As a small business, you are certainly aware of the risks to the health of your business that this pandemic presents. But, there are ways to use this time to our benefit and look to grow and improve business during a time of global crisis.
Many small business owners have limited time to create content for their site blogs in the normal course of the day. But, now, with business slowing a bit, we have been given the gift of time. Starting a blog and writing about topics relevant to your offering maximise interaction with your customer and provide added value to each online customer engagement. You are certainly an expert in your category and a blog is a good way to leverage this expertise and inform your customer base. Also, with the world on lockdown, people are spending more time online and looking for content. So make sure you post and share through social channels to maximise reach, Some simple content ideas to get you started:
- Q&A: Designate someone of interest who is in some way related to your business for a Q&A. For example, if you are a fashion retailer, perhaps send some questions to one of your designers to get insights into summer fashion trends.
- Infographics: You don’t have to be a designer to create an impactful infographic, all you need is a story and some good facts and figures. Platforms such as Canva, Venngage, Piktochart, and Infogram offer free templates so you can create your own infographic without the expense of hiring a design team.
- Newsfeed: Keep up to date with industry trends and repurpose key news content that would impact your customers and is relevant to your business..
- Video: Many of us are looking for new ways to connect with the world during these times. A personal video message to your core customers will go a long way in making those key connections during a time of social distancing
- How to articles: According to search trends, many of us search google on ways to do everyday activities. If you do not have instructions or how to articles and videos on your site related to your offering, you are missing a trick. For example, if you are a hair salon, you may want to create a video series on hair styling tips you can do at home. This will keep your business top of mind for your customer and servicing their needs during this isolation period
While some of us are impacted financially from shop closures, other of us are working from home and still maintaining our full salaries. Those not impacted financially are willing and able to keep shopping. With non-essential shops being closed, these shoppers are limited to online. Therefore, if your business model allows, you should absolutely be looking at maximising your eCommerce offerings. There are some easy to use eCommerce platforms that you can set up yourself offered by Shopfify, Squarespace, and Wix. You can also look to partner with online retailers such as Etsy or Ebay to distribute your product. Given the need for social distancing, you will also need to offer a contactless delivery option so as not to put your customer base and delivery personnel at risk
If delivery is not applicable for your business model, offer discounted vouchers redeemable for when you are open for business. Many of your customers are at home daydreaming about their next holiday, next meal at their favourite restaurant, or a pint with friends at their local. Offer those customers a discounted voucher for when you are able to re-open your doors. This will ensure cash flow now that can keep your business and your family afloat during this period of isolation.
While many small businesses are working with a reduced budget during this time, investing in a small amount of advertising during this time may benefit your business now and in the future. Specifically, paid search can be very effective in keeping your business top of mind for your customer. If you are offering a rather niche product or service that does not have a lot of search competition, you will pay very low rates per click and your investment will be minimal. Also, if your site is currently not ranking in organic search for your business name, paid search is a quick and immediate way to get yourself to the top of the search queries so you can be found by those looking for you. Utilising brand keywords for paid search is also affordable and necessary if your site is not currently ranking.
With all this excess downtime, it is a great time to get out in front of your business planning and create a marketing plan. You don’t need to have a business degree to write a marketing plan, all you need is Google, a good template, and a working knowledge of your industry. There are many marketing plan templates available online for you to leverage, but you can tailor your plan to suit your needs as you see fit. Key components of a successful marketing plan should include:
- Market Research: A detail of market trends including local and global sales trends, industry trends including how it will evolve in future, industry benchmarks, and list of suppliers you rely on and how.
- Customer target: Detailed view of all target customers. You should describe all target types based on demographics, shopping triggers, or mindset. You should also think about designating primary customers vs. secondary customers based on purchase volume and/or buyer vs. end user.
- Product: A full description of your product and unique offering in the marketplace.
- Competitive Landscape: A full list and evaluation of your key competitors. You may also want to look at global offerings that may not be a direct competitor as some of these will offer insight into best practices and business growth.
- Value Proposition: This could be written in the form of a mission statement or commitment to your customers, but it is crucial to both define your offering and describe the unique value that your product and service offers.
- Marketing Strategy: This is the heart of the marketing plan. Your marketing strategy will describe how you intend to reach your target customer. This should be informed by industry trends, customer behaviours, competitive marketing efforts, and product needs. Key marketing tactics include:
- Networking: Attendance / speaker engagements at industry conferences, membership to industry groups both online and offline, and networking through social channels.
- Digital marketing: SEO, PPC, and content marketing will be crucial elements of any digital marketing strategy. Depending on your business model, you should also consider paid social and online advertorials.
- Offline advertising: While TV may be cost prohibitive, broadcast mediums such as local radio and print can be very effective when targeting niche radio program and industry publications.
- Public Relations: Alignment with key local media regarding key product or business announcements can also provide free advertising and links back to your website. To maximise media pick up, you should tailor your stories to local interest stories.
- Direct marketing: This includes sales materials such as brochures and flyers.
- In-store promotion: Advertise upcoming sales, new products, and featured items in store to improve shopping experience and motivate purchase. These items will include signage, banners, product displays, and floor stickers.
- Branding: Branding is not only for the big-brained marketing strategists among us. In fact, many small businesses have a better knowledge of their core brand than anyone. To create your brand, think of your business as a person. Who are they, what do they like, how do they speak, what colours do they wear, what are their core values, what do they want. Defining your business in this way can help create a consistent brand and tone for your business and can help build trust among your customer base.
- Forecast: You should look at creating a 5 year forecast for your business looking at overall profits, overheads, advertising budget, and product costs. Projections should be based on income benchmarks to date and intended growth based on planned business expansion.
While SEO tactics will take at least 6 months to improve your site rankings, if you do have extra time and money to invest, you may want to think about optimising your site for SEO in order to ensure future proofing. Research shows that almost 90% of us research products online before committing to buy. So, to be effectively competitive, you must show up on search for your product or service. Use the time now to update your site for keyword optimisation, implement link-building outreach, and create content for your site.