As we observe physical distancing and self-isolation to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, people find themselves looking for alternative ways to stay connected with others. Meanwhile, small and medium-sized businesses face the difficult challenge of adapting their operations and marketing strategies to keep up the shifting consumer behaviors and needs, as well as government regulations. Let’s dive in and see how online presence can help businesses.
Why is it crucial to embrace digital and strengthen your online presence now?
Many brick-and-mortar businesses have been mandated to close down with no forecast yet of when they will be allowed to open again. There is also uncertainty as to how they will maintain their operations without a physical location. In these challenging times, taking action to improve your online presence is the best way to support your business. There is a spike in the number of brands looking into creating or updating their digital channels to recreate the physical experience online. This includes communication, marketing and e-commerce platforms.
We have put together a list of tips to help you strengthen your online presence and successfully engage with customers amidst the crisis:
1. Take time to upgrade your social profiles, personal and business
Now that a physical location is not an option, having a social profile that represents you and your brand is essential. Your social profiles are your chance to stay connected with your audience, and even reach an audience you didn’t have before. People are “hungry for content, education, and online social experiences” which increases your chances to share what you do and offer the resources and services they need.
Improve your online presence by updating our upgrading your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter Accounts. Make sure to set up a Google My Business Account and consider branching out into other platforms such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, and even TikTok. Go where your audience is.
You can also take this time to plan and create a content calendar for the year ahead. Plan out your content by including social media post ideas such as sharing more details about your products or services, your team or staff, and even tips and industry insights. Make sure that your content is not only engaging and informative but also relevant to your brand and audience.
2. Create Facebook and LinkedIn groups specific to your clients
While a Facebook Page or a LinkedIn profile is great for promoting your products and services, their Group features are a more sophisticated way of communicating closely with your audience.
Create a Facebook or LinkedIn group for your clients and post news and updates. Encourage discussion, and even serve as a platform to help carry out acts of kindness and support. Increasing your online exposure by interacting with your followers in a meaningful way can influence their thoughts about your business. It is also a great way to build a community of people that know and support your services and products.
3. Engage your client community Online
Shifting to online business doesn’t mean that your relationship with your clients has to suffer. There are many different ways to engage with prospect and current clients, each of them with its specific advantages. Use a combination of these options to make use of all their specific benefits.
a) Live Streaming
Live streaming is definitely one of the top things to consider for staying connected with your existing audience and attracting new clients. They are a good option for public facing events, that will increase your social media following, bring awareness to your business and allow anyone to see your content.
Stream on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn Live and have an interactive engagement with your followers in real time. Many brands have turned to live streaming platforms to offer live workshops, workout classes, and even concerts, among other forms of entertainment for free.
Not comfortable going live? You can start by hosting a simple Q&A session followed by a sneak peek of a new product, upcoming project or free online classes relevant to your brand. Consider whether you content is meaningful whenever you reach out to our audience.
b) Webinars & Virtual Classes
While live streaming on Facebook or Instagram is a great way to build and engage an audience through a public event, an online webinar allows you to host private live events that focus on educating your audience about your business and selling products and services. An online webinar is also an effective way to collect leads, since it requires attendees to sign up or register to secure a slot.
If you usually offer live classes like yoga, Pilates or general personal training and exercises, you can offer those online too! The same platforms you use for hosting webinars can be used to have small-group classes that keep the energy and experience of your in-person classes.
There are several platforms to choose from including Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeetings. Check which one works better for your needs.
Make sure your webinar is focused on sharing something interesting to your audience. Showing value and capturing people’s interest will work better than any sales pitch, especially when everyone’s finances are uncertain.
c) Virtual Consultations
For those offering professional personalized services, you can consider hosting your consultations over online video chats. These can be an extension or a follow up to live stream events and online webinars and classes.
Virtual consultations are great for 1-1 engagements. They are the closest to an in-person experience you can have online. They can be as productive (or more) as in person meetings. Take advantage of tools that allow additional collaboration such as: screen sharing, document collaboration, etc.
Virtual Consultations are popular for business consultants. They can also be used for product demonstrations, sales, and even conducting nutritional and health assessments. They are also great for those offering coaching services.
d) On-Demand Online Courses
People practicing physical distancing find that quarantine is a good time to catch up on learning new things online. Provide your expertise by offering a masterclass with extensive classes to help develop specific skills or a coaching course through one-on-one training or guidance to help others achieve their personal or professional goals. This is a good way to attend to your audience needs.
Online courses are a good investment on the long-term, as once you go back to offering services offline you will have an additional passive income generator and a way to diversity your revenue sources.
4. Offer Free Electronic Resources
Take a leaf out of several institutions that responded to the coronavirus crisis by making online resources available for free. Coaches and professional speakers are offering free webinars to help people adapt to this new reality. Mental Health professionals are offering free coping advice. Restaurants are offering and delivering free meals for healthcare workers.
If you have a service of product that can be converted into an online offering, find a way to make it available to those that need it. Free electronic resources are your way of contributing for people to get what they need in this difficult time.
5. Write Articles on your Blog
An alternative to free electronic resources is starting a blog on your website. You can share your knowledge with your audience and offer insights that support them. At the same time, when blog articles are written with the right keywords, they can help your website ranking in search engine results page (SERP).
Blog themes can vary from industry specific topics to background information on your products, partner organizations etc. Get creative and let your brand speak.
6. Create and Curate a Mailing List
Mailing lists are another engagement tactic that enhances your online presence. Mailing lists are your direct connection to your audience’s inbox. They are beneficial because they skip the noise and distraction of social media, and go straight to your contact’s email, making it easier for you to get their attention.
You can have a sign-up form on your website or on your social profiles, which is a great way for you to grow your client base. In addition, by providing curated content and resources, mailing lists are a natural way to build relationships.
There are many different options of software for email marketing that make the process simple and automated. Some of them even connect with your existing CRM! Check out Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, etc and see which tool works best for your needs.
7. Set up an Online Store
Now that you are migrating from a primarily physical to a fully online operation, setting up an online store is a natural option. Not only will this enable customers to still shop your products or services, but they can also do so from the safety of their home. Setting up an online store on your website is an easy process. You can also leverage Facebook and Instagram shops as a fast and simple way to get started.
Like in every aspect of your online presence, you want your online store to offer a smooth and hassle-free experience, so be sure to take the user experience into consideration when setting everything up.
8. Offer Electronic Gift cards
Invite customers to support your local business by selling gift cards that they can redeem themselves later or give to someone else. This type of community-based initiative can help small businesses stay afloat amidst the crisis while also making sure that customers would return to your business by offering something that they could like forward to once the crisis is over. You can complement your gift-card offering with additional discount options for future visits.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Presence
Finally, take note of these dos and don’ts to guide your social practices and customer communication:
Use this opportunity to strengthen your brand and online presence
- Focus on messages that address your customers’ current needs and concerns
- Create value and connection before discussing and promoting sales
- Build community and support
Don’t resort to virtue signaling or echoing the same message as every other business for the sake of saying something about COVID-19
- You should not capitalize on people who are stuck at home to sell your products or services
- Do not engage in aggressive sales pitches and pushing products
- Don’t neglect the need for an online presence right now.
Whatever online platform you choose to use or strategy you implement, it’s important to take an introspective look at how your business is dealing with the current crisis, what you are doing to support your community, and ultimately, how you would like your customers to see your response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your online presence is your chance to show the world what your brand is about. Invest it in.