How to keep your business alive online

With only essential stores being allowed to be kept open and everyone being advised to stay in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of small businesses who rely heavily on footfall in their local communities are struggling to maintain sales. If you’re trying to move your operations online to keep revenue coming in, it can seem like an impossible task without huge budgets or years of marketing expertise.

Yes, it’s true that some knowledge of digital marketing will definitely give you an advantage, however it’s still possible for you to keep your business alive online even if you’ve never done it before. Here are our tips for businesses operating online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Provide the services & products people are looking for

This doesn’t mean you should completely change your products and services, instead this means that you should make it as easy for people to find your products as possible by using the same name and categories that they’re using to talk about those products online. E.g. if you sell mats for home workouts, you’d probably have the best success calling these “yoga mats” as opposed to “exercise mats” as this is what consumers online are calling them more often. Google Trends is a great free tool that can help you understand which terms are searched for more often and how they change in popularity.

While you don’t need to change your products completely, you can use information about popular search terms to refocus your sales tactics and priorities. E.g. if you can see that there is far higher demand for your yoga mats rather than your running shoes, focus your efforts on promoting those products instead. On top of this, you can use tools like Google Trends to find related terms to your original search e.g. you might see that a related search for “exercise mats” is “exercise bundles” in which case you should consider changing your sales strategy to sell multiple pieces of equipment as one whole bundle to meet this demand.

2. Make use of free social media platforms

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great for small business to promote their business for free. Post on a regular basis to keep your customers aware of how your service has changed and what you currently offer. You can use free image tools like Canva to create professional looking images and banners that will catch your audience’s attention or you can film short videos on your phone to post to your page.

Use your keyword and topic research to inform what you post about – everyone is struggling with something right now so you can post about things that you don’t necessarily sell but might help your audience get through the lockdown a bit easier. Share resources from other brands in your industry like a home workout video or activities to keep kids busy at home.

You can also use this opportunity to build your online following that could lead to higher sales now and in the future. Lots of companies are building their audiences organically by collaborating with other brands to share each other’s posts and running competitions that involve a user liking or sharing your content with their own followers.

3. Pay for social media exposure

With less time being spent on travel and more time being spent inside, audiences are using social media more often. While not all businesses will have budget to spare right now, if you have managed to save costs and are looking to invest somewhere, social media ads could be the right way to go. You can target audiences based on their location, interest or demographic information so you’re likely to reach highly relevant users. With most forms of social media advertising you can either boost a popular post you’ve made to reach a wider audience or you can create a brand new purpose-built ad to promote one of your products.

4. Build your network & relationships ready for the future

Use this time to network with people who may be able to help your business move forward now or once everything is back to normal. You can connect with relevant users on LinkedIn based on their location, company or job title and start conversations with them. Don’t be afraid to be upfront with people and ask them if they want help right now and vice versa if you could do with help yourself.

You can also join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to reach people with relevant interests that you can either promote your products to or use to gain business tips from.

5. Make sure you understand your audience

All of these activities will be pointless if you don’t fully understand the audience you’re trying to reach and exactly what value you have to them. Now is the time to do the research and planning you’re usually too busy to do. Develop a buyer persona and take the time to understand what’s important to your customers, what their challenges are and why they’d be inclined to choose you over a competitor. It’s also important to understand what motivates you as a business and what sets you apart from the rest of the industry. You can use our downloadable worksheet to map out these key areas.

If you’re looking to learn more about digital marketing to move your business forward during this period try reading our Introduction to basic Search Engine Optimisation or our digital marketing glossary.

For professional support with your digital marketing efforts, feel free to get in touch with our team. We can arrange a free workshop to ensure you have a clear focus on your target audience, challenges and direction of your digital marketing efforts.