Anyone who has ever met a small business owner knows how much time, effort and passion goes into running a business. Without multi-million dollar budgets or teams of marketing experts, it can be challenging to get the word out, with entrepreneurs often doing the heavy lifting themselves.
The uphill battle that small businesses and their owners face has gotten exponentially more difficult due to the global spread and impact of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. All across the United States, and indeed the world, small businesses have been thrown into confusion and uncertainty as orders and events are cancelled, foot traffic vanishes and people hunker down, tightening their budgets and keeping activity to a minimum.
But rather than respond with despair, many small business owners understand that, though horribly disruptive, “this too shall pass.” With the announcement of several major economic stimulus moves, supporting small business is high on the government’s list of priorities in containing the effects of the coronavirus. The average American can help support small businesses too, even while maintaining social distance. To help, Seek Capital interviewed small business owners to ask them how you can support small businesses during these unprecedented times.
Here are 12 ways to support small businesses during this pandemic and beyond:
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1. Tell Small Businesses What You Need
“Many small business owners are currently scratching around trying to work out how to adapt, what to do differently, what new products and services to offer. Tell us what you need,” said Ben Taylor, founder of HomeWorkingClub.com. “There’s no better intelligence on that than direct requests from customers and clients. So please tell small businesses what you’re lacking, and give them a chance to provide it.”
2. Create Your Own Stimulus Package
“My advice is to look at all the groups you are a part of — industry, trade, neighborhood, alumni, women, hobby, religious, non profit, community — and start your own stimulus package by agreeing to support and buy from each other directly and refer business proactively to each other too,” said Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. “Cross promote their products and services in your newsletters, follow, like, retweet on social media and vice versa. Whether you need to buy food, a book or a gift, office supplies and equipment, update your website, or create a video, there is probably someone in your network who is more than happy to get the business right now.”
3. Buy Vouchers If Service Isn’t Available
“Consumers can really help us by buying vouchers from us while we can’t deliver the products,” said Michael Lowe, owner and CEO of Car Passionate. “This guarantees us a cash flow in times if or when we can’t guarantee delivery on our product or that people may not need right now, but will definitely need when it all dies down and they can clean their car again.”
4. Help Small Businesses During Recovery
“All crises eventually end. It’s important to be around to help with the rebuilding effort in the post period. Many businesses are still in shock,” said Brian Cairns, CEO of ProStrategix Consulting. “If they survive this cash flow crisis, they will need consumers’ support in rebuilding. If you held off purchases during the crises, please support your local businesses quickly after it ends. The sooner they can get cash flowing back into the business, the more likely they will survive.”
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5. Shop Small Online
“Don’t forget that many small businesses are also accessible online, via eCommerce platforms. Even if you can’t make it out the door … take a look at online stores. Any little bit helps,” said Tina Patterson, director of marketing at Onoxa.
6. Try Financing Options at Small Businesses
“Because many consumers are concerned about the economy and leaving their homes, they can help businesses like ours in a couple ways,” said Celeste Huffman, a marketing specialist for Rogers and Holland. “If they are concerned about spending and money, they can choose the financing options available through many companies. This allows you to pay the minimum but still support the business … this would still support the company during these events and consumers could continue to remain at home. It is a win-win for both parties.”
7. Buy Direct
“You can help support smaller businesses and sometimes save yourself money by buying from them directly — from their own website,” said Ella McKendrick, founder of Nutribuddy.com. “If you buy through third party sites such as Amazon or eBay, the small business will have to pay a percentage of the sale price and you may end up paying more as a result.”
8. Leave a Review
“A great way to support small business owners … is to provide an honest review on a big network such as Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc.,” said Krystal Covington, CEO of Women of Denver and marketing consultant. “Another supportive action is sharing their page and asking for likes to support them. These actions help them to get more notice on both social media and with popular search engines where customers look for their services.”
9. Flag Online Errors
“One tiny, but important way that people can support small businesses is to update bad information on their Facebook, Yelp, and Google My Business [pages],” said Joe Goldstein, director of SEO & operations at Contractor Calls. “So many businesses have broken links to their websites, the wrong hours, old addresses and broken phone numbers on their profiles, but they have no idea about it — or they have no idea how to fix it. That costs them real business. The good news is that it’s easy for users to suggest updates on all of those platforms. You can also contact the business directly to let them know about their bad info, in case they do know how to fix it as the owner.”
10. Give the Gift of Small Business Products
“Some of the best gifts are from locally owned businesses. Supporting small businesses in the area boosts the economy and creates jobs,” said Robyn Flint, an insurance specialist at Expert Insurance Reviews. “Small business owners are likely to offer discounts and sales around the holidays so you can find great deals … Gifts given from small, locally owned businesses tend to be unique and even hand-crafted. Quit giving run of the mill gifts that anyone can buy at big box stores and give a gift that requires thought.”
11. Refer a Friend
“The absolute best way to support a local small business … would be to refer your family and friends to the business,” said Dane Kolbaba, owner of Watchdog Pest Control. “As a small business owner, I’m always needing more money and capital. Giving a small business owner new customers is the absolute best way to support them. They need the customers, and they need the cash.”
12. Share on Social
“One great way to show your appreciation for a small business is by sharing a well-loved product on social media. Snap a picture of the product being used in the real world with a caption about how it’s benefited you, helped you or even the compliments you’ve received on it in the past,” said Elad Burko, founder and CEO of Paperwallet. “Tagging the company and providing a link gives them value from the post, brings their brand to the attention of an audience they may not have reached otherwise, and gives them a well-deserved confidence boost in the process. Word of mouth is a powerful component of marketing, so if you want to show your support for a business — don’t stop at being a consumer, be an advocate.”
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