Let’s be real here. It’s crazy hard to grow your local business these days with all the COVID-19 restrictions. COVID-19 has most likely forced you to make big changes to the way you operate. COVID-19 has almost certainly hit your bottom line too.
However, it is totally possible to grow your local business in this day and age. I will walk you through how to do just that in this article. However, here’s some insight into why this is such a challenging time for small businesses like yours.
Impact of COVID-19 on local businesses
You, like most people, are likely sick of hearing the term “unprecedented.” I know I sure am! Sadly, it’s just the best word to describe the current climate for local businesses. By the end of March 2020, 32 states had entered a lockdown state due to the pandemic. Two in five small businesses across the US had closed their doors temporarily by this point. Nearly all of these closures were due to COVID-19.
Closing your doors has big financial implications when it comes to growing your local business. This is especially true when it comes to startups. It is concerning that most local businesses aren’t able to handle even short-term pressure on their earnings. This is because roughly 80% of local businesses only have about two months of cash available to pay their expenses.
Because of this, it’s not surprising that the number of active business owners in the US dropped by 3.3 million (or 22%) in the two months from February to April 2020 alone. This is the largest drop in history, and it affected nearly every industry.
Thankfully, you may still be able to grow your business during these wavering times if you have access to the right strategies (like local promotions) and tools (such as an all-inclusive messaging platform like Podium)
Six Strategies to Grow Your Business During the Age of Coronavirus
The pandemic has likely affected the growth of your business in any number of ways. Maybe you need to lock your door(s) for an unspecified period of time. Maybe your clients are buying less of your product or service at the moment. Heck, maybe the industry you’re in means you basically don’t have a product to sell. Think about all the empty cinemas and travel companies!
Whatever the case, if you’re going to grow your local business these days, you need to pivot and quickly adapt. Here are six tips on how to do it:
Use the right tools
I know, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of – “I’m already strapped for cash, and you want me to invest in more new tools!?” Well, what if I were to tell you that by choosing the right tools (some of which are free), you massively increase your chances of growing your local business? You likely know that there are thousands of tools out there to help drive small business growth. However, I’ve opted to focus on the areas where you can really shift things into gear.
Issue: customer messaging
There are countless benefits to enhancing your communications with existing and potential customers. You can generate more reviews, which serve as a trust factor and increase your credibility. You can also collect payments faster and with less hassle. Lastly, you can even issue more timely (and more effective) reminders, which reduces the chances of no-shows.
You can use a tool like Podium to solve your customer messaging issues and grow your local business. Here’s how I use this awesome tool:
Set up one inbox to grow your local business
Trying to keep tabs on all your different platforms is a huge communications barrier. Customers can message you via Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and your website – to name a few. Podium solves this issue by bringing all your communication avenues together in one place. This ensures that you never miss a message.
Connect with website visitors remotely
Ever wish you could get closer to the people on your website? Find out what prevents them from buying or converting that very moment? With Podium, you can. Add live chat to your site, and every time a visitor asks a question, they’ll automatically move to a text conversation. This means that neither you and your client are no longer shackled to your computer.
If you’re looking to escape the daily grind during the pandemic, here are 60 Socially-Distanced Roadtrip Gems that you should check out!
Enable on-the-go customer service
You probably don’t have a dedicated customer service team. In fact, you might be the entire customer service team. With that in mind, what happens when you’re not at your desk or in the store? Stuff gets missed! Podium allows you to text quick responses when you’re away, so you never leave anyone hanging.
Chat face-to-face to grow your local business
Texting is great. However, sometimes it isn’t the best way to respond to a customer or a prospect. Maybe they have a complex question that requires a nuanced response that you cannot convey via texting. Podium provides a video chat option that makes connecting remotely as easy as sending a text. Send your customers a link, and you can establish a video chat in a matter of seconds. This makes it super easy to show details, answer questions, and share your screen.
Create tailored promotions
Let’s say you own a coffee shop. You run a loyalty program, and you’ve captured your best customers’ emails and phone numbers. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could quickly send those customers targeted promotions? Maybe offer them a deal on a new blend you’ve just started stocking? Well, you can do that with Podium.
Grow your local business by providing to-the-minute advice and updates
There are a ton of variables in the world right now. Customers may want to know how busy you are or what measure you’ve put in place during the pandemic. Heck, they might even have product-specific questions. A customer messaging platform makes replying to all the above possible in real-time.
Issue: scheduling meetings
Let’s be real here. Nobody likes scheduling meetings at the best of times. Throw COVID-19 into play, and it becomes even more of a challenge. Should it be in-person or remote? Which platform should we use? What date and time work best?
Meeting schedules are designed to handle the nasty legwork for you. One of the best options out there is Arrangr, which reserves tentative meeting times, automatically frees up open slots, and can even suggest an ideal location for all parties involved.
Another great option is Calendly. Calendly integrates directly with your Google or Office 365 calendar. It also generates a personalized URL so customers can view your availability and schedule their preferred meeting time. If that doesn’t do it for you, Calendly offers a basic free plan!
Enhance your digital marketing strategy to grow your local business
In more “normal” times, marketing may not be at the forefront of your mind. You might make the occasional social media post or fire out a couple of email promotions a month.
Well, that simply won’t cut it during times of uncertainty. People have a lot on their minds currently. So that one puppy gif you tweeted isn’t going to have the same impact.
That being said, you need a proper digital marketing strategy.
Let’s say that you sell business supplies to other local businesses. Since you’re small and local, your key differentiator is your flexibility and your bespoke approach. You can literally obtain and provide any product your customer needs. Better yet, your delivery times are quick, and you’re easy to reach. These are the key selling points that you have to highlight in your marketing emails.
Well, wouldn’t it make sense if you built your entire digital marketing campaign around the above qualities and characteristics?
You could generate a few case studies and obtain customer testimonials that support your unique selling point (USPs) in action. You could also conjure up a mailing list of local firms you’d love to do business with and drip-feed your content to them. Since you’ve built the whole strategy, you know the best times to reach those prospects, the platforms they use, and the sort of messaging that resonates with them.
Employing this approach helps you strike up a conversation, which ultimately provides you with more potential deals to close.
Make your Google My Business profile shine
Want people to see your name when they search on Google for businesses in your industry? Since you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume that this is the case. This means that you need a (decent) Google My Business profile.
Setting up a free profile increases the odds that your business shows up in relevant searches, along with key information such as:
- the type(s) of service(s) you offer
- your hours of operation
- your address
Once you’ve set it up, make sure to optimize your Google My Business profile by:
- Ensuring your information is both accurate and comprehensive
- Sharing business updates, like new hours or product launches
- Asking customers for Google reviews (and responding to them!)
Let’s push a bit further into customer reviews here. It’s wicked hard to persuade customers to review your business. They’re busy. They don’t want to spend their limited amount of time seeking out your pages.
However, a potential solution does exist – Podium. Podium makes it easier by helping you provide social proof that demonstrates that your brand is trustworthy. Text customers and ask for a review. They’ll be linked straight to your Facebook, Google, or whatever review avenue you use. There are hardly any clicks (and hardly any work) for them. That’s why Podium has fueled more than 15 million business reviews for its users so far.
Grow your local business by creating and executing a local paid marketing strategy
This isn’t a big secret, but sometimes it takes money to make money. If you’re serious about growing your business right now, you’ll want to consider investing in some sort of paid activity.
Google Ads has the potential to be super effective for smaller firms. Especially web-based businesses targeting online traffic and/or conversions. Local keyphrases like “doctors near me” are typically a lot less competitive than broader, non-geographic terms like “doctor.” This means you can get a lot of visibility and clicks with a relatively small outlay.
In addition to Google Ads, you should consider advertising on social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social ads are less intention-based than paid search since your audience isn’t actively looking for what you’re advertising.
It is worth noting that social media ads cost less than Google Ads. For instance, if you’re a law firm, you’re paying roughly $10.96 per click with Google Ads, but you’re paying a measly $1.32 per click on Facebook.
Use analytics to track and improve your site performance.
When times are rough, you need to squeeze every last potential dollar from your customers. Analytics software, such as Google Analytics, can help you do just that. Google Analytics helps by allowing you to identify trends, plan new strategies, and measure the results of your current efforts.
Let’s say you’re a mechanic. You just added a new page to your site promoting a special offer on new tires. One month later, you go into Google Analytics and discover that many people have landed on the page. However, your conversion rate is low. You then compare it to other, similar pages on your site. These other pages are performing far better. You now know that there is a problem, such as:
- Your current offer is priced too high.
- Your new page isn’t engaging or persuasive enough.
- You don’t make it easy enough for customers to convert; thus, they leave.
- You don’t provide enough detail about the offer.
By benchmarking against better-performing pages, you can tweak your approach and hopefully improve results.
Conduct local community promotions
Now isn’t exactly the best time to invite hundreds of people to a massive party. However, there are still opportunities for community engagement. You just need to get creative.
Say you’ve opened a new store in a location you’ve never served before. Maybe you target properties within a certain zip code or on certain streets. Regardless of your targeting parameters, send out a special offer that encourages visitors to visit your store.
Maybe you’ve developed a new takeout service with the rise of social distancing. Why not give customers in your area 10% off their first promotion, or combine it with a loyalty program? You must tailor your offer to what your customers want right now. Then promote it on Facebook, via email marketing, or through direct mail in the local press.
Optimize your social media accounts to grow your local business
There are a plethora of social platforms out there. However, when it comes to growing a local business, you want to focus on those that give you the best reach. Some of the top platforms for this objective include:
Finding the right platform will depend on the sort of business you operate. On a basic level, if you’re B2B, LinkedIn is likely your go-to channel. Otherwise, everyone (and their grandmother) is on Facebook. However, if your product is highly visual, you’re likely to find more success on Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube.
Whichever platform(s) you chose, you need to identify some methods that ultimately help you sell more, such as:
- Showcasing and/or auctioning your products on Facebook Live
- Starting conversations with new prospects in LinkedIn Groups
- Setting up Instagram Shopping so people can browse your products in photos and videos while in-app.
Growing a local business is not an easy task, and it’s definitely a lot harder right now.
However, if you’ve set up your own business, you’re likely comfortable hustling for results. You’re naturally entrepreneurial, and you’re driven to make it work.
Combine that attitude with the right growth tactics, and execute them effectively, and there’s no reason you can’t come out of this pandemic in a stronger position.
How do you plan to grow your local business? How is it going for you so far?