How to improve a local business during lockdown closures

At this stage, every small business owner on the planet is feeling the effects of restrictions on movement and business lockdowns. Unless you live in a cave or on a deserted island, you will be affected. For health and fitness businesses and local business owners, taking action now is vital to mitigate the effects of the government-imposed restrictions, customer behavioural changes, and overall economic downturn. Even if your business is not in the middle of a lockdown or is far from a virus hotspot, you should be making plans for the future. In fact, every business should have a disaster preparedness and contingency plan. 

But for the many businesses already in the midst of a crisis, what can you do to help protect your business from the looming recession? Let’s look at some ideas for working on your business while the doors are closed and future-proofing your business against an economic downturn.

Note: I cannot offer financial advice or legal advice on how to operate a business that is facing economic hardships. But I can offer free advice on improving your online presence, your business marketing, and your business processes to help you operate more efficiently and productively. 

Adjust your ad spend

Digital advertising is great for generating customer leads and driving traffic. But if nobody can buy your products and services, it’s a waste of money. However, for many businesses, now is the time to make big changes in ad targeting. For others, now is the time to increase spending.

According to WordStream, these 7 industries have increased spend and have improved results from Google Ads since the Coronavirus outbreak began to affect the world.

  • Non-profits and charities
  • Health and medical
  • Business management
  • Finance
  • Beauty and personal care
  • On-demand media
  • Greetings, gifts, and flowers

It’s not surprising that the hospitality industry, travel, live entertainment and sports industries have seen the biggest drops in terms of ad spend and ad performance. Nobody is looking for the best restaurant in Paris right now because it’s not open to the public.

Go through your Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and any other advertising campaigns and turn off the ones that do not offer at least 30 days return on investment (ROI). Many businesses offer discounts for impulse buyers or local shoppers. Turn these off until you open the doors again.  This can save a lot of advertising budget that you can use to ramp up interest when the storm has passed.

Offer your services online 

The world is moving online and more and more people are used to buying products, consuming courses, and interacting with other people from their laptop or mobile phone. The online course industry is gigantic and growing bigger every year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if 2020 is the year when the online education industry blossoms into one of the world’s biggest industries.

Take a hard look at the services you offer and decide if it’s possible to offer online services both in the near and long-term. Even if you believe that the downturn will pass quickly, the benefits of testing, building, and releasing online services will future proof (some of) your business. In the short-term, online services can be the lifeblood that keeps the company going.

Offer a technique coaching service for current clients. Accept video submissions of your clients performing yoga movements, lifting weights, or self-myofascial release and send the videos back with comments and critical advice. 

Physiotherapy & Osteopathy

Online Physiotherapy classes are popular in many countries. Once clients understand that physio services do not always have to be “hands on”, they will be happy to continue, especially if you offer a discount or added benefits such as online material. Check out how our client, Physio Fit Adelaide, has embraced the online physiotherapy concept to prepare for the impact of Coronavirus closures or restrictions. MetaMed’s online Osteopathy page is another example of a “hands-on” service functioning in the online space.

Yoga

Teaching Yoga online has been a popular way of delivering classes for many years, especially on platforms like YouTube. But using a platform like Teachable or Thinkific is a better way to serve courses with high-quality, ad-free video and materials to customers and clients. If your website runs on WordPress, another option is to use a plugin like TutorLMS to get full control over the course and to avoid monthly platform fees.

CrossFit

One of CrossFit’s attractions is the ability to do a workout with minimal equipment. Set up a daily kettlebell fitness challenge for people that have the time and space to workout at home. You could create a daily video or a live stream. 

Motivation might be at a low for many business owners, but this is the perfect time to create an online course around the services you offer. It’s also the perfect opportunity to create a course on a topic parallel or complementary to your services. 

Keep Your Customers Updated

The public is by now well aware that local businesses need their help. One of the easiest ways to help people understand your story is through blog posts on your website, Instagram stories and YouTube videos. Not everyone is comfortable being on camera and not every business has the skills to create videos but there’s no excuse for not creating some form of content to inform your loyal customers about how your business is coping, your plans for reopening, and advice for contacting you.

Note: Google has suspended My Business features during the current crisis and has limited Google Posts so its worth focusing effort on this for the moment.

Ideas for communicating with your clients:

  • A blog post about the effects of Coronavirus on your employees, your reasons for closing, and your plans for the future.
  • Instagram stories and daily posts about life outside of work. If you run a yoga studio, create short daily instructional videos. If you run a gym, host YouTube Live training sessions. CrossFit gym owner, post WODs on your blog and all social channels.
  • Start a live Q&A webinar to answer customer questions about their health and the therapies or treatments they are unable to enjoy during a business lockdown.

Pause or negotiate SaaS product payments

Are you paying a big monthly fee for booking software? 

Ask your provider to pause your subscription if you don’t need it. If you’re still taking bookings but sales are down, ask for a discount on your plan for a few months. 

Improve your website

Now is the time to work on your ageing website or improve parts of the site that don’t convert visitors to customers. With less traffic, you can worry less about interrupting visitors. 

Up Your Content Marketing Game

Business owners and employees with nothing to do can use their time to write guides, articles, and Frequently Asked Question posts that will help customers. 

Brainstorm with your team common questions people ask. Read through the comments on Facebook. Check your email correspondence and read messages on Facebook, Instagram, and Google My Business. You will see common questions and get ideas for helpful blog posts. Answer your customers' concerns or talk about common misconceptions around your industry, services, or business. Give detailed How-To guides on topics related to your industry. 

All of this content will not only be useful for referring people, it will also generate organic traffic in Google. And that will help your company in the long term. 

Use your email list

Your email list is one of the most valuable marketing channels available to you. It’s been shown consistently that email converts readers to customers and customers into loyal fans. Of course, this only applies if it’s done right. 

Take a look at your email marketing provider. Are you using Mailchimp with a list of over 1000 people? It might be time to switch to a better and cheaper email marketing platform like MailerLite

Get Automated

It’s time to learn how to automate your business. This isn’t about firing employees or letting the robots take over. It’s about putting systems in place to improve efficiency by automating repetitive and menial tasks to free up your time and the time of your employees to do more engaging and important work. 

Tools like Zapier, Integromat, Process Street, and more can really help you streamline your business, create standard operating procedures (SOPs) and save money in the short and long term.

Sell gift cards and vouchers

Your customers don’t want to see your business fail. One way they can support you during this difficult time is to buy gift vouchers to use when your clinic, studio, or gym opens again. Selling vouchers and gift cards online has never been easier and doesn’t require employee hours to process if you automate everything. Businesses with WordPress-based websites can take advantage of the free WooCommerce plugin, a robust and powerful e-commerce tool that lets you sell online through your own website. 

Give back and support your local community 

Are there restaurants and cafes near your local storefronts that are feeling the pinch? Do you have a favourite cafe nearby that needs help? Think about the businesses in your area that indirectly funnel customers to your door. Think about the local eateries and hangouts that, if they were closed tomorrow, would leave a void in your local area. 

Support these businesses by donating or buying gift cards or pre-paid vouchers for meals. Local businesses must support the other SMBs in the ecosystem, and this is where helping your neighbour will also help you in the long run.

Start a Podcast

Podcasting is becoming one of the most powerful forms of marketing and audience building. Podcasts help you connect with your audience in many ways. It shows the personal, human side of your business and can be a great way to build trust. It can help you talk to your audience even if they can’t meet you or your employees in person.

And the great thing is that thanks to modern technology, you can schedule, record, and produce everything yourself without leaving your home or spending money on fancy recording equipment. 

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