What Small Businesses Can Do During COVID-19
We’re living through an unprecedented time in world history, and as a business owner you’ve been hit with a situation you could have never predicted or prepared for. There’s no class in business school, no Dave Ramsey rainy day fund rule that readies you for a sudden disruption to society like this.
As a marketer, there’s no playbook for this either. I wish I had a way to deliver a tried and true estimation of search demand, or conversion rates, or what ad copy people will or won’t respond to in order to buy from you right now. Nothing will be predictable or certain. But as we’re reminded more than ever right now: do not let perfect be the enemy of good.
But with experience comes instincts, and with passion and determination comes creativity and execution. We’ve been spending the last couple weeks working with clients on individual marketing plans, messaging, and in some cases almost entirely new business models adapted to our current environment. Here is some of what we’ve come up with that you can do to market your business for right now as well as when we’re through this:
1. Control Your Business Information – The first thing you need to do is make sure you keep your business information accurate, on your website, Google My Business and Facebook at least.
This comes in two forms. The first is updating anything you’ve had to change to adapt to new laws and recommendations. Are you open? Have special hours? Adjusting your offerings? Anything you decide to change needs to be updated everywhere. You can use the Special Hours section to do this for now, though Google is rumored to be adding a button to allow you to mark your listing Temporarily Closed soon.
Heads up though (and this is form two): Google may try to mark your listing closed for you if you indicate you are. The issue being it doesn’t seem clear at this point if they are marking you Permanently or Temporarily Closed:
— Lane Rizzardini (@lanerizz) March 20, 2020
So just keep an eye on this to ensure Google doesn’t mark you Permanently Closed when you aren’t, or change any of your information. They are sending emails, so make sure you check that inbox.
2. Offer Virtual Appointments – Instead of people coming into your store, or you going to their house for an estimate, offer to hold a meeting over video call! We’ve helped a few clients pivot to this model really quickly with success.
If you sell products, you can show them options. If you normally go to their house for an estimate, they can show you their space, take measurements, and put together an estimate that way. You don’t need Zoom or some fancy meeting platform. FaceTime or Google Hangouts will work great and more people will have that already.
This has been popular for industries that require a visual element to their meetings. Really anything that requires an in-person meeting or estimate. We may even keep these options around for these clients after we’re back to normal.
A great example is from Moxie Space Professional Organizers, who offer Virtual Organizing appointments. You can FaceTime with a professional organizer, who can coach anyone through organizing their pantry, closet, garage, anything. It’s a great opportunity since people stuck at home finally have that time to get organized!
The key to advertising this is remembering that your primary competition right now is probably E-Commerce, not other local businesses. Which means your target market is people who want to interact with a human being and have their questions answered by an expert. You can also highlight how they will be supporting local business, as that is a big rallying cry for people right now.
3. Content Content Content – Everyone and their cousin tells you content is king, and good SEO requires good content. And you’re totally going to do it, right after you send that invoice and call that customer back and drive out to the job site and pay that bill and put your kids to bed.
But now (assuming you do have more time on your hands) is the time to hunker down and start writing.
Not a good writer? Someone in your business or family is, get them to help you edit it. You’re the expert, it should come from you, someone else can handle the grammar.
Don’t know what to write? Here’s where to start: Write down the top 5 questions you get from prospective customers. Those are your first five content pieces. If they’re asking you, they’re also asking the internet before calling you.
Don’t worry about search volumes or competitiveness. Just focus on practical, real world questions and objections from your real life customers and you will benefit.
Still need some guidance? Call us, we’ll get you pointed in the right direction.
4. Start Creating Future Business – People aren’t cancelling their weddings, or corporate retreats, or business trips. They’re postponing them. When they reschedule, it will likely be for a date where there are already events and activities scheduled.
Meaning there will likely be twice as much demand for your services.
Start reminding customers of that NOW, and offer to reserve a spot on your schedule before someone else does. Make it low risk with a refundable deposit up until some days before the event, or offer half off deposits, whatever gets them at least mentally attached to you.
If you’re in the event and hospitality industries, and especially if you’re in the wedding industry, start getting this messaging out and build your business for the future.
5. Monitor Your Market – During this uncertain time many businesses are going to pull back. They may close their stores, or pull back on their marketing efforts as they struggled to adapt. If you’re able, this opens an opportunity to look at your new competitive landscape and invest wisely in your marketing efforts.
Many businesses will use this lower barrier to entry to leverage technology, expertise, and creativity to gain a competitive advantage that will pay off both short and long-term. Opening new marketing avenues or revenue streams, such as the virtual services mentioned above, can become a staple for some businesses who are being positively reactive to the new market. You may discover hidden preferences within your customer base for how they prefer to shop, buy, or like to be engaged with.
Take a look at what is happening around you, what your competitors are doing, and use your available resources, whether that be time or monetary, to build for the future, today.
Things look bleak right now, and we do not know what the immediate future holds. But you’re a business owner, which means you know risk, you thrive in uncertainty, and you don’t quit when things get tough. You focus on what you can control, you focus on what you know, and you keep pushing, finding a way to do that thing you do better than anyone else, set in the values you’ve constructed your successful business around.
You do that and you’ll still be standing on the other side, stronger than before. We’ll see you there.
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