get to Know Your Finances Better
If you’re a little shaky when it comes to your company finances, working from home provides a great opportunity to get to know your finances better.
For example, it’s important to know the expenses your business has each month. By knowing when payments are due you can ensure you schedule your marketing to bring cash into your business at the right time.
So dive in and use this isolation time to get your numbers straight.
#25 ~ Improve Your Photographs
With many businesses moving their sales strategy online, good photography is going to be more important than ever.
Good lifestyle photography can position your product at a certain price point and attract a particular buyer.
Cut-out (or white out) images can give your products more chance of featuring in the press.
If you sell to retailers you can also help your customers by providing them with high-quality photographs of your products.
As more retailers move their business online they too will need good photographs and I’m sure they’ll be very grateful if you take this job off their hands.
#26 ~ Work on Your Sales Materials
Back to the subject of sales, you could also use your isolation time to improve your sales materials.
Collect feedback and make changes to your catalogue. Create flyers or mini catalogues highlighting specific products that can be sold easily online for your retail customers. Create after-sales coupons that can be added to deliveries to encourage repeat orders.
If all of your sales materials are already brilliant then focus the time on sharing those materials.
If you sell B2B, offer to send catalogues to home addresses over shops or create a digital version of your catalogue that can be shared online. The more you can get the word out the better and that’s something you can do from home.
#27 ~ Spend Time on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
SEO is the thing that brings all that lovely organic (free) traffic to your website.
If you’re moving your sales online then you need as much of that as possible.
SEO contains different elements but happily, all can be done from your computer as you isolate.
Keyword research, building links to your website and auditing your website can all help get you started with SEO.
#28 ~ Review Your Analytics
If you have a website or use online marketing tools then you will most likely have some analytics you can review while working from home.
On your website, this could mean reviewing traffic numbers to see how people are finding you.
With email marketing, you can determine how many people are signing up for your email list or opening your broadcasts.
Social media also give you a variety of information, you can see how many people like or share your posts, their demographics and much more.
It’s not always a barrel of laughs looking at statistics but this information can give you clues on how to improve.
If you don’t have analytics or some information is missing, now is also a perfect time to put measures in place for the future.
#29 ~ Festive Planning
I wouldn’t normally want to talk about festive things for a few more months if I’m honest, but things are far from normal at the moment so let’s do this.
Keeping everything crossed and hoping that by the time we get to September & October things are relatively back to normal then Christmas is going to be pretty important for the card & gift world.
Businesses may need to make up for slower months and consumers might just need something positive after a hard year.
Taking this into consideration, you may want to start thinking festive. Information on your supply chain (no.6) will be important here. If production cycles have been impacted you may need to find alternative suppliers or consider alternative product offerings.
In reality, if you’re talking to suppliers in the UK things may still be too uncertain for any firm decisions right now, but using this time to prepare might just save you a lot of stress later in the year.
#30 ~ Consider New Revenue Streams
We’ve already discussed this idea a little in no. 11 and no.23 but while you’re working from home you have the opportunity to consider how you can add new revenue streams to your company.
Depending on your business, you could use this time to look into freelancing, licensing, expanding your product lines, rebranding products or selling excess stock to name just a few.
You might also want to consider new platforms. If you sell purely via your own website, you could try marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon. If you’re good with social media you could try selling on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
Our industry is brimming with creativity so this isolation time is going to be all about getting creative with your sales and marketing.
#31 ~ Collect More Leads
I apologise for banging on about sales, but judging from the concerns I’ve seen raised on social media it is an important one.
So the next sales job you can do while in isolation is to collect more leads.
Leads are your potential customers and online this means growing your email list. The more interested folks you have on your mailing list the more people you can turn into buyers.
It’s all about the numbers here. If 10% of your mailing list makes a purchase when you send out a marketing mailer then it’s better to send that mailer to 200 people than 100 people.
Growing your list really comes down to 2 things, you need to get your sign up form in front of more people and you need to give people a compelling reason to sign up.
Work on these 2 areas during the lockdown and you’ll be growing the audience for your business.
#32 ~ Boost Your Online Presence
You’ve no doubt heard the advice that “you need to go where your customers are”. If you sell B2B this means exhibiting at trade shows which large numbers of retail buyers attend. If you’re selling direct to consumers this means getting featured in the glossy magazines they read, appearing on the websites they visit.
Lockdown gives you the opportunity to research these platforms and discover how you can work with them to get your brand in front of their audience.
#33 ~ Partner With Other Small Businesses
In idea no.19 we discussed the idea of product bundles. For this next idea, I’d like to advance that concept a little further by suggesting that the bundles and multiple-product offers you create don’t necessarily have to come from your business alone.
Co-ordinating online or by phone, small businesses could use this isolation time to partner up.
Creating unique offers of complementary products. These offers could then be presented to both companies audiences, which would automatically increase the reach of the offer.
#34 ~ Start a Podcast
To increase your audience and prevent getting the shut-in blues, isolation could be the time you launch your very own podcast.
All the software you need can be found online and any equipment such as microphones can be ordered online.
Similarly, all the knowledge to get started can be found in articles and online courses. Your Podcast would have to get pretty popular for it to become a source of income, but even without monetisation, a podcast might prove valuable.
With a podcast, you can reach and appeal to new audiences. By connecting on shared values, you build a stronger connection and increase the likelihood they will become a fan and customer.
#35 ~ Create Videos
My final idea for how you can spend your time working on your business while self-isolated concerns video marketing.
Videos are becoming increasingly important online so now is a great time to create videos for your business.
The options are endless; product demos, 360 product videos, behind the scenes, share your values, interview your founder, tell people why they should buy from you, share elements of the design or production process.
I’m sure you’ll come up with more creative ways to use video but hopefully, those examples have got your mind ticking.
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