006 | 4 Things You Should Be Doing Now to Save Your Small Business During the PandemicNov 15, 2020
In this episode, Suzanne dishes on 4 things that small brick and mortar businesses should be doing to give themselves a leg up and a chance in this crazy pandemic.
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As a long time online entrepreneur who has run a product based online business (the former highly successful Bliss Candles) and a service based online business (current coaching business) it crushes my soul to see brick and mortar small businesses struggling more than they need to. We online business owners know the importance of using several marketing tools and I’m here today to give some insight on how these things can save your business.
Let’s start with the obvious. It was very clear when the pandemic started that these businesses were caught with their pants down. Several clearly had no email lists (or didn’t use them), had no contingency plans, no diversification strategies, difficulties with marketing, and seemed to embrace giving up over fighting to win in such a challenging situation. And truth be told I saw some who refused to change their business strategies to stay afloat.
I had high hopes that these businesses would learn from the pain of shutdown and start collecting email addresses, amp up their social media presence, develop new strategies, and promptly get their offerings online so people could still buy with ease and stay safe. And certainly some locally at least started collecting emails but (big WHOMP WHOMP} still haven’t started using them. I know because I am on those lists and haven’t received a thing. A limited few also leveraged their payment gateways who had tools for ordering online. Props to you if that is you!
While my technical niche is visibility for women in online business, I can’t bear to watch these businesses continue to flounder and flop without offering some ideas on how to survive this crazy time. This will take some effort though and grit. I know you feel defeated and that can hinder progress but it’s time to do what needs to be done to thrive.
Action 1: Get Yourself Online
I fully understand that the entire foundation of your business is brick and mortar, in person sales. I really do. I also know that you count on those well placed displays to get people to buy more than they need or came in for. I further understand, because I’ve done product based sales, that you really want nothing to do with shipping and dealing with orders. It does take time and isn’t nearly as fun as excitedly talking to your customers about the latest A-mazing thing you’ve brought into your shop. I get it.
Here is why it is important to get your products online now.
- Stay afloat now. The fact of the matter is COVID cases are rising by the day. Just yesterday, Michigan recorded over 8,000 cases. Many more people are going to start listening to the warnings and stay home. They want to either order online and/or do curbside pickup. You may think that you’re doing great if you are offering curbside. And it is a positive BUT people also want to see what you offer online and view the details. Many of us are busier than before and don’t have time to hang out on the phone and order. And if your line is busy, no matter how much people want to support you, if time is of the essence they are going to move on. Unfortunately, what has happened over the last few months is that people have already moved on because some businesses didn’t adjust and they have found the type of ease they need elsewhere. You may be able to recapture those people once you have online ordering is in place and we will talk about that later.
- Remain successful later. Over the past few months people unfamiliar with the joys of online shopping, curbside pickup, and delivery have now experienced it. And they like it. Post COVID I firmly believe people are going to continue this trend. Life is busy and this newfound ease is going to be something people won’t be giving up any time soon. We have to remember as business owners, it’s about them and what they want. Not what we would prefer. That is the fastest way to go out of business.
- Boost sales (yes BOOST sales!). There are a couple things at play here. First, some people don’t realize that you can feature “other products you might like” on websites much like those fancy displays in your shops. That’s impulse buying at it’s best. Moreover, if you dive into the world of online shopping and offer shipping, you have just opened up your business to a whole other level of success. If you pair online shopping plus shipping with a stallar online marketing strategy, you could find yourself doing very well! It is indeed a change in strategy and again, if we are being honest, not as fun as talking to people in person but again we have to decide what is important. I would consider looking at your business mission and vision and see how you might be able to tie this in.
Action 2: Wow Those Lists
When we online folks talk about your list, we are talking about the ever important email list. Social media does not get the reach it used to. In addition, it can be days before someone sees your post about your event today. Not super helpful. It’s set up that way to create a situation where you have to pay for ads if you want things seen. Granted there are certainly things you can do to improve reach but it takes time and a lot of consistency. And I’m guessing you don’t have time to wait.
If you have been collecting emails but haven’t leveraged your list yet it is time to start! If you haven’t started collecting emails, now is the time….as in get it set up within the next hour. If your store ends up closed or your social presence isn’t working this is your direct line to your customers. Not to mention there are all kinds of fun things you can do just for people on your email list no matter what your situation is. This should be a no brainer on your list of marketing efforts. It’s low cost and it’s all yours. My email strategy was a huge reason why my candle business was so successful. I had a Candle Club and those people were my email list. They got news and special offers from me constantly. They felt connected to me because I focused a lot on my personal brand in addition to the quality of my product.
Reach out regularly, give them special deals, let them know about new products, offer memberships, and spoil them! You can also spotlight social posts to get people engaging and moving those up in the algorithms. Do contests. Let them know how your latest products solve their problems. The sky is the limit and this can bring some more fun into your business and help you develop relationships that people will be less likely to break and move on to Amazon.
If you need more help with how to set up and leverage your list, I’m taking limited brick and mortar small business clients for one month intensives in November/December 2020 at a discounted rate of $997 (normally $2,497). Head to https://suzanneproksa.com/intensive to get details and secure one of these limited intensives.
Action 3: Leverage Social in Ways That MATTER
We have already established that social doesn’t have the reach it used to but it’s still a necessary element in your marketing strategy. Social media is an important part of your customers’ lives and they are on it daily. If you practice consistency and relationship building on social you will see increased interaction and presentation in the feeds.
Leverage the social media channels where your brand fits best and your people hang out. You also want to leverage your strengths so you can put your best foot forward. Video is a huge benefit for most businesses. If you are selling products, what better way to show people the latest amazing thing you have to offer so they can realize how much they need it! In addition, it gives you a chance to showcase your personal brand.
Personal brand is becoming more and more important. Sure the name on the door is your business name but people want to know who they are buying from. Connection and community are incredibly important right now. We are in a world where connection is lacking. To see your face and know who they are buying from could be the difference between buying from you or just heading to Amazon because it’s easier. Show them the faces of your business and tell them your story, the product story, and more.
If you struggle with what to share, remember you are a customer yourself. What do you like to see? When you reflect on your products and services, what is going to be the most helpful for people right now? How can you showcase how that product will help them or solve a problem? If you have special sales or offers coming up, brainstorm ways to promote those items and create a schedule for sharing.
If you need more help with how to create a strategy to leverage your social media, I’m taking limited brick and mortar small business clients for one month intensives in November/December 2020 at a discounted rate of $997 (normally $2,497). Head to https://suzanneproksa.com/intensive to get details and secure one of these limited intensives.
Action 4: Reach Out - Customers and Partners
This suggestion takes a different kind of effort but could be well worth it for you. Partnerships with other businesses and your customers can be a great way to get more eyes on your business. This is important because it provides some social proof for your business and gets the eyes of audiences who may not be familiar with you on all of the great things you are doing.
Are there other businesses in your community that you can partner with to either promote each other or create shared product offerings? For instance, a lot of people are staying in. Can you offer a family night in special with other businesses that features entertainment, food, and even items for the furry members of the family? How cool would it be to have a Mexican food movie night complete with a taco platter, margaritas, popcorn, movie snacks, and a special treat for the furry members of the family? All either curbside in one place or delivered. I can think of 3 to 4 local businesses who could make this happen. As you can see, it is okay to think outside of the box. That is where success happens!
If you've fallen down on list building, can you reach out personally to frequent customers? Think of how you can reach out in meaningful ways and get people on your list and sharing your content. Are there contests and events you can do to expand that reach to new audiences with the help of current customers, other businesses, or your local chamber?
Bottom line. Reach out however and wherever you can that’s appropriate.
In closing, as you can see there are actually choices to keep your business afloat and even thriving during this crazy time. But these things require a shift in thinking and strategy and a willingness to accept change is necessary. Once you do those things, you are free to soar!
Again, if you need more help, I’m taking limited brick and mortar small business clients for one month intensives in November/December 2020 at a discounted rate of $997 (normally $2,497). Head to https://suzanneproksa.com/intensive to get details and secure one of these limited intensives.
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