Practical ways to support and grow your business throughout this period of social distancing.
I’d like to talk about some practical ways you can support and grow your business throughout this period of social distancing and business closures. We all know that this has been devastating for many business owners, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t affected by it somehow. In moments like this, I believe that we have two choices: fight or flight. How we handle these outside forces is what will make the biggest difference in what shape we are in when we come out the other side.
So fight or flight. What does that mean? When faced with challenges, we can freeze up and shut down, or we can find a way to keep moving forward despite the adversity. Our forward motion may be slow, it may seem like we are standing still, but we can still generate motion that will have positive effects on our future sales as well as our current sales. I liken this to a plant. When you root a baby plant, for the first few months, you see almost no new growth. But, the plant is growing and expanding its root system first, preparing itself for better upwards and outwards growth.
In short, I believe we can use this time to grow ourselves and our businesses.
Here’s some ways that you can pivot or grow throughout these strange times.
1. Online Meetings
This is the simplest way to adjust to the current restrictions and most of you should be versed in the general concept by now. But, the transition to online meetings has not been smooth for many businesses and there are a few things you should be aware of.
First, you’ll want to take a steps to make sure your video conferencing is secure. In the last week or so, a new trend has popped up called Zoom Bombing. Spammers will search for open Zoom meetings and interrupt the meetings by yelling profanities, screen sharing pornography or other profane and disruptive content. There are a few things you can do to limit this and lock down your zoom meetings.
- You can mute any new attendees on entrance.
- You can disable screen sharing for users, other than the admin.
- Lastly, you can have a virtual waiting room, where any new users have to be admitted. This will allow you to screen users and only allow the users you recognize.
Secondly, if your business requires you to sell a service, you may have learned early on that in-person meetings are more effective than phone. Every sales pitch is different, but I have found video to be almost as effective as in-person meetings. Unlike phone, you can communicate via body language along with your speech. Potential clients can see your face, read the fine movements, and learn about who you are. It is also easier to stay focused on the conversation when video is involved (for you AND your client). When making a sales pitch, try to get users onto a video call instead of just resorting to the phone.
You’ll want to make sure your video conferencing is as easy-to-use as possible. For me, I set up a scheduling platform, where users can schedule their own meetings. Once they do, they immediately receive a link to a Zoom meeting that is already set up for us. This takes out a lot of the planning and guesswork that can be involved when a client is unfamiliar with the platform. You can also offer other platforms, such as Go-To-Meeting or FaceTime, so the client can choose whatever platform they are most comfortable with.
An online store can be a great way to increase your sales, and carry you through when your brick and mortar is closed. This is something that I see put on the back burner a lot, especially in our area where sales are driven by street traffic and tourism. You may not have had the time to build an online store, or saw the importance of it. Or perhaps you have an online store, but it has not the success you hoped it would have.
And with the brick and mortar closed, now is the time to catalog your inventory and build out an online store. If you are looking for an option with low startup costs, Shopify is a great place to start. With a low monthly fee, and a repository of stable themes, you can get started with a little bit of brain power and effort. Feel free to start small with a number of your best sellers and build out as you go.
I’ve seen some local businesses doing COVID-19 coupon codes, a flat percentage off all sales, or offering free shipping and delivery. All of these are great incentives to get people shopping.
I also have a few clients who are offering discounts on gift cards, as a way to bring in cash. 20% off all gift cards over $100, or whatever works for your business. Many locals would like to support their favorite businesses, and this is an easy way to allow them to do so.
Keep in mind that it is unlikely that your e-commerce store will be found accidentally. Just like your website, this is not a “Build it and They will Come” scenario. You have to market your online store! But now is a great time to do so, as potential clients have more time than ever on social media.
3. Social Media
During this period of social distancing, social media has been a vital platform for communication amongst friends and family. Users who are furloughed, out of work, or even working from home are clocking in more hours on social media than ever. And they are shopping! We don’t have a lot of accurate statistics yet, but the numbers we have seen are showing a sharp uptick in online shopping and social media time.
This makes it a great way to maintain connected to your user base, who suddenly might have a lot of time on their hands. Even when you are closed, you can remain top of mind, and push out any online specials or deals you might have.
If you are struggling on WHAT to post, I have a few guidelines to get you started. To create a consistent and quality driven social media marketing plan, you’ll want to schedule your content ahead of time. Scheduling is key. There are many online platforms that will help you do that, such as Buffer, Later or Hootsuite. Several have free plans to get you started as well.
Secondly, find a number for weekly posts that you think you can sustain. Consistency is better than a quantity or a specific number, and is better than perfect. Social media is fast and short lived, so don’t worry about your content being perfect and 100% polished.
In general, 30%-40% of your posts should be sales focused such as product you want to feature, a sale you are having or your business’ driving purpose. These are called “Selling Posts”. The second 30% should be industry focused, or less direct sales pitches. For example, if you are in real estate, you can talk about recent stats, featured neighborhoods, a new house that came on the market, or other topics that while are relevant to your industry, are not a direct path back to a sales pitch. You can even link to relevant content that is not your own. This is okay!
The final third should be local content or fun content, that has very little to no sales pitch. Good ideas for local posts are photos of events, holidays, humorous memes, any sort of interesting content that your audience will appreciate.
I’m sure you are wondering why we even bother with social media that doesn’t sell your product and service. And that is the biggest mistake that I see business owners make when starting with social media. They sell too much, and turn off their users quickly. Only selling on social media is like only talking about yourself at a dinner party. People can see right through and are often turned off. Most of the time, people are on social media to be SOCIAL. They want to talk to their friends, see pictures of cute babies and pets, read funny memes and decompress after a day of work. But, we can capitalize on their attention by offering a good mix of fun and interesting posts, with the occasionally selling post. Social media should be more about communication, telling your story, brand awareness and less about selling your product or service.
Keep in mind that these numbers are not hard and fast. If you have an industry that is very visually appealing, such as shopping or restaurants, you can have more “sales-focused” posts than an industry that has a drier content, such as financial planning, real estate or even web design.
These are just a few guidelines to get you started, and the best way to learn is by doing it.
4. Revamp your Website
Many clients know that they need a website, but they think of their website as static. You build it, and then you forget about it. It just lives out there in cyberspace, doing something you don’t quite understand. Unfortunately, this “built it and forget it” method will not harness the full potential of your website. Your website should be a powerful tool, driving in leads and selling for you at all hours of the day and night.
Now is a good time to go over your website and see if you can make it work a bit harder. Here are a few places to start.
- Your web copy. I suggest going over every page and read every word. If the copy is over a year old, I suggest you reread it entirely. Copy and paste it into Word documents, that you can easily edit it for grammar, flow and clarity. Does it make sense? Does it read smoothly? Does the message shine through?
- Imagery. Check every image and make sure it’s still relevant. Do the images look small? Do they look outdated? Are they fuzzy or out of focus? Consider replacing any images that aren’t telling your story well. Styles and trends on the internet move fast, and your imagery can become outdated very very quickly.
- Traffic. Check your Google Analytics. How is your traffic moving on your site? Google Analytics can be a little difficult to understand when you are first looking at it, but there are four main stats you’ll want to pay attention to: your overall traffic, your bounce rate, and your entry and exit pages. These will tell you whether or not people are looking past the first page, and how they are moving around the website. Look for any holes or points where you might lose people, and brainstorm ideas for how you can improve the site.
- Check your SEO. How is your website ranking for your top keywords? Do you know what your keywords are? You might think that you don’t have any keywords. Keywords are like a personal style. Everyone has one, but if you haven’t put any thought into it or don’t know what yours is, you aren’t doing it right. It is unlikely that you will rank well without some targeted SEO here.
There are a few basic tools which can help you know where you are ranking. SEO Edge is an iOS app that allows you to check the rankings of 5 keywords for free. If you do Google yourself, make sure that you are signed out of Google, or in Incognito Mode because your own history can skew the results.
5. Write future blog posts.
This is something that even the most marketing focused clients struggle with. There just never seems to be enough time for writing. Now is a good time to build out a few posts that you can publish over the next few weeks. If you are struggling with WHAT to write about, here’s a few ideas to get you started.
- What questions do you get regularly? Consider writing a blog post answering that question. Most likely if people are calling to ask the question, they are searching for it online as well.
- Do you have any new products or brands? Write about them and why they are unique. If the brand has a specific purpose, write about that.
- Write a post about WHY you do what you do?
If you are really averse to writing, you can start by writing a list of topics. For each topic, write out some bullet points or notes about what you’d like to say in this post. You can hire out the actual writing part, but the bullet points will be the knowledge and experience behind the post.
That about wraps up our 5 tasks you can work on to improve your business during the COVID-19 closures.
This was a presentation done in conjunction with Breckenridge based “Virtual Business Coffee”, during the COVID-19 Corona Virus business closures.