Protect Your Business With Technology During the Coronavirus Outbreak
The current situation concerning coronavirus (COVID-19) is fluid and unpredictable. Businesses, and small businesses in particular, are understandably nervous about what the impact on them will be. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate problems, and who knows you may even discover new ways of working that benefit your company in the long run.
Whatever sector you are in, whether you are office-based, run a shop or restaurant or even deliver fitness classes or other services, there may be measures that you can take to help keep your business afloat during the current crisis. While conditions may be volatile, we do know that at some point things will get back to normal and you should be able to resume trading in the way you do now. So, how can you make this current period as painless as possible?
At the moment we don’t know what the long-term economic effects of coronavirus will be, but as business owners we can think about how we can continue to trade as normally as possible, as well as looking at ways that we can use technology, not only to get through this crisis, but also to enhance the services we deliver, and how we work, now and in the future.
Insite Web can help by:
Offering free consultation and support on any migration to online processes and changing your technical infrastructure. Free website audits and marketing / lead consultations.
1. We can help with video conferencing and online meeting or video setup, this benefits:
- Working from home
- Talking to clients, customers and gathering information for quotes/work
- Yoga studios, exercise classes, vocal coaches, music coaches
2. VoIP setup, phone calls that can be made by mobile phones or on PCs/laptops without a landline. This benefits any business that needs to talk to clients regularly and allows you to switch to home working, e.g.
- Mortgage brokers, financial advisors, accountants, car leasing
- Solicitors and lawyers
- Customer services, online service providers
- Any type of advice or phone based office business
3. Moving your business to an ecommerce or online services models, e.g.
- Physical shops
- Restaurants, cafes, take-aways
- Financial and legal services, loans, rentals etc.
4. Generating leads online to mitigate no walk in or shop based customers
- Google or Bing PPC
- Email marketing and outreach
- Social media marketing and social PPC
- Website audits, SEO and online lead generation
You’ve probably read a lot about homeworking. We know from looking at other countries that one of the first actions that national governments take is to recommend or insist that people work from home where possible. It’s this ‘where possible’ that is frequently the sticking point for smaller businesses. Even if you normally work from an office, many small and medium-sized business don’t have the infrastructure of their larger competitors to enable it to happen.
It’s not that difficult though to make some changes which will give you more flexibility, both now and in the future. As with any business decision you need to consider what your goals are and how changes to how you work can support them. You also need to take into account your current system.
Many businesses already use some type of cloud-based system in the office that employees log into, or back up data to. In this case it’s relatively simple for them to log on at home. You should remind workers of basic security protocols – such as signing out of systems, not sharing passwords and only using secure networks. If your company doesn’t already have a proper cyber-security, use this as an opportunity to draw one up.
You may have thought about setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN), to let employees sign into a business server through one portal. However, whilst useful for larger businesses who want to allow employees remote access to their desktop or multiple systems, in practice the usefulness for smaller companies rarely outweighs the cost and inconvenience of setting up and maintaining them.
What is more useful for SMEs is the use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems. VoIP systems allow phone calls to be made over the internet and, amongst other features, will allow you to divert calls away from the office easily. You can even get employees to download an app onto their own mobile which will allow them to take and make calls at no cost to themselves. For companies that conduct a substantial amount of their business on the phone, this can be invaluable. Talking to a company with experience of setting up VoIP systems will ensure that you choose the solution that is most appropriate for both your company and your budget.
Many VoIP systems will save you money on calls and allow you to set up phone conferences at no additional cost. So it’s worth considering moving to this system even if you are not yet thinking about working from home.
Whether or not you, and employees if you have them, are still going into the office, there is little point asking people who are not office-based to travel in especially for meetings. Many may be taking extra precautions anyway and limiting the amount of time they spend in groups, so offering the chance of a ‘virtual meeting’ will undoubtedly be appreciated.
There are a number of platforms that you can use, but the simplest is probably Google Hangouts, which also has the benefit of being free. Users will need a Google account, which is straightforward to set up and can be done using any email including MS Hotmail. Some participants may be reluctant to create a Google account, but in reality the vast majority of internet users are browsing via Chrome anyway.
Alternatively you can sign up to a package such as Zoom, which has a limited free package and more extensive paid plans. If you only want to have conference calls, there are numerous cheap or even free ways to do this online or via VoIP.
If you work in a sector where you normally provide a 1-to-1 face-to-face service, for example counselling or tutoring, then using a system such as Skype could be a great option. Skype also allows you to screen-share or share presentations or other files, which is particularly useful for tutors.
If you are working with younger children, you should observe the usual safeguarding measures that you follow, and you may want to add extra measures, for example ensuring that an adult is in the room with your tutee while you are online.
Live Streaming Classes
One thing many people will want to do if they are forced to remain at home, presuming they are not ill, is to stay in shape. There is a possibility that gyms will close, and normal classes won’t be able to take place. If you deliver any type of class you could think about live streaming classes. This may take a little bit of thinking about, as you’ll have to set up videoing, but once you get it up and running it’s fairly easy to manage.
You could use YouTube for this, uploading a private video and sending participants who’ve purchased a class a link to access it. Alternatively you could live stream on any of the virtual meeting platforms, or even through a private group on Facebook.
You could use this as an opportunity to test-drive a move to provide on-line content as part of your normal business model. Your current clients will provide an excellent trial group, and they will already be grateful that you are continuing to provide a service to them.
For some businesses virtual working just won’t be possible, and you may well be forced to close temporarily. From cafes to shops, there is a concern that these smaller companies will not survive any period of enforced closure. While the government may provide some protection, the big problem may well be cashflow, therefore it’s a good idea to think about ways to keep money coming into your business.
Consider promoting or introducing online vouchers that customers can buy for redemption once your business reopens, remember to track them if possible to understand usage and make sure they are not redeemed twice. Online vouchers will allow you to still receive some income. Remember, many local businesses already benefit from the goodwill of their customers, and the majority of them will happy to take the opportunity to help you survive.
Think about a Delivery Partner or Online Sales Platform
If it works for your business, you might want to investigate the feasibility of working with a delivery partner to get your product to your customers. For restaurants signing up to a service such as Deliveroo or Just Eat may be an option.
Alternatively, if you already have a website and regular customers who support you via Facebook and call for bookings or takeaways, now would be a great time to move your website to an online take away and delivery model. This may sound daunting, but it can be relatively easy to add online transactional services and bookable delivery slots. You could even use your own employees to deliver if they’re no longer waiting tables, just make sure they are insured and happy to do so!
If you make or sell goods, maybe now is the time to look at Etsy or Amazon Marketplace. Or why not use this as the opportunity to start selling directly through your own website. Insite Web can help you decide what is the most cost-effective option for your business, as well as ensuring that your eCommerce platform is safe and secure.
If you’re still open then let people know and tell them what precautions you’re taking to help mitigate the coronavirus.
Finally, even if you have to temporarily cease trading, don’t stop talking to your customers and clients. Think of imaginative ways to use your social media platforms to keep engaging with people. Building great relationships now will pay dividends when you do re-open.
Some example of this include
- A bookshop setting up a virtual book group using Facebook
- Cafes & caterers sharing their favourite ‘store cupboard’ recipes
- Beauty therapists giving online make-up tutorials or ideas for home beauty treatments