What can you do? What you CAN do!
I hate to admit it, but for the first two weeks of America fighting the COVID-19 virus, I barely noticed.
From a business perspective, I was right where I had always wanted to be. I was finally reaching a wider audience, booking great clients, getting to create beautiful work, and offering a higher level of excellence in my product line. I honestly had so many orders I was considering hiring just to be able to keep up! The new hotel had opened next door to the studio and I was seeing increased traffic every day. I was looking forward to their Grand Opening and to a new level of success.
And let me be the first to say it was hard-won. I have struggled in the three years since my divorce, simply trying to keep my home bills paid. My car broke beyond repair so I found myself with a car payment, insurance, bills that kept mounting. I had finally made a plan to go all out until I was able book a certain number of clients for the month, and I was right on track. Then the bottom fell out.
I still wasn’t paying that much attention, even as the Italian company that makes most of my artwork began to post updates on their social media. Then it hit Seattle, where one of my other two vendor partners has their U.S. base. Still I was complacent. Then it hit Arkansas.
Suddenly everything was canceled, from church, to the pet parade/street fair that was supposed to happen this Sunday, and which, in past years, has been crucial to driving my Spring and early summer revenue.
Like many of my business-owning friends, I found my world upended.
It turns out, having a supportive community all over the world helps. Friends in my photography group, who were already several weeks further into this, had great advice. They got my creative juices flowing and so, below, I’ve come up with a list of things we can all do during this time. Feel free to add your own in the comments and let’s turn this challenge into an opportunity!
• Update your database. In my scramble just to meet basic client needs, I had let this one lapse in past weeks. I collect client contact information for every shoot, but my online database needed updating badly! If you can, include birthdays, special occasions such as anniversaries, and notes about their needs.
• After you’ve done the above, pick a few clients you haven’t touched base with in a while and reach out to them. We’re always meaning to do this, but somehow the urgent gets in the way of the essential, doesn’t it? Do not make this a sales call! This is not the time. Just reach out, find out how they are doing, listen, and offer your support in whatever way possible.
• Start a newsletter. Here’s another thing you probably have been meaning to do with that database whenever you had time! But don’t send the same “Company X COVID-19 Update” email newsletter that we’ve all been ignoring for a week now already! Instead send some good news! Highlight something about one of your clients. Send something funny that will make your clients laugh. Sure, feel free to update your clients on the situation with your business, but also offer them something that will be helpful or uplifting.
• Video meetings. If networking is essential to your business, now is not the time to stop! Video networking is easier than ever before. You can simply set up a one-to-one “virtual coffee” with a business you want to partner with, or you can go big! Right now BNI (Business Networking International) has virtual meetings going on all over the world! You can register as a visitor and meet people you would have never been able to meet before, people who share a strong sense of cooperation and business ethics, who are eager to help fellow business people, and who may have great information (like my little photography community) about how to handle this situation.
• Video social times and events. Zoom doesn’t just have to be for official business meetings. You can just use it to catch up with friends, reach out to your social media circle, and help others.
• Facebook is another great video platform for certain applications. From musicians offering online concerts with virtual tip jars, to public speakers (or aspiring speakers) offering encouraging words, this could be a great time to connect with people you might otherwise never encounter.
• Cards. Then there’s the good, old-fashioned MAIL! Because we are at home now waiting for the mailman to come, I know that I personally am giving more attention to the mail than I have since growing up in the 1980s way out in the country! You can even use a service like SendOutCards to create personalized content that will make people feel great and cheer them on in this difficult time!
• Blog. Isn’t this another thing we are always meaning to do? It will boost your SEO and can be used to keep your network and clients updated. Don’t forget to include a call to action, but think about making it something that has benefits beyond your business. For instance, I started a small business matching program where I match dollar for dollar what people spend locally, on restaurant take-out, gift certificates, retailers’ websites, etc.
• Educate yourself. I subscribe to some amazing online education, but often find myself without a lot of time to participate. Whether it’s BNI University (if you’re a member), Steve Saporito Education (for photographers) or my favorite online SEO course (that really works and isn’t the usual bullshit!) this is a great time to boost your potential by getting some knowledge. No one can take that away from you!