How to Keep Your Business Afloat During a Second Wave of Covid-19

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Surviving COVID for businesses is a marathon, not a sprint. Having no vaccine for the better part of the year means we’ve had to deal with spikes and dips of infection. The consequent rolling lockdowns are impossible to predict, forcing many businesses to make decisions on a week-to-week or even day-to-day basis.

Now the first clinically approved vaccine is finally here. But its effects on the business world will be more of a trickle than a switch turned on overnight. Speed of production and the complicated logistics of getting doses to the 67 million citizens of the UK means we might not see a fully COVID-free Britain for many months yet. And for businesses, that means staying agile for a little longer.

The pandemic’s days may well be numbered now we appear to have effective vaccines, but the economic shocks of it will go on for many years to come, so businesses will need to remain flexible and proactive as we’re not out of the woods yet.

Here are some useful ways to help your business secure its finances during any future wave of the virus and the inevitable restrictions and lockdowns that will follow.

Take Advantage of National and Local Government Support

Since the initial outbreak in March, the government has introduced multiple schemes for helping businesses weather the impact of the coronavirus. Many of the programmes are targeted at small businesses and the self-employed.

One of the schemes small businesses should look into now is the British Bank’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). Introduced in May, the scheme allows companies to apply for loans of up to £50,000. It’s interest free for the first 12 months, after which businesses will need to pay back at an interest rate of 2.5 percent. Applications are open until January 2021.

Those forced to close because of lockdowns are also privy to additional lifelines, some of which have been extended in the wake of the UK’s second lockdown. Businesses in tier-two areas are eligible for funding of up to £2,100 for each month of lockdown. Rates will depend on the rateable value of properties, as the grants are mainly aimed at easing fixed rent costs.

Fine Tune Your SEO and Social Strategies

Customers won’t stop looking for the products they need. Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of making your site more visible in search engine results but these strategies take a while to kick in and show results. Throttling targeting and optimisation today may mean you’re no longer at the top of the list once consumer spend begins to normalise.

Search sites also rely heavily on historical data to evaluate your performance and relevance rank. Consistency is key. Keeping your content updated is free, and will ensure you don’t lose your hard-earned position in the search results.

Staying active on social media will also be beneficial for businesses, especially SMBs. Support has surged for small businesses during the pandemic: 7 out of 10 consumers are actively looking to purchase from local brands, according to firm Forrester Consulting. Now is the perfect time to ramp up activity and connect with customers.

Reevaluate your Ad Spend

When the pandemic hit, the knee-jerk reaction for many businesses was to cut their spend on marketing. However, while that may ease costs in the short-term, it may cause more damage further down the line.

Of course, your spend will be limited by real budget constraints, especially if you’re a small or medium-sized business. Ad spend needs to be informed by market signals that your target consumers are once again searching for your services. That means looking at markers such as how local online search behaviours are changing. Keyword tools such as Google Trends can uncover patterns that can tell you when to start increasing spend again.

Cost-per-click (CPC) is another area businesses will want to keep an eye on. CPC is an indicator of how your competitors are spending. Lower CPC means less businesses bidding on specific keywords. The pandemic has lowered CPC by as low as 50 percent. A low CPC in your niche is a golden opportunity to capture a larger part of the market share at a lower price.

Diversify Services

Goods-based businesses have a myriad of options for continuing sales. E-commerce has boomed during the time of lockdowns and closures, growing by around £3.5 billion this year due to COVID. But for those in the leisure services sector like spas and salons, the options may seem more limited.

Keeping finances stable during lockdowns may mean pivoting to related offerings, if only temporarily. Spas can sell bespoke subscription boxes for products, supported by videos on how to do beauty regimens at home. London-based fitness studio FLY_LDN offers memberships for online classes for example. Independent bars and micro breweries have pivoted to selling their products for takeaway or with an online click and collect service.

Even B2B brands are shifting focus directly to consumers. Cosatto, a Bolton-based manufacturer, pivoted entirely from B2B to selling directly to customers via an e-commerce site. Wholesalers have gone from supplying restaurants to delivering food straight to the customer’s doorstep in order to drum up fresh sales with those looking to rustle up some culinary delights in their own kitchens.

Site data can be your guide for deciding whether to adopt B2C models. For instance, if you’re seeing higher traffic and bounce rates on your site, that may mean you’re attracting new customers but the B2B setup of your landing page is making it difficult to navigate for individual consumers.

With the vaccine rollout underway, we’re finally taking the first few steps back to normality. However, distribution will be slow, and lockdowns will still be an ever present threat for many businesses in the coming months. To connect with consumers even during these unpredictable times, businesses will need to stay visible online, consider temporarily adopting new service models, and keep their ears on the ground for any local assistance from the government.