06.28.21: While many of the shutdowns declared by government entities have been lifted, bookmark this page as a reference for any future shutdowns that may come our way.
I've been Zooming with my WordPress clients of every size, market and set up about how they can morph through the current environment and push through to the other side. These conversations have been enlightening and sometimes heartbreaking.
While we cannot control what is out of our control, we can control how we react and what we put into place moving forward. At times like this, a positive, proactive push to the future maintains sanity — and saves businesses.
Here are the ideas and concepts that kept coming up and that my clients showed the most interest in implementing.
Be Up Front and Honest
There will be times that you cannot be everything to everyone. Therefore, as much as you would like to help, you need to be honest about your current capabilities. Be upfront when you feel you cannot help and refer customers to vetted and reliable resources. Most folks will appreciate your honesty.
Think of ways to create programs and services that not only help keep your business viable but that serve a need that you know your customers are looking for. Sometimes this means trying something new or taking an approach you would have never considered before.
- Can you offer discounts or extended payment terms?
- Are there services or products you can offer en-gratis that won't negatively impact your business health?
Open Lines of Communication
Reach out and let your customers know how you can help. Be personal, compassionate, and as detailed as possible. Email is a crucial communication tool; use it appropriately.
I am not a sugar-coater. It's not how I roll; however, that doesn't mean you have to be doom and gloom either. Don't be patronizing or say what you think folks want to hear.
Be genuine and personable. Acknowledging obvious challenges that we are all struggling with and working through will help to build long-term relationships.
Here's is where your unique personality and style can shine through. Use “you” to your advantage by reflecting on what makes your concern genuine and your approach helpful.
- Be explicit about what your active modes of communication are. For example, if you offer phone support — answer promptly and avoid calls going to voice-mail if possible. Lots of folks are spending time on hold nowadays or unable to get through phone lines. We don't want to be clumped in with that “group.”
- If you can't be Johnny-on-the-spot with phone communications, consider putting up a particular form just for these times with fields catering to customers' concerns specific to now. Then respond to those emails promptly.
- Solicit feedback so that you know what you can do to be there for your customers. Then, put strategies and processes in place to cater to these needs as they evolve.
- Create a specific page on your website dedicated to any changes in your business that you want customers to be aware of. Then modify as needed so that it is always current.
- Make that page and your contact information front and center on your homepage. Include a link in all your communications.
Moving to eCommerce
There are so many things that you can do while in shutdown to keep your business moving ahead by offering eCommerce. And, having a WordPress website means getting eCom up and running is not as difficult as it may seem.
More folks are shopping online than ever before; many will now prefer to do so. Be there too so they can buy from you.
If your services also include some physical products, get WooCommerce in place and start selling online. Now is a perfect time to get your feet wet with the processes and what is involved.
Service businesses tend to ignore eCommerce — but not so fast. Can you offer your services via conferring or video-cons online? How about eBooks or PDF whitepapers? Maybe you can create some training courses or workshops that complement your primary services.
Start Your Newsletter
If you've avoided having a newsletter (aff), think about starting one now. You can use your client list to keep them updated on everything you are doing and how your business practices have changed. A word of caution: we have to be careful because we don't want to be accused of spamming.
- Only add active customers to your list.
- In the first sentence, note that you are starting your newsletter to be helpful during this time with instructions on how they can unsubscribe if not interested.
- Note when you'll be sending (daily, weekly, monthly), then stick to that schedule.
- Ask for input on what your customers' challenges are so you can address those specifically.
- Be sure to put a sign-up widget on your website so that interested parties can also subscribe.
Do Facebook Live Events
I have a friend who is an “antiquer.” She told me about a mall she frequents and what they are doing that I thought I would share with you. This shop does live walkarounds of the mall, picking out certain items to showcase and talk about.
Let all your Facebook followers and those on your email list know that once a week (announce the specific days and time in advance on your socials and website), you are going to do a Facebook live event. During the event, you will feature certain areas of the shop and products. Of course, you can do demos too.
As an incentive, those who attend the free online event can enjoy a discount on any featured items. While you run the video end of the deal, a partner or helper can answer questions and respond to comments.
You can also ask if anyone has any special occasions coming up and what they may be looking for. Then, during the live session, you can showcase suggestions as you tour your shop.
Then, during the live event, if any viewers want to purchase any of the items that you spotlight, they can let you know. The items are then set aside for curbside pickup.
Of course, this process and how you run it can vary based on the type of products that you offer. When this story was relayed to me, I thought it was such a smart idea (even if you are eCom only). You can do live events showcasing your products even if you don't have a brick-and-mortar.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? Even after we make it past this hump, this approach could be applied to build exposure for whatever you have to offer.
Webinars are a great way to keep in touch with your customer base about your company’s status, offer free seminars and “happy hours” without actually doing any selling. You can offer one-on-one sessions or group events.
Increase and Personalize Social Media
- You've already updated your social profiles to note any change in hours or services. But did you pin that to the top of your page? This is what customers will be looking for — put it front and center.
- Jot down your customers' concerns and needs at this time. Then create short helpful content (blog posts and/or videos) that specifically addresses each and post to your socials (and link to them in your new newsletter too).
- No need to wonder how you can help — ask. Post a time when you'll have an AMA (Ask Me Anything) where customers can tune in and ask the questions most important to them. And you'll provide the answers. When you announce your AMA, ask customers to send you questions in advance so that you can be sure to be prepared.
A Few WordPress Plugins
Suppose you run a restaurant or a store that offers local delivery. Your customers may not want to open the door to receive the delivery. With social distancing, customers may be wary about opening the door to a delivery driver.
This plugin gives a small checkbox just before the Place Order button at checkout that asks customers if they would like their order left at the door.
This is a straightforward plugin with the sole purpose of allowing website owners a quick way to add a COVID-19 notice to their website. This free plugin is intended to provide a stop-gap solution and does not attempt to compete with more full-featured “banner” plugins.
Think about ways you can share your knowledge and expertise via an online course. You can offer courses at a discount to start to show the value and convenience of online learning. You may be surprised how easy and profitable the process actually is.
It gives you the power to manage Zoom Meetings, check reports, and create users from your WordPress dashboard. So while security concerns are in the news, I'm not worried that the information I share is not specific or sensitive data. (That is unless you want to learn about WordPress.)
The future is now…
Now is not the time to stay as is or plan on going back to business as usual. As difficult as this is, the survivors are going to those that lead, morph and adapt. Here are two websites with tons of information for small businesses to take advantage of:
- GoDaddy's OpenWeStand Initiative: is for anyone who keeps the economic health of small businesses top of mind in this challenging time. It’s for shop owners minding their customers’ and employees’ safety — and for everyone who stands with small business.
- Google's StandForSmall Initiative: providing educational resources, network connections, offers, and mentorship opportunities to help address your business needs.
Business as we know it is changing and will most likely remain changed even after this passes. While thinking about how you will get through this, it is wise to start laying the groundwork for how you will run your business in the post-COVID world.
At your service,