Jamie Ezra Mark

4 powerful ways for small businesses to connect while social distancing

Connection is still the heartbeat of business. No matter what products or services your small business offers, we bet connection with customers and employees is key to your success as well. The question is, how do you stay connected in a world where social distancing is the norm? Here are some steps you can take this week.

Connect with Customers

When was the last time you talked with one of your customers? That is, without looking for that outstanding invoice. Now is the perfect time to shift your focus from making sales to adding value on a much more personal level.

Two easy ways to start today:

  1. Break out that mailing list—if you don’t have one, now’s a good time to put one together—and offer your customers something for their time. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overthink it.
  2. Whether they visit your office or meet you on Zoom, connect with one customer/client on a personal level. Every day. Ask them how they’re doing. Dig past the “I’m fine” platitudes with specific questions. And then ask if there is anything a small business like yours could do to help. A little compassion turns customers into ambassadors.

DO NOT talk about COVID-19. They already know.

Connect with Employees

Employees are happiest when they feel trusted, valued, and safe in their jobs. Even if you’ve been in the unfortunate position of furloughing your staff, it is so worthwhile to reach out to them, make sure they’re OK, see if there is a way you can offer them help. If you invest in your employees now, they will be more invested in you in the future.

One thing to do this week:

  1. Take a moment to have fun (while practicing social distancing, of course). Schedule an employee game night over Zoom, or plan a virtual happy hour. If you’re in the office, order pizza for the staff. Everyone working from home? Deliver homemade cookies or simply snail mail a handwritten note to everyone on your team.

DO NOT send a group text. Pick up the phone and make it personal.

Connecting with Positivity

You, us, and everyone else in the world, we’re looking for a break. We skim Twitter or watch TV in order to laugh, smile, or escape from today’s troubles. A recent 33 percent spike in fiction book sales can be directly attributed to the pandemic for that very reason. Consider becoming a source of that break for someone else by sharing stories and positivity with followers and customers.

Three ways we at Em are staying positive while social distancing:

A picture of Josh.

Josh just wrapped up Grant by Ron Chernow and Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything is next. His book count for April is 16; he plans to top it in May.

A picture of Rheya.

Rheya is an eighth of the way through the adult coloring book Ivy and the Inky Butterfly and is proud her markers are still going strong.

A picture of Heather.

Twice a week, Heather takes the neighbor kids on a socially-distant bike ride so their parents can have 20 minutes of alone time.


When anxieties are so high, it’s easy for small business owners—who are naturally passionate about their work—to spend every moment of every day crunching numbers and stretching dollars. They worry more, skip meals, and lose sleep. (We’re looking at our own Jamie here.) This always-on approach is called panic working, and it can wear you, your family, and your finances down.

The mantra for times like these should be “slow and steady wins the race.” Keep your sights on the two or three most important aspects of your small business. Write them down. Stick them to the wall. Work on those and set the rest aside.

Do this one thing:

  1. Set time limits on your devices. Many devices have this feature built in, and there are plenty of apps that help limit your screen time.

We’re a small ad agency and, just like you, we’re dealing with a lot of challenges we never imagined—closed businesses, social distancing, stay-at-home orders and all. With so much we can’t control, we are choosing to focus on what we can do. Our “Emphasis” series is the manifestation of one of our top can-dos: helping other businesses.

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