COVID-19 is responsible for the most disruptive time for business in recent history. Not only are many small businesses under governmental orders to close, but those that remain open are changing the way they operate. In short, nothing is “business as usual” during these shutdowns. If you own one of the affected businesses, it is important that you protect your business’s hard-earned reputation, and that means ensuring that your brand is protected.

If you own a small business and are closed, or if you have scaled back operations and have some extra time, there are some actions you can take to ensure that when this passes, and it will, your business can bounce back stronger than before, and with the ability to grow and expand. Keeping your business good will and reputation intact through this crisis is vitally important to maintaining your customer base and attracting new customers. Here are seven actions you can take to ensure your business remains healthy once this crisis passes:

  1. Update and Maintain Your Contact Information:
    • Obviously it is very important that your current customers can find  you, and potential new customers can learn about your business and seek you out. Take some time to check your listings on the internet. Are you showing up in a Google search? Is your contact information correct? Are you listed properly in trade journals? On-line? If any of your contact information needs refreshing, now is a good time to bring it up to date. Also, think about other media in which you can promote your business. Do you have a Facebook presence? Are you on Twitter? LinkedIn? Think about means to get your name out to potential new customers in ways you may not have considered before.
  2. Review your Reviews; Good and Bad:
    • There are a lot of ways customers can publicize their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your goods or services. Websites like Yelp and other rating sites provide a means for the public to praise, or more often it seems, criticize a business. Take some time and review these postings. If there are former customers that have posted bad reviews, respond and address the issue. Sometimes a polite response to a negative post can be beneficial and show the public that your business cares about what its customers think. Always be polite and professional and remember that potential new customers may review your responses before deciding to do business with you. Use the opportunity to show the public that your business values its reputation and cares about customer satisfaction.
  3. Keep Customers Informed:
    • Everyone understands that these are unprecedented times, and that the nature of business is changing. Your customers may have questions about your business. Add a post to your website explaining how your business is handling the crisis, and what it is doing to weather the storm. Be honest. Today is not “business as usual,” so don’t pretend it is. Let the public know what you are doing and respond to any inquiries. Remember that people want to trust your brand, and the more your customers trust you, the more your good will increases. 
  4. Maintain Relationships with Vendors:
    • Communicate with your vendors. Reach out and see how they are doing. You probably have contracts with some, so now would be a good time to review those contracts. If you are experiencing issues with a vendor, your contract may have provisions that can protect you during the shutdown. Or, it may be time to renew the contract or to update the terms. Once this crisis passes, you will need your vendors again. Keep those relationships current and healthy by staying in touch. This will maintain your good will and preserve your business relationships.  
  5. Develop a Plan for Reopening:
    • If your business is closed, think about the best way to reopen, and how you are going to improve once the doors are open again. Social distancing has spawned a surge in video conferencing, online chats, remote working, and other new and novel ways of conducting business. Take some time and think about ways your business could take advantage of these new abilities and trends to grow your business. Talk to your employees and discuss options for increasing productivity and becoming more efficient by using new technology. Be open to new ideas.
  6. Police Your Brand:
    • Check up on your competitors. No one likes to think that a competitor might be taking an opportunity to damage your brand or unfairly compete during these times, but it happens. Do some research to make sure no third-party is using any of your trademarks or other intellectual property. Remember, you’ve worked hard to establish your brand and earn the good will of your customers. You don’t want to let a competitor erode that asset. Plus, you may learn of something others in your industry are doing that you may want to try.
  7. If Needed, Seek Assistance:
    • The government and many large companies are offering assistance to small businesses that are struggling. There are a number of grants, loans, and other programs specifically designed to help small businesses through these times. You can find many of these opportunities through an internet search for available programs. Contact your bank and credit card company directly and inquire about any programs they might offer. There may be opportunities or programs available that they are not advertising, and contacting them directly may be the best option.

Hopefully you will find some of these actions beneficial. With information on the virus changing rapidly, and shutdowns extending further into the future, it is unclear when the current restrictions will be lifted. Until the time at which your business can return to a semblance of normal, or in some cases reopen, putting some thought into how best to protect your brand can help your business weather this storm. This crisis will end, and growth and prosperity will return. Take time now to plan for how your business will emerge stronger and better than before.