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Business as newsual: keeping your customers updated during COVID-19

Here we are at the end of June, a thousand miles from where we thought we’d be at the beginning of the year, not least due to COVID-19. Things are changing often, and as things start to re-open, we’re entering a grey area that can be tricky to navigate. We’re not in full lockdown, so things aren’t as clear as “Stay Home”, and yet we’re not “back to normal” either…

So let’s declare Business As Newsual, and give our customers something they’re really craving: clarity.

Now is a great time to update your customers via a newsletter, blog, or series of Instagram posts and stories (Facebook, too), so that they know exactly what YOU’RE offering, and what they can expect.

Whether you’re changing your offering, still running with some restrictions, or opening up fully, you can create a clear (and exciting) update via social media, email, or in your shop window.

Here’s what you can share, plus some handy resources:

What are you currently offering?

Things have changed a lot over the last few months, and some businesses have stopped selling, some have had a reduced range, and others have been cracking on with their usual stuff.

Clarity is everything, so let your customers know explicitly (and simply) what they can get from you right now, even if that’s “everything” and even if it’ll change later (more on that in a minute).

For example:

  • Our shop is still fully open, and we’re looking forward to adding some exciting new designs very soon!
  • You can buy print-at-home digital downloads, including my bestselling Yes We Can print, on my website right now, and I have a range of cards available on Thortful, who are brilliant at printing and sending directly to the recipient.
  • We’re still running a slightly reduced range of bestselling biscuits while we have a reduced staff. But that’s still over 16 different biscuit gift boxes to choose from, including the Birthday Box, the Anniversary Hamper, and the Family Friday Treat Collection!

Are you taking any special measures?

If you’re still socially distancing in the studio, or doing some extra cleaning, or using different packaging than usual, let your customers know.

While we’re reopening, it’s helpful to reassure customers that you’re taking care of them (and yourself / your staff). If things still look a little different than “normal”, let them know what to expect. Again, clarity is everything!

For example:

  • Our team is working hard to prepare your orders carefully, and we’ll still be running on a socially distanced timetable so there aren’t too many people in the studio at once. We love being all together, but right now, we want to keep everyone safe (and not make it socially awkward).
  • Because I’ve been shielding, I’m still only offering digital downloads to protect my own health. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be preparing my workspace and my product range so that I can get cracking with posting out orders again!
  • Our kitchen is always in tip-top shape, but we’ve added in some extra precautions, like face coverings and a different packing system so that your order is made and packed by one person from start to finish. You won’t notice anything different in the finished product, and we’re always committed to a nice clean kitchen.

How to order

I know, I know, it sounds obvious. And you’ve probably got a link in your profile to your website, maybe you’ve even got Instagram shopping set up.

EVEN SO let customers know how they can order, whether that’s through your website, through a marketplace, or sending you an email / message.

Anything you can do to make ordering easy and effective is so helpful! We’ve all got a lot on our minds, so make buying that gift / pick-me-up / essential treat really easy.

For example:

  • You can order via our website, on Notonthehighstreet, on Etsy, or even by emailing us on hello@reallycoolshop.com. Let’s get those gifts sorted (or those treats for yourself…)
  • Hop over to my site to get your instant digital downloads, plus instructions of how to print them at home. And of course you can go to my page on Thortful to order your next round of birthday cards!
  • Order beautifully baked biscuit gifts on our website, where you can choose from 16 collections.

What to expect

What are your current lead times? How are you sending out parcels? Will customers get email confirmations and updates?

Answering these questions adds a whole load of confidence when ordering from you. You don’t have to explain every step, just keep it simple and clear.

If there’s anything else customers need to know, or would find helpful, share that too!

For example:

  • We process all orders placed by 2pm on the same day. Our standard shipping to the UK is Royal Mail 2nd Class, which typically takes 3-7 days. You can upgrade to 1st Class Signed For if you’ve got something urgent. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about timing.
  • Once you’ve ordered your digital download, you’ll get an email with the files (including instructions). Don’t forget to check your spam folder! If you haven’t received an email within 24 hours, please email hello@brilliantdesigner.com.
  • We post out our biscuits three times a week. Order by midnight on Sunday for Monday dispatch (typically delivered on Tuesday or Wednesday), midnight on Tuesday for Wednesday dispatch (typically delivered on Thursday or Friday), and midnight on Thursday for Friday dispatch (typically delivered on Saturday or Monday). If you’d like to order ahead for a specific date, you can do this at checkout. We’ll keep you updated on your order the whole way through, and you can track your order, too.

Your next update

If things look like they’ll change again (for example, in July), let customers know.

Perhaps you’ll be opening up workshop bookings, or adding your whole range back to the shop. Give customers a date when you’ll next have an update so that they can check back or expect another email from you.

(And bonus points for creating a waiting list they can opt in to!)

For example:

  • Our new range is coming in July! New designs are in the workshop as we speak. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know.
  • I’ll be opening up my online shop and Autumn workshops at the end of July, so keep your eyes peeled for more information! If you’d like to be the first to know, sign up here.
  • We’ll be reviewing our kitchen safety measures every month, and we hope to reintroduce some more biscuit collections (and some new things too!) by September. If you’d like to stay informed, please sign up to our newsletter.

How to share this information

If you have an active email list (i.e. you send emails semi-regularly), email your people! Use the structure and examples above as a starting point, and add your own flavour and details.

If you post on social media, share an update post (or a series of posts) in your Instagram feed or Stories, or on Facebook. I’ve created some templates to make this easier for you:

Use Canva’s free editing tools to make your own sharable stories!

Some things to remember

Keep it really simple! Clarity is key. Don’t overwhelm your customer, just give them what they need to know.

Anyone who has been waiting for an order, has pre-ordered, or placed a big order with you deserves a great big thank you! Write a note or an email – let them know how much it means to you.

If you do collect email addresses for those interested in future launches or news, don’t forget to email them. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a quick “It’s ready!” is enough.

More resources

You might like my free COVID-19 workbook, or even my latest course, Create Your Mini Business Plan, available on its own or with a strategic coaching session.

It’s not easy to plan right now…

Am I right? Things are up in the air a lot, there’s not much certainty, and who knows what to do about childcare.

And yet it’s incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed and unfocused in your business.

My opinion? Getting even a mini plan together is a good idea. Which is why I’ve spent the last few weeks working on my new Create Your Mini Business Plan course.

It started with me.

Having had a couple of good months of nursery and getting back into the swing of things, most of my careful business plans went out of the window. I didn’t know what I should be doing.

One of the saddest consequences for me in this #lockdownlife is that I had to postpone my retreat, which was due at the end of March. It was heartbreaking!

But it did remind me of one of the activities we do on the first day of my retreats.

We make a list.

Okay, it’s really simple. And it’s not.

We make a list of things we want more of and things we want less of. It’s deceptively simple, and a great starting point for figuring out what’s most important to our businesses right now.

So I made my own list. It included things like “more profit” and “less stress about money”; “more focus” and “less overwhelm”; “more ways to help my audience” and “less distraction”.

This list also became the starting point for this new course. Because lists have a fabulous way of bringing clarity and focus.

I created a couple of other lists, added some gorgeous goal-setting templates, and then creating a few ways to commit to goals over the coming months. I wrote the workbook and went through it myself, adding details and amending as I went.

Focusing on writing this course meant I had to stop blogging, which I’d somehow managed to do weekly. It meant I could only write down the other ideas coming to me. And I had to accept that I’d only post occasionally on my Instagram feed while I was finishing it up.

Because deciding what we don’t do is just as important as committing to the things we want to achieve.

And now, my friends, it’s ready.

The Create Your Mini Business Plan course is here, and has an optional coaching session you can add at a very special price. It’s an inspiring and actionable guide to prioritising your to-do list and taking your business to the next level.

Check it out here.

There are some exciting bonuses, and tons of email support. Because I know it’s easy to sign up for something and then kind of let it slide.

A freebie

One of the bonuses is a COVID-19 Special Edition Workbook. I shared this over on my Instagram stories while I was writing it, and a quick poll suggested that it would be handy even if you didn’t sign up for the course. So if you’d like the free workbook without signing up for the course, it’s right here:

Whether you sign up for the course or not, you can always make your More / Less list and take it from there. You’d be surprised by how this simple list can show you what you really need.

And of course, I’d love to hear from you if you do!

Now even more so…

How are you, friend? Where are you on the rollercoaster right now?

Like many, I’m up and down, exhausted and hopeful, trying and then resting. I’m incredibly grateful to be home, safe, well, with my humans. I’m grateful to be able to show up here on my blog, occasionally on social media, and for my clients and groups.

The conversations with clients and the things I’ve been thinking about have often brought moments of “This! We need to think about THIS!” shortly followed by, “But we have always needed to think about that…”

I’ve started naming it the Now Even More So principle.

Here are some examples:

Comparison

We know, don’t we, that comparison is the thief of joy. Right now, it’s not only the thief of joy, but also the thief of sanity and survival.

While real life is kind of shut down – shops are closed, we’re not going out – the internet is very, very alive. And some of the internet is amazing, supportive, truly great.

But I know that for many of us, comparison has increased dramatically. We’re looking to our peers and our leaders and our favourites to show us what to do. We’re not sure what we should be doing. And so we slip into a comfortable groove amongst all the uncertainty:

We compare ourselves to others.

Friends, if this has been you, and most likely is has been, I offer compassion. It is natural to compare. It’s sooooo easy. But no one is you. No one has your exactly skills or experience or situation. And no, you don’t have to keep up with anyone right now.

Whatever you can do to reduce this very human form of self-torture, prioritise it! Don’t drive yourself insane.

Money

I think this is where a lot of us have been hanging out, too. The money worries.

Again, we can worry about money at the best of times, can’t we? And yet Now Even More So.

Clients who don’t usually worry about money are freaking out. People who’ve been in business for a really long time are struggling. Because none of us have ever been here before.

I thoroughly recommend working with an accountant to get the best financial advice for your business, and reviewing the government’s guidance on what you are eligible for.

Know that any situation you’re in right now is not your fault. It’s really easy (for me, too) to blame ourselves, to think that we should have prepared more or that this has hit us harder because we messed up.

This is not your fault.

Any time we worry about money, it hinders creativity, which is ultimately how we get out of sticky situations. The aim, as ever, is to release the worry – or at least put it on pause – while you allow your wisest, most creative, most resourceful self to be in charge.

You have survived. You may need to make hard decisions. You may need to ask for help. But right now, you just have to make the next decision, the one right in front of you.

Discernment

There are, on any given day, about a billion possibilities. This is still true. There are SO MANY options available to you.

I find this a comforting and encouraging thought.

But it also means we have to flex our discernment muscles. During normal times (remember them?), we practice discernment and prioritisation. Well, Now Even More So.

Discernment isn’t about making perfect decisions. I repeat: this is not about perfection!

It’s about choosing the things that matter to you, and the things that don’t. Sometimes, it’s about choosing ONE thing that matters most, and letting others take a back seat for the time being.

It’s about saying no to one thing so that you can say yes to a better thing.

Discernment is a muscle. It requires head and heart. In these uncharted waters, we need both Now Even More So.

What else?

There are more of the Now Even More Sos. Imposter syndrome, focusing on one thing at a time, grieving past decisions, creating community, marketing with authenticity… Not to mention environmentalism, activism, dismantling the patriarchy and white supremacy. They needed our attention before, and now they need it even more.

We’re still going. Even if you business is on pause or hibernating or becoming a different size or shape, you’re still going.

Even more than before, it’s vital that you believe in yourself. That you keep putting one foot in front of the other (even if it’s right back into bed). That you live closer to your dreams than your fears.

Support

I’m running weekly live calls through my Progress not Perfection membership, which is currently Pay What You Can. Join us on Mondays at 12pm, and get access to past recordings and resources when you sign up.

I’m also putting together a directory of small businesses who are still delivering, offering freebies, or sharing services. Add your details here.

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