Businesses’ flexibility demonstrated during the pandemic can also sustain long-term growth.
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 to 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. Batista encourages his clients to continue with successful innovations that came about as the result of the pandemic.
Another expert, Rieva Lesonsky, offers her own ideas for maintaining momentum during this adjustment period. Lesonsky is co-founder of SmallBizDaily.com and GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small businesses and entrepreneurship. She also served on the SBA’s National Advisory Council for six years.
“Consumers expect a seamless experience, so it is imperative that business owners keep up the convenient options that they implemented to navigate the pandemic,” Lesonsky said. “There has been a paradigm shift because of the COVID experience.”
Here are their eight suggestions:
- Continue to communicate with customers. Let them know via website or social media if hours have changed 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 COVID-19 numbers continue to remain high, customers want to know exactly how businesses plan to keep them safe. 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 trends and 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. “Know your clients and how they expect to receive messages,” Lesonsky said. “Even very recently, people shied away from marketing through texts because that seemed too invasive, but now its acceptance is rising.”
- 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. A service that Lesonsky said many consumers are now demanding is a contactless payment option. “It’s a behavior they have adopted that makes them feel safe, and implementing it is not that complicated or expensive for business owners,” Lesonsky said. “It’s definitely worth a look. After all, it’s all about keeping customers happy.”
Business owners who are still recovering and rebounding from the pandemic can find assistance with these and other innovative ideas for helping their businesses grow and succeed at a Florida SBDC office, which are in more than 40 locations around the state from Pensacola to Key West. Appointments are being conducted virtually for safety and convenience.
To learn more, and to schedule an appointment, please visit www.FloridaSBDC.org.