When this episode goes live, I will be exactly 1 day away from officially reopening my studio post Covid. Can I just say, I am RIDICULOUSLY excited about this?! Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the time off… I got to spend more time with my kids than ever before in their lives, I got to relax, clean the house, reorganize, got a ton of work done on my photography business course that I have been building AND we got to spend so much time outside in the beautiful weather being active…
But let’s be real – I have missed my work, and when they announced earlier in the week that my region was moving to phase 2 and I could reopen my business I totally squealed like a little girl. It feels like Christmas. In June. The best. Its going to be a bit different, I need to figure out how to balance working with being a full time Mom to 4 with no school or daycare which I have literally never done – but I’m excited and willing to take it on!
I’m hoping that lots of you are either open again, or opening really soon and I wanted to go over a game plan on how you can do that safely, smoothly and successfully. Now as usual this will be geared a bit more towards photographers because that is the area that I know really really well, but for the most part it all transfers over to any small business – so just apply it to your own business.
Ok so if you have the go ahead for reopening and have a date in site you are going to want to start with some prep work. First, and oh so important is to learn what the health and safety guidelines are for your area and figure out what it is going to take to comply with them, AND how it’s going to affect your business.
For many businesses they are going to have way less volume, more labour for cleaning, more overhead to supply PPE to employees, clients or both, more overhead for sanitization, etc. So it is entirely possible that you are going to need to do a price increase to make up the difference and stay profitable. Its fine. Raise your prices. Prices are going to be going up on a lot of things, you will be in good company, and there is zero point in running a business that isn’t profitable. It also isn’t possible – you are going to end up putting yourself out of business if you do not do what you need to in order to stay profitable. So before anything else you need to sit down and do a realistic rework of your cost of doing business, and volume and then figure out what your new prices need to be. For some of us, we are fine at the price point we already had – but MANY MANY businesses are going to need to adjust and that’s ok!
Next is the logistics – can you even GET the PPE and sanitization supplies that you will need to run your business? Finding Lysol wipes was no easy feat guys… there is a massive increase in demand on these products and the suppliers are really struggling to keep up. Make sure that you can find the things you need to use in order to keep yourself and your clients safe BEFORE you open and are stressing trying to figure it out.
How are you going to manage traffic and volume? How are you going to manage physical distancing in your business and if you run a business where physical distancing isn’t possible then what other precautions are you putting in place? How are you screening people that you are working with? You need to have the answers to all of these questions figured out so that you can responsibly and safely reopen – AND so that you can confidently answer and reassure any clients or potential clients who ask. Having this information posted at your physical business location and on your website is also a great idea to help people feel more confident in working with you.
A lot of the photography groups that I am in have been buzzing as the photographers try to figure out the best approach to this new normal. Many of us were debating what to do about newborn sessions where we typically hold and pose brand new babies and are at close proximity. It has been really interesting to see all of the different takes and comfort levels. For me personally I have decided to offer two types of newborn sessions to my clients – physically distant sessions where I demonstrate with a doll for them on how to hold the baby, wrap the baby, and create much more baby led, relaxed poses or they can have a traditional posed session where I will hold and handle baby with a mask on, a clean shirt and regularly sanitized hands and arms. That way they can chose their own personal comfort level. Thankfully, due to the fact that I work with tiny humans who are more vulnerable to viruses I am well versed in having to be extra careful to make sure all surfaces are clean and sanitized, so there isn’t AS much for me to change.
Another pre opening step is to evaluate any financial damage and make a game plan moving forward. It is SUPER tempting in times like this to want to stick our heads in the sand and ignore out finances but trust me when I say that isn’t going to help. Take a good look at your business finances, make a plan for how long you think it will take to get rolling again and then decide if you are going to need a loan to bridge the gap, or if you can make it work until you are going full speed again. If you are considering a loan I also urge you to make sure that the loan WILL be enough to salvage the business. Be realistic because it would be heartbreaking to take on a loan when the business is already over the edge and won’t be saved. No one wants to be stuck trying to figure out how to pay back money on a business that they don’t even own anymore. Look into any grants, or other offers that are being made by your local government or other organizations too – there are tons of people still looking out for us small businesses so there might be help available to you!
The next thing I want to say and this might seem like the most obvious point ever, but I have legitimately seen businesses fail to do this – Tell your customers that you are reopening! Shout it from the rooftop guys. Post on your social media. Email your list. Announce on your website. Make sure your hours on your google and Facebook pages are up to date. Spread the word and tell EVERYONE. Don’t just say it once either – a lot of our social media accounts are notorious for having poor reach so you may want to do a few posts that talk about the reopening to make sure you are hitting as many people as possible. Do not leave them wondering and then find out later that some of your best customers went elsewhere because they just didn’t realize you were open!
Hopefully you have been active, or at least somewhat active on your social media, blogs, etc. during the time off so you are still serving and connected to your target audience –if so keep the momentum up and if not, then it’s time to gear up again! I will admit that I wasn’t as active as I could have been – I was definitely still posting occasionally and offered up a couple of resources, but there was also a lot of silence, so now I am gearing back up again. If you don’t have new content to post then either try to create some, share some entertaining and relevant posts from other businesses that are different but related to yours, or go back and re share some of your popular content from the past. This is a REALLY important time to stay top of mind for your people. You want to make sure that when the time comes for them to hire or buy, you are the first person they think of.
This is also an excellent time to ramp your marketing back up. I turned my Facebook ads on the day after I found out that we were reopening. Honestly, I think it was one of the most exciting things I have done all week, I am such a nerd for marketing and I seriously enjoyed clicked that button to turn them all on again. I drafted a couple of new ads announcing the reopening with the date that will run for a couple of weeks until everyone gets the memo, as well as turning on all of the best performing ads from before the shutdown. Facebook and google ads are amazing in that you can reach a very specific, well targeted audience without paying a ton of money, and the better your ads perform the cheaper they are to run. I didn’t need a huge budget to get started running my ads again – and I’m already seeing the pay off with my first week back to work booked solid. Get those ads running guys, and don’t forget that on Facebook you are NOT boosting posts, that will typically just waste your money, you are creating an actual ad through the ads manager with a targeted audience, budget, and carefully crafted copy. Get those pixels running again too so you can be marketing to the people who have already shown an interest! A warm audience usually converts really well!
If you are wanting or needing to get the ball rolling quickly you could also plan a new offering, or promotion. That might look like a sale. It might look like a new product. You might be able to find a hole in the market that was created by the shut down and now needs to be filled. For example, I have a little girl graduating from kindergarten this year. I have cheesy but adorable graduation photos for all of the other kids that were done through the school, but she missed out because of the lockdown – so I’m now looking for someone that can either create similar photos of her, or has a cap and gown that I can borrow to create the images in my studio. She also missed her end of year dance recital and the adorable pictures they normally do of the kids in their costumes a few weeks before the recital. That one was easy – I have a white backdrop just like they normally use so I gussied her up, brought her to the studio and created her dance photos. I can now use those images to advertise to other parents who also missed out on the end of year dance photos and not only will they be thrilled to have one less thing that they lost out on due to COVID, but I will bring in some extra business as well. There are tons of holes right now that need to be filled, and problem that need to be solved, so if you want to make sure that you are coming back in with a bang then take a look around your own community and see where you can help out.
Now is also a great time to network with other small businesses with similar audiences. See if you can trade social media posts where they share about you and your business with their audience and you share them with yours. See if they would be interested in sending out a certificate or discount code to their email list, or hand them out in their stores. Ask if you can write an expert article for a blog post that serves the same ideal client. Reach out and see if there is something you can do to HELP a local business or an online business that you love – it doesn’t even have to always be a trade. Think of what entrepreneurs you know and love, the ones you would hate to see disappear and make an effort to support them – either through purchasing their products or services, giving them a shout out on your social media or leaving them a positive review on Facebook or google. Every bit helps. We have an incredible opportunity right now to rally together with the small businesses in our communities and make sure that as many of them as possible are able to survive this – including our own.
Another thing that I am working really hard to keep in the back of my mind, and think that as business owners we all should – is that there could be another wave. We may get shut down again. So recover as quickly as you can, and then start setting aside some cash to keep your expenses covered if we get hit again, by the pandemic or something else.. I am really, truly hoping that COVID doesn’t come back at us seasonally and that we can keep the curve flat, but there is always the chance that we are going to be heading into another shut down in a few months, so I am going to make sure that this time around my family and business are better prepared to weather that storm. Keep brainstorming ideas on how you could diversify your offerings so that you can still maintain income if we get shut down again.
If you are reopening soon or have reopened I want to hear all about your successes! Tag me on Instagram or send me a message and share your reopening story, and I will happily shout out your small business on my Instagram too! Happy reopening everyone – see you next week!