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.