Are you a small business owner impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19)? In Utah, small businesses make up 90% of all employers and represent just under half of the state’s total workforce, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. As many businesses are closed, or running at partial capacity, many business owners are looking for new ways to try and keep their businesses alive in a time of crisis. Fortunately, the Internet can help local businesses find way to stay connected with customers and continue turning a profit. Here are some tips that will help your business thrive right now, but also be prepared for any future crisis like COVID-19 that have forever changed how small businesses are run.
Creating short-term and long-term plans
Never stop marketing your business. Even if you run a dental practice that is currently closed to everything except dental emergencies, you need to continue online marketing. Internet traffic for many local businesses offering in-person services (dentistry, carpet cleaning, massage therapy, restaurants) are all seeing declines in traffic right now as many people are concerned about exposure risk, and businesses are following Utah state-issued guidelines.
The importance of online marketing comes down to this, when you STOP marketing your business, you will lose business. Pausing your marketing service will place your business in a situation when you are reactive in June, July and August. When businesses can start opening again, where will your website be as they search for local service? In time, markets will start to recover and many of our friends and neighbors will be back to work and back in their stores. Making marketing decisions based on fear will doom your business.
We recommend creating a business reality plan for 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. Our expert marketing team is here to help you understand your market, and what you need to do in order to get through this crisis. We want to stress to you that there ARE options. While you can look at your past strategies that have worked, we can help you identify other tactics that you have not implemented before. In fact, we recommend local businesses owners should consider marketing MORE during this time.
How can you market with a cash flow shortage?
This is not the time to give up. What can you do if you are trying to stay alive, and have limited funds for marketing? Here’s a marketing game-plan to help you get started:
- Focus on your website. Is this the time to redesign or enhance your website? YES! When traffic is slower to your site, it’s a great time for a website revamp. In a month or two, you can set up a new marketing campaign as the economy reopens to announce your new website and how it makes your customer’s lives easier.
- Google my business. Your best friend online is always going to be Google. Whether you like it or not, Google organic search drives more than 50 percent of all website traffic. Don’t fight against Google recommendations, embrace them and your website will improve.
- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. All your basic social media accounts NEED engagement. Social media provides one of the easiest and simple ways to get in front of your customers. Local business owners can control the messages that are sent to the customers. We have found great success with social media as it not only gets a clear message to the customer, it’s a great way to improve customer relationships. Over 80% of small business revenue comes from existing customers. If you aren’t getting in front of those customers with social media, you could lose them.
- YouTube. Explainer videos are a great way to educate your customers. For example, let’s say you own a plumbing business and you want to connect with your customers. A great way to do this is to film yourself working on a basic repair job. You can offer some troubleshooting tips to the customers on how they can make some repairs on their own. While you think you might be losing business, you won’t. 90% of online shoppers say they will use videos to help them make purchasing decisions. Basic explainer videos give you an opportunity to showcase your skillset to your customers and show people why YOU are the local experts in your industry.
PDM Pro Tip: “Explainer videos less than 15 seconds long are shared 37% more often.”
- Print media. As local business owners are struggling to make ends meet, a number of print media resources are cutting print advertising costs. Ask your account representative about a print marketing campaign that will help you get directly to the doorstep of your target audience.
Know your traffic and clean up your website
If you want to create a comprehensive approach to online marketing, take a look at your analytics data. The referral data can show you if there are other sources you need to update and if there are other places you need to spend time working on in order to remain connected to your customers.
While we know not everyone is an online marketing expert, there are things you can do to clean up your website. Take some time to review every page on your website and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the content relevant to the page?
- Are the images and content outdated?
- Do we have a clear message on our website?
- Is the website easy to navigate?
- Are we driving customers to the right call-to-action areas?
Small business crisis marketing gameplan
Keeping your business connected is vital to business success. Follow our pro tips to make sure your business has a strategy for the next three months:
- Let your customers know you are open for business
- If you are still open, tell your customers! Inform people daily on social media how your business is responding to COVID (or whatever new crisis our country may be dealing with). If you aren’t telling people your business is open, your customers may assume your business is closed. Have a clear message on your website homepage and update those social media accounts! If your business has closed, inform customers what they can do in the meantime and when they can expect to hear back from you if they do try and contact your business.
- Update your website with a pop-up banner
- As previously mentioned, you need to update your website. Your website is your 24/7 sales team. Include a pop-up or banner message that clearly informs your customers how your business is responding to the crisis.
- Update Google my business
- If you do not have a website, focus on your Google my business listing. Your business listing is a valuable way to connect to your customers. Update your hours and you can post on there about staffing issues and why it may take longer to respond to messages during this time.
- During times of uncertainty, people need to know that something is “the same”. A blog post is a great way to let people know that. Keeping your website updated with new and fresh content keeps your website in good graces with Google, in addition to giving you something new you can share with customers on your social media accounts.
- SMS messages
- Do you have a strong customer base that has signed up for a text message service? Text message marketing is a great way to provide an update on business hours and availability.
- Social media
- We already talked about social media, but we want to remind you of the importance of updating your social profiles. The entire world is facing COVID-19 and many people are stuck at home….and bored. People are spending more time on social media, giving your business ample opportunity to get in front of your customers and leads.
PDM Pro Tip: Use community-based groups to inform local customers that your business is open.
- Nextdoor and other local community groups
- Share relevant information with other local websites. Contact your city offices and ask them if they will provide an update about your business on their website and social media accounts. Join Nextdoor to connect with your local customers and share relevant information.
Handling customer contact during COVID-19
If your business is currently interacting with customers in the office, it’s a great time to make sure you are showing HOW your business is responding to COVID-19. Wearing facemasks in the workplace, practicing diligent hand-washing and cleanliness is essential. Bring our your brand message with some promotional materials you can hand out, like hand sanitizer! Showing people how you respond to COVID-19 is bringing them peace of mind as they know the risk of infection occurring from interaction with your business is low thanks to your adherence to OSHA and CDC requirements.
Community giveaways and local support
A great way to share good news with your local audience is by offering a community-related giveaway. There are some great benefits to working with your local city office and finding out how your business can help support current needs. It can be something as simple as donating facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand soap, etc. Local offices are working with businesses to give them adequate support during this time, which brings about some great exposure in the community. Here are a few suggestions on what your business can do to show support:
- Donate supplies like hand sanitizer to key workers
- Donate or sponsor a food giveaway for families in need or to nursing homes and local shelters
PDM Pro Tip: Customers want to know businesses care about them and the community. Do what you can to provide service to strengthen your relationship with the local community.
Strengthen your business reputation
Look for some ways to build your business reputation. Podcasts, digital conferences, and speaking opportunities in your niche market provide you with the ability to truly establish your business as the one “in the know” about your industry. Virtual conferences are a great way to showcase your skillset to your target audience.
Local podcasts are always seeking business owners to interview and discuss various topics. Find a good podcast and reach out to them. Establish yourself as an expert by offering your opinion and return as a guest time and time again to generate more buzz!
How about hosting a digital event? No matter what industry you are in, you can host a digital event. Restaurants can offer a free cooking class and teach people how to make sushi, or some other fun dish! Contractors can show some pro tips on how to correctly finish sheet rocking your business. No matter what industry, you can take your top customer questions and needs and create a date and time to show them to answer with a digital event.
If you have a particular skillset that you would normally charge money for, offer online training courses and charge a small fee. You’d be surprised to see how many people will sign up for a course if you are the expert teaching them valuable information.
PDM Pro Tip: A good email list and a clean marketing message will help deliver the correct information to your core audience and will encourage them to share it with others.
Deep breaths….online traffic will return
We don’t have all the answers, but we know online traffic will return. People are searching online, even if your business is currently closed. When things calm down and people begin returning to their workplaces, searches will increase. In the meantime, we recommend staying on top of Google Trends and finding ways to offer answers to questions. Find a way to make trending searches relatable to your industry.
We’re here to help
At Performance Driven Marketing, we focus on helping local businesses thrive with responsive websites, and smart online marketing techniques to enhance online visibility and help you stay in touch with your existing customers while also finding new business. We know some industries are being hit harder than others. We are here to help your local business create a plan of action for the COVID crisis and future crisis. As a small business ourselves, we value our community and our customers, and we are here to help and support you. Contact our Ogden marketing team to find out how we can assist you with online marketing now and in the future!