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You’re hunkered down, retooling your business model and trying to figure out how to stabilize your revenue stream, but what more can entrepreneurs like you do right now to ensure your business survives the COVID-19 pandemic?
Here are five things you can do right now to maximize your chances for coming through this crisis ahead of the competition:
1. Optimize your consumer contact list (and expand to social media)
Sure, most of your customers use email and are checking it more often now that they are stuck in their living rooms or makeshift home offices. But they are also on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
I'm known for email, but have been a big proponent of social media for years and now is the time to find out where your customers are so you can market to them effectively.
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Also, don’t forget to tailor your messaging to the medium you’re using. What works on LinkedIn might not get a second look on Instagram.
2. Go after market share
Most of the biggest players in your space – the ones with high overhead and low margins – have slowed their businesses to a crawl while people (both employees and consumers) are forced to stay home. They’re spending less on research and product innovation, which means you should be ramping up.
Use this time to find out what your customers will need in the near and long term, and develop products to meet that demand. Use this forced timeout to innovate for long and short term success.
3. Increase outreach volume, but say something meaningful
Your best customers want to hear from you. Thanks to opt-in email, pioneered by yours truly in the early ‘90s when I founded eDirect, they literally signed up to get your content. But if you aren’t saying something meaningful or useful, they will tune you out.
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This is not the time for generic “here’s what we’re offering this week” emails. Connect with your customers on a personal level. Offer to help manage their changing needs in a new online-only environment. Stay relevant and your message will be read!
4. Build stronger personal relationships with customers and suppliers
While you might not be able to grab a cup of coffee with your top customers or suppliers, it is still crucial to maintain personal relationships with them.
When people are forced to be selective about with whom they will work or interact, they will usually gravitate toward those who know and understand them on a personal level.
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Offer to video-chat with them from your home. Introduce them to your loved ones and/or pets. Talk to them about how they are getting by (and take mental notes about what they need now or will soon need). Use this time to connect and build stronger bonds with your customers.
5. Take advantage of low advertising costs
During economic crises like this, most of the big guys cut back on advertising. According to Ad Age, in 2009, the last year of the Great Recession, U.S. ad spending plunged 12 percent.
Believe me, I lived it in 2009 and the dotcom crash years earlier.
An economic downturn doesn't bring down the need to advertise but will bring down ad prices. Based on supply and demand, now is the time to talk to your ad rep and get a deep discount on your spend.
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It doesn't matter if it's cost-per-click, cost-per-impression or cost-per-acquisition; pricing tends to be much softer during these times. I can assure you, while people are stuck in their homes, they are clicking away and still buying. Your return on your marketing investment can be better than ever if you negotiate.
This latest test is going to be grueling for all businesses – online and off – but the true entrepreneurs among you – who figure out how to evolve along with the marketplace – can survive, adapt and ultimately be a better version of their past selves.
Scott Hirsch is a Digital Marketing Pioneer who introduced many e-commerce technologies in use today: Opt-in Email, E-appending, Digital Data/Media Marketing (SEO, Google Ads, and Social Media Management), Affiliate Marketing and DIY Application Development.