As of May 28, 2021, the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of funding. You can learn more about the PPP with our COVID-19 resource hub.

Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we do business. Implementing social distancing rules and ensuring any of your employees, customers, and other patrons are at least six feet apart is an absolute must to keep coronavirus from spreading.

But social distancing hasn’t been easy for small businesses; many have had to change their business model to keep moving forward during these uncertain times, and with the potential of another coronavirus spike come the fall, many business owners are continuing to find ways to change their business marketing and practices to reach potential customers, sell their products or services, and drive revenue—and to do it all safely.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can keep your team and customers safe and continue to grow your business during the pandemic—no matter what kind of product or services you’re providing.

Let’s take a look at five strategies you can use to make social distancing work for your business:

Shift your operations online…

The first way to make social distancing work for your business? Remove the need to socially distance from the equation.

Or, in other words, shift your operations from in-person, face-to-face interactions to the digital space.

There are so many ways to connect with your customers and grow your business online—pandemic or not. Some digital strategies you can use to continue moving your business forward and driving revenue during these challenging times include:

  • E-commerce. If you sell products in a physical location, there’s no reason you can’t sell them online. Opening an e-commerce store on your website is a great way to continue to sell your products to your customers—and even after the pandemic and social distancing are behind us, you’ll have a digital revenue stream to continue growing your business.
  • Social media selling. If you have a social media presence, selling your products or services on social media can be a great way to continue growing your business without the need for social distancing. For example, if you own a toy store, you might post pictures of the different toys you have for sale on Instagram—along with a discount code for any followers who DM you and buy the product. 
  • Harness the power of video technology. Between Zoom, Facetime, and other video conference technology, it’s never been easier to connect face-to-face with your customers without the need to be in the same space—and you can use that video technology to drive sales. For example, if you own a clothing boutique, you can have your employees act as personal shoppers, hopping on a video call with customers and walking them through the store to look at the merchandise and choose their items. Or, if you run a consulting business, you can offer discounted Zoom sessions to continue working with clients.
  • Create a lead magnet. One of the best digital marketing assets you can capture is a customer email. If you have an email list of potential customers, you can continually build a relationship with those customers, establish trust, and drive sales. And a great way to do that? Content marketing—and, more specifically, creating a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a piece of content that you offer potential customers free of charge—then, in exchange for the content, they give you their email address. For example, if you own a coffee shop, you might put out a how-to guide on different types of coffee drinks. Then, once a potential customer downloads the guide and shares their email address, you can follow up with marketing messaging or exclusive incentives to convert that customer and drive sales.

…or outside

While just about any business can move their operations online (at least partially), there are some that either want or need to continue operating in person. And for those businesses, shifting operations outdoors is a great way to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, keep your customers and team safe (current guidance suggests that COVID is less likely to spread outdoors), and continue moving your business forward.

So, what does moving your operations outside look like? It depends on your business. If you own a restaurant, you might move your tables outside (and six feet apart) so people can dine safely outdoors and offer curbside pickup so customers picking up takeout orders don’t have to physically go inside your restaurant. If you own a clothing boutique, you could move your racks on the sidewalk outside your storefront customers can browse safely and with plenty of space. 

The point is, implementing social distancing measures can be easier outdoors, when you’re not confined to a small space—so, if you can move your business operations outside, it’s definitely something to consider.

Schedule appointments

If the only way you can work with your customers is to have them physically inside your place of business, it’s extremely important to make sure there’s enough space for everyone—customers and employees alike—to safely social distance.

Scheduling customer appointments ahead of time gives you a level of control over the foot traffic in your business. So, instead of having customers stop by whenever they feel like it during business hours, you can use an online scheduling app like Calend.ly to schedule customer visits in 30-minute or one-hour time slots. It’s a win-win; your customers know that when they come to shop or engage with your business, they’re not going to have to deal with any crowds—and, as a business owner, you know that there will never be more customers at your business than you’re comfortable with.

Offer contactless payment options

If you’re conducting business in person, there are plenty of ways to socially distance. But keeping your distance gets tricky when it’s time for your customers to pay; there’s really no way to grab someone’s credit card or cash payment from six feet away.

That’s why it’s so important to offer contactless payment options to your customers. Setting up self-checkouts or allowing your customers to pay using digital payment options (like PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay) is a great way to collect payment from your customers when they’re at your business—without having to get too close or make contact.

Instead of your customers coming to you, bring your business to your customers

If social distancing makes it hard for your customers to come to you, why not bring your business to your customers?

There are so many ways to bring your products, services, and the experience of working with your business to your customers—without them having to come to you or meet in-person. For example, you might take online orders from your customers and offer delivery services that bring those orders straight to their door. Or, if you decide to shift your business model towards e-commerce, you can offer fast and easy shipping (services like Shippo and ShippingEasy are great options for small businesses looking for affordable shipping options).

Make social distancing work for your business—and keep moving forward

There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic—and the new normal we’re living through as a result of COVID-19—has changed the way we do business. But even though social distancing is changing the business landscape, you can still connect with your customers and move your business forward; all it takes is a new approach. And with these strategies, you have everything you need to make social distancing work for your business—and keep things moving forward.

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