Although the impact varies, almost all businesses have been hit by COVID-19. Some have been knocked down, some have been knocked back, and a few have even been pushed forward.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to businesses and entrepreneurs in many different industries and verticals over the past four to six weeks, consulting with them on ways to pivot, to keep their doors open, or to reopen when things normalize.
Together, we’ve uncovered some important takeaways the coronavirus, remote working, and stay-at-homes orders have made evident. Whether you choose to recognize them and alter your approach is up to you.
Your Digital Presence Is No Longer Important, It’s Critical
There’s a good chance your doors are closed right now. People aren’t coming in and out of your shop or office the way they did last year at this time. Even if you are “open for business,” your customers are staying at home.
They want to review your offerings remotely. They want to get all their questions answered and all their objections overcome from the safety and security of their own homes.
Of course you have a website, but can people find you on Google if they don’t know your company name, only what they want or need? Does your site guide your customer through the entire buying process without you needing to get involved? Does it address all your ideal customer’s concerns as adeptly as your competitors’ sites do?
If you find it lacking in any of these categories, you’re losing business now, when you need it most.
This may be the perfect time to perform a digital audit. Here are just a few items that you should consider:
- Review the copy on your website. Is it still relevant and on brand?
- Fill out your own contact forms and read the copy on your thank you pages and in your autoresponder. Does it still resonate?
- Is it easy to sign up for your email newsletter? Do you offer a compelling reason? (You do have an email newsletter, right?)
- Dive into your Google Analytics and determine how people are finding your site and what actions they’re taking when they arrive. Are there any weak spots that you can improve?
- How are you ranking at the search engines? Are your paid search campaigns returning a positive ROI?
- Are you active on all the social media platforms linked to from your website? Is the branding and voice at your social media profiles consistent with your website?
Your Message Needs to Change
These are challenging times, but for some people, they’re downright terrifying. Some people are scared because they’ve lost their jobs. Some people are scared because they or a loved one have a job, but they are risking their lives for low pay. And others are scared because they own a business and the pandemic may cause them to lose everything.
The thing is, you can't know where every member of your audience is mentally or emotionally right now. Pushing a message of “buy, buy, BUY!” isn’t going to work. It’s going to come off as tone deaf and get shared around as a message from a company that “just doesn’t get it.”
People want to hear that you're part of the local economy. They want to support businesses owned by their neighbors, not by a giant, faceless, conglomerate.
People want to know that you’re doing your part. That you’re keeping your employees and your customers safe. That you’ve altered your production line to manufacture hand sanitizer or PPEs. That you’re donating a certain percentage of your sales to support front line workers.
People want to see that you’re going through an experience similar to theirs. They want you to pull back the curtains and show that you’re sheltering in place, that you have set up your home office, or that you’re taking every precaution to stop the spread. They want you to be empathic, vulnerable, and hopeful.
Can you manage all that?
E-Commerce Isn’t Optional Any More (But There Are Options)
I used to segment business websites into two categories: lead gen (generation) or e-commerce.
Sure, some lead gen sites had an order form and some e-commerce sites had some lead gen built in, but either you were looking to generate leads for future business or you wanted people to “buy now.”
We have entered a time where people are looking to self-serve from home. They don’t want to wait for a call back, they just want to shop at your site and have a product delivered or a service scheduled. They’re comfortable using their credit card or other payment method online. (Are you taking Venmo yet? ACH?)
Businesses that can’t take payment on their sites are at a disadvantage to those that can. Friction has always hurt sales, and a lack of secure, online payment options is sandpaper to your success.
However, there are options to how you can jump into e-commerce.
Shopping Cart: The shopping cart is what most people think of when they think of e-commerce. Categories, product pages, add to cart, etc. If you have a lot of products or SKUs, this is the way to go. There are plugins for WordPresslike WooCommece, as well as platforms like Shopify where you can build your shopping cart experience.
There is some work to be done here for setup, including loading in your products, getting a security certificate, making sure you have a PCI compliant host, and connecting with a gateway processor.
Order Form: This is a good solution if you just have a few products (physical or digital) or you need to get something up in a hurry. Many online form builders (we like Gravity Forms for WordPress) can be integrated with a payment gateway to securely allow people to buy on your site and can be set up relatively quickly.
Like the Shopping Cart option, you’ll want to get a security certificate and be set up on a PCI compliant host.
Offsite Payment Solutions: If you don’t want to invest in a security certificate or can’t move to a PCI compliant host, using an off site processor might be a quick solution. With PayPal, Square, or similar solutions, you can have the transaction take place on another website so you don’t have to invest in anything additional on your site.
The customer experience isn’t as elegant or seamless, and some people still blanch at using PayPal (even though they can use their own credit cards), but it will do in a pinch.
3rd Party Delivery Service: For those in the restaurant industry, using a service like DoorDash or UberEats can give your customers a secure way of shopping with you, without any additional work on your end. You also get additional visibility on their platforms and apps.
However, these 3rd party services take a big bite of your profits.
Online Marketplaces: Many companies are happy to sell through Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and other online marketplaces. They direct their traffic to these platforms, or capture a certain amount of business from shoppers who are already there.
Of course, these are busy marketplaces, so there’s a lot of competition and these marketplaces can take a big chunk of your profits in service fees.
Your Social Media Activity Needs to Double
People are spending way more time on social media. This is due to a number of reasons, including boredom, a need to connect in a time of social distancing, and a desire for self-improvement.
If you’re a B2C company, you should be creating and curating tons more content for platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. If you’re in the B2B space, you and your team should be improving your LinkedIn profiles, prospecting more, and sharing more content in the feed.
If your doors are open, make sure people know that. (Keep in mind the new messaging.) If your doors are closed, make sure they don’t forget about you.
Social is the perfect place to pull back the curtains and tell your company’s “pandemic story.”
And don’t forget to budget more for social ads. Especially on Facebook, business posts don’t get the visibility that posts from people do, so putting ad dollars behind some of your posts is money well spent.
Now is a Good Time to Be Storing Up Content
No one knows exactly when the economy will open up again, or whether it will happen all at once or roll out slowly. (People may think they know, but things are changing day by day.)
It’s possible, even likely, that once things do open up, that there will be pent up demand for your company’s product or service. You may be straight out filling orders, hiring people, and talking to customers.
It’s impossible to be creating content when that’s happening. That’s why now is a great time to be writing those blog posts, recording those podcast episodes, creating those videos, or developing whatever type of content your prospects and customers expect from a company like yours so they’re ready to roll out when you’re at your busiest.
You can queue them up, all ready to go, so you just need to hit “publish” when things get crazy. And when we know when the economy will be opening up, you can even schedule them to publish, along with the appropriate social and email promotions.
Now is a Good Time to be Rehabbing Old Content
Creating new content is hard. That’s why we recommend that businesses that have a wealth of content instead focus on updating and enhancing content that already exists. This is also better for SEO. If you already have a seasonal blog post (say, for Halloween), you don’t want to write a new Halloween post every year and dilute your visibility for that search. You just want to update it with fresh content, keeping the same URL as before.
If you already have a post on kitchen remodeling, you don’t need to create a new one that will compete for attention. Just update it with new design ideas, new products that you’re selling, and more before and after photos.
This is best done with blogs, although there are other places it can happen as well.
Other ways to improve an existing piece of content:
- Longer posts do well at Google (this is correlation, not causation), so consider adding more content to your post as appropriate
- Include expert quotes; when you republish, make sure the experts know so they’re likely to share with their audience
- Add new data and charts, replacing any outdated information
- Replace images that seem dated with new, branded imagery
- If you’re updating this content annually, add the year to the title (but don’t change the URL.) I.e., “The 10 Best Kettlebell Exercises [2020 Edition]”
- Make sure your images are the right sizes for social media, so they’ll look good when people share them
- Promote the content via email and social as if it’s new
Position Yourself for the “New” New Normal
Things will never return to “the way they were,” and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
At some point, much of life will go back to normal, but there will be “residue,” including:
- an increased comfort with digital interactions,
- a desire for self-serve/low-touch options, and
- comfort with video conferencing at all points along the sales process.
Just to name a few. How are you adapting your online presence to meet the needs of next month’s or next year’s customers?
What’s the Next Step?
Whether your doors are open or closed, whether you're slower or busier than ever, you and your customers have been impacted by the coronavirus, so business as usual isn’t an option. Things need to change, and those most adaptable will survive. Now’s the time to put your plan into place.
Whether you prioritize social media over adding an e-commerce option, or creating new content over rehabbing old content, is a business decision for you to make.
If you’d like some help in charting your course during this storm, or you need outside help with a digital audit, we’re here to help. Contact flyte today for a free video consult and we’ll get you moving in the right direction.