UPDATED FOR COVID-19 – Small business advice
Can you relate? Your inbox has the sound of the wind in a canyon; your social channels are likely getting more attention than before, but the doorbell is (definitely) not dinging. Your business probably has some built-in slow times, but these patterns have been disrupted. If you own or run a newer company, it can be hard to predict those cycles during the best of times, and your energies are focused on keeping the doors open and finding funding.
Here are some strategies to focus on to stay on track as best as possible. *These tips apply to any slow cycle. This post has been updated to include steps to focus on during the pandemic.
Look for opportunities to present at an upcoming (virtual) conference by sharing your knowledge and showing that you are the leader in the area with your expertise. And hey, it’s a great day to get over that fear of public speaking.
Look for new networking opportunities. Not talking about the weekly random business people mix that is available in most places with lousy wine and worse conversation. Most regular events have gone online. Join some topic-related Facebook groups and be visible and supportive within the comments. Get on LinkedIn if you don’t have an account yet. There are active and related special groups that you can join to find others looking for what you do.
Use the time to plan. If you have been lax about marketing for a while, it has likely caught up with you. Write down where you need to be visible for the next six months. Then get started on making that happen. Look back at which activities brought you the best/most business. Are you still doing those things?
Review your PPC (pay per click) spending. Hit pause on slow-moving products and reallocate funds to those high sellers to ensure you are getting the most from those orders.
Write. Post new content about your services/products and how people have benefited from them. Then share them even further on all your channels. You will see this article pop up on all of my social media channels.
Talk to your customers directly. Email, pick up the phone, Zoom chat. E-newsletters are still performing well, so think about what might be helpful for your audience to know right now.
Set up a webinar. I’ve seen companies heading back to this approach in recent weeks. Offer up some ways to showcase support for your customer base. Check out this comparison for available platforms to use.
Experiment with a new social channel. If you know you have a younger audience, try Snapchat for a few weeks and see how it goes. LinkedIn for professionals and the B2B crowd should go without mentioning, but I’m always surprised at how many companies still aren’t using it regularly, especially for optics. Adding backlinks from those high ranking social channels will also help to lift your SEO.
Brainstorm for some new and different promotions. If you are a retailer, offer your best customers a bonus if they refer a customer to you. Put a new package offer together with free shipping. Offer delivery if that is feasible. Lyft drivers are looking for ways to courier deliveries.
Pay attention to what is going on with your competitors. Are they busy or slow right now? Reach out to the ones that you have useful contacts with and see if they are slow as well. Many manufacturers are still running on time to keep the supply chain full.
Co-market with a related group. Partner up and have some fun with a joint reach effort.
Volunteer. Spend time with some kids in need or help restock the local food pantry. You’ll feel better being productive, even if for someone else’s benefit.
Refresh your product photos. Use the same filter treatment on all of them and repost them. Product shots get tired quickly. If yours are older, use some of that open time to address this.
Check your website performance and SEO. There may be something that is preventing your site from coming up in the returns. Request a site evaluation to get started. Search engines look for highly trustworthy sites, have few or no performance issues, and offer trusted, relevant backlinks. If I were going to focus on anything on this list, it would be (and is) SEO right now.
Self-care. Use this time to work out and get some sleep. If you work lots of extra hours, typically, reconnect with your family and friends. Go ride your horse. Meditate. Go kayaking or hiking. Read something that has been on the list for a while.
Clean your desk. Likely there are things wanting attention. You don’t have the excuse of being too busy to deal with them now.
Take a class in sales, marketing, or business. Downtime is for self-improvement. There are all kinds of online courses available for a small fee. Read those business books that you never seem to have time to read. Attend some self-improvement classes online (I just picked one up on beekeeping from Penn State). You’ll feel empowered and re-energized.
All of the above should give you an excellent place to get moving and stop feeling stuck. However, there are a couple of things that I would NOT recommend doing in this situation.
Don’t pull all of your advertising. I’ve seen companies do this when their quarterly numbers are lower than expected. When things are slow, stay the course with your ad plans. Killing those only gives the impression that your company isn’t doing well; you disappear further off the map, and your visibility gets worse. Staying visible during this time has become even more critical than ever. Studies have proven that companies that continue to find ways to advertise and stay out there do far better in the long run once things return to normal. This Forbes article goes into more detail as to why this is so important for your company’s success.
Don’t panic. Carry on smartly. Breathe. Stay focused.