There aren't a lot of nice things to say about COVID-19, but one thing that can be said--hear us out here--is that it kinda levels the playing field for many businesses. Differentiators like in-person interactions, ambiance, and location have moved to the online experience. And unlike a spot on the main drag, there's an affordable web real estate plot for all of us.
So what does that mean for small businesses? Well, it means doing a lot of what we were already doing: listening to our clients and responding to their needs.
But just like our business models have changed as a result of the virus, so have our customers. Before you go guns-a-blazin' into your COVID and post-COVID growth strategy, re-evaluate who your customers are and how their buying behaviors have changed.
Once you know who you are talking to, adapt your business and online presence to your "new normal" customer with these small changes during and after COVID-19:
1. Build Real Relationships
Of course, you already know this. But with the playing field leveled, it's going to be the small things that make the difference. You will feel like customers want more from you now than they did pre-COVID. And they do. Consumers now have you and all of your competitors available within just a few keystrokes, so creating a sense of personal connection is key to acquiring and retaining clientele.
Your customers may not have changed demographically, or even psychographically, over the last few months. But, you may find previously cost-conscious customers now value faster delivery times, or where their products are made, over price.
When building relationships with your customers, evolve your business with their changing needs, ask for feedback, and make real changes within your business based on their expert advice. This will keep customers interested in continuing a long-term relationship with you. It's a lot cheaper to keep current customers rather than constantly win over the hearts of new ones. Though a few more new ones never hurt!
You don't need to sell products to productize. You can productize your services too, which just means standardizing your offerings so you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time someone buys from you. Productizing frees up your time to work on your business rather than in your business.
To start, think about what do you do well. It's better for you, and your customer, to only sell the things you are great at and let others do what they do best. This will decrease your operational overhead costs, cut down on inventory, and you will become the go-to for your product or service because you do it well.
Then, think about your most popular services and create a standard template with optional add ons. Give your people options, but not too many, otherwise you risk decision paralysis and no one wants that.
Finally, get the word out there with a solid content strategy and your productized offerings will fly off the shelf faster than you can say two-ply toilet paper.
3. Create Valuable Content
Once you've nailed down who you are building relationships with and the products or services you're providing to them, create content that drives your dream customers or clients to your website. With people spending more time buying and selling online, it's easy to get buried, so make sure you're content is intentional and provides value to your audiences.
Similar to productizing and focusing on what you're good at, share your industry-specific knowledge. This can be in the form of proprietary research, white papers, blog posts, videos, and webinars, to name a few formats. Become a thought-leader in your field. This will build well-earned trust through content that provides value to consumers and drives traffic to your website.
When it comes down to it, people want to buy from brands that care. Twitter recently updated their advertising guidelines on brand communications after asking panel of people in the US how they felt about advertising during COVID-19. The responses provide a good sense of where we can take our brand communication during a time that's difficult for everyone:
- 77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment.
- 86% of respondents said brands should support vulnerable people in their community.
- 77% of respondents said brands should support their local community.
- 70% of respondents said brands should boost positivity and share positive stories.
This last point provides an opportunity to engage with your business neighbors and promote each other. Always share wins, champion successes and--this brings us full circle--keep building those relationships.
Sometimes, all it takes are small changes to adapt and better serve your customers. And the best part is, you have control over these small changes in a time when many things aren't in our control. Once you have a clear sense of who your customers are, and their new buying preferences, you can begin to choose your own adventure in our post-COVID world.
When life begins to resume normality, which type of business will you be? Will you keep adapting or hold onto your conventional ways of working? Perhaps you're lucky and haven't yet felt the effects of COVID on your business. If so, will you be preparing for potential whiplash? What does that look like and how will you propel yourself into growth in the second half of the year and beyond?
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Bonnie spent the majority of the last decade in the UK, where she led the financial and operational planning of a multi-million dollar acquisition and worked with executive teams to streamline business processes. Bonnie has a unique fondness for spreadsheets and may even go so far as saying they’re exciting. Now back in her hometown of Milwaukee, she’s ready to take on the world of digital.more posts by Bonnie →