From marketing to sales, supply chain to customer service, the unexpected global pandemic has impacted every single area of business operations today.
Companies that are surviving the COVID-19 marketplace slowdown are pivoting like crazy, working hard with what they've got and getting creative about how they reposition themselves in the new online economy.
One fact that tends to get lost in the chaos is this: customers, like company owners, are also pivoting madly!
Your customers are trying to figure out new ways to continue receiving the essential products and services they need while cutting back wherever they can to adjust for limited work opportunities.
This means that they are naturally going to search for you online. After all, if new and existing customers cannot easily or safely visit you in person, guess where they are going to try to find you instead?
That's right - your website. So you need to meet them there with online offerings that are affordable, solutions-focused, service-oriented and - most importantly - exactly WHAT they need WHEN they need it.
Is your website ready for its big chance to shine? Make these four key online pivots and it will be!
Many of the small businesses we serve have customers in several different demographics and age brackets. It nearly goes without saying that younger millennial customers will naturally seek you out online, and likely on their small-screen mobile devices.
This means the first thing you need to do is make absolutely sure that your website is mobile-friendly. This is a MUST to survive in our new pandemic business model!
It is equally dangerous, however, to assume that all of your customers will have the comfort level and skill set to connect with you online. They may not feel at ease navigating the internet to find what they need on your website.
For these customers, you want to be proactive and reach out to them.
- Many businesses are spending time each day calling their customers personally to find out what they need. Other businesses are choosing to send texts or emails to customers to do the same.
A word of caution: if you choose this latter approach, just be sure the customer has given you prior permission to use their email or mobile number in this way. Alternately, make it clear this is a one-time customer care contact due to the pandemic.
- Post a message on your website (like this one) to let customers know exactly how to reach you. Include mobile numbers if you are working remotely. Share your email and check it twice per day and respond promptly.
The next order of business is to make sure you are up and running with contact-less options that are appropriate to your business offerings and your customer's needs.
If you are not "tech savvy" about setting up online payments, then it is time to reach out for help in this area. You can't afford to wait.
Offering "door dash" type pickup or delivery service is another great way to serve your local customers in ways they feel safe interacting with you.
Far too many customers as well as businesses right now are suffering financially on several levels.
While it may feel counter-intuitive to discount your products or services when you need every penny and dollar you can earn, in this type of unprecedented situation, some sales are better than no sales!
If you can afford to, consider offering hardship discounts or a payment plan option. Alternately, see if you can bundle together value-added extras with your staple services at no additional charge.
Another great option is to hold a contest, raffle, giveaway or other type of community service offering in exchange for something that is of value to you.
Ideas might include sharing your business on their social feeds, referring new customers to you, donating to a charitable cause you care about or something similar that fits with your business model.
As food for thought, here are two examples of ways two of our longtime small business customers chose to pivot successfully when the pandemic hit:
- One of our long-time small business customers in the HVAC industry made a hugely successful pivot and decided to run a summer contest to find the oldest still-working air conditioner in their service area and gift the owner with a free brand new air conditioner!
- Another one of our long-time air quality customers quickly pivoted and launched a successful discount program to take 10 percent off the cost of any of their indoor air duct cleaning and sanitizing services.
Finally, if there is one thing your customers need more than they ever have before, it is white glove customer service and support.
And by "white glove" we don't just mean concierge-style pick and delivery options, spotless uniforms complete with matching masks and gloves or even contact-less estimates, invoicing and payment methods.
We mean kindness. Compassion. Empathy. Listening ears. Friendly words. Flexibility and understanding. Creativity to work with each customer's unique comfort level and needs. Going above and beyond in ways that will be remembered for years to come.
Every customer that calls or emails or texts or visits you (where it is safe to do so) is taking a risk, making a choice, doing a juggling act and likely saying no to something else they want or need to shop with you.
If you approach customer service from this perspective, then the potential payoff is HUGE - in fact, the customer relationships you form and strengthen right now may just lay the foundation for your profitable small business in years to come.
Right now, many small business owners are facing a near future where operating remotely is truly the only option to remain viable.
Even as Ontario slowly and cautiously begins to open back up, many workers are scared to re-engage with customers and vendors at former levels. On top of that, many business owners are scared to let them.
After pouring your heart and soul into your business growth, this situation may feel nothing short of heart-breaking. Have you come this far just to lose it all to an opponent no one can even see?
No, you haven't. This is a time to get creative - not a time to give up.
For as many businesses that are closing their doors each day, there are still many others that are finding fresh ways to operate, serve customers and reinvent themselves.
If you have the will, chances are there is a way. In order to navigate this rapidly changing business landscape successfully, you will absolutely need to avoid making THESE THREE MISTAKES:
The first critical mistake new remote workers and companies frequently make is to assume that some people have what it takes to succeed when working remotely and other people do not.
The truth is, when working remotely is our only option, we all have what it takes. We have to if we want to pay our rent, our mortgage and buy groceries to feed our families.
It’s important to understand that expecting yourself to do it perfectly might just set you up to fail. Expecting your workers to deliver perfect productivity right out of the starting gate is also setting them up to fail (and thus setting your company up to fail in the long run!).
Now is not the time to institute punitive standards and issue harsh threats. Now is the time to get creative, invite continual staff feedback, celebrate small successes and build teamwork like you have never built teamwork before.
By engaging and empowering each worker on your team, truly listening to their ideas, implementing as many as you can and doing whatever you can to ease their learning curve and meet their needs, you may just discover your greatest strengths as a company hiding in the unlikeliest of places.
The second critical mistake new remote workers and companies frequently make is to think the boundaries required to stay productive will somehow be adapted to automatically.
Just to be clear, boundaries are limits, divisions and dividing lines. Boundaries are what tell you that now is work time and later is personal time. Boundaries are also what tell your co-workers, family and friends that same important information.
It is easy for boundaries to stay clear when you leave your home each morning and go to another place to get work done. Then you come back later in the evening. Perhaps you do bring some work home here and there, but you do this work casually while juggling personal chores and family time.
But now you are working from home - the same place where your personal chores and your family members are also located.
So many new-to-remote-work workers make the mistake of thinking it will be easier to get your work done remotely.
After all, there will be no time-suck conference room meetings, no annoying gossipy coworkers popping by for a mid-morning vent, no walk-in customer or vendor traffic to disrupt your carefully planned daily schedule.
On the flip side, however, it can also become hard to know when to put your work away for the day. Working remotely can make separating out clear personal time from work time feel nearly impossible. You may even feel guilty about it!
Burnout is far more likely when your worksite and your home are in the same place. If you have ever felt burned out in the past, now is the time to remember how hard it was to recover, to refocus and feel productive and fulfilled at work again.
Take the time to actually set the boundaries you need to do your job from home. Post a daily schedule. Let your family know. Then do your best to stick to the boundaries you have set up. Your sanity (and your family) will end up thanking you for this kindness.
The third critical mistake new remote workers and companies frequently make is to try to cobble together a set of remote work tools without taking time to sit down and really consider what is needed by all.
How speedy and responsive (or not) is your website? What does it look like on small screen devices? Is your site SEO optimized to make it easy for new customers to learn how to reach you and get their needs met?
What about your online marketing efforts? Do you have any? How well situated is your company to connect with existing customers who may not even know you are still in business? What about your online store? Do you have one yet?
And what are your plans to keep in contact with your remote work team? Do you have project management software or a business communication portal that makes collaboration, meetings and connecting simple, intuitive and easy?
If your answer to any of these questions is "I don't know" or "what does that mean?" it is time to get serious about organizing for remote workforce success.
Companies that do will position themselves for long-term growth in our collective uncertain future. You definitely want your company to be one of them!
The age of the remote workforce is officially here. Need help making sure your company is set up for long-term success? Our team at OSM is here to find solutions that fit your business needs in today’s market. We understand that these uncertain times can be nerve-wracking and unpredictable, but we can assure you that we have a solution that fits your needs! Whether that be design, web hosting, marketing, blogging, SEO, paid media, email servicing or branding, our one stop digital agency can serve you! Just need to have a conversation on your marketing scheme and tactics? We offer consultations as well! Located in the Quinte region of Ontario, we are supporting business both locally and beyond!
As it turns out, pyjamas are not just super-comfy. They can also be great for productivity.
As Inc. reports, working remotely can get more work out of the same workforce. It can cut overhead costs and boost creativity. It can empower workers to take ownership of their roles because they feel trusted and valued.
Plus, working remotely is good for the planet. With less smog comes more blue and green and even visible twinkling stars amid the city lights. It feels good to be kind to our world.
Still, there is no question that many individuals and businesses are struggling economically during the coronavirus crisis. If you are feeling stressed, honour that. You are not alone. It is normal. Take a deep breath. Take good care of yourself.
Then, rather than focusing on what you can't do right now, we invite you to use this blog post to brainstorm what you can do to take even better care of current clients and generate new business.
Have you heard of Goat 2 Meeting?
An enterprising animal sanctuary recently launched a, well, udderly unique way to bring in some extra business during the coronavirus quarantine. Several other similar charities quickly followed suit.
Looking for a surefire way to get all your remote workers to the Zoom meeting on time? Rent a goat! Or a llama. Or a donkey. Or an alligator.
We're not saying you should rent a farm animal, per se (although it is for a great cause).
But it might be time to take that zany idea you've been hoarding out of its time-out corner and launch it. You might just discover a whole new revenue stream you otherwise could have missed.
To be honest, no one was that surprised when companies that supply hand sanitizer and face masks started to see huge spikes in demand.
But after bracing for the worst, some less obvious vendors found themselves pleasantly surprised by sales upticks.
For example, one small company that makes aloe vera gel, a necessary ingredient for homemade hand sanitizer, had to mobilize literally overnight as demand for the gel nearly outpaced existing stock.
Other pleasantly surprised businesses include photo editing apps, booksellers, gardening stores, delivery services, mail-order subscription boxes, home and garden supply stores, and phone headset manufacturers.
Could your business be next?
Yet another way to repurpose your business strategy to stay in the black is to simply resell what you are not able to use.
Many restaurants have reinvented themselves as small mom-and-pop grocers, selling extra food stores they cannot use that would otherwise go to waste. Customers are drawn in by the chance to score premium-quality foods without the long lines and stress.
Distilleries have addressed the shortage of sanitizing supplies by brewing up hand sanitizer in their on-site distillery barrels.
Print out your existing inventory list, then look over the items and brainstorm other ways to use each. You may just land on a readymade market for those items close to home.
You might think all “live event” businesses have gone belly-up in the wake of this extended quarantine period - doubly so for any businesses labelled non-essential.
But as we all know, what is non-essential to one person may be urgently needed by another.
Dog trainers have taken to YouTube to conduct virtual training seminars. Crafters are selling DIY homemade face mask kits by mail order. Bookstores are sending employees out to deliver book orders door to door.
Complementary companies are partnering up to create virtual retreats, teaching everything from jewelry making to gardening and canning.
Whether your new business-as-usual is an online storefront, a delivery service, virtual classes, or a brick-and-mortar pivot, it feels a lot better to spend your energy trying something new than sitting around worrying. And your own creativity might just surprise you into a big success.
In many areas, business owners are coming together to co-promote and support one another, pool inventory to create unique products and services, and reach out to their surrounding local customer bases to ask for help.
In one smaller artsy town, local businesses decided to co-launch a website to sell gift cards to local customers.
The website joint venture has also begun to serve as a hub for resource links and breaking news that affects small-business owners and workers, and local consumers.
It is no small thing to sit at home, day after day after day, willing yourself to stay calm while you wait out these uncertain times.
But consider for a moment how often in the past you have wished for even just a bit of extra time to start an email newsletter or launch a blog or create a digital storefront or revamp your website or whatever it is to better support your business.
Now is your moment! Finally, you have that extra time you once thought would never arrive.
Even though it often doesn't seem as if it will ever end, this quarantine period will be gone at some point. How do you want to use this precious pocket of extra time?
Is there something you want to do, something only you can do, that just might change everything in your business and your life for the better?
During this time, our staff are working remotely to remain safe and at your service. Do you need support to pivot your business quickly? Are you struggling to find the right words to let your customers and community know you are still here and you care?
We can help.
Please bookmark our UPDATE page so you will know how to contact us quickly via email or support ticket with any questions or requests.
These pandemic times definitely caught us by surprise. People are worried about having to reinvent their income source or are already actively trying.
Is it a coincidence that the rise of the gig economy took place only a handful of years before the events of the last few weeks created a new work-from-home necessity?
We may never know. But one thing we do know is this: if you have ever thought about or wanted to work from home, earning your income on your own terms, now is definitely the time to take that aspiration seriously.
The truth is, the tools are all there. You have the resources to launch or grow your own work-from-home business from wherever you are with whatever skills and talents you have.
What you may not have yet is the know-how. This is where we come in. After reading this blog post, you will have learned the basic steps to take to launch a digital business.
For many aspiring digital entrepreneurs, this first step is the hardest. Maybe this step is easy for you because you already have an idea for a niche product or service.
But if you don't, this is the place to start.
A "niche" is a business sector. Examples include parenting, fitness, travel, finances, home decor, pets, teaching, and cooking.
Your niche may be broad or narrow. "Fitness" is a broad niche. "Yoga" is narrower. "Travel" is broad. "Camping" is narrower.
The key here is to pick a niche you are really passionate about. Your passion will sustain you through all the hard work that is yet to come.
Once you have your niche in mind, it is on to step two!
A hosting provider is the entity that will ensure your blog remains online and highly visible (hi-res photos, streaming videos and all) to site visitors.
Did you know that most website visitors will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load? You have probably left sites that were "taking forever" to load without even realizing that "forever" was actually just a matter of seconds.
So you really want to avoid this when launching your digital business. This is why we highly recommend SiteApex.
You can opt for DIY or premium hosting, depending on how web-savvy and hands-on you want to be with the more technical aspects of your digital business.
Guess which blog platform nearly three-quarters of bloggers today choose? If you guessed Wordpress, you already know more about blogging successfully than you realize.
What you may not know is that Wordpress offers two tracks: Wordpress-hosted and self-hosted. It is this second track that the majority of digital businesses choose.
You can easily adapt the basic Wordpress software to your business needs using the hosting platform of your choice.
There are so many benefits to using the Wordpress platform through a self-hosted provider. First and foremost is that you retain full control over your content and site up-time.
Wordpress is simple and intuitive to work with if you are technologically inclined. Otherwise, give us a shout for help creating a functional, beautiful blog design complete with a ready-to-launch online e-commerce store.
Email may seem very old-school in today's lightning-fast, real-time social media scene.
But email is still where the big money starts rolling in.
In short, the email list you build for your new digital business is your gold. The reason is simple: every person who willingly gives you their email address is someone who has already received value and wants to hear from you again!
Before you get too far into building your digital business, you want to have software in place to invite web visitors to give you their email address (email capture software).
Once you have your email list capture software set up, you can integrate it with every piece of content you write to capture new subscribers.
You are already deep into the behind-the-scenes creation of your new digital business. You may have lots of ideas for products you can sell, services you can provide and clients who may need your expertise.
But how are you going to reach them?
You reach them with content. Your blog posts are the equivalent of cold calls by phone or old-school knocking on doors but less intrusive.
Not only are your blog posts what tell Google's algorithms that your blog is active for indexing purposes, but those same posts are also what can attract new organic and paid search traffic to your website.
In order to attract this new traffic, you have to create content (blog posts) that speaks to people's needs. And this content must be SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly so people searching for your content can find it easily.
Let's take "fitness" - "yoga" as an example. What might people interested in yoga be searching for? How about "the best yoga mats for pregnancy?" Or your audience might be searching for "the best online yoga courses" or "best yoga for beginners."
When you have 20 blog post ideas, it’s time to start creating your blog content, linking it to your email capture software and building your contact list.
Whether your tastes, interests and expertise run to printables, e-books, online courses, webinars, one-to-one coaching sessions, swag or something else, your online e-commerce store is the place to sell it.
Today's e-commerce platforms are so sophisticated they can actually act as an online salesperson for you. Properly configured, your online store can be selling on your behalf 24/7, growing your business even while you are on vacation or asleep.
Like so many of our clients, we are working remotely at the moment. We are available to assist you by phone, email or support ticket.
As a busy entrepreneur, you don’t have time for time-wasting do-overs. You really need to get it right – whatever “it” happens to be from one moment to the next – the first time.
This includes trusting your employees. For example, you simply can’t be there every second to make sure your workers are taking great care of your company’s customers. You have to train them and then trust them.
This can be a tough balance to maintain!
The same holds true for your website, which is basically your online staff. Is your website doing a great job inviting current and potential customers to browse what you have to offer? Is it greeting people warmly – the way you would greet them if you were there personally?
Is your website giving them the red-carpet VIP tour, advising them of all the latest specials and making a plan to keep in touch? When your website serves your customers and prospects well, there is a much stronger chance they will be back.
If it doesn’t, you can bet they will take their business somewhere else...and likely for good.
Approximately 81 percent of customers go online before they make a purchase decision.
Take a look at your website and ask yourself, “If I were shopping online, would I shop on my site?”
Perhaps right about now you are thinking, “I don’t think my website is that great, but I don’t have money to do lots of expensive Google ads to bring people to us.”
Guess what? You don’t have to place pricey ads to generate more traffic! What you DO NEED to do is first make sure that if new visitors find you online, they will want to stick around and shop with you.
This is called “website optimization.”
It is what most websites need more of, so if your website has it, you are way ahead of the bell curve and much more likely to generate what is called “organic traffic,” which is the biggest generator of new business anyway.
So let’s talk about how to do this without having to invest a small fortune to make it happen.
Have you ever watched one of those televised awards shows where the stars show up on the red carpet and just look flawless?
They make it so easy to look perfect. But behind the scenes is another story. They might have spent all day, all week or even all year working up to that one big spotlight moment. The investment will be worth it if the cameras decide to turn in their direction.
But not all red-carpet stars get front-page features the morning after. The reporters choose of their own free will who to photograph, video, interview and feature.
This is the principle of organic website traffic in a nutshell.
Your website shows up. Your customers decide of their own free will whether to give you their attention or turn toward your competitors’ websites instead.
It is your job to make your website look flawless, effortless, perfect, to attract and hold your customers’ attention.
This means it is a misnomer to say that organic website traffic is “non-paid” traffic.
It is paid for in terms of how much time and energy and investment you put into your website behind the scenes. But once launched and visible online, a well-designed, optimized website will generate inbound traffic – new site visitors – without any help from Google Ads.
In fact, the most recent 2020 statistics tell us that up to 80 percent of people who use the internet to research or shop ONLY look at organic search results (i.e., they ignore the paid ads that pop up at the top, bottom and sides of their browser window).
The first step to optimizing your website is to identify where you are now and where you want to go. This is often the hardest step because it involves gathering data, analyzing that data and making sense of it to create goals.
Unless your business is website design or online marketing, you probably want to bring in an expert to help with this.
A five-star optimized website
is rich in SEO (search engine optimized) keywords
is responsive and interactive on multiple platforms (mobile and voice search-friendly)
is optimized for local SERP results (SERP – search engine results pages, i.e., local organic traffic via Google, Yelp, etc.).
makes full use of email signup, social media, webinars and freebies to collect prospective customer data and begin building that relationship.
A website that is optimized to perform in these four areas is like a trusted worker you don’t have to micro-manage.
They are “you” when you are busy elsewhere. They are so good at their job you might just award them “Employee of the Month” or even “Employee of the Year!”
Getting your website to this point represents the bulk of the behind-the-scenes workload required to capture more organic traffic, or more visitors to your website.
Once you start to see results, with more online eyes turning your way, then the rest is simply about refinement, making small adjustments and tweaks to continue to improve your online marketing results.
Are you ready to turn your business website into your online Employee of the Year? We can help!
Read our local business case studies to learn more about the kind of transformation that is possible with a professionally optimized business website.
Contact us online or give us a call at 613-969-0626.