What Does Covid-19 Mean for Small to Medium Sized Businesses?

September 9, 2020

On the last day of 2019, as many of us were counting down the New Year, health authorities in Wuhan, China were treating dozens of patients suffering from a newly identified respiratory virus. Days later, China reported its first death. A week later Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States reported similar cases.

Today, the coronavirus outbreak has spread to at least 147 countries, being officially labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Airlines are nearing bankruptcy, stocks have fallen to record lows, and oil prices have collapsed to their lowest rates since 2002. Large scale ‘panic-buying’ has created a scarcity among some resources, and many people lose their sources of income amid social distancing and self-quarantine regulations.

But among the fear, panic, and general disarray, humanity has shone through. Businesses of all types and sizes are offering their time and resources to fund and support medical staff as well as give increased paid sick leave to their employees. Countries like China and Italy have banded together to help flatten the pandemic curve and support research on possible cures and vaccines.

So, what does all this have to do with you and your business’ digital marketing?

The isolation caused by the virus has led to a direct increase in social media usage both as a distraction and a news source. If you’re a business owner and you aren’t addressing the virus through your social media channels, you’re doing it wrong. Online reputations have been heavily affected as businesses are praised for their efforts or reprimanded for lack thereof.

As digital marketers, we have the unique ability to inform the public on safe practices and use the opportunity to promote relevant solutions. If you’re a retailer, closing physical locations and promoting your online store can help keep people indoors and protect your employees. Offering free, useful products to medical staff, hospitals, homeless shelters, and other organizations builds solidarity and brand affinity. The opportunities are endless but the sentiment is always the same: show the world that you want to help.

Here are a few basic guidelines:

  • Maintain consistent communication with customers and followers
  • Address the situation transparently. People will appreciate honesty
  • Outline you/your clients efforts to ameliorate the situation
  • Consider offering free products or relief to healthcare workers and hospitals in your area
  • Tailor your advertising to make it attractive to those stuck in quarantine and social isolation (online purchases, deliveries, etc.)
  • Closely follow news and government media to update your content accordingly

In summary, there is a balancing game to play between using your platform responsibly and effectively. Produce paid content that keeps you in touch with your customer base while remaining informative and not exploitative. Prepare for the possibility of lower conversion rates as many people suffer financial difficulties. Most of all, double down on your efforts because internet consumption will continue to grow as the situation progresses.

Here are some links that may prove useful to you and your business:

Government Guidelines for Small Businesses

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/business/maintaingrowimprovebusiness/resources-for-canadian-businesses.html

BDC Business Credit Availability Program

https://www.bdc.ca/en/pages/special-support.aspx

Additional Information on Government Financing

https://loanscanada.ca/business/government-financing-for-businesses-in-canada/

CFIB Resources for Small Businesses

https://www.cfib-fcei.ca/en/advocacy/federal-government-banks-small-business-relief-measures-covid-19

Government of Canada Updates and Resources

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

https://www.facebook.com/business/boost/grants