Unless you are an essential service, or an online storefront, business has gone to hell in a handbasket real quick – how will your business survive this economic crisis?
That is the BIG question and the cause of much stress for small business owners.
Rather than focus on the doom and gloom of Covid-19, today we’re focusing on what you can do to help not only your business, but your customers as well. Believe me, they will appreciate your concern for their well-being and remember you when all this is said and done.
One thing we know: Consumers are online
The coronavirus cannot be spread from surfing the net, and since your customers are stuck in their homes that is exactly what they are doing (avoiding the news as much as possible). But they are watching movies, taking courses, researching for planned projects or major purchases and preparing for the day they can come out of hiding. And, believe it or not – they are still buying, cautiously, but doing so online rather than in person!
I read this article the other day that offers insights of how business handled the crisis during 9/11. It was an interesting read with insights, even I hadn’t thought of…
“Marketing helps drive commerce. Marketers have an opportunity to give consumers a reason to spend—deals, products, services—even when we are bunkered up and hunkered down.” ~ Bradley Johnson, Ad Age, Director of Data Analytics
What Can Your Business Do NOW?Below we have compiled a list of things you can do to keep your marketing going throughout this economic and health crisis as well as plan for the future operations of your business.
- Social Media: Keep it Going
Keep your customers informed of what you are doing as it relates to Covid-19: new procedures if you are still open for business; new services if you have switched to online services or curbside pick-up; what you are doing to protect your customers; how you are assisting your employees. Also share local information that will assist your customers. And continue to inform and educate your fans and followers about your products and services. And, if you have pre-scheduled posts – check them to see if anything should be altered given the current situation.
- Reach Out to Your Customers
Pick up the phone and call your customers. We are social creatures and will appreciate the real conversation vs another facebook post or email message. This call isn’t to sell – just to say hello and check on their well-being, and maybe what can you do to help...
- Continue or Revive Your Email Marketing Program
Yes, even though #2 says to call, it is important to continue your email marketing program – ensuring the messaging is more so informational than selling (unless you have a product or service that is truly beneficial in this crisis). Offer estimates for future planning, consultations, and don’t be afraid to throw in a ‘feel good’ or ‘funny’ something to lighten your customers' spirits.
- Offer an online call-in for your customers using a tool like Zoom, What’s App, Facetime or Zoho meeting. Again not to sell, but offer perspective, chat with your customers or just listen… There have been quite a few new online chats started for this purpose through facebook groups. If you are not comfortable hosting one yourself, share another group’s online chat.
"A wise owl lived in an oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?"
- Create a resource area on your website for your customers to help them through the crisis (share this regularly).
- Create and send a postcard or printed newsletter via Canada Post (the mail is still going through). A friendly greeting card or hello will be welcomed rather than another bill. (If you’re local printshop is closed due to Covid-19, there are many online resources for printing.
What Else Can You Do For Your Business?
Every business has a ‘when I find time’ list. Pull that list out, start working on some of the items in this list – it will help you take your mind off the current situation and know that you are preparing for the future of your business. If you don’t have a ‘when I find time’ list (which I would find hard to believe), we have put together a list for you.
- Update Your Website
Have you kept your website up-to-date with new content, products and services? Looked at your SEO recently? When was the last time you wrote a blog article? Maybe the site needs a complete overhaul to be mobile-friendly, be secure, allow for e-commerce. One thing this pandemic is teaching people is how to do even more online – it will continue when the crisis is over. Prepare for it!
- Check and update all your online listings.
Is your Google My Business listing current? What about all the other directory listings you are on. Go through each and update each ensuring the information is the same everywhere you appear. This is important for showing up in search results.
- Reputation Management
Put together a program to get testimonials from your customers and ask for their referrals. Referrals are a great way to boost any business – incentivize the referral process: Give tickets to a local event (when they start happening again that is), or an Amazon gift card (this one you can purchase online), partner with one of your suppliers for a ‘unique-to-you’ gift idea.
- Create and/or Reassess Your Marketing and Business Plan
Your goals and plans for 2020 have now changed due to the pandemic – be sure to revisit your business plan and marketing plan to make the necessary adjustments required – redo the S.W.O.T. analysis as it will have changed as well. Be prepared for the future when the crisis is over.
- Analyze your data
What products or services sell the best? How do your customers find you? Which pages on your website work, which don’t? Are your expenses inline with where they need to be? Knowing information that is accumulated through your accounting system, Google analytics, social insights and more can help you make better decisions about your business. So many business cannot answer basic questions, don’t be one of them!
- Prepare A Risk Assessment Plan
This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of any business. None of us prepare for a crisis such as this one, leaving us grasping at straws when we find ourselves in the midst of one. Facebook has two documents just for this purpose which you can find here: they are at the bottom – while on this page also sign up for news about their new business grant program.
- Get your customer and prospects database in order.
In my 30+ years of business, I have found many business owners do not have a complete list of current and past customers, nor a means of tracking prospects and leads. This leads to wasted time in finding contact information, no one location to get the information you require about a customer’s purchases, history, preferences, etc. and no way of reaching out to these customers or prospects in a timely fashion. Organize your contacts (start by putting them in spreadsheet) outlining things like current, past client, lead, potentials, industry, product interest etc. Once this is done look at getting a CRM (customer relationship management system for your business). This will let you keep everything in one location, assign tasks, create workflows, write notes with each interaction and much more (more on this in another article to come).
- Get an Email Marketing System (ESP)
Sending out emails to your clients through your regular email is not efficient, nor does it give you the data you need to make informed decisions about your customers’ or potential customers’ interest. An email marketing system will track who opens your email, which links they click and depending on the system, may allow triggered and automated responses based on the action taken.
- Add a chat feature to your website for instant communication with your customers
- Write policy and procedural manuals for your team
- Create an onboarding system for your clients
Welcome your clients, how to reach you what to expect and more
- Create a follow up system
A series of emails/calls to ensure your customer is completely satisfied and keep them engaged with you and your business.
- Set up a customer support desk
This one will not only ensure you have happy customers, it will keep you and your team organized and communicating effectively at all times. It can be a bit of work to set this up, but you will thank yourself for it down the road. The customer support desk will act as a self-serve model for your clients as well as provide interaction with your team if done right.
- Create that online course you have always wanted to do
B2B or B2C, there are so many possibilities to educate your customers. I’m sure you have had an idea in this regard. With all the online applications today, building a course is easier than you think.
- Create the membership website you have always wanted
Again, easier than you think with a little planning and the tools available today. Ask us, we can steer you in the right direction.
- Implement tools for your employees to work from home easier.
- Contact your IT person to add security protocols for employees working from home
- Write a working from home guide for your employees
Include your security protocol measures such as password protection, encryption, dedicated laptop/phone/tablet etc.
When this is over – business will flourish!