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Small Business During COVID-19 : JM Online EP. 1

How can I keep my business profitable through COVID-19?

Chris, Ted, & Eric talk through examples and ideas for the small business owner to sustain their business through this unprecedented level of instability.

 

 

Show Notes:

Leopold Brothers Distillery, New Belgium Brewery and R+L Carriers partner to create and distribute hand sanitizer

Huckleberry Roasters closed their doors early with an emotional appeal to loyal Instagram followers, and then later reopened.

Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters sells competitors products online.

Overcommunicate – See the JM blog post about how to use your online profiles to communicate if you are open for business.

Philadelphia Chef recreates Restaurant Experience at Home – tableside facetime call

Are You Open for Business? Let Your Customers Know

The invasion of COVID-19 into our lives has caused upheaval for so many and Omaha-based businesses are no exception. Between broken financials, new rules for physical storefronts, and determining what you can do for your employees, everything about your business probably feels something like a very blurry tornado.

Another factor to consider is your business’ local online presence. But this post will help you sort it out without having to spend hours Googling everything.

We’ll discuss in a few bullet points what you can do for each piece of your online presence, along with a link to the platform and relevant documentation.

Your Website:

  • Add a banner or other type of message that’s obvious but doesn’t disrupt the normal use of your site. Be as specific as possible. An example can be found here: https://www.mcallisterortho.com/
  • You could also create a site page specifically for COVID-19 related updates. (See related bullet point for Google My Business below)
  • If your site has eCommerce features and you’re not shipping anything at this time, disable the cart functionality.
  • If only some products (such as non-essentials) are not being shipped, disable those products or mark them as unavailable.
  • Do not pull down or disable your entire website. Even if it’s a short-term measure, that will negatively impact Google’s indexing and ranking of your site.
  • Further information from Google is available here: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/03/how-to-pause-your-business-online-in.html

Google My Business:

  • Most locations now have the option to “Mark as Temporarily Closed.” If this is the case for your business, select that option right away.
  • If your business is open but the hours have changed, update the hours in the “Special Hours” section of your business information. It’s the same area where you would mark holiday closures.
  • Google has made available a post type called “COVID-19 Update.” Make a post right now describing clearly how customers can do business with you. Make additional update posts as warranted. No need to post frequently but if you have new information regarding the future of your business, don’t be afraid to share it! This is a way to communicate with existing and potential customers who are searching for information about your business.
  • If you have a page on your website for COVID-19 updates, you can post that URL in the business information of your Google My Business property.
  • If you’re a health professional and have started providing your services through video conferencing, or telemedicine, you may now have a field to post your site page with information about this service.
  • More information is available at this heavily-updated post: https://whitespark.ca/blog/keeping-gmb-accurate-during-covid19-pandemic/

For more on setting up and configuring Google My Business, click here.

Facebook Business Page:

  • Make a post right now describing clearly how your customers can do business with you. Pin the post so it appears at the top of your Facebook page feed.
  • If applicable, update your Page Info, including changed business hours. You have options to select “Open With Service Changes” or “Temporarily Closed.”
  • You can use digital gift cards with Facebook partners to allow customers to support your business now and help encourage foot-traffic when the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.
  • You could also use Facebook Live instead of canceling events or to stay in touch and continue delivering value to your customers.
  • For advanced users, the recorded Live video could later be edited into shorter videos and posted on Google My Business, Instagram, and other platforms your business might be active on.
  • For more information, you can read Facebook’s own suggestions at https://www.facebook.com/business/boost/resource

My number one recommendation is to make a checklist. It can be easy to get lost in the whirlwind of issues to cover or possibilities to take advantage of. Try to identify each category or platform to cover, prioritize it from most visible to least visible, and then work through that list at least once a week. If you can do that, you’ll be putting your business presence in a good position to rebound when the time comes.

3 Ways to Fulfill Appointments Online When You Can’t Meet In Person

Does your business depend on scheduling in-person appointments with your customers? Are you trying to figure out how to keep scheduling appointments while being disrupted by quarantine, social distancing, and business operation mandates?

Without knowing when restrictions will be lifted, how can you plan to begin filling appointments again? Do we wait for permission to allow our businesses to return to normal, or do we adjust our business in order to continue scheduling appointments and serving our clients?

You can still get in front of your clients even if you can’t meet face-to-face. Go online to meet with your customers.

Here are 3 ways to meet with your customers online when you can’t meet in person:

1 – Schedule Video Appointments:

When you can’t meet your appointments face to face, you must embrace technology. Meeting with a client on the phone is better than not meeting with them. But meeting them face-to-face over video, creates a stronger connection than a phone call.

Zoom and Skype are the major video conferencing applications. Use those if you and your client are comfortable with them.

If these applications are uncomfortable to you or your client, you can use technology that’s already in your pocket. Most consumers use a smartphone and most smartphones have a video call feature. For Apple Devices, schedule a FaceTime call. On your Android use the Duo application to video call your client.

“What if I need to make a repair, video is no substitute for getting my hands on the problem.”

You’re absolutely right. We know you won’t be able to do a full diagnosis or a repair over video. In this season you won’t be able to do your work as normal. You must see this as an opportunity to create a relationship, serve your client and gain their trust. Taking a look at their problem over video will give your client a chance to feel like their problem will get solved soon. You will be building trust with a client and have a better chance to schedule an in-person appointment for the future.

2 – Offer Online Scheduling

Schedule your appointments for the future when you’re more confident that you will be able to meet in person. If you are getting a flood of calls, schedule them for 1-2 months ahead when you trust that you will be able to start meeting in person again. Depending on the scheduling software and tools you use, consider taking your scheduling online to allow your customers to book their own appointment with you. Scheduling online can also allow you to easily reschedule many appointments if you are still unable to meet in 1-2 months.

There are a number of online tools that can assist that range from simple to very complicated. Here are 2 good options to consider:

BirchPress – Birchpress is a comprehensive calendar and scheduling system. You can create a calendar and have multiple service providers set their availability for each day. You can add padding in between appointments for drive time, and you can categorize each provider based on their skill so that users can book the correct appointment.  If you have customers that are in different time zones trying to schedule an appointment with you, Birchpress may not be the best option for you.

WordPress Booking Calendar – This may be one of the best free online scheduling tools you can integrate into your WordPress website. The free version is good if you are a small team with simple service offerings. You can upgrade to pro and additional extended versions that allow you to book by the hour, customize admin permissions, take payments, and customize the front end view to match your website theme.

3 – Create Online Tutorials

If you can’t make appointments or meet with clients, you can still meet with your customers online. Your customers still have questions and needs even if you are unable to meet right now.

Consider creating online tutorials, blogs, or videos answering the most common questions your customers ask or how to do the most common repairs you make or steps to fix the simplest repairs.

You may be thinking, “If businesses make money by answering questions and fixing things, why give away your business for free?” Your customers come to you to solve their problems, and when you do, it creates loyalty. When you can’t go out and make the repairs, focus on teaching your customers how to fix the leak they have right now, even if only temporarily until you can come and do it professionally.

Once you have your trust-building content created, distribute it. Put it on your social media channels, put it on your website and in an email newsletter.

Just because you can’t meet with your customers face to face, doesn’t mean that you can’t keep serving your customers. But you may need to innovate and change the way you do business to keep creating loyal customers.

 

Offer Takeout: 2 ways to start filling orders fast

Are you a dine-in business? Are you just trying to wait it out, or are you looking for ways to respond to the change in consumer behavior due to COVID-19?

In a report by Yelp’s Local Economy Coronavirus Impact Report states that delivery and take-out are replacing dine-in.

Instead of waiting for consumer behavior to change again, what can dine-in businesses do to become a delivery and take-out business?

Start by creating a take-out menu. These need to be your customer favorites and you must be able to make them quickly if demand spikes.

Here are 2 ways to quickly transition to a take-out or delivery business:

Our recommendations are designed to get you started taking orders soon, in the next couple of hours. For this reason, we suggest taking payments at your store POS terminal as usual. Once you are taking orders, then consider setting up a payment processor with your order form.

1 – Use your existing contact form:

Chances are you have a contact form on your site. Create a new form where you can allow people to choose which to-go menu items they want. Include their name, address, contact information.

Take their payment cash or card when they arrive to get their order. Also, many contact forms allow you to quickly configure PayPal or other payment processors to allow you to take payments at checkout.

If you aren’t familiar with your contact form plugin, google it quick to get a tutorial. Here is a tutorial for Gravity Forms and Contact Form 7:

Gravity Forms – How to create a contact form in under 2 minutes

Contact Form 7 – Customizing a Form

Time to first order ~ 1-3h

2 – Install “Restaurant Menu” plugin

The Restaurant Menu is a complete plugin that is ready to configure with your store info, menu items, and delivery preferences. Once installed, it will prompt you to install a mobile app onto a tablet or phone to receive and manage orders. It even allows your device to connect to your device to a ticket/order printer in the kitchen via Bluetooth, WiFi or USB.

All instructions are toward the bottom of the page starting at “How to Install and Activate”. Setup your menu on the plugin website, copy the button shortcode to a prominent place on your homepage and start taking orders.

Time to first order 1-3h.

After you get your take-out order system started, consider adding a credit card payment fields or PayPal. Consider repurposing your staff into a commission-and-tips-based delivery team.

Spread the Word

Tell your loyal customers that you’re open for business and you’re doing take-out. These loyal customers likely follow you on social media. Use a hashtag, something like #takeoutomaha.

Let’s do this Omaha.​​