These are challenging times for everyone. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has forced most of us to slow down, take a deep breath and reassess our priorities, including our valued relationships. In addition to focusing on the health of your family and yourself, as a small business owner, you also have the wellbeing of your business to consider.
Many small business owners are worried that the coronavirus impact may be longer than originally anticipated. As social distancing becomes the new normal (at least for now), more than half of all U.S. adults are shopping less at stores. How can you continue to maintain strong connections with your customers who, like you, are anxious and distracted during these trying times?
While this presents daunting challenges to many small businesses, it’s not time to panic. To reach customers who are typically spending more time at home and online, more companies than ever are turning to online marketing and eCommerce to reach out and stay in touch with their brand followers. Here are some ideas for helping you stay connected to the most important part of your business when it matters most – your customers.
While many of your customers are also facing challenges, they are generally empathetic to the obstacles your small business is dealing with as well. Now’s the time to reach out to them with online messaging that acknowledges the crisis, emphasizes your dedication to serving your customers and clearly states your current plans for your business. Take these steps to keep the lines of communication open.
Modify Your Website Home Page
Begin by creating a personalized message to your customers on your website home page. Create a professional but heartfelt letter that lets them know you understand that this situation is not easy for them or you, and you are dedicated to meeting their needs. These are unprecedented times – it’s OK to let your personality show through and tell your brand followers how much you value their patronage and how that together, we will all move past this crisis in a positive way.
Update Your Business Hours
With greatly diminished in-store traffic, it may be necessary to scale back your hours at least for the time being to reduce your operational and overhead costs. If your business hours have changed during the crisis, update this information on the homepage of your website and through emails and social media. Let customers know you will continue to be available during these hours and that even when you are not physically present, they can access your website and online store anytime day or night.
Revise Your Business Description
If you are currently unable to produce or deliver certain goods and services during this time, update your customers on your website and through emails and social media. For example, if you are one of the many small restaurants mandated to suspend your dine-in services, inform your customers that your drive-through is still open and you offer carryout or delivery options. Your loyal customers are watching the plight of small businesses in the news and are looking for ways to support your efforts. Let them know how they can continue to connect with you.
Keep Your Business Open with eCommerce
This crisis has illustrated the necessity of eCommerce and online marketing. With over 200 million online shoppers each year in the U.S. and an even greater number now due to the current crisis, it is critical that customers can purchase your products and services anytime and from anywhere. Encourage them to place online orders and let them know that while some deliveries may be delayed at this time, you are still always open for business. Many of your brand followers are at home and online, ready to connect with your company.
Create Social and Blog Posts
Even a brief message from you regarding the current situation, your concern for your community and customers and how your business is handling the challenges will help your customers stay informed and connected. Keep them updated through social media and blog posts to keep your customer relationships strong and lead them back to your website. Monitor your website and social media sites to quickly respond to customer comments and questions. This will show you care about their concerns and are ready to help them in any way possible.
Use Technology to Adapt
The world has changed – your marketing tactics should too. Be creative to keep your customers engaged with your brand. If you own a small workout facility, offer discounts on year-long memberships starting after the virus has passed. If your small clothing shop has in-store traffic limits, encourage customers to set up an appointment for a personal consultation. When your small bookstore can’t be open, encourage customers to place an order online or by phone and set up a “drive-through station” so they can receive immediate delivery. Opening your mind to new ideas will help you keep your business running strong.
Stay Up to Date
The news changes daily and your business situation may too. As you make any modifications to your operation to adapt to the crisis, be sure to update your customers through all of your online resources and channels. While face-to-face interactions aren’t always possible, more of your customers are spending time online and online messaging and marketing are how you will continue to keep them engaged with your brand.
Keep Up with Online Resources
To help you create online content for your customers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers a Coronavirus Response Toolkit with key messages and sample posts you can adapt for your customer communications. In addition, ask for financial assistance if you need it. The SBA announced it would offer disaster assistance loans for up to $2 million for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. These low-interest loans are available to businesses that have sustained “substantial economic injury” due to the spread of the coronavirus.
After partnering with over 3 million small businesses, Web.com understands what you are up against and we are always here to help, especially during challenging times. Let us know what we can do to make your life easier and we will get through this together.
As the saying goes, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” You may not feel tough or even strong right now. But know that as a small business owner, your entrepreneurial spirit exemplifies the character and resiliency that will see you through this challenge. You have a lot of loyal customers who love your business and we are here for you too. Let’s stay connected to help your business not only survive – but thrive.