The year 2020 came in fast, raring to go — a new decade of opportunity for businesses around the world, both big and small. With advances in technology and a thirst for breaking new ground, optimism was at an all-time high.
Over the past few weeks, however, things have come to a slowdown for some businesses and a complete stop for others. As news surrounding COVID-19 spread, so did local and national restrictions surrounding which companies would even be allowed to conduct business with their local patrons. These restrictions have fueled a multitude of questions and uncertainty.
In places like California, where our headquarters is located, the majority of employees have been confined to working from home offices and restricted from traveling — unless the need to do so is essential.
For local businesses that are deemed essential and still allowed to operate, many are finding themselves in tight situations between either maintaining enough business to stay afloat or closing their doors until — well, we’re not sure when.
As marketers, one of our jobs is uncovering opportunities in any situation. And while a global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, businesses can take steps to help see customers through these dark times.
Here are a few things that you can do right now to keep the financial gears moving.
Update Hours And Business Profiles
If your business is still in operation, updating your hours and business profile summaries is critical. Many of us under “stay at home” orders may not even know what businesses are open. So, make sure your Google My Business, Yelp and social media business listings have updated hours and up-to-date summaries indicating how customers can still contact you and do business with you. If you are a restaurant and now offer delivery and curbside pickup, for example, make sure this information is front and center across your profiles.
Note: Google reviews and approvals on Google My Business profile changes are being prioritized based on industry. If your organization is not based in the medical industry, changes may take longer to reflect on your GMB profile.
Issue Public Statements Surrounding Operations
Even though the situation surrounding the pandemic is likely general knowledge, how your brand is adapting to it may not be. So, writing a public statement that can be shared via email to your customers and/or hosted on your website’s homepage that shares how business is moving forward is of vital importance.
If you are a medical professional or psychologist who is now offering a telemedicine or video conferencing option, let your clients know. If you are a tutor offering online help to students, let people know.
Whatever your situation may be, providing a public statement not only lets your customers know how they can still receive services from you, but also shows that you are committed to the safety of your team and clientele.
Consider Social Advertising For Social Awareness
Why should you advertise during a time like this? Here are three things to consider:
1. Travel is still allowed for essential reasons.
2. There is a good chance that customers will assume you’re closed for business.
3. In times like these, customers want to support local businesses.
It’s worth repeating that you need to let your customers know that you are open for business. And what better way than with social media now that customers are turning to their social profiles to fill their time.
Think of this as driving awareness to your current loyal customers rather than trying to attract new customers. As other brands flood their social feeds, make sure you’re there to let them know how you can help see them through this time.
Use Promotions To Help Your Customers
“Free home delivery,” “20% off curbside takeout,” “10% off voucher for future use” — promotions may be a good fit for your brand. Whether you are tying these promotions into an active campaign or even just featuring them on your website alongside your public statement, promotions can go a long way.
If you are a dining establishment that has taken a hit due to the restrictions on in-house dining, offering free delivery or pickup discounts is a great idea. If you don’t fall into this category, consider providing a discount promotion for future use. Establishments from car washes to personal training could take advantage of a tactic such as this.
Message, Text And Engage On Social Media
One-on-one communications are critical for business owners and teams right now. Luckily there is a wide range of options for connecting with customers: social direct messaging, turning on messaging features on GMB, or even adding a “text us” number on your homepage.
In addition, consider building out your message bots on platforms like Facebook. In your page settings, you will find your chat messaging settings, which can prompt users with something like, “Thanks for visiting John’s Pizza. We all hope you are staying safe — and to keep you safe, we are offering FREE delivery. Would you like to place an order?” There are a slew of effective ways you can use messaging to keep the ball rolling with your business.
There are no simple “blanket” solutions to account for situations like the one we are currently facing. And the impact that is being felt around the world is not lost on me. As a CEO, I completely feel, understand and empathize with all businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. It is one thing to have our business be impacted by our own actions — it is another when the impact is completely out of our control.
With that said, I am moving forward with an optimistic (and still realistic) mindset, focusing on what our team has control over. Even with marketing, we have options and opportunities we can take a hold of to help our businesses while also helping the customers who rely on us now more than ever before.