Larger businesses have a better chance of surviving with more cash flow at their disposal, larger retainer clients and, in many instances, a very strong digital presence to help carry them through the shutdown.

However, this isn't all doom and gloom for your SME. There are things you can do now to help weather the storm and prepare for the next few months to come, while still ensuring income and stability.

Here are 12 tips on how to get your SME through this period and to keep your productivity up:

1. Look to authorities

Tap into the resources provided by the government and financial institutions. Social responsibilities and initiatives have been put together and are updated daily to help take care of small and medium businesses during this time.

More than R500-million is available through the Debt Relief fund to help businesses affected by COVID-19. You can read more about this here

2. Cut down on unnecessary costs

Have a closer look at your payment and billing cycle. This is a good time to cancel all those small payments that aren't bringing your business any real value.

Perhaps you should even put your office rent or hot desk rent on hold for a month or two, while you work from home and save on travel costs.

Manage and conserve your cashflow by focusing your efforts on getting those signed contracts and ensuring you have measurements in place to help turn online interest into sales.

Also, re-look at your invoice terms and get your finance team on top of debt collecting all your monies due, no matter how small the amount.

3. Use your time wisely

As an entrepreneur, you and your staff are your companies' biggest assets. If you can't be operational right now, upskill with online courses, keep up to date with informative content via podcasts and read up. This can be motivational to both you and staff, and / or will improve your skillset and give you the upper edge when life goes back to normal.

4. Improve your website

Have a look at your website. What improvements can you make right now? Chances are, you will be receiving tons of new visitors to your website during this period and you want to put your best foot forward.

Working on website improvements or a complete overhaul during this time (only replacing the site with the improved version once complete) will ensure no downtime and be an efficient use of this period.

5. Invest in digital marketing

Invest heavily into digital marketing (if you can). So many companies are stopping all marketing efforts right now, which means that you can totally blow your competitors out the water with less spend or effort than you might have needed before.

The three best ways that you can invest aggressively into marketing at the moment is:
  • with brand awareness focused on keeping your business at the top of your customers mind (even in their downtime)
  • with creating thought leadership articles, which ensure that you and your business are the experts in your field, and
  • with pushing online sales that will ensure your business's economic status won't be that badly affected; it will also keep an engaged audience.

6. Re-assess your marketing spend

If your business had planned a trade show, in-person business conference event or any other in-person form of marketing, re-allocate this spend to other forms of digital spend.

This can be SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, etc. If you can't market on Google Adwords right now, rather shift your marketing spend to SEO. That way, after this period, you'll be reaping the rewards of an improved SEO score and organic traffic.

7. Look into online offerings

If you don't already have an online store, or any digital offerings, look into this now. Consider whether your offering is something you can provide online with promises of delivery after lockdown, or if you could offer any other online experience.

This could be free webinars, inviting clients for virtual business conferences with other industry experts, industry-related articles published through your newsletter or other reputable industry publications, etc.

If you can't be operational and conducting sales through this period, at least keep your business at the forefront of known industry leaders' and experts' minds.

8. Consider social media

Social media, newsletters and all forms of digital communication are more important than ever. Utilise these to stay in touch with your clients throughout the lockdown period. Competitions across these platforms also ensure clients engage with your brand and share your content.

9. Create FAQs

Prepare a list of frequently asked questions with regards to how your business is operating during COVID-19 and its precaution methods. Make this detail and reassurance available to the public, not just to your current clients.

10. Keep communication open

Ensure that client-facing staff are keeping lines of communication open with your existing clients. Marketing and retaining existing clients is a lot easier than acquiring new business at this stage, so ensure that you're servicing your current clients exceptionally well.

This could be through efforts like inviting them to participate as a thought leader in your virtual conferences, or sending them relevant links to industry-related content. Don't forget to inform them first of upcoming special offers and discounts, etc.

11. Utilise other platforms

Utilise platforms to offer special discounts and offers. These can help support your SME during shutdown with deliveries scheduled after shutdown, where applicable. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by denying returns or exchanges.

12. Think of your target market

Think about your buyer/target market and what they're possibly doing right now. If your target market is consumers, they're quite likely open to online shopping right now.

If your buyers are other businesses, they might be operational and working from home, depending on their industry. Research your competition and see what they're offering and how they've adapted.

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