How To Develop Your Native Enterprise In Unsure Instances
Undoubtedly, this is a difficult time to build a local business. Coronavirus has likely forced you to make big changes to the way you work. It is almost certainly your bottom line as well.
However, at a time like this, it is still perfectly possible to grow your local business. You just have to be smart. In this article, I'll explain how to do that. First, some details on why this is such a challenging time for a company like yours.
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Local Businesses
You are probably fed up with reading and hearing the word "unparalleled". I know I am Unfortunately, it's only the best word to describe the current climate for local businesses.
By the end of March, 32 states had closed in response to the pandemic. Two in five small businesses in the US had temporarily closed at the time, with almost all of those closings being due to COVID-19.
Closing your doors has huge financial implications. It is worrying that the vast majority of local businesses are unable to even put short-term pressure on their revenues. Around four fifths only have up to two months of cash to pay for their expenses.
It is therefore not surprising that the number of active business owners in the US fell by 3.3 million (or 22%) in the two months from February to April alone. This is the biggest drop in history and affects virtually every industry.
If you have access to the right strategies (like local promotions) and tools (like messaging services like Podium), you may be able to grow your business even in these uncertain times.
Six strategies to grow your business in the age of Coronavirus
The pandemic has affected your business growth in many ways. You may have had to close your stores for a period of time. Perhaps your customers are buying less at the moment. Or maybe the industry you are in means you have little “product” to sell like movie theaters and travel companies.
Anyway, if you want to grow your local business in the current climate, you will have to adapt. Here are tips on how to do it:
1. Use the right tools
I know what you're thinking, "I'm already worried about cash flow, now this guy is telling me to invest in a number of tools!" What if I told you that by choosing the right tools (some of which are free, by the way) you will massively increase your chances of growing your local business?
You probably know that there are thousands of tools out there designed to help small business grow, but I've focused on the areas where you can really move the watch face around:
Problem: customer messages
There are so many benefits to improving your communication with existing and potential customers.
You can generate more reviews that act as a trust factor and make your business more credible. You can collect payments faster and with less effort. You can give more timely (and more effective) reminders, reducing the chances of no-shows.
To solve your customer messages, you can use a tool like Podium. This is how I use it:
- Set up an inbox to rule everyone: What is the biggest obstacle to better communication? Try to keep an eye on all of your different platforms. You can notify customers through Facebook, Twitter, phone, and your website (and possibly a number of others). Podium brings all of these communications together in one place, making sure you don't miss any news.
- Remote connection with website visitors: Ever wish you could get closer to the people on your website? Find out what's stopping them from buying or converting there and then? With Podium, you can. Add live chat to your website and every time they ask a question they'll automatically switch to a text conversation so you are no longer (and also not) tied to your computer.
- Activate customer service on the go: You probably don't have a dedicated customer service team. Indeed, you could be your entire customer service team. So what happens when you are away from your desk or in the store? Things are missing! With Podium, you can text quickly on the go, so you don't leave anyone down.
- Chat face to face: SMS is great. But sometimes it just isn't the best way to respond to a customer or prospect. They may have a complex question or need a nuanced answer that is difficult to find on your phone's keypad. Podium offers video chat software that makes connecting with customers remotely as easy as sending a text. Send your customers a link and they'll be video chatting in seconds. It's easy to see details, answer questions, and share your screen.
- Create bespoke actions: Suppose you own a coffee shop. You're running a loyalty program and you've got hold of the email addresses and phone numbers of your best customers. Wouldn't it be great if you could send targeted promotions to these customers quickly? Are you offering them a one-stop deal for a new coffee that you have in stock? You can too.
- Provide up-to-the-minute advice and updates: There are many variables in the world right now. Customers may want to know how busy you are at any given time, or what actions you have taken during the pandemic. Or you have product-specific questions. A customer messaging platform makes it easy for you to react in real time.
An easy way to get started is to simply sign up for a free Podium account.
Problem: scheduling meetings
Nobody likes to schedule meetings at the best times. Throw coronavirus into the mix and it becomes even more of a challenge. Should it be personal or remote? Which platform should we use? Which date and time work best?
Meeting planners are designed to do the work for you. One of the best is Arrangr, which reserves preliminary meeting times, automatically releases unoccupied places and can even suggest the ideal location for all parties.
Another great option is calendly. Direct integration into your Google or Office 365 calendar gives you a personalized URL that customers can use to view your availability and plan their preferred meeting time. Best of all, a free basic plan is available.
Problem: email automation
During a time like this, you can't start a local business without doing some marketing.
Unfortunately, you probably don't have the time to create and run complex campaigns.
That's why you need email automation software! One of the most popular tools, Mailchimp, allows you to send effective email marketing communications on a large scale. In fact, Mailchimp claims to increase open rates by 93% and click through rates by 174% compared to average bulk emails.
Customer relationship management
Your customer relationships have never been as valuable as they are now. Therefore, you need to manage them effectively. To do this, you need to invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool.
There are a number of CRMs aimed at local businesses, but HubSpot Sales Hub is one of the most popular. It's packed with sales engagement tools, pricing features that you can use to create complex quotes, and analytics software that you can use to measure what works (and what doesn't).
2. Improve your digital marketing strategy
In more "normal" times, you may not think much about your marketing. Maybe you only post the occasional social post or send out a few email promotions each month.
That won't hurt in times of uncertainty. People have a lot on their mind right now, so a baseball gif you tweeted won't have much of an impact.
You need an appropriate digital marketing strategy.
Let me give you an example: You are selling business supplies to other local businesses.
Since you are small and local, your big differentiator is your flexibility and your bespoke approach. You can source any product your customer needs, your delivery times are fast and you are easy to contact. These are the kinds of things you talk about in your marketing emails.
Wouldn't it be good if you used that as the basis for an entire campaign?
Perhaps you create a series of case studies and testimonials that show your USPs in action. You create a mailing list of local companies you would like to do business with and distribute your content to those prospects. Since you have a complete strategy in place, you will know the best times to reach these prospects, the platforms they are using, and the type of messaging that resonates with them.
This approach helps you start a conversation, which ultimately means you can potentially do more deals.
3. Make your Google My Business profile glow
Would you like people to see your name when they search for companies like yours on Google? If you're reading this article, you probably are. This means that you need a (good) Google My Business profile.
Setting up a free profile will make your business more likely to show up in relevant searches, along with useful information like:
- The type of service you are offering
- Your opening times
- Your address
After setting up, optimize your Google My Business profile as follows:
- Make sure your information is correct and complete
- Share business updates such as new opening times or product launches
- Asking (and responding to) customers about Google reviews
On this last point, I know that convincing customers to review your company can be difficult. You are busy. They don't want to spend their precious time searching your Google My Business profile or Facebook Business page.
Podium makes it a lot easier and helps you provide social evidence that shows your brand is trustworthy. Text customers who ask you for a review will be linked directly to your Facebook, Google, and Tripadvisor pages, so hardly any clicks (and little work) are required for them. Because of this, Podium has created more than 15 million business reviews for its users.
4. Create and run a locally paid marketing strategy
Sometimes it takes money to make money. Right now, if you are serious about growing your local business, it's a good idea to invest in a paid activity.
Google Ads can be very effective for smaller businesses, especially web-based businesses targeting online traffic and / or conversions. Local keyword phrases such as "attorneys near me" or "Denver realtors" tend to be much less competitive than more general, non-geographic terms like "realtor". That means you can get a lot of visibility and clicks with relatively little effort.
In addition to Google Ads, consider advertising on social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social ads are less intentional than paid searches because your target audience isn't actively looking for what you're promoting.
However, social media ads often cost less than Google Ads. For example, if you're a law firm, you pay an average of $ 10.96 per click on Google Ads. On Facebook, however, that number drops to just $ 1.32.
5. Use analytics to track and improve site performance
When times are tough, you need to take the last dollar from your prospects. Analytics software (like Google Analytics) can help you identify trends, plan new strategies, and measure the results of your current efforts.
Let's say you are a mechanic. You just added a page to your website to advertise a special offer on new tires. A month later, click on Google Analytics and see that a number of people have landed on this page, but your conversion rate is low.
They compare it to other, similar pages on your website. They do a lot better. Now that you know there is a problem, such as:
- Your current offer is too expensive
- Your new page is not engaging or compelling enough
- They don't make it easy enough for customers to convert and leave
- You do not provide enough details about the offer
By comparing it to higher performing sites, you can tweak your approach and improve results.
6. Perform local community actions
Now is not a good time to invite hundreds of people to a big party. But there are definitely opportunities for community engagement. You just have to get a little creative.
Suppose you opened a new business in a location that you have not served before. Perhaps you are targeting properties within a certain zip code or on certain streets with a special offer that will encourage customers to visit your store.
Perhaps in the age of social distancing you introduced a new take-out service. Why not give customers in your area a 10% discount on their first promotion or combine them with a loyalty program? Adapt your offer to the needs of your customers and then advertise it on Facebook, in the local press, via email marketing or direct mail.
7. Optimize your social media accounts
There are dozens of social platforms out there, but when it comes to building a local business you want to focus on the ones that give you the best reach, such as:
Finding the right platform depends on the type of business you're running. Basically, if you're B2B, LinkedIn is probably your best channel. Otherwise almost everyone is on Facebook, but if your product is very visual you may see more success on Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube.
Regardless of which platform (s) you choose, there are a few tactics that you need to identify that will ultimately help you sell more, such as:
- Presentation and / or auctioning of your products on Facebook Live
- Start conversations with new prospects in LinkedIn groups
- Set up Instagram Shopping so people can browse your products in photos and videos in the app
Growing a local business is never easy, and it is certainly much more difficult right now.
However, if you are starting your own business, results are likely to be pleasant to look for. You are entrepreneurial by nature and want to do this job.
Combine this attitude with the right growth strategies and implement them effectively. There's no reason you can't get out of the pandemic stronger.
What plans have you made to grow your business? How are you doing so far