In December of 2019, news spread of a new strain of virus that had infected a significant population in Wuhan, China. By March 2020, the virus, dubbed COVID-19, had spread across the world. Likened to the Black Plague, COVID-19 is one of the most devastating global pandemics in modern times. Many countries imposed total lockdowns. Travel was prohibited. Social distancing and sanitation rules were created and enforced. The world stood still. Entire economies were on the brink of collapse. Seems straight out of a science fiction novel, doesn’t it? If only it were.
Two years later, in 2021, vaccines against COVID-19 have been developed and a significant portion of the population is vaccinated. Travel restrictions have been eased a little, social distancing is the ‘new normal’. There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard. However, small businesses have really had to bear the brunt of the losses. Keep in mind that small businesses make up 98% of all employer businesses in the country. This means that most of Canada’s businesses have had to struggle to stay afloat. With brick-and-mortar shops closed or only partially running, making ends meet can be tough. As a credit union, which is a small business itself, we at Innovation are more than empathetic about your struggles. If anything, the pandemic has shown us that shifting to an online model or using online mediums can be very beneficial. But what should you be doing online to support your small business? Read on for some great suggestions:
Reach out to the larger community
Everyone knows that small businesses need all the support they can get right now. There’s no shame in admitting it yourself. Many people have pledged to shop local. Some communities have even gone so far as to ‘adopt shops’ which involves making it a point to shop at least once every week from shops they have chosen. It may be tempting to put on a brave face, grin and bear the hardship, but know that you are not alone. The support you need can be found if only you would ask for it. So, let people know that you would deeply appreciate their business. And by people we don’t just mean your customers, we mean the larger community. The best, most cost-effective way to do this? Online. Put it on your website. On your social media pages. On your Google My Business page. Send out an email to everyone in your database. Get the word out.
Ask not what they can do for you, but what you can do for them
Yes, that line is a play on the historically famous words “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” said by American President John F. Kennedy during his inaugural speech. Kennedy wanted to inspire Americans to do more for the public good. We’re asking you to do the same for your customers and community. If you were providing a service such as a dance or yoga class or any kind of grooming that your customers are forced to miss out on due to the pandemic, you can take your service online. While this is easy for a class, how does it work for aesthetic services such as a nail or hairstyling salon? You can still post videos or images of tips and tutorials online to let your customers maintain their grooming. The added benefit of such an approach is that you’ll also be able to attract new customers and clientele. You can charge a subscription fee or put up a payment link for anyone who would like to pay you for your efforts and time.
Use social media to your advantage
Using different social media channels to promote your small business can bring you amazing returns. With the pandemic leaving so few ways to connect to our friends, family, and people all around the world, social media has become more popular than ever. That is where your customers are, so that is where you should be too. Depending on the channel you use and your own products or services, there are many ways you can sell your wares to your customers. You can run extremely affordable ads so more people can discover your business. You can showcase your products or services using pictures and videos. You can even simply foster a community within your customer base by sharing valuable information and tips to increase a sense of goodwill towards your brand. One rule of thumb while using social media to promote your small business online is to pick one or two channels most frequented by your customers and stick to those. Social media requires some effort, but most of it involves showing up and putting out content your customers will find useful. There are plenty of guides and information available online so you can easily set it up and start promoting your small business online.
Get a low-interest loan online
Finding support for your small business online does not only mean promoting your products/services or trying to attract new customers and clientele. It also means finding more options to help you continue to keep your business afloat. These include finding the right loans and lines of credit to help your small business tide over these tough times. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to be looking for low-interest loans. Why is this crucial? It is important to get a low-interest loan to avoid paying hefty sums of interest on your business loan. Since many small business owners are already in debt since the pandemic began, they are finding it hard to get favourable terms on their loans. If you’re in that category too, please do not worry. As you know, we at Innovation are always here for you when you need us. We offer our members many low-interest loans and lines of credit. And, as an added bonus of being an Innovation member, you’ll earn Member Rewards cash dividends simply by having a loan or line of credit with us. We make payments to your account quarterly based on the business you do with us.
Take help from the Government of Canada online
Small businesses have a big role to play in our country. Naturally, the Government of Canada has rolled out many economic relief packages for small businesses that you can learn about and apply for online. Relief measures include rent and mortgage support for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19, credit to help cover operating costs, and financial support to businesses and organizations to enable them to create jobs and bolster local economies. The Canadian Government is also providing financial support for employee-related matters such as a subsidy to help businesses cover part of their employees’ wages and help for businesses to keep or rehire employees. If your small business is an indigenous business or related to tourism and air transport, there are special relief measures available to you. There are also provincial or territorial relief measures that would be applicable to a small business operating from specific areas or provinces. Please visit the Government of Canada’s webpage, ‘Managing your business during COVID-19’, to learn more and explore the criteria for qualifying.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to small businesses — in fact, these unprecedented times may be the biggest business challenge you’ll ever face — it can also be the one thing that forces you to get your small business to play a more active role online. As you know, during the pandemic anything that could be moved online did - from work to school and even marriages. If it isn’t already online, then your small business needs to get online too. It would mean you do not have to call it quits and throw in the towel. Instead, this could be the start of a new era for your small business.
There are plenty of options that you can try to boost support for your business online. From social media and applying for low-interest loans to getting the word out to the larger community and exploring different relief measures from the Canadian Government. Of course, all of us at Innovation are also available to provide you with support. If you’re a small business that needs financial advice you can always speak to one of our financial experts. Remember, we’re here for you, and that’s a promise from one small business to another.