Question:  The pandemic has dealt severe damage to my bottom line. Every time things begin to improve, another variant emerges. What is a small business owner to do?

Answer:  I feel your pain. It's a real possibility that Covid, in one form or another, will be with us for a long time. We may have to get yearly booster shots much like we do for the flu. If that's the case businesses will have to find ways to deal with it, much like any natural disaster.

Now is the time to revisit your business plan. If you are a retail operation that depends on foot traffic you need to rethink your marketing strategy. Since the onset of this pandemic online sales have skyrocketed. Customers who are reluctant to venture out have found other ways to shop and have their purchases delivered to their home.

You may need more than just an informational web site. You may need a "selling" web site. This is a site that has been optimized in such a way that whatever words a customer types into their internet browser, it directs them to your site. This is called search engine optimization or SEO.

Unless you are really creative and computer savvy you probably do not have the expertise required to do it yourself. There are those who do this for a living but they do not come cheap. To have a professional design or redesign a web site and optimize it can cost upward of $25,000 for a small business. Then there is the added cost of maintaining it from month to month.

 You can certainly try to do it yourself but ultimately, if you want it turn around your lagging sales, you may have to bite the bullet and chalk it up to another cost of doing business.

There are other things you may wish to consider including downsizing. If foot traffic is down, fewer people are necessary to service customers. Rather than letting long-time, loyal employees go, you may also think of ways to retrain and reinvent your business, offering new or different services to customers.

And speaking of customers, have you reached out to them by telephone or email to ask how they are doing, what they are doing differently, and what can you do to make their life easier during these difficult times. The personal approach is something that has gone missing in these fast-paced times we all live in. There are no easy answers but perhaps your local SCORE counselor can help you find them.

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 Gray Poehler is a volunteer business counselor with the Naples Chapter of SCORE that offer free and confidential counseling to small business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs. To request a counselor log in to www.naples.score.org/mentors or call 239-430-0081.