By Juliet Ehimuan
The world is an uncertain place right now. We are all learning how to deal with a global pandemic, and the realities we knew a month ago now seem very far away.
Small business owners are feeling this acutely. Many are unable to run their businesses the way they used to, whether because of social distancing restrictions, reduced demand, or illness.
But even with these enormous challenges, there are steps small business owners can take to keep operations going, or to keep clients engaged until it’s possible to reopen. And Google wants to help. We’ve provided a number of free resources and practical ideas.
First, communicate with your customers. If you don’t already have one, set up a profile on Google My Business. From there, you can let everyone know if your hours of operation have changed, or if you’ve had to temporarily close your doors. You can also use a feature called Posts to communicate information directly on your profile, like the safety precautions you’re taking, updates on what products and services are available, and whether customers can expect delays. Retailers can also let customers know whether or not you’re still open for in-store shopping, or if you’re offering new services like curbside pickup, or delivery: Just update your attributes on Google My Business.
Then, once you have a bit more time to think through the possibilities, ask yourself if there are any creative ways to stay in touch with your customers and retain their loyalty. If you’re a restaurant that’s had to close, could you start a free YouTube channel with videos on how to make your signature dishes? If you’re a shop operating with limited hours, could you post up-to-date photos of your current inventory? Or what about using your free Google My Business website to set up a scrappy delivery service for customers who can’t make it to your shop?
Just as important as communicating with your customers is communicating with your employees. Store their contact information online so it’s accessible from any device. Make a business continuity plan, and share it with employees via an email address they can access outside of the office. If you have more than one business location, give local managers the authority to take appropriate actions based on conditions at their location.
Many businesses will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. If you have a Gmail account, you already have a lot of what you’ll need to be productive: You can organize meetings using Calendar, connect with employees on video using Google Meet, and collaborate live using Google Docs. You can access your important documents from anywhere by storing them on Google Drive, and if you need offline access, just download them to your mobile phone or computer. Drive also has a scanner function so you can import documents from hard copy.
You can find even more free tools and resources on Grow with Google. In fact, in addition to free online digital skills training, Grow with Google also has a new webinar series to help businesses navigate the new reality of learning, working and operating remotely.
Juliet Ehimuan is a Nigerian technology expert and entrepreneur who currently serves as Google’s Country Manager in Nigeria.