You’re probably tired of hearing about uncertain times, right?

We totally get it.

Instead, you want to start thinking about how you can get your business back on its feet and return to something resembling “normal.”

Our advice? Start by paying it forward.

Listen: small businesses are the lifeblood of any local community. Just as you’re impacted by the current situation, so are your clients and fellow small business owners.

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Regardless of social distancing or stay-at-home orders, there are steps you can take to empower your local business community.

And thankfully, doing so is probably a lot easier than you might think.

Below are six simple, actionable ways you can show support to fellow businesses right now.

1. Join forces with fellow small business owners

Two heads are better than one, right?

Although some businesses are capable of pivoting their services, not everyone has that luxury.

That said, you can still find creative ways to join forces and collaborate with small businesses owners currently “stuck.”

How so? Consider how you can band together with fellow businesses in your neighborhood or district to raise funds via social media and email. Using your platforms and client lists, you can bring people together to donate and support local businesses who are being hit the hardest.

Here’s another example. Imagine that you’re a nail stylist that’s having trouble getting your business online or coming up with reasonable products to send home to your customers.

But then a local beautician you know clues you in on a way to pivot your business online: drive-by makeovers.

You then create a kit that customers can pick up curbside and use at home, including detailed instructions for skin, facial and nail care. In turn, your beautician friend shares your kits with her clients while you sell ‘em to your own. Everybody wins!

2. Introduce your clients and customers to a new business

Let’s say you’re in a position where you already have an established online presence but a neighboring business doesn’t.

Ask yourself: how can you share access to your online customers to someone whose business complements your own?

Imagine you’re a nutritionist with an active Facebook group where you share healthy eating advice. You already have digital and in-person clients who check-in with you, so why not use your platform to show someone else some love?

For example, you could partner with a local caterer who’s seen their in-person event bookings suddenly drop. They could come up with a healthy delivery or pick-up menu based on your audience’s eating habits (think: gluten-free, vegan) and share their offerings to your client list. In turn, your customers flood your partner with orders.

If you’re running a business that is currently open or not restricted by a stay-at-home order, consider how you can likewise carry the products of neighboring businesses. This is especially easy for restaurants, salons, and craft stores to do.

You can likewise use social media to raise awareness for neighboring businesses now and in the future. Think about the mom-and-pop stores in your area that might not have much of an online presence and operate on word-of-mouth (think: antique stores and bookstores).

Remember: things are going to get better! Although we can’t predict the future, we can predict that your clients and customers are going to be eager to get out and about when this is all said and done.

3. Shout-out and signal-boost businesses you’re friendly with

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to help fellow small businesses without spending a dime is a simple shout-out online.

Think about it. Social proof and word-of-mouth are crucial for local businesses.This doesn’t change during a pandemic where businesses are so desperate to get their offers out in the open.

For example, you can post about or share a deal from a local business running a special offer that you want to let you friends and family know about.

Heck, you could also take the time to write a quick review on Facebook or Yelp for a business you support. In addition to highlighting great customer experiences, positive reviews are much-needed mood and confidence boosters for businesses currently in a slump.

Make a recent purchase from a business that you love? Tag ‘em on social and let the world know! Again, give any good news to local businesses these days and they’ll appreciate the kind words.

And when you share a promotional post from another small business, make sure to sneak in a positive comment. It makes your shout-out more meaningful and likewise share-worthy itself.

Giving other businesses a signal boost is fair game all the time but doing so is especially important now.

4. Make a point to shop local whenever possible

Remember that you represent both a business owner and a customer yourself.

Money might be tight. However, make a point to take whatever you do spend to local shops. For example, consider picking up your next favorite novel from your local bookstore versus giants like Amazon who aren’t exactly hurting at the moment.

Here’s another example. We know a small business owner who runs paint parties for corporate events and date nights. She’s managed to pivot her business to offer virtual paint parties on Facebook Live, providing kits to customers including paints, canvas and brushes. Rather than order from a large retailer, she’s made a point to purchase her goods from a local art supply store. That’s solidarity!

Now, think about how you can do the same if you’re an essential service-provider.

Contractors. Plumbers. Electricians. If you run a service business that hasn’t had its doors closed, you can still connect with local businesses for supplies while you’re out and about.

Additionally, you can make the simple pledge to “shop small” when it comes to dining. For example, support your local restaurants and grocers rather than get delivery from a chain or supermarket.

5. Purchase a gift card as an act of good faith

There’s been a growing trend of locals buying gift cards for neighborhood businesses as a way to shop small and reassure those businesses that customers will be back when this is all over.

And hey, we totally support it! There are other big companies out there doing the same.

Kabbage, an online small business lender, actually created a platform to make it easy for small businesses to sell gift certificates online.

Although the idea is lovely, note that there is some legalese involved.

There are laws on the books regarding how businesses can use the income from gift cards. According to these rules, businesses have to hold the money from gift card sales in “reserve” until the customer actually “spends” the gift card.

This means that your gift card purchase isn’t necessarily immediate cash flow because the business owner can’t use the sale to pay their employees or suppliers.

Does that mean you should give up on gift cards entirely? No way! Note the benefits of supporting businesses via gift cards despite the laws in place:

  • Gift cards are a kind reminder to business owners that customers care
  • Gift cards give business owners some immediate business to look forward to once their doors open
  • Gift cards represent yet another way for businesses to market themselves and remind supporters that they’ll be open soon

Beyond buying a gift card, also think about pre-paying for an appointment for when COVID-19 has passed. This puts money directly in the pockets of the owners with no strings attached and again shows your good faith in a local business.

6. Help others move online or pivot their businesses

If you’re on our blog, chances are you have an online presence and are privy to the world of digital marketing.

That doesn’t mean all business owners are, though.

For example, many small businesses still don’t have a website. Others may not have much in terms of a social presence or marketing strategy.

Those businesses are the ones being hit hardest right now, with no way to accept online payments or arrange deliveries.

But hey, you can be their knight in shining armor. If you have marketing experience as a web designer or social marketer, even as an amateur, consider how you can help others set up their online business. You might be surprised by the positive response you get.

For example, you can offer to design a simple website or add an online store to a fellow business owners’ existing site. Doing so empowers that business to not only make more money now, but get invested in online marketing in the future.

And oh, if you know anyone who needs help with selling their services remotely, our own team at vcita can help with that too! Our solution includes a smooth integration with Zoom, allowing business owners to sell, market, and get paid for services, all from one app!

How are you helping your local small business community?

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: we’re all in this together.

And by paying it forward now, you can start taking action that results in positive change in your local business community.

This sort of motivation and inspiration is exactly what small businesses need right now.

So be the change. Do something good. We bet you’ll receive the same sort of gratitude in return in due time!