Due to the global pandemic, companies altered the direction of their products and services to maintain or improve revenue. The popular term for this adjustment is “pivoting.” Such flexibility served businesses well, and owners will need to preserve and fine-tune those efforts for continued long-term success.
As the principal provider of assistance for small businesses in the state of Florida, the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network employs certified professionals who provide no-cost consulting, training and research to help businesses grow and succeed during blue sky days and dark days, too. Jairo Batista is one such consultant. He specializes in marketing and works at the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Batista encourages his clients to continue with successful innovations that came about as the result of the pandemic.
Following are his eight suggestions:
- Continue to communicate with customers. Let them know via website or social media if hours change and whether virtual appointments are available. Also, state whether you provide delivery or curbside pick-up options. Clients are now used to these multiple, flexible solutions and will expect them to continue even after the pandemic is over.
- Address concerns directly. As regulations and guidelines change, customers want to know exactly how businesses plan to keep them safe from COVID-19. The more transparent and explicit the information about safety measures, the more secure and confident customers feel.
- Make vital information a cinch to find. “Read your website like you are a first-time visitor,” Batista said. “Ask yourself if you can immediately tell by looking at your landing page what goods or services your company provides. This should be absolutely clear, or people will lose interest and click away to someplace else.” Also, don’t forget to make sure the website is responsive, meaning that information is easily readable on mobile devices.
- Keep messages and content fresh. Conduct a poll so customers can participate and make their preferences known. Create videos to convey messages instead of using text each time. Consider adding a blog to the company website. Looking for content? Spotlight employees’ expertise, awards or experience. Set up a list of answers to frequently asked questions. Offer tips and advice related to goods or services. Highlight testimonials or reviews from satisfied customers.
- Don’t forget about the competition. It’s important to stay abreast of market demands, and determining how competitors are doing this enables development of a strategy. Anticipating and fulfilling needs allows a company to stand out from others.
- Remember: All marketing efforts are connected. Social media can improve a customer base by reinforcing brand awareness. Websites attract potential customers, too. Small business owners have to pay equal attention to all avenues because marketing is synergistic. Also, make sure you research your customer base so that you are aware of what platforms they use so you can prioritize those in your marketing campaign efforts.
- Know the lingo. When it comes to generating social media and web traffic, search engine optimization (SEO) is paramount. SEO improves the position of a business in internet searches by using various techniques such as incorporating popular keywords that users enter in a Google search. Batista encourages his small business clients to seek the help of a Florida SBDC consultant for tips and advice about SEO. “We can get you some invaluable guidance about algorithms so you can reach your target audience. It is a vital part of successful marketing.”
- Embrace technology. It is imperative to keep your eye on changes and trends in your industry sector to meet customers’ expectations. As products and tools evolve, you want to use the most up-to-date technology to make your work-flow processes streamlined, efficient and current.
Flagler County business owners who are still recovering and rebounding from the pandemic can find assistance navigating these and other challenges at the Florida SBDC at UCF, which serves the eight-county Central Florida region.
As part of its service offering, the Florida SBDC Network can help businesses understand available relief programs for COVID, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant, and the Restaurant Relief Fund. Consultants are available to work with business owners to determine which type of relief fits their needs and walk them-- step by step-- through each part of the application process. Since March 2020, the Florida SBDC Network has helped small businesses in Florida access more than $219 million in state and federal disaster relief funds.
To learn more about the available disaster loan programs, visit www.FloridaSBDC.org/disaster/cares-act/. Appointments are being conducted virtually for safety and convenience. To schedule an appointment, please visit www.sbdcorlando.com.