We are currently facing a rather challenging time. It has made me reflect on the many things we take for granted. And everything that once made our lives easier, from office space or public school for our children, to the convenience and dependability of small businesses.

There’s the restaurant you can depend on for a fun family night out, or the corner shop you can always pop into, last minute, for a loaf of bread or a bottle of wine. There's the trusty petrol station down the street that changes your oil, and don’t forget about the small bookstore, the bakery, or your favourite coffee shop. The list goes on and on. These businesses are always there for us – so let’s be there for them now, when they need us most.

There are millions of entrepreneurs facing difficulty right now. Their businesses are on the line, along with the livelihoods of all of those who depend on it. Today, it's important to let entrepreneurs know that they are not alone. There are many ways we can’t control the ongoing situation, but what we can control, is how we respond to it and how we support small businesses. Small businesses don’t just make our lives more convenient, they’re essential to our communities and our country. To me, small businesses are the most critical component of our economy and society, yet the most vulnerable.


Eight ways to support small businesses

Small businesses across Europe need our support, so here are eight meaningful ways to do that right now.


1. Shop local — even when you shop online:

Don’t assume a business is closed just because their front doors are. Look online to see if they’re still operating. Some businesses have cut hours to keep their shelves stocked and their employees healthy. There are some that have pivoted to online sales. Others are opening pop-ups. Sit down restaurants and bars may offer delivery and takeout for limited hours or at reduced prices.

If a business’s website doesn’t have up-to-date information, check their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds. You can also sign up for their mailing list or give them a call!


2. Refer your friends and neighbors:

Your opinion matters — 85% of small business owners say word-of-mouth referrals are the best way to acquire local customers. If you’re practicing social distancing, spread the love on social media. The simplest way to do that is to follow the social feeds of your favorite businesses and like or comment when they post.

Even better, take a picture of a product you purchased (or the results of a service you received) and post it to your social feed along with a shout-out using #ShopLocal or #SupportLocalBusinesses. Be sure to include helpful information like special offers, discounts, or free delivery.


3. Purchase gift cards or pay in advance:

I love giving gift cards for small businesses because it’s a great way to put your money where your mouth is. You not only guarantee income to the business you recommend, you also send a new customer to their store or website.

You can also buy gift cards now with the intention of using them yourself later. It’s like giving a business a small personal loan when times are tough. If it’s in your budget, pick your top three small businesses and buy two gift cards from each – one for you and one for a friend or family member. Try to think of similar advances you can give to small businesses for future services you might need. 


4. Write an online review:

If a small business has done you right, return the favor by leaving them a glowing recommendation on a review site like Yelp, TripAdvisorGroupon, or OpenTable. Be sure to mention that they’re a small business. Share the name of the owner or any employees who gave you great service. And be specific about why this business is one of your favorites.


5. Order takeout:

While experts differ on the risk factor associated with takeout and delivery, the fact remains these services are an essential lifeline for many people. Some delivery services, including JustEatDeliveroo and Uber Eats, offer contactless delivery where they’ll leave food at your door and let you know when it’s arrived. Even if you never see your delivery person face-to-face, don’t forget to leave a generous tip! Many cooks and drivers are working harder than ever, but have fewer paid hours. 


6. Think small on Amazon:

Can’t imagine shopping without Amazon? That doesn’t mean you can’t support small businesses at the same time. Small firms make up almost half of sales on Amazon sites around the world. Across Europe, SMEs exported over €3 billion worth of goods in the past year by working with Amazon.

When you’re browsing Amazon items, pay attention to who the seller is. If it’s Amazon, look for language like, “All Buying Options” or “Other Sellers on Amazon” to see if you can buy the same thing from a small seller.


7. Take a virtual fitness class:

This suggestion is as good for you as it is for your local gym or fitness studio. Many studios operate a model where the instructors are independent small business owners (contractors) who depend on customers taking their classes to earn fees.

It's hard not to feel sluggish or go stir-crazy after a few days of social distancing, being cooped up in your house or apartment! Luckily, some small gyms and studios are offering new fee-based online classes. Many gyms offer online classes, so look out for these online fitness options and join in!


8. Make a donation:

Some hard-working small businesses simply won’t make it through the crisis without a helping hand. Check online to see if your favorite SMB has set up a fundraiser – or offer your support to your prefered organisation.

The toughest times are more manageable when we stick together. So stay safe, stay healthy, and don’t forget to support the irreplaceable small businesses that make our communities thrive.

Salesforce helps you find more customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can grow faster than ever. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions.

And if you want more tips on navigating change, read other articles in our Leading Through Change series. Find thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis.