Small businesses keep our country running and are the backbone of our American economy. The United States has 30.7 million small businesses, and they employ 47.3 % of the private workforce.
Nobody could have predicted that , in a matter of days, the majority of businesses would be told to shut their doors and hope for the best.
After we have made sure our families are safe, business owners are wondering how this is going to affect my business revenue, my employees and my customers? And where can I save money?
Business Owners are Strong
Fortunately, some of the strongest qualities of all successful business owners are flexibility, creativity, and a can-do attitude. Business owners are trying to figure out how to move forward:
- With the store shut down, should I try to build an online presence?
- Can I sell some of my products online?
- Or should I just pause all my advertising and just hunker down until this blows over?
During this downturn, people will spend a lot of time scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, searching on Google, or just reading about topics they are interested in. You need to be seen!
Think about what your competition might be doing!
If your competitors are investing resources to keep their brand prominent on social media, improve their rankings on Google, and create relevant content (like blogs or video) that people are interested on, who will have the advantage when the corona wall is lifted, you or your competitor?
There are many different digital marketing strategies a business can take on depending on your budget, time, and your business goals. Most need a marketing specialist but some can be worked on to enhance your online opportunities while you store is closed down.
4 ONLINE IDEAS THAT YOU CAN BEGIN TODAY!
If you are in the position where your physical store has been closed, and you can devote some time to develop and grow your online presence, here are some ideas you can take on yourself to market your business online.
1. Add or update your business on Google My Business (GMB)
Google My Business is a free tool that EVERY small business owner (and nonprofit) should have to promote their business information on Google Search and Maps. With a verified Google My Business profile, you can:
Connect with customers through phone calls, message customers, offer special deals, highlight your services, or respond to reviews.
Over 65% of customers have used Google My Business listing to find a local business’s address or phone number. Without your business listed on GMB at all, it will be much more difficult for your customers to find your products and services.
Especially now, your customer base is on the internet right now and possibly searching for services or products you offer. Considering that 80% of all searches happen on Google, the chances of them landing on a Google My Business listing is pretty high. They will either find yours OR your competitors.
The reality, though, is that most searchers won’t go past the first page or the local 3-pack (the first three business snippets that appear when you search for local service). The good news is you can increase your visibility, attract more customers, get 5-star reviews, and start to outrank your competition.
How to Set Up Google My Business
If you have done so already, go to https://www.google.com/business to verify and edit your business information, you can both help customers find your business and tell them your story.
Once you set up the basics, you can begin to optimize and enhance your Google My Business profile with photos, reviews and posts that will help your business gain relevance in the Google Search world. Try to add many more business photos than your competitors and the more 5-star reviews the better!
2. How’s Your Website?
First of all, if you do not have a website, this may a good time to see if a website can bring additional customers and revenue to your store sales.
Assuming you have a website, now is a great time to make sure it represents your business’ brand.
- Right away, do you have updates on your site about the status of your store business, such as hours of service or delivery options? Your customers will want to know.
- Make sure all your site content is accurate and there are no typos or grammatical errors?
- Large images will slow your site down. Make sure you resize the image before you put on to your website, but make sure it is still great quality.
- Is your website mobile-friendly? If not, you are most likely losing many customers.
- Is your mobile site secure? If not, Google will begin to ignore your site on searches.
- Would an automated chatbot help your customers when you are not available?
The Big Question: Should you add an Online Store?
Although it may sound overwhelming to setup and manage, this could be a great opportunity to take your store services or products and also offer them online. An e-commerce site may bring you lots of sales that you did not have before.
Even if not ready, now could be a good time to catalog your products, type up a clever description, and take some good photographs for a possible move to an online store.
3. Enhance your Social Media Presence
During this time, one of the easiest ways to keep your business relevant is to have a strong social media presence. Maybe in the past, you didn’t have time to post on Facebook, tweet out a special offer, or show-off your latest recipe on Instagram. This could be an opportunity to realize the potential of using social media as part of your marketing strategy. In fact, businesses have been utilizing the power of social media for long time. Just take a look at these numbers for just a few of social media users in 2019:
- Facebook has 2.45 billion monthly active users.
- YouTube has 2.00 billion monthly active users.
- Facebook Messenger has 1.30 billion monthly active users.
- Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users.
- TikTok has 800 million monthly active users.
During a time when people are glued to social media for the latest updates, it only makes sense to either add a Facebook business page, or update your existing site. That doesn’t mean post every time there is a run on toilet paper at the local grocery store. But there is an opportunity for your business to keep in touch with your customers. People want to read about important and relevant information.
For a flowers store, it could be tips how to keep flowers fresh inside the house. For a plumber, it could be a video how to fix the leak in bathroom sink. As a business owner, you want to grow your social media presence by making your store the central source of information for your industry. Think of what you do and what all your customers sitting at home might be interested in.
Which Social Media Platform should I use for my business?
Every industry is different and every social media platform does not work for every business. Although it is good to put your business out there on different media, with limited resources, it is better to be really good and relevant to your audience on a few platforms, than be on a whole bunch and be awful at your messaging.
There are the basic platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn , and there are others which might reach your audience better, such as SnapChat, TikTok and others which seem to pop up every few months.
Just do a quick search on Google or another search engine, such as Bing. Type in a search for your type of business, something like “best social media platform for Mexican restaurant” and you will get tons of ideas.
Will my customers see my posts?
Free posts vs paid ads?
There is a reason Facebook makes billions of dollars. Facebook is free to any user, and they have done a great job getting 2.5 billion humans using their platform. But unfortunately, with so many users, everything that gets posted doesn’t always get seen. The Facebook business model, and other social media platforms, make money by selling ads. There is a whole science behind how ads get seen, but basically, a business pays for ads so their products can be seen by more people.
As annoying as ads are for most of us, what is really cool is, because Facebook has lots of information about its users, any business can specifically target its audience. For example, a business offering a camping gear special for weekend getaways, may target their ad only towards people who like camping, hiking, and national parks, who have clicked on fishing ads in the last year, follow REI, are between 20- 40 years of age, and live in cities over 150,000 people. Then, ads will go up on Facebook only to these people who fulfill these criteria. Of course, whether or not a Facebook user clicks on the ads depends on many other factors also, such as the visual (an image or video) the title, the description, the offer, etc.
I have heard many times business owners say Facebook ads don’t work. Just like any other industry, there is a science to creating any type of social media ads. A 15 year-old with 2,500 Instagram followers may not know how to target the best audience for your business. Even though I could try to dye my hair myself, I would probably not end up with a good look. Too many things can go wrong.
What social media should my business prioritize?
Each business has a unique audience and different social media platforms can be more effective for specific industries. Instagram may work for a restaurant but not for a tax person. A professional digital marketer can help guide you on the best platforms for your business. The final decision is up to you depending on your budget, you time, and your resources.
As previously mentioned, there are usually two aspects of social media marketing.
- One is free, where you add posts, images, videos, and other content, which your customers may like and hopefully share with others…. free advertising! Having robust social media pages will show customers that you care about your products and services, you a have an interest in your customers, and that you are active in the community. Responding to posts (whether good or bad) will show your customers that you care about them. You don’t have to respond to everything but it is a good idea to keep an open relationship with your audience. On the other hand, if your pages are empty, unresponsive, and you have not had a post for 4 months, many people will click away pretty quickly and look to your competitors.
- The second type, paid ads, has an investment cost. Unless you are fully trained on Facebook ads, you may not want do this yourself. You may first want to focus on building your business page or feeds with free content and leave the paid ads to the pros. If you do have a budget for ads, which could be as low $3-5 a day, and you have an offer you can fulfill when your store is down, then contact a specialist. Or you may want to try ads just to build your email list by offering a special online book. You can use these emails later for email marketing, which is a great tool if you have a good email list.
Either way, enhancing your social media presence can do nothing but good for your brand and your business. Figure out what your audience wants, check out what your competitors are doing, find your social media voice which represents your business, and go for it!
Most business owners are idea people. They have a great idea, they plan how it’s going to work, then they do it, and they solve problems along the way. With all the different parts of running a business, the mind of an owner is always spinning.
And unfortunately, an owner sometimes doesn’t get to slow down a bit and put down all the ways he has solved problems, developed new ideas, or just helped a customer fix a difficult problem.
Owners love to help customers. Imagine instead of helping one or two customers at a time, they could help 100’s, or even 1000’s of customers at a time. Enter Content Marketing.
For most businesses, blogging is basically writing posts (which could include stories, videos, charts, memes, podcasts, etc.) that are relevant to your existing customers, and may be interesting to new customers.
Some people like to blog just for the sake of writing their thoughts and ideas. For businesses, it is definitely a marketing strategy!
How blogging helps your business
Blogging, if done correctly, can:
- bring more customers to your business. Businesses that publish regular content receive 8x more traffic.
- bring more leads to your business. Blogging helps in achieving 3x more leads.
- raise your website in google rankings.
- allow you to collect emails for future marketing.
- give you feedback from your customers.
- make your business a major resource for your industry bringing in more customers.
- Here are 20 other reasons why small businesses should blog
What should my business blog about?
You know your business more than anyone. You know your customers pains. You know their needs. I would focus on two things:
- Write about what interests you
- Write about what interests your customers
To help you out with some ideas, I am going to link to… yes, a couple of more blogs… about some ideas for blogging from small businesses.
- 40 Blog Post Ideas for Your Small Business Blog (The Balance Small Business site)
- 7 Tips For Creating A Conquering Small Business Blog (Forbes Magazine)
Know your Keywords
As important as blogs are to a business, you want to make sure your content is read. One major piece of blog posts is including the correct keywords that people may search on to find your product that you will need to help write effective blog posts. A little time put into keyword research will help make your posts more searchable.
Consistent blogging can connect you to your customers. You can be a helpful resource to them, and they in turn may shop at your store, make an appointment for your services, donate to your cause, or give you valuable feedback. Most importantly, one stunning blog post can bring traffic to your website which can lead to more customers, great reviews, and sharing your blog to other potential customers.
People like to trust the store they shop at. People shop at Amazon because they know that Amazon has a huge supply of products, they can easily see other’s reviews, purchased the product is easy, and they know their item they purchased will, in normal times, be delivered. People trust Amazon.
But Amazon is huge. How does a small business like mine get the trust of customers? With a storefront, it is much easier. Customers walk up, ask questions, like the look of your store, find products they like, and can get a great feeling from being in your store.
Online it is more difficult as you are competing with many other businesses like yours. So how do you stand out?
As mentioned earlier, these are four techniques any business owner should think about to improve their online presence:
- Make sure you are on Google My Business.
- Focus your website on your customer experience, by presenting a clean, professional look, and is mobile friendly, and is useful to your audience.
- Create a social media presence that represents your brand and keeps you in the conversation.
- Consistent blogging.
Other Digital Marketing
The 4 online strategies for your business mentioned above are a great start to enhance your business’ online presence. To fully optimize your website, your social media outreach, and your content, there is much more sophistication in digital marketing. There are also many other marketing services that can help bring in more customers to your business, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Email Marketing, YouTube marketing, Reputation Management, but they entail much more professional experience to be effective to bring a return your investment (ROI) whether it is time, money or people.
In today’s complicated and competitive world, your cousin’s niece may be a whiz on SnapChat and TikTok, but they probably have little experience or interest understanding how Google’s latest algorithm change will affect your business revenue.
CR Digital Solutions is happy to talk with you about various digital marketing solutions that would help fulfill your online business goals.
Preparing for the Post-CoronaVirus Era
This will be a difficult time for our families across the country, and small businesses and our economy will suffer. Hopefully, sooner than later, the Coronavirus will pass. When that time comes, investing resources into some of these online techniques mentioned above could put you ahead of your competition.
Some of this may be overwhelming to you and you may not be sure where to start. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We believe every business is unique and will gladly give you some guidance for your specific business.
And if you are a business in La Crescenta or Montrose, CA, ask about our special local offer!