The situation of the COVID-19 virus is certainly concerning, but here's the thing, the virus exists in our world now, and probably will continue to exist and mutate just like other flu viruses. So, I would surmise that while the current lockdown is prudent, our way forward socially and publicly is being changed forever. This means if you as an organization, or small business, farm, or service provider, have not embraced internet marketing, social media, or a website, you may be in for an unpleasant future. So, what can a small business, farm or organization do to keep moving forward?
Since my first goal and priority is always YOUR success here are some thoughts I have shared in the past with my clients when strategizing with them about internet marketing.
Many of us in the internet marketing industry have been pushing businesses, churches and other organizations to get online and embrace the internet for communication, relationship building, and marketing. Sadly though, many have viewed it more as a distraction, an addiction, and a waste of time. Yes, it CAN be all those things, but it also is a wonderful TOOL!
Thanks to COVID-19, EVERYONE is now online or trying to get online!
If ever there was a trend toward our technology and embracing online communication, this pandemic has given us a gigantic shove!
We have a choice right now. Those who can embrace the technology and re-think their strategies and processes will succeed, and those who don't will most-likely fade into the past.
And I do get it... I absolutely LOVE small town America and that old, personal touch, where a handshake meant a promise kept... but right now a handshake means spreading disease, and standing closer to someone than 6 feet means you are violating social distancing!
We all just can't sit at home and wait for this to blow over, because that's not going to happen. We have to adapt or our livelihoods, our organizations, will probably die...
BUT, you CAN have both and online presence, and still build and maintain relationships. YES, it's different, but we can adapt.
So, how do we do that?
1) Know where YOU are...
You can't map out a route to a destination if you don't know your starting point:
Are you currently engaging your audience online? How often?
Do you have an appealing Website design? Are you on all the social media platforms suitable for your audience?
Do you have the expertise to do more? If not, who can help you?
Are you getting caught in the blame game? This is an easy trap to fall into that will sabotage the efforts you do make, turn you into a victim, and steal any success you could have had. Your forward thinking, growth mindset, and focus on possibilities is more key now than ever!
What is your current strategy?
Hunker down and wait for this to blow over - this is a death sentence
Retreat, freeze everything, withdraw current endeavors - this is a death sentence
Average, we're open but not getting customers, we're still trying but also waiting to see what will happen before we commit to anything new. Note: this is a dangerous position because you think you are OK, but lack of forward movement ultimately means you are losing ground.
Massive Action - This is the only way forward. Develop new ideas, new strategies, re-learning what your audience is doing now and figure out how you can help them in new ways or with potentially new needs.
2) Know where your AUDIENCE is and and re-evaluate current strategies:
Do they have the same needs or new ones you can solve?
Since everyone has been pushed to online sources, where is your audience going to for information and their needs now?
How is your product, service, or event handled now and can any of that be conducted or presented through video or online video chat?
Are you maximizing content across all social media platforms?
3) How to stay connected with current clients and reach new ones:
Use any down time to re-work your website, create more videos, stretch into more social media platforms and other marketing to maximize your influence so you don't lose any market momentum.
Don't stop current marketing efforts, if anything, double down! Let people know you are still marching on!
People tend to shrink and conserve in hard times but those who can adapt and press forward end up as winners. The new services and methods you employ will need to be properly promoted to your targeted audience.
Touch base with current customers. See how they are doing, what are current needs, can you help them or someone they know.
Add a new service that addresses current needs.
A Karate studio classes via internet video chat.
A dry cleaner is offering a pick up service,
Several restaurants collaborated and are offering a weekly subscription to delivered meals chosen from their combined menus.
Realtors, auto and farm equipment businesses are doing video tours of new listings and product features/demos.
A clothing store is doing video 'closet' reviews and featuring new items to enhance your existing wardrobe,
A dentist is shipping teeth whitening treatments and doing consultations via video chat.
Churches and other organizations have video chat meetings, bible studies, and services.
Innovate with your team or those you can brainstorm with. This should be a regular thing. If it's not, start now. Gather your
team and let them know there are no 'dumb' ideas and no impinging barriers, and they must come up with 7 new strategies, processes, services, or products for meeting the needs of your audience. The first 4 or 5 will usually be pretty practical, but as the team stretches to get to 7 ideas, creativity comes forth. You just might come up with the next thing that rocks your industry!
Psychology. These are unprecedented times (except that Hollywood has dramatized events like these). The human brain looks for past experiences (& movies - think Jaws) to evaluate future behavior. It's in everyone's best interest to think beyond the current events and embrace the coming realities of a new way of doing business. You can help pull your audience/customer/client into the future by:
Exuding confidence in the future. Your audience will believe what you whole-heartedly believe!
Asking: In 90 days, what will things look like for you then?
Visualizing a new path with them. If they wait to make a decision, what are the consequences? For example, many people have waited to get onboard with marketing online and now are behind and trying to catch up while the masses have moved on to those who already had those systems in place.
Do what your competition is not willing to do! This is
not the time to hunker down and wait or to retract & retreat! Netflix has a great mini-series right now on CJ Walker a black female entrepreneur. Inspirational!
Do you know how to connect with people online and not just hit them with an ad? I'm always so offended when people do that to me on social media out of the blue...and even with people I know whom I haven't connected with in a while who just send me an ad for their business. You've had it happen to you I'm sure and know how that comes across.
Connecting with people online takes creativity, work and time but think about an online conversation that builds confidence in you, your company, your product/service, and then promotes something you offer that will specifically address their need and be helpful to them.
Here's and example...
If I design websites, and sell ads and services to small businesses, my social media chat might go something like this:
Jan: Hi Susie! I was just thinking about you and wondering how your business is doing with this virus! Are you still open for business?
Susie: Hey Jan. Yeah, still open, but sadly very few customers.
Jan: Gosh, so sorry to hear that, this is certainly a different time for everyone! Have you noticed more people on social media and ordering online than usual?
Susie: Yeah... it's really hurting my business!
Jan: I bet it is! I've been able to help some of my other business friends to re-think how they reach their clients and we have come up with some pretty cool ideas to keep their businesses moving forward even if no one comes into their store.
I'm doing this just to be a help to these businesses... no strings! Would something like that be helpful to you?
Susie: Yes! That would really be helpful. Thanks!
Jan: Awesome! How about if we do a video chat this afternoon? There are some things I want to show you. Would 3pm be good for you?
Susie: Sure, that works.
Jan: Great, I'll send you a link.
Looking forward to our chat at 3!
The main thing to keep in mind is that things never stay the same. We are not going to get back to 'normal', this virus has changed our world and the way we do things in a matter of weeks. But that change will bring new possibilities, new ideas, and a fresh way for entrepreneurs to take hold of opportunities. Let's go!
To your success!
PS I'd really love to hear ideas you've come up with for your business to keep moving forward!