Whether you are a brick-and-mortar or online-based business, 2020 has become the year where digital business strategy IS business strategy.
Understanding that your company must go digital is one thing, but mobilizing to make it happen is quite another.
This is where our marketing strategy team at OSM in Belleville comes in.
This blog post will give you a quick-start overview of how to define your digital strategy. Be sure to read all the way to the end for next steps!
This may seem like an odd statement to make. In this case, it is odd yet true.
A group of 800 key European decision-makers recently weighed in about the short-term and long-term economic impact of the global shutdown.
Nearly three-quarters of company owners observed that while short-term economic impact has been largely negative, the global lockdown is serving to separate out major players with staying power from all the rest.
Companies willing to get creative and find the means to digitize their workforce, workplace and e-commerce marketplace will be the same companies to reap the long-term profits yet to come.
In other words, if you are not already hard at work defining your company's digital strategy, the time to pivot is fast drawing to a close. It is time to decide - digitize for future profitability and business success or get left behind forever.
In an analogy that may feel particularly apropos for the long, harsh winter season still to come, business owners that have mobilized for a rapid digital evolution are even now starting to pick up speed - like a snowball that gets bigger and faster as it approaches the finish line.
In contrast, those company owners who feel paralyzed, confused or simply exhausted from their efforts to stick to "business as usual" are slowing down. Some are even grinding to a hard stop.
Not every company will ring loud and clear in the 2021 New Year with open doors and big smiles.
If you are reading this though, this grim prognosis likely does NOT apply to you. You are aware that the impact of the lockdown is not going to be a temporary impact and that you have to learn to pivot and grow with the changes in the market place.
You understand that it is time to recalibrate your business model to flow with the new digitalization of darned near everything we do - from how we live, to how we work, to how we shop.
Speaking of how we shop, have you thought about adding e-commerce options on your website so that your customers can shop online throughout the holidays? Contact our e-commerce experts at OSM for more information on setting this feature up on your own website!
Fun, you say? How exactly can having to make a fast profitability pivot in an uncertain economy possibly be FUN?
We love the positivity from a recent McKinsey & CO. survey.
Business owners stated that now is the time to get creative - to innovate, to improvise and leap over their competitors to make progress.
If that doesn't sound like fun, we don't know what does!
After years or perhaps decades of struggling through all the usual rounds of red tape and traditional brick-and-mortar rules, regulations and hurdles, the national and global economy is starting to relax. Important barriers are falling away to make room for a digitized market space!
Everyone, everywhere is beginning to embrace a survival-of-the-fittest mentality, which means if it works, it sticks and it stays.
So, if you have a crazy idea, something that absolutely would not have worked even a short year ago, this is the year to try it.
In fact, there are businesses of all shapes and sizes in all industries that are not just surviving, but doing better than they have ever done before. All because their leaders have embraced the current climate of innovate-to-survive, only to discover they were really innovating to THRIVE.
We believe that you can absolutely do the same with your business!
So, here is where you jump in. It is time to pivot, but you don't want to linger If you hesitate, you will start to stress and second-guess.
This is the time to pivot from your gut, not from your head.
These are the three steps you need right now to start that process. If you have any questions regarding these pivoting strategies, contact our marketing team at OSM today!
While we recognize that it is not possible to repair a furnace or change a tire online, there are many steps leading up to that purchase decision that can be digitized.
In some cases, the entire sales funnel may have a digital equivalent.
While remote work is here to stay, it isn't the ideal for every employee. Many employees actually report working harder while feeling increasingly disconnected from customers, peers and superiors.
It's time to reconnect. Invite your employees at every level to the table to talk shop. What your youngest employees lack in historical expertise, they may more than make up for with digital know-how.
When you gather in the full skillset of every employee, you find your best chances for a speedy, successful pivot.
Anyone who has ever gazed at a gadget and longed to take it apart to see how it works will love this step.
You don't want to just tweak or tinker with your current business model. You want to take it apart, lay all the pieces out, extract the parts that are no longer relevant and then build something new and great from the pieces you choose to keep.
THIS is the approach that will potentially turn 2021 into your most profitable year yet.
Are you ready to take the digital leap?
COVID-19 happened this year, but not every business is struggling because of it. We have helped many Quinte and surrounding small businesses digitize in order to streamline overhead and boost profits this year.
We can help you do the same! Contact our digital strategy experts at OSM in Belleville today to get started!
The Association of Canadian Advertisers has some interesting things to say about this year's worldwide disruption of typical shopping habits.
Disruption can be a good thing though.
The main problem marketers have faced thus far this year is not the disruption itself, but rather the sheer amount of it.
Customers have been distracted, scared and hesitant to shop in the same old ways.
But what they haven't been, intriguingly enough, is unwilling to shop at all.
In fact, as of this past month, the majority of customers across Canada told a leading independent survey entity that they do not believe their personal finances will be impacted by COVID this fall.
Interesting, right? So if customers are still shopping and plan to keep shopping, the questions you should be asking about the health of your own business become much simpler.
Do you know how your own products or services fit in with the new post-COVID shopping paradigms?
Are you capturing all the sales you could be generating based on how Canadians are shopping post-COVID?
If you are not sure, this post gives you valuable clues to figure it out. Our branding specialists at OSM in Belleville have the marketing expertise you need to learn how to market to the right person at the right time!
According to yet another recent market survey, four distinct customer segments have emerged in the wake of the global pandemic.
It is a worthwhile exercise to consider which of these four group(s) most closely represent your existing customer base and/or your ideal target market.
It is no secret some industries have suffered a catastrophic hit as the whole world screeched to a halt earlier this year. For professionals working in those industries, there has been no choice but to cut back spending at an unprecedented level.
The "cut deep" group represents approximately 27% of the Canadian consumer base and they are not buying anything that doesn't directly relate to keeping the lights on and the rent paid. They care about price, but not about brand.
An estimated 25.2% of Canadian customers have opted to do their level best to carry on as usual, even as coronavirus fears have altered how we live our lives at a pretty fundamental level.
These consumers have not experienced significant changes to income or work availability, but can get concerned when they see friends, neighbours or strangers stockpiling essentials. Overall, their spending habits show the least change from previous years.
For 35.5% of Canadian customers, they have been spending their post-COVID shopping hours worrying the "stay calm and carry on" folks by stockpiling essentials like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and dry goods.
This group feels fearful in the present, pessimistic about the future and has refocused their shopping accordingly. Groceries are at the top of their weekly shopping list week after week.
For 12.3% of Canadians, their financial resources remain unchanged and may have even increased due to their association with in-demand industries. They have hunkered down at home, but may have even increased their spending as a result of the pandemic.
This interesting customer group prizes brand over price and is the only group to have increased spending across the board, even with discretionary expenses, such as clothing.
Which of these four customer groups best represents your current customers or target market demographics?
Our branding specialists at OSM in Belleville can help you assess your current target market and learn how to best reach them during COVID. Book a branding consultation with us today and we can get you focused on your niche customer base!
Yet another interesting post-COVID consumer survey highlighted what Canadian consumers say they most care about in the wake of the global pandemic.
Their answers might - or might not - surprise you:
In other words, today's customers want to connect with brands that are taking good care of what matters most to them - their families, friends, their local community, the global community, the environment and the health of people, pets and the planet.
Here, your most important branding task is to identify how your marketing and messaging meets your customers where they are now - not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today. At OSM, we meet our clients’ niche target groups in a digital space. Do you want to learn more about our digital marketing packages, branding discovery sessions or web design?
Contact our qualified marketing team today and let’s build your brand together!
What can you do to show your current customers and your target market that you care deeply about what they care about in the most authentic, empathetic, here-to-stay way?
To get your brainstorming started, we offer these recent examples from some of the successfully pivoting brands we work with here at Online Sales & Marketing in Belleville, Ontario.
Shipton's Heating and Cooling is offering deep discounts on fall furnace maintenance, donations to local food banks, deferred payment terms, high-value health freebies like free air filters and media air cleaners, enhanced contactless service and payment options and a renewed commitment to safe 24/7 emergency HVAC service.
Picton's Golf and Country Club is offering free golf through year-end 2020 with purchase of a 2021 membership, greatly enhanced contactless play options, nearly unlimited play for junior golfers, expanded hours and dynamic pricing for nine-hole games.
Mackay Insurance has instituted new virtual, contact-less connection and payment options and a steady stream of updates to help customers find valuable discounts and premium reductions wherever possible. Their new mobile app now offers secure payment options. Mackay brokers have also been recording heartfelt video messages from their work-from-home offices.
Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating and Electric has begun offering financing and rebates as well as contactless service options to help customers who need emergency replacement or installation.
"Not normal" is definitely the new normal for small businesses and entrepreneurs all across Canada this year.
This is both stressful and exciting.
Do you need help with repurposing your products or services to appeal to the core needs of the four post-COVID customer groups you just met?
A splash of extra strategy now can net you enduringly loyal customers later.
If there is one thing 2020 has taught business owners thus far, it is this: social media is no longer just a place people go to be social.
The social platforms of 2020 have become a literal lifeline that keeps us connected in the wake of an unexpected global pandemic.
For individuals, social media is a way to find out if a business is open, what inventory looks like and how to procure the products or services they need.
For businesses, social feeds offer safe contact-less communications, shopping and even payment options for existing and new customers.
This unprecedented online e-commerce landscape has transformed social selling from a trendy marketing concept into a powerhouse practice with a direct impact on your bottom line.
In this timely blog post, learn how social selling can add value to your products and services and enhance the impact of this year's contact-less business model.
The easiest way to understand social selling is to recall the old school business model of the door-to-door salesperson.
You proactively show up for your customer. You start with a warm hello. You shake hands. You have a conversation. You answer questions patiently and only as they come up.
You share information that is interesting, timely and engaging - information your prospective customer wouldn't have even known to inquire about.
Only instead of doing this while standing on the front porch, you are doing this online via your company's social feeds.
Social selling is the direct opposite of now-unpopular tactics like cold-calling and the nameless, faceless online transactional sale.
Social selling is customer-driven, customer-focused and completely devoid of the "hard sell." This is soft selling at its finest and most nuanced.
Here, we can let the numbers speak for themselves.
Consider this: According to Google, nearly half of all decision-makers are in the same age bracket as the single largest demographic for social media use.
So guess where at least half of your customer prospects are at any given time?
If you just guessed "on social platforms" you are already starting to understand why we are devoting this entire blog post to social selling.
A whopping 90 percent of corporate decision-makers will never even consider responding to an old-fashioned cold call (and if they do, you will have to call at least eight times, on average, before you get a response).
Yuck. Talk about a time-waster.
Look in your wallet right now. Do you have a dollar?
If you spend that dollar on social selling, you just turned it into five dollars. That is the typical impact of investing in social media-based selling strategies instead.
Social selling works. It works regardless of whether a customer is physically willing or able to visit your brick-and-mortar business.
In fact, even if a customer does choose to order from you locally, chances are high (like 97 percent high) that the customer has visited your social feeds as well as your website first.
If you just thought to yourself, "I have no idea," not to worry. You are in very good company.
The truth is, the vast majority of sales professionals lack the kind of deep-dive understanding of social selling that could achieve the level of return on investment we just described in the previous section.
This is because, as "Outliers" best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell explains, it takes 10,000 hours of study to achieve mastery of a new skill.
And if you just thought to yourself, "10,000 hours?! I don't have 10,000 hours to learn how to do social selling!," then perhaps we can help.
This quick start guide won't replace those 10,000 hours, but it will at least get you started down the path
P.S. Be sure to read through to the end for an even quicker "QUICK START" into profitable social selling.
Depending on your industry, product or service and customer demographic, this may point you to LinkedIn versus Instagram, Tiktok versus Facebook.
It is fine to select multiple platforms to target. Just make sure you have time and staff to maintain a consistent, responsive presence on each feed.
When a prospect visits you online, you want them to know it is really you. Colours, logos, slogan - make sure it all matches up.
Think of this part like you are that door-to-door salesperson who shows up and knocks on the door. Only you are doing it online.
(There are lots of tools to help you identify the right folks to follow, by the way.)
Each feed will allow you to customize your notifications. (HINT: You want all the notifications to be on.)
Oddly, this is the part most people still stumble over. Just because you are now connecting with your prospects online doesn't mean you want to start out with your most aggressive sales pitch.
You want to develop trust. Build a relationship. Create rapport. Make new friends....who may in time become new loyal customers and even referral sources.
We understand that the pandemic has placed many local businesses in the precarious position of having to pivot yesterday.
You don't have to panic. We can help. From social branding to content creation to lead generation and conversion, we've got you covered. Find out about next steps.
Here at OSM Online Sales & Marketing, we are open and ready to provide your business with the support you need to stay profitable during the pandemic.
Click here for updated COVID-19 contact options.
To put it bluntly, we haven't had a true global pandemic since 1918.
The internet didn't even exist in 1918.
A lot of things didn't exist then that are indispensable now.
When it comes to marketing during pandemic times, this is definitely a good thing!
It can feel tempting to switch into "maintenance" mode until we see how the pandemic progress plays out, however, the Advertising Research Foundation says this is a big, BIG mistake - warning that going dark for any length of time can set your market share back by five years.
You worked hard to build your market share. Your customers still need you. They may not need you right at this very moment, but they will need you again. Soon.
Instead, make your goal a two-fold one:
You just need to get through it. It will pass.
It will turn. When it turns, will your brand be ready?
Marketing during the pandemic age is different from marketing during business-as-usual.
Your customers are scared. How do you know?
Have you felt scared, as you've watched global events unfold with disbelieving eyes? If you answered "yes" for even five seconds, you can know you and your customers are much more alike than different.
So ask yourself what you need right now to feel better. Safer. Smarter. More secure.
It might not be information about the specific products/services your company produces or it might be information that is related to those products/services.
Here, don't think direct line-of-sight related. Think six degrees of separation related.
Is there any angle at all in your company's product or service line that relates back to the central core issues on every single human being's mind today? If you look deliberately, you will see the connections.
This might not feel like traditional marketing to you. The truth is, it isn't traditional marketing.
But it IS marketing. Marketing is anything that keeps your brand in front of consumer eyes.
Right now, strategic marketing is anything service-oriented, genuine and compassionate that your customers need now and will remember later.
According to the World Federation of Advertisers, 81 percent of brands - including Google - have put some or all of their marketing activities on hold, slashing budgets by half or greater while the pandemic times play out.
But if you carefully read the fine print in this report, you notice something significant.
79 percent of those same brands have shifted their marketing efforts towards service-oriented messages targeting their existing customer bases.
Of the companies represented in the survey, 98 percent are committing to moving forward with marketing efforts, even if those efforts are an abrupt departure from what was previously planned for this year at this time.
In other words, companies are pivoting quickly and concisely to do more with less.
Marketers are finding creative avenues to use what they have to speak directly to what matters most to their consumers.
Social media has become a huge connection point for consumers, suppliers, vendors and companies worldwide.
Social media is safe, speedy and eminently shareable. It gives you real-time connection with your consumers to address questions and concerns, provide updates and express compassion and empathy.
If you don't have a company blog, now is a great time to start one and link it to your social feeds on YouTube and elsewhere.
One of our business clients has started sharing videos of themselves working from home, offering messages of hope and encouragement to customers who are similarly sheltering in place while providing updates on how they can be reached during the pandemic.
Another one of our business clients has begun making donations on behalf of coronavirus victims every time a customer makes a purchase.
Yet another one of our business clients is sharing information about how to recreate safely during this unusual summer season.
These creative branding campaigns are genuine, heartfelt and transparent. You won't see any fancy footwork or slick strategy in this type of messaging...thank goodness!
What every one of us needs right now is exactly the opposite. What we need instead is simply this: real people talking to real people about the all-too-real things that are going on right here, right now.
If your business has put your marketing and branding efforts on hold, it is not too late to rethink this approach and re-launch your campaign.
Perhaps you don't have the money or the human-power you were anticipating when you originally crafted your 2020 marketing strategy.
This is okay. You are in good company.
Instead, work with what you've got. Prioritize based on walking a mile in your customer's shoes.
What would you most appreciate hearing, knowing or receiving if you were them? How can you give your customers, vendors, suppliers and staff something extra and supportive that they will remember long after this pandemic has passed us by?
Then do that. Give that.
Is it time to take your brand identity for the ride of a lifetime? Smart pivoting now can position you for success and even stronger market share in the days and months to come. Need some advice on how to get started? Contact us online or give us a call at 613-969-0626 and we would be happy to point you in the right direction!
Located in Belleville, Ontario, our team of creative professionals are in the market of getting your name out, telling your story and setting you apart from the crowd. We have worked with both small and large companies, continuing to grow their business amidst the global pandemic in healthy and successful ways!
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.