Most of the world is shut down and it’s a scary time. Scary for our health. Scary for our livelihoods. What’s a business supposed to do when they can’t let people in the front door? It’s going to be weeks or months until we can get back to whatever normal is. So now what?
When the going gets tough. The tough get resourceful.
When you can’t serve people in the ways you’ve always done before, you can either give up (I know, it’s really tempting sometimes), or you find another way. I’m here to offer suggestions on other ways you can serve your customers. It may or may not be a way to make sales right now, but anything you can do now will go a long way in keeping your customers engaged and thinking about you when things do open up again.
You have a purpose. There is something that inspires you to share your expertise and drives you to help people. Something that made you start a business, work at a nonprofit, share your art, or serve your community.
When you can’t do things the normal way, you can still be helpful to the people you serve, and your community as a whole. You can connect, inspire and instruct. If you still have your marketing hat on (and I bet you do), this is called engaging your audience.
Your people are still there and you’re probably already using the technology
Your people are still there. Their lives are in upheaval too. Most of us are feeling isolated and missing our normal lives, so the gesture of a sincere connection from you will go a long way.
Thanks to modern technology, there are tons of ways you can connect with people. Start with what you know, do it consistently, and grow from there:
- Blog posts – It’s likely your website is already equipped for this (it certainly is if I built your website). Check with your web developer if this is built-in. Or start a new blog on the platform of your choice. It can always be added to your website later.
- Email – Don’t have a list? Now is a great time to start building one. We like Mailchimp and Mailerlite for just starting out. They are fast and easy to set up. Use whatever tool you have and don’t over think it. Add a subscribe button to your website and start sending and sharing content.
- Social media – Focus on the tools you like the best and do it really well. Don’t spread yourself too thin. If you love Instagram and hate LinkedIn, then focus on Instagram right now. Remember the ‘social’ part of social media, which is responding to comments, joining in conversations, finding where you can be helpful.
Think you have nothing to share? Think again.
YOU: “I hear what you’re saying, but Leslie, I have no idea WHAT to post. Usually I am posting my sales and services and products and I’m dead in the water right now.”
I disagree. If you had nothing to say, you wouldn’t be reading this. Unlike the big box stores and corporate brand names, you actually care about the individual people you serve. (They may care about “the people” but you care about individual people.) You probably know a fair number by name. So, what are the questions that a customer would be asking you right now? What are the questions you get over and over again? What are the things you wish people would ask you? Share a memory or story of how you started out.
Here’s some ideas to get you started:
While you’re closed, your customers are missing your expertise. Can you help them by providing some ideas and instruction for things they can do from home?
The one upside of the COVID quarantine / work from home orders is that the expectations for high production quality has gone way down. I’ve seen the highest level experts and celebrities on national TV with goofiest Zoom backgrounds and kids interrupting their interviews. That means yours will be just fine, too. Try one or more of these:
- Online consultations – Can any part of your business be online consulting or check ins? Many consultants offer a short consult for free, and a longer paid consult. Do whatever works best for you and don’t be afraid to try something now and adjust later.
- How to videos – Keep them short, and don’t be afraid to cover the basics. You make think something is stupidly simple, but I can guarantee it can help someone. How to plant a seed, how to stretch, sew a ribbon, record music, etc. Encourage folks to send their questions to you.
- Instructional blog posts – After you make that video, turn it into an blog post and put it on your website. Your website probably already has a blogging section, even if you haven’t used it yet. (If I built your website, you certainly do.)
What ideas and inspiration can you share with people? I know a high level marketing consultant who shares his workouts and healthy cooking. It has nothing to do with his business, but his fans are enjoying the sneak peek into his daily routine. And oh, by the way, he’s answering business questions at the same time. Clever and very authentically him.
If you can answer business questions while you’re cooking, and then people think of you next time they need marketing services, why not?
- Take a tour of your products or store – Show your favorite products as if someone walked in an said “What do you recommend for ____?” Can you let them buy now and pick up later? Can they buy a gift certificate?
- Favorite links – If you have favorite websites or social media accounts, share those with people, and let them know why you like them. This can be a great way to cross-promote other businesses if they are complimentary to your own.
- Motivation and inspiration – What inspires you and makes you happy? What can you share that your audience would find enjoyable and inspiring? If you were to create a scrapbook of inspiration related to your business, what types of things would be in it? Share those things.
Make a plan. Your future self will thank you.
Still stuck? I bet you can think of 10 questions right now that you get asked all the time — or perhaps wish people asked you. Jot them down. Now take the easiest one and answer it in writing or video. There’s your first piece of content. Now do 9 more and schedule those posts. That is two weeks or more of content right there. And once you start, you’ll likely think of a dozen more ideas.
The real secret is to plan it all out in advance. You can use a printed calendar, a Google Doc, post-it notes, or your favorite software. Doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you! In the marketing world, we call this content strategy or social media strategy, and people pay thousands of dollars to consultants for their expertise in this area. But you don’t need to spend thousands, you can get started now — for free.
As you may be able to tell, I love helping people get their ideas planned out and shared into the digital world for their customers to enjoy. I’m a list making fool. (My kids hate my lists… lol) There are some really cool integrations that can be set up to make this easier for you, too. You can set up a blog post that automatically gets sent to your email list, or a social media post that feeds into your website, or scheduling tools that help you share content across platforms more easily. But I digress…
You can do this. I promise. Just be yourself and help people like you always do, just in a digital format instead of face to face.
That said, if you do need a little bit of help, or a whole lot of help, please reach out and ask. I’m a big fan of helping you do the best you can with what you’ve got, and making incremental improvements over time.