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Adapting Business To A New Reality
Whether It Be COVID-19 Or Any Other Pandemic, Things Your Business Can Do To Survive In An Ever-changing World
Revised November 19, 2020
Originally Published March 25, 2020
As members of the community, businesses are experiencing many unexpected challenges due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. While many businesses are being forced to closed their retail doors due to government orders to avoid spreading the virus and enforce social-distancing, there are still many methods by which businesses can continue to survive these unprecedented times and continue to employ workers, and in some circumstances grow.
These uncertain times call for thinking out-side-of-the-box, (as well as some extremely creative thinking) to adjust the business model to fit this new and constantly changing environment. The following are a number of ways in which businesses can continue to remain open and sustainable:
1. Working remotely with digital operations:
As many businesses deemed “non-essential” are being forced to close by local and regional governments, there is still the opportunity for those businesses to have their staff work remotely from the safety of their home. Depending on the type of business and industry, the ability for staff to work remotely may require some of the following tools:
a. Remote Access: By using remote access software, a business can allow an employee to remotely login from the safety of their home to access their work station. There are numerous available softwares out there and available from free to paid. The following article details some of the best rated softwares by TechRadar “Best remote desktop software of 2020: Free, paid and for business”.
b. Virtual Meetings: For those businesses that need to have face-to-face contact with their employees or customers, there are numerous virtual meeting softwares that allow employees and/or customers to meet and chat in real-time via web and video conferencing interfaces. The following link provides comparisons of many different services from free to paid “Web Conferencing Software”
c. Web-Based CRM & POS: There are numerous options for moving a company's Customer Records Management system or Point-of-Sale system to a secure web-based solution that employees can access and utilize from anywhere they have a secure internet connection. While some of these solutions take a bit longer to implement than the above noted options, they can provide businesses a fully online, accessible anywhere solution that will allow employees and staff to conduct work and tasks remotely and securely, at anytime. Most web-based CRM and POS systems can be tailored and customized to fit any company’s unique needs.
2. Turn to online sales & service:
a. Online sales & e-commerce: Most any business that sells products in a physical storefront can take advantage of online sales. While most businesses today have a website, not all have utilized e-commerce (online shopping and payment). With an e-commerce website, a business can list all of their products for sale online, as well as potential shipping and handling costs for each item. This will allow customers to search the company’s inventory of products and make the purchase securely using the online storefront.
b. Online servicing: For those businesses that are service driven, there are many methods of providing the services needed. From listing available services for purchase online (similar to using a shopping cart for products), to providing consulting and counseling needs via video chat and other remote online methods; there are numerous methods service-based businesses can use to continue to offer their services and scheduling online.
c. Online & offline combination sales and service: For those businesses that may have a website showing products and services provided, but do not have the funds or time to setup an online shopping site with e-commerce, there’s still the opportunity to update the website to request that customers call, email, or fill out an online form advising of what products or services they're in need of. While this hybrid method may not accommodate full online sales, it can still allow customers to request more information on products and services they’re interested in, and thus correspond via email for more images of products to purchase, and/or even call once ready to purchase and provide the shipping and payment information over the phone.
3. Utilizing chat, text, email & phone services:
a. Chat services: Providing online live chat services is a great method of working in real-time with customers looking for products and services. Most chat services today allow businesses to provide answers to many common questions using AI type technology. As well, for those unique questions that require a live agent, most chat services will allow agents to share files, documents, links, and images with users so they can be directed to the information needed to make their buying decision.
b. Texting: Many customers already text, and often prefer texting versus emails or a phone call. Make sure your company is setup to allow customers to text for questions on products, services, and customer support.
c. Email correspondence: For those businesses that do not have live chat services, businesses can always utilize email correspondence to provide remote service to customers. Through email, one can provide needed resources to learn what products and services may be best for them, as well as coordinate order and purchasing details. While email has been around awhile, it can be quite powerful in situations where a business doesn’t have other means of providing customers with needed information for making their purchase from the company.
d. Phone conversations: While old school, never forget that speaking with a customer via phone is still quite powerful, and can help provide information needed to make a purchase or utilize a service. Encourage phone calls as much as needed if the business has limited online accessibility.
4. Utilize social media platforms:
a. Social media: While having all of a business's products and services available on the website is essential, it’s also important to make sure all the company’s social media profiles list all possible services, products, and variations thereof so that users can glean all the information they need in making a purchasing decision from the company. Depending on the industry, it may be important to utilize more than just Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For many B2B companies, utilizing other social platforms such as LinkedIN and Alignable could be imperative to making sure the company is available to their target market and demographic.
b. Direct Messaging: By allowing customers to place orders via direct messaging on their social media platform of choice, is a great method of providing users a method of buying if the company’s website does not support online shopping and e-commerce.
5. Additional online & offline marketing ideas:
a. Direct mail: Postcards and other direct mail options are still, and always have been, an excellent method of reaching customers and prospects at their place of residence or business. While the cost of direct mail and EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) are often a little more than digital advertising, the cost is still rather nominal when compared to other forms of advertising such as radio, television, etc.
b. Digital ads: Digital advertising refers to most any form of online ads including Google Ads Search & Display advertising, Bing, Yelp, and so on. These ads are often what are shown at the top and bottom of search results with “Ad” next to it. As well, these ads can show up on random website pages when reading a news article, or viewing another website page. Most digital advertising platforms allow one to specify the budget they want to spend per day, and can often be as low as $1/day (albeit most platforms recommend a minimum budget of $250/month for local ads, and $500-1000/month for regional or national ads in order to truly be effective) with no commitment, cancel anytime.
c. Social media ads: Like digital ads on search engines, Facebook, Instagram, Nextdoor, and LinkedIN all offer variations of digital online advertising. Again, these platforms often allow one to set their own budget and begin with as little as $1/day, cancel anytime.
d. Email marketing: While email marketing has been around for quite some time, it’s still one of the most effective methods of reaching customers and prospects to let them know about the business, its offerings, and any special needs or promotions going on.
e. Host web-based classes, seminars & workshops: As the landscape has changed for many businesses and industries, so have the methods in which one can interact with customers and potential prospects. Many fitness trainers, and other consultants are turning to providing online web-based classes, seminars, and workshops in an effort to provide their clients with needed consulting, counseling, and training services. Many social platforms offer live streaming; as well, one can utilize many of the video conferencing platforms noted above to accomplish the same goals.
f. Contact the database of customers: While this may seem obvious, contacting your current database of clients to let them know of changes the business is implementing in order to accommodate and adjust to the changing marketplace, is imperative to reminding consumers and prospects that the business is accommodating their needs, and finding methods to continue service in times of crisis and adjustment.
g. Utilize delivery and curbside pickup options: As many states and localities implement social distancing requirements, some obvious methods of overcoming such issues is to begin offering or promoting more delivery options, as well as potential curbside pickup options; these option can keep both the consumer and employees safe by limiting traffic in and out of an establishment.
h. Utilize other online platforms to supplement: There are numerous other platforms and resources that businesses of various industries can take advantage of in an attempt to adjust and survive the changing landscape of business in today’s world. Some such platforms and resources include selling on Amazon Marketplace, Google Shopping, Instacart, Uber Eats, Grubhub, eBay, etc. These platforms already have a large consumer base that visit them daily, and can help many businesses survive a declining local foot traffic market.
6. Google My Business cards: As one of the most important online resources for being found in local and regional search results, it’s imperative to make sure that each business updates it’s Google My Business card to include all the latest news and changes that each business is making to accommodate the societal changes we’re all experiencing today.
a. Update Hours
b. Update Online & Delivery options
c. Update all products and services available
Most of all, DO NOT STOP ADVERTISING! As noted in this article in Forbes magazine, it’s historically important to continuing advertising during a recession or any economic hardship. Those companies that fail to continue to advertise lose a foothold and have shrinking markets once things do return to normal. Those businesses that take advantage and increase advertising during such time, come out on top with tremendous growth once all is said and done!
While the current scenario is changing lives and how the world does business drastically, things will hopefully return to normal at some point. In the meantime, it’s important to have marketing plans setup and ready to get a jump start and begin growing again!
Most of all, DO NOT exploit the situation everyone is going through right now! Such exploitation will only give the company a bad reputation, and hurt in the long run. Remember, that whatever a company does to cope and attempt to get through this time, tone matters; be sympathetic as we’re all in this together!
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