What an uncertain time we are going through right now. It’s difficult and anxiety-producing for everyone—business owners, employees, contractors, customers, our families, kids, and aging parents.
We can’t really change the circumstances we find ourselves in, but we can choose what we are going to do about it. So let’s talk about that.
Think about all those things you said you are going to do “at some point in the future.”
- Update the website
- Let customers book an appointment online
- Take payments to sell products online
- Work remotely, not tied to a computer in the office
- Create more case studies
- Write portfolio examples or helpful blogs
- Reach out to people on LinkedIn
- Grow the email list
- Start doing videos
We hear it all the time, here is where we want to be in the future, but right now we can’t get to that.
Guess what, the future is here right now and it is banging down your door.
Social distancing means physical distance, all those things we are used to doing in person. It doesn’t mean we have to be socially distant. It doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to build relationships with our customers and prospects.
So as difficult as it might be, I think now is the time to try and find the opportunities that are here. To not just rush through in panic mode or shrink away and hibernate, but to take actions now that will position you better once we get back to normal—whatever that new normal is going to look like. This seems like one of those defining changes we are experiencing, and the uncertainty will be with us for a while.
So what can you do? I am going to give you five actionable tips that can help get you through right now.
Communicate Regularly and Transparently
Acknowledge what is going on and how it may impact your audience, and don’t hesitate to ask for their support.
Figure out how you can add value. Education is one of the easiest ways to add value right now. What knowledge do you have that would be helpful to your clients?
I saw a meme the other day that sums up another approach. The only thing you should be spreading right now is kindness, compassion, and humor. People need that too.
As people are staying home, the amount of time they are spending online has increased tremendously, so start some conversations there. And think of your communications as a conversation you are having with your audience. Especially for local businesses, people want to do business with people so it’s OK to show that you are human!
Writing or speaking in a more conversational tone is good for digital communications. And remember consistency gets traction. Once and done or sporadic communication doesn’t cut it.
If you haven’t been consistent in your communications, especially email marketing and social media, now is the time to start. We see better results all the time when our clients are consistent in communicating. I have a short weekly newsletter called Tech News Tuesday that I’ve been doing each week for several years now. It’s a quick actionable tip or news item about digital marketing I think would be helpful or interesting to business owners. I get emails all the time now from people who are ready to engage with our services because we have been helpful and top of mind even though we might not have had in person contact in a couple of years.
Take Some Time to Plan
If you have downtime right now, use this opportunity to do some strategic thinking about who your ideal audience is. What problems do they have? How does my company solve these problems? What should my product and service offerings look like? What’s working and what needs to be improved?
Think of it as a CEO retreat. I have a few customers that periodically take some time away from the day to day of their businesses to plan, and I see how much further they move their businesses along. I actually have some time booked on my calendar this year to do the same, but if we’re still staying home it may have to be going all the way to the guest bedroom with headphones on instead of a few days in that hotel with a spa.
So put the Netflix binge on hold for a little while and spend some time evaluating your marketing and business goals.
Position Yourself for Now and the Future
Use this time to up your customer experience and streamline your operations. Have you been meaning to get all those contacts into your email system or CRM? How about taking payments on your website? Do you need a better project management process and tool? What is it like to do business with you on a mobile phone—can you improve it? What can make remote working a better experience?
We have a customer, and I’m going to mention them because they have been doing an awesome job at this. It’s Sweet Ashley’s Chocolate—they make the best handmade chocolate, but they didn’t have all their products on their website because many things don’t ship well, store traffic was more of a priority, and the holidays, Valentine’s season and now Easter are busy times for making chocolate. But #StayHome just happened and lots of people in your store isn’t such a great idea right now.
We worked with them to get more products on the website with no-contact pickup or shipping options, and tagged products so you can shop right from Facebook and Instagram. They are also doing video product descriptions.
Guess what—these are things that are going to save them time and get them more business after everything opens up again. People previously called in or emailed orders to be picked up at the store all the time. That meant multiple places to track inventory, orders, and payments and that takes time and isn’t always as easy for the customer.
So do what you need to now, but try to do things that will position you for the future as well.
If you have an editorial calendar, start batching and planning ahead your content for later in the year so when you are busier, you have content ready to go.
Now is a great time to write those case studies, update your website, plan campaigns for later in the year, take pictures and videos of your products, and create social media posts and emails. These can then be scheduled out over time.
If you don’t have an editorial calendar, start making one. Figure out what platforms you are going to use (blog, podcast, video, email, social media channels), what types of content you have (featured product or service, case study, tip, education), and how often you are going to publish. Then align this with the calendar. Many businesses are seasonal—a landscaper may do different types of lawn care spring, summer and fall and then snow removal in winter. There’s also back to school, Halloween, tax season. Your business probably has a rhythm so plan your content around that.
There’s never been a better time to try new things. We are all learning new ways of doing things right now. Get out there and start doing video for example. Video is so important in marketing right now. National organizations have their talent working in makeshift home studios. You have a pass right now to experiment. Use it!
So to sum up—try to see the opportunities and take advantage of them, communicate consistently with your audience, and also take some time to plan and take care of yourself.