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Knocked down but not out: how to make sure your small business has a comeback story

First things first - It is a tough time right now and I acknowledge that you are trying to keep your business alive (even if you have had to temporarily close your doors).

And to that I say, good on you.

One more time, so you really hear me… Good. On. You.

Now, if you are projecting to be able to open your doors once COVID-19 is behind us, there are a couple of things we can expect:

1. The competition to regain customers is going to be fierce. Every small business will be looking to make up for some of their losses.

2. We can assume that there will be a moderate number of people willing and able to hire services like yours (and others will only be able to tend to basic needs until financially able to hire for these types of services again).

3. In order to find yourself in a position where people want to book with your business, we need to do some leg work right now.

The following will give you some ideas, so that when the time comes to reopen, your business will be top-of-mind and ready to make a comeback.

We’ll look at some easier ideas and walk through to more advanced options.

1. Reach out to your client list to check in:

This is your opportunity to make a point of connection in a really genuine way. If you are going to get in touch with your clients, here are some examples of how and why you would be getting in touch:

Take note: During COVID-19 it is best to stick to 10%  promotional material in any of your communications with clients. People don’t like to be sold to, and that is especially true if cash is tight.
  • Status Update: Check in with how they are holding up during this time and provide information on the status of your business. There’s a great chance that if you are transparent about your business status, your clients will do what they can to help you get back on your feet, when that time comes.
  • Offer guidance or free resources: Reach out to clients to let them know that even if you can’t service them right now, you are available to provide personalized instruction or advice. This way they can complete the job on their own until you can professionally service them again.

    Creating instructional videos and guides can also be a way to reach potential new customers, who may be looking for the DIY route until they can hire a professional.

    Now, this would only work in the instance where a client could safely complete the task. So, if you're in the electrical industry, this may not be a great idea.

    But on the whole, the idea of sharing free educational resources is a good reason to get in touch with clients.
  • Ask for support: Now is a good time to see if they would be willing to support your business in ways that do not cost any money. For instance, you could ask for a review or to follow, share or tag a friend on social media.
  • Be a champion of community: Share something uplifting or inspiring that’s happening around your community or maybe an initiative you’ve spearheaded. If you’re reaching out to show support for others during this time, there’s a great chance that warmth will come back to you.

It is important that you are not reaching out to your clients as merely a tactic, with a dry, rehearsed script. Having genuine conversations will also allow you to determine how your market’s needs and wants are evolving over time.

which takes me to my next point..

2. Keep your business top-of-mind via social media:

Social media is a free communication tool you have at your fingertips, and is a great way to connect with people consuming content on these platforms every day.

The biggest piece of the social media puzzle is making sure you are putting out relatable content.

You do this by speaking to the needs, wants, challenges, and goals of your clients today. (Keep in mind, that these needs and wants are likely changing during COVID-19).

It’s also worth repeating, that if you are going to be using social media platforms to stay top-of-mind, don’t go above 10% promotional material right now.

Instead, here are some things you should be sharing on social media right now:

  • Educational or resource-based content.
  • Funny or uplifting content.
  • Interactive content, like asking questions or creating polls.
  • Running a contest (remember the prize doesn’t have to be a service you offer). Be sure to ask for entrants to tag a friend or share, to increase the number of eyes on your content.

Here are some other ways to communicate on social media with your clients (especially during the Coronavirus outbreak).

Keep in mind, your goal does not have to be to become a social media star. Even subconscious views of your business can create a familiarity when it comes time for clients to make a decision.

3. Advertising during COVID-19

It might be natural to think, “why on Earth would I be advertising my business if I have closed my doors??”

But, your business is more than just operating hours. You absolutely can advertise during this time, you just need to consider what you’re able to advertise.

Here are some ideas of advertisements you can run if you have temporarily closed:

  • You can promote any online content you have produced.
    Do you have a home cleaning guide, or a video on how to clean a pool like a professional? Maybe you have an Instagram account where you share landscaping ideas and tips, or a Facebook page where you shared a post about how to wash a window without any streaks.

    Any/all of this type of content can be promoted and your customer’s will associate this valuable contribution with your business.
  • You can promote business status updates or a message to your community: This type of ad would be most relevant to your existing customers or people who live in your serviceable area. You will want to target these people specifically.

    This type of ad will be powerful because it’s a point of connection to the community and people will respond to any candid or vulnerable updates from a local business owner.

    Here’s a great example we found from Urban Street Window Works:

4. Work or partner with other local businesses during COVID-19

Banding together with other local businesses may be a great option for you to solidify your relationships with other business owners, boost your reputation in the market and get the chance to gain some new eyes or attention on your business.

Here are some examples of how you can partner with others, even if you’ve closed for the foreseeable future:

  • Co-marketing: Any opportunity you have to share marketing costs right now will help get your name out there and also reduce the cost of doing so.

    For example, you can partner on an online campaign, like a contest.
  • Come together around a community initiative: This may not be an initiative that pays out right away, but rallying together for community betterment will bring new attention to your business.

    For example, perhaps some business owners can help organize a neighborhood cleanup for post-COVID, or an initiative that supports frontline workers, schools, food banks, etc.

5. Pitch your story to a local news outlet or radio station

Local news outlets are always looking for compelling stories to share with their audiences. This, however, is probably one of the harder routes to take to try and get your name out there during COVID-19. But - it’s worth a shot!

If you are going to go this route, remember getting your story told at all counts as promotion, so do not try and sell their audience on your services. If you try and do this, they will ask you to pay for advertisements.

If you are going to pitch your story there needs to be a reason that the news outlet would want to share it with the community.

Here are some story ideas you could pitch:

  • An insider look at how local businesses are fairing during this pandemic.
  • We will come back: share your temporary closure and how you plan to have a come back story.
    ** (this also opens the door for a follow-up story post-COVID)
  • Community uplift story: share how you business, albeit closed, is still finding ways to serve the community.

Alternatively, poke around for initiatives that your local media have championed that you can be a part of.

Here is an example of a radio station that is promoting local businesses through a “support local” campaign.

At the end of all this

I genuinely hope that you keep on going. I hope that you find ways to keep your business top-of-mind right now, whether it's through reaching out to clients, using social media, partnering with local businesses, or earning some press coverage. This way, when the time comes and COVID-19 is behind us, your business has an awesome comeback story.

If there are other creative ways you’ve seen small businesses staying relevant during this time, please get in touch; I would love to add to this list.

Stay well and remember, good on you for working to keep your business alive. Good on you.

I can’t wait to hear your comeback story!

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