We have championed the startup and SME community in Southeast Asia, and at this trying time, we’re trying to see where we can best add value.

With stay-at-home or movement restriction orders in most countries in the region, the retail, travel, tourism and pretty much all industries have taken a beating. Startups and SMEs are facing unprecedented issues in keeping businesses afloat during this period.

Rather than offer retrospective views on what can work, we researched and spoke to founders, business leaders and experts to find out what businesses can do in the short-term to stay afloat and reduce the regression of their business.

Here’s what they suggest.

Switch to digital or even social selling

Have a product or 12, but nowhere to sell it. Though businesses are struggling, there is still demand and a need from consumers.

shallow focus photo of man in gray collared top taking selfie

Retailers can switch to different digital options for selling. Some of these include:

  • Listing on all ecommerce platforms like Lazada, Shoppee and Amazon
  • Trying social selling on Facebook or Instagram live to generate sales through your social following

The variety of tech options available for free or low cost, makes it easier than ever to go digital with little or no experience.

For enterprise businesses, chances are your clients are still open for business, so though it would be different, there is probably less impact in your industries.

Use incentives and discounts smartly

What are your most urgent needs. For business owners like SYNC CEO Terng Shing Chen, it is immediate cashflow.

Cash solves everything and as a service provider, we can be a bit more flexible with our pricing. This allows us to offer discounts on some of our services like digital marketing, advertising and content to startups and SMEs. This helps us increase our cashflow, which is crucial, but also gains us market share for long-term growth as well.

Terng Shing, SYNC

For other businesses, digital gift cards can create recurring purchases from customers. To further incentivise your customers, you can even consider the following:

  • Partner with complementary businesses that create co-marketing opportunities to acquire new customers. Cross promotion across each others network can help sustain both businesses without competition.
  • Create package offerings that might discount your services, but help generate immediate sales and have the benefit of creating long-term clients.

Get out there and sell your business or self

Most of us are home right now, irregardless of which country you are in. As we are probably working from home and actually might have a bit of extra time (there is literally no business for some companies), you might want to consider using that time for something. Write for publications like us or many others like:

This took us 5 minutes to research and find these options. With a bit of effort you can find dozens more great websites that accept quality contributions. Use it as an opportunity to increase visibility of your brand and promote yourself, service or products – in a subtle way.

Here’s a pro-tip from Terng Shing:

Maximise any publicity and if you get published, if you’re not using it in your email campaigns, website or any other way, then you’re wasting it. There is no reason to be passive with your content, so use it any way possible.

Terng Shing, SYNC

Support your fellow startups and SMEs

This may seem a bit like fluff, but supporting your local ecosystem is critical. The knock-on impact of providing revenue to starving businesses is critical to maintain equilibrium. While larger corporations likely have enough resources to survive this crisis, the rest of the businesses need your support to ensure a competitive market in a few months.

gray and blue Open signage

A retailer earning revenue can afford to pay suppliers, who can then afford to purchase other services and so on. The cycle continues and can ensure a steady economy and business environment once this is all over.