Starting a business


19th August, 2020

5 tips for dealing with new lockdown restrictions as a small business owner or sole trader

Starting a business during lockdown was certainly a challenge, but I never expected to be going through these motions twice, writes Ben Paul.

In Auckland, when our Prime Minister announced that we would be heading back into Level 3, the challenge of starting a business in 2020 got even larger.

No doubt, this experience is already familiar to entrepreneurs and new business owners in Melbourne, and no doubt people in other major cities in the region are watching closely, should they face similar challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

When the announcement that Auckland was moving back to level 3 restrictions was made on TV, I felt like a slowly deflating balloon.

While market conditions hadn’t been exactly thriving, I had just booked two full days of sales meetings for the following week. My lead generation activities were starting to come to fruition, and then this happened. I felt like, as the owner of a brand new startup, I was being asked to run into a headlong, gale-force wind.

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Setback on the road back to ‘normalcy’

Once the initial shock settled in, I refocused and regrouped. I started to look at my new business, The BD Ladder, and how I was marketing it, and what I could do during the new level 3 lockdown to continue to stay relevant, generate interest and, most importantly, generate new leads.

To help those of you who are in a similar situation or would like some advice in case it does happen to you, below are a few simple things I’ve begun to implement, which I think should be relevant for most sole traders and many small businesses.

1. Move all meetings to Microsoft Teams or Zoom

Or, if you have to, reschedule your meetings. The main point is, you’ve worked hard to get these meetings so don’t simply cancel them.

I waited a day or two and then got on to reorganising my meeting schedule. On the day after the announcement, people were focused on their own business operations, so I opted to give them some breathing space before getting in touch.

2. Make remote or safely distanced offerings clear

When you look at the services you offer on your website, they’re most likely pretty clear. You may even think that it’s obvious that they can be delivered remotely. But, just as those in B2C environments, like cafes and shops, suddenly services that can be delivered remotely are a competitive factor, and so you’ll want to really highlight this to your audience.

Email is all well and good but, in the main, when a lockdown is announced these tend to get lost in the noise.

READ: Raising capital in a downturn

My advice is look at your B2B website and don’t assume that it’s obvious that your services can be delivered remotely. Instead, either revise the page or, as I have done, create a dedicated page that details how you can deliver services remotely. On this page you can also credibly highlight any COVID offers you have.

Be explicit and clear in your offer, and it will be clearer to your potential clients.

3. Refocus on content marketing

When you’re busy, it can be very easy to let your output of articles, videos or other engaging types of content drop.

Understandable though that is, it doesn’t help the long-term health of your new business, as content marketing works.

I’ve been pretty consistent with this, but I have given myself an ambitious two-week target to write a number of articles, some for my website and some to be (hopefully) published externally.

Being published externally really does have two huge benefits. The first is that it tends to give your brand and article more credibility, as someone external to your organisation has chosen to publish it. The second is that you’ll most likely get a backlink to your website, which boosts your domain authority and, in turn, your search engine ranking performance.

If you’re looking for external sites that are looking for content, I’d recommend you try either SourceBottle (great for this part of the world), and also HARO, for further afield.

What else can you get done in a second-wave lockdown?

These are all super simple things I have implemented already, or am in the process of implementing. And they’ve greatly improved my optimism, as I can see some tangible results already.

I’ve even generated a new virtual meeting during the lockdown period; in essence, a new lead.

I’m also spending some time looking at how I can shoot some promo and educational videos, as I feel this will also be a key component of my marketing efforts, alongside webinars. In the near future my YouTube channel will at the very least have a bank of content.

READ: Starting a small business in lockdown

In summary, it is perfectly normal to feel deflated if you get thrown back into lockdown. But what I’ve learnt is that by putting a plan together and giving myself some goals, I not only improved by mental wellbeing, I’ve also immediately received positive results for my fledgling business.

Has your regular revenue been stripped by COVID-19 restrictions? Are you struggling to figure out which direction to take your business? Set yourself on the right path by starting a conversation with an accredited business advisor today. New Zealand business owners can begin their search for an advisor here. Or, if you’re based in Australia, you’ll find advisors near you here.