woman getting hair done in salon with masks on
From rewarding your loyal customers to updating your space creatively, these effective reopening ideas will help businesses pave their way back to success post-coronavirus. — Getty Images/svetikd

As states reopen for business, it’s time to consider your reopening plan. There are lots of precautionary health measures small business owners can consider taking to protect staff and customers. Beyond safety, however, reopening will require excellent communication, creativity and lots of patience on everyone’s part. Here are a few ideas how to prepare your business for reopening.

[Read more: A Guide to Reopening Your Business]

Tell customers what to expect

Many consumers are understandably apprehensive about visiting stores and shopping in-person. Safety and cleanliness are critical when trying to put shoppers’ minds at ease. Proactively communicate before you open what you are doing to make sure customers who visit will be kept safe. What sanitizing processes will you and your team follow regularly? How many people will be allowed on the premises at one time? How will you handle other customers who don’t wear masks? Post your reopening procedures on your social media channels and send it via email to dispel any confusion.

Reward loyal customers first

There’s no reason why your reopening can’t also be a marketing opportunity. Social distancing is an opportunity to offer “exclusive access” to some of your most loyal customers. Salons, for example, are likely to have a waiting list of customers itching to patronize your business. “Do you have a segment of clients that are big spenders—both on services and product? Think about reaching out to this group and inviting them to book with you first. It’s a great way to boost your revenue while making your VIP clients feel special,” suggested the experts at MindBody.

If you don’t have a loyalty program set up, consider starting a waitlist for certain products or services. An online scheduling tool will help you schedule appointments in advance of your first day open while allowing you to block time between each visitor for sanitizing your office or meeting space.

Social distancing restrictions may make it difficult, if not impossible, to open your space as usual.

Update your products and services

“What your customers may want from you going forward will likely look different than what they wanted from you before the pandemic,” wrote one expert in USA Today.

Small businesses are reopening to a new reality, and need to adjust their offering accordingly. Barbershops and hairstylists will be seeing clients who haven’t had a haircut in weeks, if not months. And it won’t be possible to take back-to-back appointments anymore, as stylists will need time to disinfect workstations between clients. Prioritize the products and services that are the safest to offer and have the highest margins. Simplify your inventory or service list until it becomes clear what customers are buying.

Use your space creatively

Social distancing restrictions may make it difficult, if not impossible, to open your space as usual. Get creative with where you can expand your floor plan. Many cities are allowing restaurants to set up tables on sidewalks, in parking lots, even in certain streets. Other restaurants are having fun with indoor distancing measures: the Inn at Little Washington restaurant in Virginia seated mannequins at some tables instead of leaving the seats empty.

Fun ideas for enforcing social distancing aren’t limited to restaurants. Fitness studios can explore using public parks to host workout classes. Florists can partner with nurseries or gardening centers to sell on their outdoor premises. Look for a similar business in your neighborhood where you may be able to cross-sell or share space safely.

[Read more: Small Businesses Adapt, Plan for Growth Amid Pandemic Struggles]

Put your digital tools to use

Try to maintain a portion of your sales process online. For instance, one toy store in Chicago offers a Google Form that customers can fill out before they arrive to shop for toys. The form mimics the questions a sales representative would usually ask when a customer is browsing. By filling out the form in advance, the toy store can recommend ideas for a gift ahead of time, cutting down the amount of time spent browsing.

Other businesses are using their social media to encourage repeat visits. Fitness studios, for instance, have been starting daily challenges to keep their clients coming in for workouts. “Plan an attendance, social-media, and/or referral-based challenge around your reopening to get clients back into gear and spreading the word about your services. It doesn’t have to be competitive or focused on any specific goal; it just needs to encourage your clients to jump back in where they left off,” wrote MindBody experts.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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