Updated: Sep 1
This sign that appeared in the window of Seattle’s Opus Co. restaurant in early March is a pretty good representation of how all small businesses were feeling as they began navigating these uncharted waters: “We’re a little all over the place, with a plan (kinda), that could change at any moment — but we still want to be here for you!”
We know many of you can’t run your businesses the way you’re used to, so we’re here with a little creative inspiration to get you thinking of new ways to keep doing that thing you do that makes your customers love you. And right now, anything goes.
Here’s what some small businesses just like yours are doing to keep moving forward:
The business: Fruitsuper Their specialty: Elevated everyday objects.
Their creative spin: They grouped store items together into “care package” type kits. For instance, their Pantry Kit includes chile verde flakes, smoked Alaska sockeye samon, and dried white and garbanzo beans. And their Spa Day at Home Kit includes a face mask, charcoal soap, face toner, and bath bomb cubes. There’s something for everyone, they are geared towards staying at home, and it’s something customers can buy for themselves or send to someone else. They even provided some movie recommendations in an Instagram post about their Movie Watching Kit: “We’ve compiled an incomplete list (in no particular order) of some of our favorite films below. These inspire us, make us laugh, make us cry, and most importantly bring a bit of much needed joy and distraction. Make some popcorn, pour yourself a cocktail, curl up on the couch, call your BFF and watch a movie together.”
The business: Southern Charm Textiles Their specialty: Machine-embroidered pillows and tea towels with Southern charm. Their creative spin: Along with a group of 25 other local makers, CJ Evans participated in a virtual festival called Maker Hop + Shop — they created an Instagram account specifically for the event and scheduled Instagram Live events over the course of the day where the makers did live demos, gave tours of home studios, and chatted with customers.
The business: Capers Their specialty: Home decorating and furnishings, entertaining supplies, and gifts. Their creative spin: Since customers can’t come in, they started doing special window displays: “On Saturdays, as you wander, stroll, walk, run, bike, and drive down California Avenue,” a recent Instagram post read, “we’ll be here, dressing windows. Pause, watch, and be entertained, as we create new windows of beauty every Saturday between the hours of 10am and 2pm.” Customers can purchase anything they see by calling or emailing, and get free curbside delivery. They even included a contest element: passers-by can vote for their favorite window (there are two to choose from), and if “your window” wins, you’re entered in a drawing for a gift certificate. In addition, they are posting retail items for sale on Facebook and Instagram.
The business: Seattle Art Source Their specialty: Provide interior designers and homeowners with an organized and approachable way to purchase original art. Their creative spin: Virtual consultations! Founder Sara Hurt shared in an Instagram post how to connect with her: “Dreaming of the days I can work from my lovely studio space again. For now, I’m open for virtual consultations. Thank God for Facetime and Zoom right?! We can go through our online gallery together, you can show me the area in your home that’s needing some life, or I can answer your general ‘how it works’ type questions.”
The business: Pure Bliss Their specialty: From scratch small batch cakes, gourmet dessert wedges, cookies, cupcakes, and more. Their creative spin: This dessert cafe is giving their customers lots of options for getting their sweet fix, right on the homepage of their website: They have a link to purchase gift cards, information about “at-the-door” grab-and-go, a link to the delivery app customers can find them on, as well as how to pre-order. Pure Bliss also posts the day’s selections to their Instagram Story every morning and updates when items are sold out.
The business: Presence Their specialty: Mindfulness, somatic counseling, and coaching for women. Programs help participants cultivate resilience, foster connection, regulate their nervous system, and alleviate anxiety and stress. Their creative spin: Presence is offering free Monday morning meditations (they include the Zoom link in their Instagram post so anyone can join!), in addition to new programs for small groups of women who will attend sessions on Zoom. Providing offerings like this allows new clients to connect from anywhere in the world, as well as San Francisco locals (where Presence is based) who could become in-person clients when it’s safe to resume business.
The business: Monorail Espresso Their specialty: Espresso drinks from a walk-up window and a selection of treats including their famous “Chubbie” chocolate chip cookies. Their creative spin: This spot in downtown Seattle’s shopping district connected with local bike messengers for what they call Monorail on the Move. “Monorail on the Move brings whole beans, cold brew growlers, and our Chubbies to your front door!” accounted Monorail in an Instagram post. “Partnering with Seattle Messenger Cooperative, Monorail on the Move delivers to the Seattle core and delivers same-day on all orders placed before noon! Check the link in bio for the delivery zones and for more info.”
The business: Frankie & Jos Their specialty: Plant-based ice cream cones, cups, and pints to go. Their creative spin: Like many other restaurants and specialty food shops, this ice cream shop is doing orders for drop-ins and free local deliveries for pints in 5-packs. And to promote all this, they posted a video to their Instagram of a scrolling mobile screen of their website—this not only gave customers a quick glance at all their delivery options, but also all the flavors available for ordering.
The business: Velocity Dance Center Their specialty: Artist-driven, community-responsive contemporary dance programming that includes classes, workshops, residencies, performances, discussions, and two annual international festivals. Their creative spin: They have started offering free online dance classes (though, donations are encouraged for those who are able). This way of connecting with the community not only keeps Velocity connected to the dancers who already know and love them, but it also allows new dancers/customers to take classes risk-free, and hopefully turns them into loyal members of the Velocity community down the road.
Quick takeaways to consider
Even if your business type doesn’t match up exactly to the examples above, there are ideas within their creative spins that you can absolutely apply to your business. Here are just a handful of things you can do to make it easier for customers to stay connected to you:
Put COVID-19 info on your website homepage. For anyone visiting your website, make it easy for them to learn what adjustments you’re making to your business right now. This could be a section dedicated to sharing these details right on the homepage, or a prominent link that takes customers to another page where you share details.
Are you offering app deliveries? Be sure to clearly list what apps customers can use to get what you’re offering. And keep reminding them!
Post photos everyday of products/offerings. Since customers can’t visit like they normally would, be sure you’re showing off what you have on all your social channels. Don’t worry too much about showing the same products over and over — not everyone sees every story or post you share, so it won’t feel as repetitive to customers as it may feel to you. The important thing is to remind customers often what you have to offer, and be clear about how they can get it from you.
Text-only social posts with important details. Similarly to when customers are visiting your site’s homepage, if they are visiting your Instagram or Facebook feed, text-only posts stand out and make it very easy for them to see where COVID-19-related changes and updates are.
Can you offer a free taste of what you do? Since everyone is connecting online, you may be able to reach new customers who are outside your normal circle. Is there anything small you could offer for free that would give them an idea of what they might experience as a client/customer? It could be as simple as pre-recording something that you provide anyone access to, or it could be a weekly event to simply introduce yourself and what you do to a new audience.
Consider how to make deliveries work for customers AND you. It may not make financial sense to offer free delivery for, say, a $7 item, but could you combine like items together that could be sold as a package?
Connect with your community. How can you come together with similar businesses to promote each other’s work?
Use any or all of these ideas, and put your own creative spin on them!
How has your business adjusted to COVID-19? Have you implemented a unique creative spin? Share your story with us!