2020 is coming to an end. However, for small businesses and startups, this year’s struggles aren’t over quite yet.
While the end of the pandemic may be in sight, with several effective vaccines on the way, vaccine distribution will likely take months. A real economic recovery may not start until sometime around the middle of 2021.
That means there will still be a few challenging months ahead for small business and startup owners looking to weather the crisis.
These nine tips will help any startup stay afloat during the last few months of COVID-19 — and prepare you for businesses during the recovery to come.
1. Find New Opportunities for Business Growth
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, successful businesses have found ways to offer new, safer services. Gyms that offer outdoor exercise classes, outdoor seating for restaurants, and contactless pickup, for example, are three well-known examples of businesses innovating to stay afloat.
Local business partnerships may also be a possibility. Depending on what niche you’re in, you may find other local business owners who are happy to partner on product campaigns or offer services you can’t provide alone.
2. Don’t Skimp on Advertising Spend
Amid a crisis, it can be tempting to cut back the marketing budget.
However, it’s generally better to optimize your advertising spend before trying to make cuts. Take stock of existing ad campaigns and use ad data to launch new campaigns and cut the ones that aren’t working to help you get more out of your current ad spending.
New campaigns adapted to your audience’s needs and preferences during COVID-19 can also help. Collecting additional data, tweaking targeting settings, changing keywords, or adopting new, potentially low-cost advertising approaches — like content marketing — may also be successful.
3. Don’t Leave Existing Customers Behind
According to data from Adobe, purchases from just 8% of shoppers account for 41% of e-commerce revenue. While it’s crucial to pursue new audiences and grow your business when you can, cash for advertising may be tight right now.
When planning your ad strategy, don’t forget about your existing customers — be sure to include campaigns that target current clients and encourage them to keep shopping with your brand.
4. Prepare Your Business’ Digital Defenses
Small businesses are dealing with a growing number of cyberattacks aimed at stealing their data and gaining access to company networks. While larger businesses remain more popular targets, about 28% of all data breaches in 2020 targeted small businesses, instead.
Taking stock of the information you hold on to can make your business easier to secure. Research on retention policies shows that about 70% of the data a business holds on to has no real value or useful information.
Releasing this extra data can help simplify your data management, smoothing the path for you to defend the essential things — and, potentially, saving you some money on data storage.
5. Take Advantage of Government Funding for Businesses
The CARES act provided some substantial relief for small businesses. However, you may have already applied for and received this aid.
At the time of this article’s writing, the government is debating the specifics of a new economic stimulus. Details about the finished bill aren’t available yet, but it’s likely to include individual stimulus checks and additional support for small businesses.
Expanded SBA resources like Paycheck Protection Program loans may be able to help. You may want to stay on top of the news and prepare to apply for any government support programs your startup can qualify for.
In the meantime, other sources of government funding — like the USDA’s Rural Development Grant — may also be a major help for some startups and small businesses.
6. Learn About Local Financial Support
In addition to federal government relief, your startup may also qualify for local relief programs. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at least 24 states plus Washington, D.C., offer some kind of relief program for small businesses.
If you find your state on the list of those offering support, you may be able to apply for loans or other stimuli that can keep your business afloat during the next few months.
7. Look to Private Organizations for Support
Some private organizations are also offering support for organizations during COVID-19. FedEx, for example, offers an annual small business grant. The National Association for the Self-Employed also offers grants for self-employed people who need some extra assistance with their small business or work.
8. Remain Flexible
One advantage that small businesses have over larger corporations is their flexibility — it’s possible for a business with fewer staff members to coordinate and fewer resources to manage to rapidly pivot or change how they do business.
Right now, that flexibility is probably the most valuable asset. Customer needs and opportunities are constantly shifting. Businesses of all kinds are dealing with new problems as they arise — like supply chain disruptions or issues with the U.S. Postal Service.
Identifying new ideas to serve your customers — like pickup options or outdoor versions of indoor services — is one of the best ways to keep revenue up during the pandemic. These new offerings may also provide you a competitive advantage long after the pandemic finally ends.
9. Prepare for After the Crisis Is Over
Sudden fluctuations in demand — positive or negative — can be challenging for any business to manage. If your startup is managing a mostly steady revenue and has a loyal customer base, you may want to start looking at how you’ll prepare for the coming economic recovery.
Where possible, you can stock up on supplies or make changes that will help you manage a possible increase in demand once consumer spending starts to return to more typical levels.
Staying Afloat During the Last Months of the Pandemic
The end of the pandemic is in sight, but we aren’t there quite yet. For businesses that need some extra help during these last few months of the pandemic, there are a few strategies and resources that may be helpful.
Government and private grants, for example, have been essential through the pandemic, and another round of federal support may be on the way.
Adopting new strategies, optimizing advertising spending, and creating new offerings may also help you reduce costs and generate more revenue while demand remains low.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.