Despite all the uncertainty that comes with the COVID-19 crisis, we are certain this will pass. We are also certain that things are and will continue to change. But change is normal and change can be good. Take this opportunity to embrace change and your business could change for the better.
Here’s a list of recommendations to help your business survive the weeks ahead and come out of this better than ever. Stay connected with RCI’s community and email us with any questions you need answered or suggestions you’d like to share.
- Know that this isn’t going to be easy, but you didn’t become an entrepreneur because it was the easy route. Trust your instincts and lean on the support of your RCI community, your local community and your team.
- Take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you certainly won’t be able to take care of your business and your team. Be intentional about getting enough sleep, eat healthy, drink plenty of water and move your body a minimum of 20 minutes a day. You got this!
- Stay positive. According to Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, “People are still buying things, and they are buying things for two reasons right now: (1) To get them through their day, so they are shopping for the things they need to make life work for them right now. (2) To help them escape from their day, so they are shopping for pleasures and fun things that will bring them joy and keep them busy,” (retaildoc.com).
- Take this time to educate yourself and your team. Explore online education opportunities to learn more on the topics of business, leadership, candy making and marketing. RCI members can login to view past educationpresentations.
- Connect with fellow RCI members to ask and answer questions on RCI’s online forum, List Serve.
- Curb thoughts of uncertainty and anxiety during downtime by reading books to help you grow as a business leader. Click here to read RCI’s recommended reading list.
- Get inspired to become a better leader by getting plugged into to some great podcasts. Learn from expert business leaders, many of which are navigating some of the same challenges right now that you are. Check out RCI’s list of 10business-related podcasts.
- Go straight to the source for updates on COVID-19 from health and governmental agencies, such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local health agencies. Review the CDC’s Interim Guidance forBusinesses and Employers to plan, prepare and respond to COVID-19.
- Employ strict protocols for preventing exposure in the workplace and reporting symptoms. See below for links to additional resources addressing common questions:
- Do not disclose an employee's name if they have contracted COVID-19. You may have to disclose to other employees that they may have been exposed.
- To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, the CDC recommends using only the guidance provided on its COVID-19 web page to properly determine risk. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin.
- Be aware of temporary guidance put in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding preventive controls, food supplier verification and onsite audits.
- Get your products in customers’ hands safely. If your retail store is open, this may require that you limit the number of individuals in your store at one time or encourage shoppers to call ahead for curbside pickup or delivery.
- Develop your own delivery program or look into local delivery services to partner with if your team doesn’t have the capability to deliver. See what Doordash, Grubhub and UberEats are doing to support local businesses.
- Keep staff busy tackling tasks that had previously been put off, because everyone was too busy—tasks like organizing inventory, reorganizing the store, cleaning, refreshing the website and creating lots of social media and email content.
- Create a new cleaning schedule and update procedures on employee hygiene practices (i.e., handwashing, etc.) as well as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment. Clickhere for guidance from the CDC.
- The most effective way to clean most equipment is with soap and water. Just scraping or using water alone will not be effective.
- Cleaning equipment with an all-oil-based product (and no sugars to help dissolve the product away) may require several oil flushes before introducing water or chemicals. Without the oil flushes, cleaning chemicals can extract the oil, leaving behind solid masses cemented to the pipes or agitators in equipment.
- Educate yourself on action steps required in the case someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 was in your facility, follow these CDCguidelines.
- Find new ways to sell your product. Aside from selling product on your website and over the phone, reach new and existing customers where they’re already spending time—on social media. Click here to learn how you can start selling your products on Facebook and Instagram.
- If you don’t already have the capability to sell products on your website, Ecwid is a user-friendly option for creating an online store—with free and paid versions available. Click here for step-by-step instructionsfor setting up an online store for free.
- Learn how to take better advantage of marketing on Pinterest, including how to sell products. Click here to learn more.
- Make it easy for consumers to view your website on their mobile devices. Click here for RCI’s blog post on how tooptimize your website for mobile in three steps.
Marketing & Promotion
- Use all forms of communication to let shoppers know you are open and what you are doing to ensure the cleanliness of your facility, staff and products. Where appropriate, share your cleaning protocols and photos of your clean candy kitchen and retail store.
- Don’t stop marketing your business! Create content that appeals to consumers by offering a way to escape the chaos through fun, comfort and joy.
- Think of members in your community who need to know someone is thinking of them. Consider a promotion to support the elderly quarantined in their homes and in nursing homes. Think of ways to thank those on the front lines—the medical workers and first responders, who are working hard to keep our communities safe and healthy.
- Invite shoppers to purchase gift cards from you and other local businesses as a way to support local. Some businesses are offering discounted gift cards to generate cash flow.
- Create eye-catching graphics for your store, website and social media outlets using free and user-friendly tools like Canva or Adobe Spark. Both sites have hundreds of professionally designed templates and layouts, making it easy for non-designers to create impressive, custom designs.
- Share easy recipes for followers to make at home with their kids, featuring your products. Consumers with kids out of school are looking for fun and easy ways to pass time as a family. Check out KidsActivities.net for easy candy recipes for kids using five ingredients or less. Substitute candy ingredients to make recipes your own. Considering bundling ingredients for one recipe and selling it as a “take-and-make kit.”
- Bundle products together by theme to help generate ideas of who your followers can shop for. RCI member, Bon Bon’s Candy House, has had success promoting care packages for “Peanut Butter Lovers,” “Grandpa’s Favorites,” and more.
- Host a Facebook Live event to get face-to-face with your followers even if your retail store is closed. RCI member, Dolle’s Candyland, has regularly scheduled Facebook Live videos to promote Easter items, new products and other merchandise that can be ordered through their virtual shopper service. Click here for tips from The Retail Doctor for using Facebook Live successfully.
- Host a contest on social media. RCI member, Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium is encouraging their followers to share positive thoughts for a chance to win their sweet treats. Check out this blog post by Hootsuitefor creative social media contest ideas.
- Encourage customers to host virtual tasting parties. Sell a tasting party bundle of your products and provide content on the tasting experience or lead a virtual tasting on Facebook Live or try Zoom for video conferencing (free and tiered pricing is available).
- Have a branded delivery vehicle? Consider visiting local neighborhoods, musical ice-cream-truck style, to sell your products. Other businesses have asked their social media followers to private message their addresses to be added to the delivery route. Share your route on social media and let people know when to expect you. First, check local regulations to ensure this activity is permitted.
- Educate and entertain social media followers by creating behind-the-scenes videos showing how your businesses makes some of your signature confections.
- Encourage customers to share photos of themselves enjoying your products from home and ask them to tag your business and/or use a creative hashtag.
- Offering curbside pickup is a great way to ensure the health and safety of your staff and customers, while continuing to do business. Perform practice runs to ensure an excellent customer experience. If taking orders by phone, have a checklist of important questions to ask customers—such as, “what color and model of car will you be arriving in?” making it easy to find them. Coach staff to thank every customer for their business over the phone and at pick up.
- Include handwritten notes along with all pickup and delivery orders, personally thanking customers for supporting your business.
- Update your store hours on your website, social media pages and all other third-party sites, such as your Google listing.
- If your retail store is closed or partially closed, start planning and preparing for a grand re-opening now. Be open with your staff about your plans and seek their input.
Doing business during times of uncertainty is going to be hard, but you are not alone. If business has slowed down for you (and it probably has—unless, of course, your business involves toilet paper or hand sanitizer), take advantage of the down time to learn, try new things and cross items off your list.
If you ran a successful business prior to this crisis, chances are you have a community of people who will be happy to support your business now. Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for ways to support local businesses. Find new ways to engage with consumers and remember that your sweet treats offer people comfort and hope, and help express gratitude, kindness and love to each other.
As you navigate these unprecedented times, we hope this offers you ways to challenge yourself and your business to grow and learn—so you and your business can come out of this better than ever.
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