Two weeks ago, life seemed normal. Then events were being canceled. Travel restricted. Now, I'm working from home while trying to homeschool my kids. Schools are closed. Restaurants, bars, and all entertainment closed. Shelves are empty. People are afraid to leave their houses.
As I sit down to work, I can't help but wonder: What message should I be sharing with our clients and potential clients? Are businesses everywhere struggling like local businesses? What can I say that is relevant or helpful to the companies we serve?
These are just a few of the tips I've discovered while trying to decide the best way to move forward as a company during unprecedented times.
As more and more businesses are asked to close or limit their services, the impact of this pandemic grows. It isn’t just affecting our bodies, but the impact on our livelihoods is almost just as frightening.
What can you do to mitigate the affects of the pandemic on your business?
Focus on ways you can go digital.
As a business, we’ve had a remote working model for years, and we can service customers worldwide without ever meeting in person. We have created the necessary tools to work as a team while in distant locations. But not every business is already prepared for employees needing to work from home, and consumers turning to shopping online when stores are empty and we're "sheltering in place".
These are the digital products we sell that help businesses market and manage their companies online:
While not every business model is suited to a completely remote work environment, there are many ways companies can work remotely or serve customers digitally to minimize risk.
1. Improve your digital presence.
Make it simple for consumers to discover your business online. This means first having a mobile-friendly, well-designed website.
Your website should include a complete list of your products / services, and allow your customers to contact you directly.
Many businesses have an online presence. Take the time to think about how customers will find your website, and check that it helps them find the information they’re looking for quickly and effectively.
If you’re a restaurant, for example, include your menu on your website and encourage people to order over the phone, or set up ecommerce or online payments.
You can also use this simple checklist to make sure your current website is optimized for visitors:
The time it takes your website to load is probably one of the most important design features of your website. Mobile web users are quick to click away if a site won't load. The recommended load time is 3 second or less
. Test your site by visiting it from different devices, and use these tips to improve website load time
The links on your website might degrade over time. You should be testing your links and forms all year long. But it is particularly important during the busy times to ensure your links are working properly: The button on your homepage to your hottest selling product. The link to the Amazon page selling your book. The sign up form for your newsletter. Make sure all your buttons, links, and forms are working properly by continually testing them.
I probably don't need to tell you that mobile web browsing and shopping are at an all-time high, and it continues to grow. More people now access the web from a mobile device than from a desktop. Test how your website displays across different devices. Doing paid advertising? Make sure your ads and the page that the ad goes to, are mobile-friendly. Here's how to optimize your website for mobile searches
Referral Sites and Outside Links:
Do you get a lot of your traffic from referral sites? Social media, partner sites, guest posts, and directories are all important referrals sites that can increase your website traffic. Make sure any business listings or other outside links are still working properly and sending visitors to the correct web page. It is also a good time to check and make sure your information on outside sites is accurate and up-to-date.
Check to be sure new visitors to your website know they can trust your business. With so many options available for web users, trust is a key feature in convincing them to choose your business over others. Trust comes from testimonials and reviews, a good design, social media engagement, symbols of trust like the BBB logo, and so on. Use these 7 Steps to Gaining Web Visitor's Trust
to get started.
Search Engine Optimization:
Meta data tells the search engines what they need to know about your website. Yes, we're talking about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Valuable content is one of the best ways to get relevant keywords into your website.
Tip: Longer key terms, or more specific terms, will bring you the most targeted traffic.
Search for your business:
One great way to check how your website is displaying in search results is to google your own website. Bing it. (Yeah, that just doesn't have the same cachet as 'googling it', but Bing matters too.) And don't forget about Safari, which is still the number one browser for mobile devices. The search display of your site in search listings is often pulled from your Title and Description tags on your site, so make sure they are optimized (your web software should let you edit these, or your web manger can help).
2. Update your online listings.
I was looking on Google just yesterday to see if my local book store was open, since many businesses are closing or restricting their hours. They did not have any updated information on their Google listing, so I decided to just stay home.
Update your Google My Business page, and any other active listings you have, to let customers know if you're open for business. Communication is crucial during these confusing and quickly changing times. If you're altering your business, such as some places are choosing to add delivery options or the ability to order online, make sure that is clearly communicated.
Here are some great tips and resources from Google My Business on how to manage during the Covid-19 Pandemic:
- Communicating with your customers
- Communicating with your employees
- Store contact information for your employees, vendors, and clients online so it’s accessible from any device.
- Make a business continuity plan, and share it with employees via an email address they can access outside of the office.
- If you have more than one business location, give local managers the authority to take appropriate actions based on conditions at their location.
- Working remotely
- If possible, be prepared to work from home unexpectedly, e.g., take your laptop home at the end of each workday, have remote access to important information, etc.
- Prepare to effectively work from home with these tools and resources from Grow with Google.
- Collaborate using a shared document, a quick conference call, or by creating an email list or a chat room.
- Access important documents from anywhere by uploading them to the Cloud through a product like Google Drive or downloading to your mobile phone or computer for offline access.
- If you’re using Chromebooks, ensure they have the right policies in place to access company resources from home and to keep devices and data secure.
- Modifying your advertising (if necessary)
- Edit your ads as needed to let customers know whether you're open for business and if you offer helpful services like expedited shipping.
- Pause campaigns if your product availability is impacted by supply chain issues or increased demand.
- If your business relies on customers from countries most affected by the virus, consider prioritizing your ad budget to other locations.
3. Offer digital shopping options.
If you don’t already sell your products online, now might be a good time to look into starting an online store. Setting up an ecommerce shopping cart is easier than ever, and can keep your business selling when customers can’t get to your physical location.
Ask us about discounts on our ApogeeCART
, a full ecommerce shopping cart. If you don't feel comfortable using a DIY website builder, we have an affordable ecommerce shopping cart that includes a website - or we can set it up to match the branding of your current website.
4. Accept online payments.
If a complete online shopping cart isn’t necessary for your business, you can choose to accept payments online. This is ideal for businesses like Buy Here Pay Here Dealerships, or if you’re offering a digital product with recurring or monthly fees.
5. Add Delivery Options
For many restaurants being forced to shut their doors, adding a delivery option is a way to keep employees working, and also make lives easier to people worried about leaving their homes.
Accept orders online either by phone, or using an ecommerce solution, and deliver the items.
Delivery doesn’t have to be restricted to restaurants. Other small businesses can jump on the delivery trend and start delivering products to local consumers. I recently heard an ad for a local paint company that says "While you're stuck home anyway, might as well get around to that painting you've been putting off." And they offer to deliver the paint to their customers.
This might be a service that is popular enough, you'll decide to keep it even after the coronavirus crisis has passed.
6. Find Collaboration Tools
If you are encouraging employees to work from home, finding online collaboration tools is essential for keeping up productivity. Many businesses already have systems in place for use at work that can also be used from home. Seek the additional tools you need, such as tasking tools or online meetings.
You can also refer back to #2 above to see what Google recommends for working remotely.
7. Create special offers
Grab the attention of people stuck at home with special offers or deals. For example, many online learning resources are giving children out of school free access to their portals. This is great publicity for these companies, while also giving users a free trial. Parents can experience their services, will appreciate the free access during a difficult time, and might be more likely to pay for the service once the free trial period has ended.
Companies are also going to be nervous about making purchasing decisions during this time of uncertainty. Creating special offers might provide an incentive for them to act more quickly.
Don’t exploit people’s fear.
Yes, it is possible to make some quick money by exploiting people’s fear. But this is a short term way to make money, and it will cast a lasting shadow on your brand.
Don't miss out on opportunities.
"Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful." – Warren Buffet
During an economic downturn, you’ll find that you will have less competition, which means it is easier and faster to get results, and in some cases, you’ll be able to get deals, such as a potential reduction in pay-per-click advertising.
If you can, use tools and special deals to grab the attention of your audience.
Avoid jumping on the Covid-19 Bandwagon
Don’t talk about the coronavirus unless it is relevant to your audience. Telling them updated hours or specials you’re having to help them during long stays at home is helpful. Telling them what you’re doing internally to protect your employees, or what they can do to stay safe is unnecessary noise.
I'll keep adding things as I do more research. Drop your comments or questions below. Good luck out there!