Small businesses in particular are nearly always hit the hardest when it comes to any economic downturn or large event such as a global pandemic – how to manage uncertainty in business is certainly a fear that all business owners face, regardless of size. Help your small business survive with SEO and digital marketing help from OMG.
An internationally famous property empire started off much smaller and far less grand than it is today. It saw its largest growth period during America’s Great Depression by leveraging its small number of properties to buy up some of the most famous and sought-after hotels in the US for an absolute steal at a time when buildings and lodgings were being sold dirt cheap.
By making simple, but efficient changes to areas of the properties which appeared to have wasted spaces that were being underused, and by recognising opportunities on how to market the lodgings in a new way…expansion of the business started to quickly follow.
Then, during the last global pandemic, by (again) simply placing a high emphasis on cleanliness – they cornered the market and began to grow their business exponentially.
While this is possibly an inspiring anecdote – amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there are similar stories out there of small businesses using digital technology and managing their digital marketing differently to survive these times of uncertainty.
Transform What’s ‘Non-Essential’ Into Essential
As many small businesses have gone through right across Australia and indeed internationally, governments have issued repeated lockdown orders closing all ‘non-essential’ businesses.
Hospitality venues, music events, hairdressers, other non-essential retail stores, the list goes on, and like many of you, in an instant, some of my favourite spaces to hang out were forced to shut.
Naturally, I’m sure many of us wondered if some of them would ever return (and, sadly, a number of them haven’t). However, you could see almost immediately a surge in creativity as small businesses morphed and adapted to new restrictions.
As food and produce stores were allowed to remain open, so began the rush for innovative venues such as cafés and bars to alter their core offering and diversify into selling food and beverage items deemed essential by authorities.
Some clever wine shops switched on to the fact that everyone was using Zoom for face-to-face meetings and changed their in-person wine tastings etc. to offer virtual tasting events – where upon purchasing a specific wine label, you were sent the access details for Zoom meetings, so you could remotely get your tasting notes along with other like-minded connoisseurs.
Numerous Lockdowns Have Affected More Than Just Retail & Hospitality
An example of an international language institution close to where I used to live in Sydney; when their physical, in-person operations had to shut down due to COVID-19, they diversified to reflect that they were still running certain course and inductions etc. virtually…so OMG expanded their keyword sets to cover their new offering of distance and remote learning.
The educational institution quickly adapted their sales funnel to provide more virtual tours via FaceTime and Zoom.
Now, their admissions tours are conducted purely remotely, which is a huge step for a traditional learning institution.
While the pandemic has forced them to enlist the help of some new digital technologies with great success, as is often the case, it wasn’t a perfectly smooth start.
At the outset, they feared the certain impact the pandemic would have on their student pipeline for the future, because if you don’t have a cohort of students in the first year, you also lose them for the second and third year etc. However, by battening down the hatches and sticking it out, students slowly started to come back to the schools.
The network of schools managed to grow back their enrolment intake to a healthy 85% and are even now offering a brand new class using an entirely virtual platform.
People in general can be very adaptable. As we are faced with a ‘new normal,’ many similar organisations and small businesses have had to include technologies such as virtual platforms while they held out for state and federal governments to re-open the doors and allowed full classes in person again.
A large number of these businesses will unlikely go back completely to how they operated before COVID-19, with many of them saying they’ll continue to offer these new services even after the pandemic is brought further under control.
As the knock-on effect of the downturn carries on along the chain, even a few of the purveyors of gourmet sauces and ingredients who supply some of my local stores have had to completely adapt their ‘route to market,’ by diversifying their target market and offering new online channels.
Since early 2020 with the temporary closing of many takeaway shops, there’s been a massive increase in the general public cooking at home. This trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, and that creates an opportunity to expand certain product lines to cater to this new-found audience.
As another example that’s in a completely different sector, take my business – Online Marketing Group – which offers SEO, content writing and digital marketing to small businesses. Nearly two years ago, many of my clients were either in the tourism sector, were heavily linked to hospitality, were in retail or provided an entirely in-person service (such as marriage ceremonies).
Due to the enforced on again, off again lockdowns or the social distancing measures outlined by authorities – many of these small businesses had to scale back their digital marketing services as their income streams began to dry out. This is often the difference with really small businesses; they simply don’t have the money in reserve to continue something like SEO when there’s a financial slowdown for any reason, even one caused by a health crisis.
Small Businesses Rush To Get An Online Presence
In the digital marketing world, the pandemic will be considered for decades as one emerging marketing trend (back in early 2020) that was forced into rapid innovation as the traditional consumer marketplace shifted from physical retail shops to eCommerce websites.
This phase has forever changed the way online marketers see things, in particular – how we engage with customers and how our customers purchase online.
In all likelihood, this shift in thinking will gain further momentum even after COVID-19 changes to more of a scenario like we have with the common cold, rather than the constant daily issue that it currently is.
Embracing the latest eCommerce technology is no longer merely a ‘desirable,’ but an essential for nearly all small businesses.
Here are a few key tips to include in your 2022 digital marketing strategy on how to manage uncertainty in business, in order to keep ahead of the curve and stay on top of your competition.
Use Text Promotions To Target Your Customers
Many business owners have no issue with sending numerous newsletters and emails to their customers – especially at this time of year – but often become wary when it comes to taking the same approach to text (or SMS) promotions. Some see this as too invasive, perhaps because texting is still widely seen as a form of personal communication, so marketers are often reluctant to blast their varied promotions to customers on such a personal level. It does appear to be on the rise, though.
Whichever reason behind the hesitancy, perhaps digital marketing professionals should reconsider. Results from one survey states that a high percentage of consumers (around 54%) in fact welcome business-related texts from companies where they already shop. Remarkably, though, on average only 11% of businesses send these types of texts. Increasing your text prowess in 2022 can really help you stand head and shoulders above your competitors who prefer to remain purely with email promotions.
Ensure You’re Getting The Most From Google My Business
“Utilise your Google My Business page” is almost a mantra for digital marketing and SEO Pros…and a tip that I’m sure many people have heard before. Although we’re saying it again, it’s because there’s a high likelihood that there are new GMB features and updates that you may not be across so far. The majority of small businesses have just filled out the basics around the skeleton of the business profile that displays only the bare minimum to users conducting a search. However, this can be a missed opportunity. A thoroughly completed GMB page allows you to better promote your business as well as even boosting your local search rankings. Taking care of the finer detail of your business profile within the Google My Business page is certainly worth the additional effort.
- Complete every section of the profile. The GMB page provides areas to link your website, business phone number, direct message, opening hours, FAQs and other types of business information. Best not to miss anything out here. You also have up to 750 characters to write your business description, so ensure you utilise all of the limit and add the most important info right at the beginning (in the first 250 characters).
- Add photos. Using current photos relating to your business can create trust in your customers more quickly and builds up confidence in your business. Aim to add new photos on a frequent basis.
- Reach out to your customers and ask them for reviews. These are gold dust and the value of those five bright yellow stars should not be underestimated – positive Google reviews from happy customers make your GMB page highly visible. Rather than waiting for customers to give you a review; take the initiative and approach them. As a suggestion, you could ask them to leave a review via text, email or via social media – or even through Google itself using the review link.
Not that long ago, Google added a feature that allows you to edit your business profile directly from Search and through Google Maps, making it even easier to make quick updates. You can now also watch their GMB YouTube playlist that’s really informative and shows you how you can get the most out of your own small business profile.
Create Email Subsets
For some years now, we probably all know the value of sending personalised marketing emails rather than sending everyone the same generic message. Business emails that lack personalisation are more than likely going to end up in the ‘round filing basket’ (aka the bin). Staggeringly, a recent study stated that a whopping 64% of consumers opt out of marketing emails that don’t target interests that are highly relevant to their business, so you can’t afford to continue sending out those regular emails without harnessing the power of personalisation.
However, there is much more to personalisation than merely adding ‘To (name)’ at the start of your emails. In 2022, the content and the tonality of your emails must also be personalised. This means you should create different subsets of customers and segment them for each digital marketing campaign.
No two customers are necessarily the same, they all have different needs and pain points. For instance, some will be first time customers new to your business, while others may have been loyal customers for years. They may also have varying tastes when it comes to the products or services you offer. Every customer is quite unique – in their business needs as well as the way they interact during their purchasing journey with you.
By personalising your email marketing and making it customised to cater for these differences, you’re much more likely to capture a prospective customer’s attention while also extending the lifetime value of your existing customers.
Make Home Delivery Work Smarter
Home delivery is another aspect of business that went into overdrive as a result of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. If your small business offers home delivery, you need to make sure you get your products into your customers’ hands as quickly and smoothly as possible. Naturally, this is even more important if you’re sending time-sensitive goods like perishable food items as a food retailer etc. Regardless of your product offering, your customers have come to expect fast and efficient delivery of their online orders – particularly during the COVID-19 dance.
If you’re a small business providing your own delivery options, there are a number of apps out there that can provide invaluable route-optimisation suggestions for delivery drivers. Apps like these allow drivers to plan ahead for the fastest delivery routes and many of them include additional features around your business’s home delivery needs.
Business Survival During The Pandemic
COVID-19 has altered the business landscape forever…but not all of it in a bad way. As always with challenges and change, there are pockets of opportunity if you are willing to innovate and adapt as well. So, ensure these tips are included in your 2022 digital marketing campaign so your small business can experience a new period of growth and profitability long into the new year and beyond.
Even on a good day, being a small business and staying ahead of the competition is often about solving problems and adapting. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is not just a saying for our species, after all.
If you’re willing to shift your business to adapt to the lockdown (or any other kind of financial downturn) and put in the work that other business aren’t willing to do – the chances are you’ll survive, and possibly even thrive while other small businesses are struggling.
Try to keep up connecting with others, grow your network and continue to check out the various pieces of content here on Online Marketing Group.
Hopefully, you’ll find a number of useful content articles here that will encourage you and provide relevant ideas to improve your small business.
Maybe some of these examples of how businesses have faced their challenges during this pandemic will inspire you to use SEO and other digital marketing tactics to dominate during your own COVID-19 dance.
Speak to us today to see how to manage uncertainty in business and find out how we can help you overcome these challenging business times.