Guidelines for starting a business during COVID-19

It’s no exaggeration to say that COVID-19 has been the single most impactful event of the past decade for businesses. Between lockdowns and safety regulations, different across the globe but consistent in their consequences, business was initially ground to a halt. Many, especially small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), regrettably closed their doors forever. And yet, over time, customer behaviour changed and the market had to adapt in order to survive. Today, a shifting perspective on the pandemic’s effects has many embracing them. Others now consider it an opportunity, as starting a business during COVID-19 now seems feasible. At Digital Dot, our digital marketing agency New York has seen this trend unfold – and we’re here to help you discover it as well.

The shifting perspective on the pandemic’s effects

First, let us briefly contextualize said trend before moving forward.

One can absolutely not stress the pandemic’s adverse effects enough. Financial instability, supply line disruptions, and other aspects of businesses have come to affect everyone, from manufacturers to consumers and everyone in-between. Thus, one cannot easily celebrate the pandemic’s few benefits, or even begin to identify them.

Yet, that said, the pandemic did bring about some positive changes as regards business operations. Initially, Comarch finds a curious initial response from small businesses:

  • 37% saw minor or no operational drawbacks
  • 29% saw minor increases in customers/orders
  • 49% will maintain home working policies post-pandemic

Perhaps most notable are their investment plans specifically:

Survey results on post-pandemic investment plans for small businesses.

Indeed, a notable 36% cancelled all non-critical investments. Another 23% saw changes in plans, but not drastic ones. Yet, 10% proceeded as before, and another 23% saw it as an opportunity.

At the same time, digital marketing trends for 2022 show a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) recalibration toward local SEO. What started as an adjustment to the pandemic has since yielded tremendous benefits for SMBs, as LinkedIn’s Isaac Diaz also finds.

It’s within this context that we can claim the pandemic revealed its silver linings, and offered room for growth.

Starting a business during COVID-19

With the above context in mind, why would one seek to start a business during these hard times? Speaking with The New York Times, Rashmi Menon answers this question very eloquently:

“Downturns or challenging times are seen as good times to start a business for two reasons[.] One is, there is less competition for resources. The second reason is that whatever changes we face, positive or negative, bring up new customer needs. And customer needs are at the core of any business.”

But identifying this context and these opportunities only answers “why”, not “how”. So, with the former hopefully covered, let us now address the latter.

#1 Identify a market need

The very first step should come with identifying and fulfilling a specific market need. First, you may consider which specific types of businesses and which general industries have found opportunities to thrive. The US Chamber of Commerce highlights the following:

  • Cleaning services
  • Delivery services
  • Fitness equipment and online fitness classes
  • Landscaping/yard care companies
  • Mask makers
  • Telehealth services

For a more extensive list, you may also consult their article dedicated to this subject.

Next, you may consider which exact customer needs you may satisfy within your field of choice. The US Chamber of Commerce offers a notable example above, where skyrocketing pet adoptions caught the eye of Alexandre Douzet. In turn, he identified the specific need for pet insurance, which allowed his business to thrive.

#2 Focus on digital marketing – heavily

With that covered, starting a business during COVID-19 does require a very heavy focus on digital marketing. This suggestion doesn’t simply come from our own professional focus – other marketers and organizations agree with this viewpoint as well. Forbes, the NYT and their analysts, the US Chamber of Commerce, and many others. The simple reason for this is that the pandemic accelerated business digitization, so much so that it’s now imperative.

Consider such digital marketing strategies as the following to get you started:

  • Implement an SEO strategy. Especially post-pandemic, both general and local SEO offer tremendous, inescapable value for emerging and established businesses. Should you need help with SEO specifically, our SEO services NYC are at your disposal.
  • Digitize your events. The pandemic has stifled in-person events – but digital ones serve as an excellent substitute.
  • Engage meaningfully. Finally, whether on social media or otherwise, it is crucial that you engage with customers meaningfully. Add value to your outreach, remain empathetic, and work toward building trusting relationships.

To highlight the significance of SEO, especially as customer behaviors change so drastically, we may also cite BrightEdge’s research for 2021:

An infographic on SEO's value in 2022 by BrightEdge.

#3 Create a recession-proof business plan

Equally important at the start is that you plan ahead, and strive to future-proof your new business. The current conditions may present opportunities, but they too will change – as does the market in itself consistently.

So, once you’ve ensured you have found and prepared for your audiences, you may strive to prepare financially:

  • Monitor your expenses closely. Overspending early may severely hamper your long-term growth.
  • Save up. Remember that abrupt shifts in the market should not find you unprepared.
  • Get financial help. Depending on your area and industry, your options may include local, state, and government assistance.
  • Negotiate. Carefully review any and all contracts and agreements you opt for and negotiate to ensure favorable terms.
  • Diversify. Finally, as your business begins to take off, try to diversify your offerings for additional security.

Of course, financial advisors should serve you well for this step.

#4 Leverage social media

With this solid foundation we may return to digital marketing; specifically, a front where you can now expand more safely. Starting a business during COVID-19 does require a strong social media presence to both reach and connect with your audiences. The renewed zeal for social media marketing New York SMBs exhibit should serve as solid proof of this trend.

As you get started with social media, first remember that a strong focus on visuals always pays off. Sprout Social confirms this, finding that video and images remain as valuable as ever:

Survey results on types of social media content marketers prefer.

That basic truth aside, you may consider the following tactics:

  • Align your social media with Google My Business (GMB). As local SEO’s spearhead, GMB also acts as an effective social media platform and promotion tool. With minimal effort you may even cross-post content for more cost-efficiency.
  • Promote your website. Still, all such promotions should ultimately lead potential customers to your website. Add links wherever appropriate and remember the customer journey on the whole.
  • Post frequently. Social media marketing takes effort, as your customers already deal with cluttered feeds. Post frequently to stay on their radar, and consider post schedule software if you need to.
  • Host events. General promotion aside, virtual events specifically can draw much attention.
  • Engage meaningfully. Lastly, remember to engage meaningfully beyond promotions. Audiences seek amusement, information, and plain chatter – especially in such challenging times. Take these criteria into account as you establish your brand’s online image.

#5 Remain flexible

Finally, remember the primary lesson of the pandemic; the market values flexibility. In the same way as what worked last year may not work now, the future too may require adaptability. So, you may retain a flexible outlook as you:

  • Examine your audiences. As customer behaviors changed, they may continue to. Examine your analytics to stay ahead and meet their needs.
  • Adapt over time. As you do, monitor your marketing performance and sales data. Over time, you may need to adjust your offerings, from how you market them to their price tags.
  • Finally, as covered above, diversify your offerings and financial security options. Few practices will future-proof your new business as much as these.

Conclusion

In closing, starting a business during COVID-19 may very well be a wise business move. Still, it takes due diligence; a keen eye on market needs, a careful plan, and robust digital marketing are crucial. Hopefully, this article stressed all three sufficiently. Should you need further help, please don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule a consultation.

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