In the industry of website hosting, I have not lost any clients to the Coronavirus. But in website design and other marketing and online advertising services, I have lost more than 20% of business. With Wisconsin on a Safer at Home order, small businesses that don’t have to close are also on Minimum Basic Operations, which means that marketing is not essential to maintaining inventory, equipment security, payroll or supporting employees’ remote working.
However, with COVID-19 stories trending, minimal work coming in, now is the perfect time to get to know your clients, and show your social profiles some love. The extra time your small business has now can be used to continue to connect and advertise by sharing your experience and knowledge.
Here are some things that you can do right now to keep your business relevant, build your brand and pave the way to economic recovery:
- Write a blog post. Write instructions on how your customer can perform a task. Share your process about how you do what you do. If nothing else, write about your pandemic experience.
- Make a video. Show your audience how to do something, or how you do what you do. Connect with them on a personal level. You could make a short video with your phone, tablet, laptop, webcam, or use a free screen recording software like CamStudio.
- Update your website. Modify your About Us page to make it more interesting, persuasive, or fun. Add something personal about yourself or your team members, such as your pet, your family, your best friend, your other talents, your business history, or milestones. Explain why you started your business, and address any obstacles you encountered along the way.
- Post on social media. Write a post, upload a video or image, or share an interesting and helpful article. Ask your audience to share their Coronavirus challenges. At the very least, update your profiles, checking that your hours and business information is consistent and correct, and update your ‘About’ sections. Don’t forget about your Google My Business profile.
- Review your old content. Revise or revive posts, or combine a series of related articles to build a longer content piece on the page that performed the most.
- Review and update your business plan. Include new smart goals for recovery, and update your marketing plan.
Remember to be positive and provide value.
From the SBA’s PPP & EIDL, the CARES Act seemed like a huge mess with a difficult application process, and then the money was just gone.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan for payroll, but many small businesses like mine don’t even have a payroll. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals don’t qualify. Not to mention, I would not want to take out a loan to get through a pandemic, with no idea of what the other side of the disaster looks like.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance is another loan. Even if these programs allow for loan forgiveness, the rules and requirements are extensive. You will need to prove what you did with the money. For some small businesses that manage their own bookkeeping and financials, this could prove to be a challenge.
I did not think I would qualify for the EIDL either, until I saw a California real estate marketer’s video blog on YouTube, showing that he received his guaranteed $1,000 per employee payment. He is also self-employed and showed how to apply, and reiterated that you do not need to take out a loan. Even if you were not approved for a loan, the $1,000 stays in your bank account. So, I went to apply for that, but that money was already gone. I watched for the next stimulus, but it is limited to agricultural businesses only.
If you received a loan and have not done so already, I will pass along the marketer’s suggestion for tracking and proving qualifying expenses: put that money into a stand-alone business checking account. This makes the process of loan forgiveness much easier.
From Blockbuster to Netflix
So, what comes next? As Wisconsin communities begin the reopening plan (the Badger Bounce Back), entrepreneurs with social contact will need to be prepared for the aggressive testing, and quarantining close contacts when someone you know tests positive. A reopening also still means social distancing, cloth face coverings and hygiene. And a resurgence would mean another “lockdown” phase.
During Phase 1, gatherings will still be limited to 10 people max, and non-essential businesses can partially re-open (except for bars). As of Monday, May 11th, Governor Evers is currently allowing the partial reopening for retail businesses with outside entryways (this excludes small shopping mall stores). The DHS announcement encourages face masks for shoppers and employees, and permits only 5 customers at a time, with social distancing enforced.
But just today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has thrown out the Governor’s “Safer at Home” order. Technically, we have no COVID-19 policies and everyone can reopen with no restrictions until our local county and city officials establish them.
In a recent MJS article, the owner of the Academy of Performing Arts, Stacy Tuschl said, “Sometimes we get stuck in that Blockbuster mentality, where we try to keep the same old thing working. But, it is time to change and shift, and we need to create our own version of Netflix. That’s where we’re heading.”
What a great analogy to illustrate what it means to adapt. The “new normal” is real-time innovation with community support. We all must support each other now, write a review, submit a testimonial, share your favorite local or small business on social media, mention their social page or website. Do you work with other vendors? Talk about them, too!
As we cautiously navigate our way to recovery, think creatively about how you can boost your marketing both online and off. This may require adapting new practices, policies, and procedures to best meet your customers’ needs, as well.
Want to hear more about Wisconsin small businesses Coronavirus experiences? The Milwaukee Business Journal is doing a series on how local businesses are pivoting to survive.
And remember, if you need help brainstorming or planning your business bounce back, contact us for a consultation and a quote on your project.