In an incredibly short time, the Coronavirus has radically changed how we live and conduct business. That doesn’t mean that everything has ground to a halt. Whether your business is open or closed it is important that you find ways to stay connected with your customers and build your business’ future. Even as businesses begin to reopen staying connected will be critical to help restart business growth.
Think of ways to provide useful information and whenever possible strike a positive note. Since there is lots of information about the pandemic available and it can be hard to fact check everything, move beyond that unless it directly relates to your business. Tell folks about:
- your business’s plans and how you can serve them now or in the future
- how you have supported the community
- A local community service that folks can support
- a client’s experience, aka a testimonial
- an online special usable now or in the future; give people an opportunity to support your business now or when you reopen.
What are some specific tools you can use to stay visible?
- Make sure your website is updated. You can let customers and prospects know that how you are serving them during the virus or if you are forced be closed, when you will reopen. Take time to make sure that the information on your website is clear, easy to find and correct. If you start posting regularly on social media, make sure you have links to your profiles and include a news feed on your site.
- SEO and SEM. With everyone turning to online sources check to see how your site ranks for key terms associated with your business. You may need to hire folks to support your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts, or do SEM (search engine marketing) to make sure you appear in search results.
- Make sure GOOGLE MY BUSINESS information is correct. You can note special hours and services to help your customers know your availability during the pandemic.
- Post regularly on social media. If you haven’t been connecting on social media, this is a great time to start! Use Facebook live, pre-recorded video or pictures to share pictures of products, client stories, quick tips, even something funny or positive to brighten your audience’s day. You can even go live on Facebook to interview clients or share expert advice from other professionals.You can save time by cross postings items. Make sure the material plays well across the different platforms and your audiences who follow on multiple platforms don’t feel spammed. You may be better off cross promoting instead.
- Hold teleconferences in place of face to face meetings. Be sure to be a professional even from home—the rules about business dress and planning still apply. Make sure the channel you use is secure too. Teleconferences can be done through formal online vendors (GoTo Meeting, Zoom, WebEx, etc) or tools such as Facetime, Skype, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger.
- Call you clients by phone. Its nice to hear a friendly voice and it has a personal touch that is hard to beat. Besides, not everyone is setup or wants to teleconference so a phone call may be a great way to reach people. For businesses with really large client lists break up the list, and call your most important clients first. They may not take the call, but the personal connection shouldn’t hurt.
- Send out useful email blasts. Include information about products that are or will be available, online deals, client stories etc. There are email/CRM services like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Act, and Zoho which allow you to send out professional email blasts. What list should you use? Start with your own email contacts because buying lists with quality can be difficult and expensive.
Prepare your staff on how to handle your new “long distance relationships”
As your office environment shifts, you may assign calls to your staff. Make sure your team is trained on how to take and handle calls. Have a script to make certain calls are professional, and information provided is consistent. You also need to create a plan about how to handle problems and how to redirect calls for problems which require additional attention. If you are using teleconferencing establish appropriate standards for dress and call environments too.
If you are an essential business and staying open, use signage and the tools listed above to make sure customers know what precautions you are taking to keep everyone safe. Have hand sanitizer or a place to wash their hands upon entering the facility. If using masks and or protective barriers, remember that although such equipment will keep people safer it can be harder to hear and be understood. Just like dealing with the pandemic, patience is critical.
Wouldn’t it be great if things were back to normal in just a few weeks? However, that probably won’t happen. It’s best to plan for a longer period of isolation. Use this time, particularly if your business is closed, to review your marketing goals and tools. Remember that marketing is just a form of very focused, goal -oriented communication. Make sure you are communicating the ideas to your audience and give them incentives to stay involved.
This article was originally published in the April issue of PNRC’s Corridors.