Millions of small businesses across the country are closely monitoring local and state regulations, bracing to re-open their brick and mortar doors to the customers who have kept them running. Now more than ever, these businesses want to give customers the peace of mind and reassurance of open communication, because few have gone through these past few weeks unscathed. But with communities hesitant to reenter the public for even essential products and services, one of the many questions small businesses have on their minds is how they can most effectively stay in touch with their customers through the slow but steady ramp-up to the new business as usual, when the timing of invaluable community interaction is still a question mark.
As a small business, now is the time to strengthen the trust that customers have in your brand, while also building new relationships with prospective customers who admire your ability to communicate openly and your commitment to serving. While we are not out of the woods yet, the calm before the reopening of businesses across the U.S. provides a unique opportunity to help customers feel safe and informed about the experience they can expect to have in store when they are comfortable returning. Through various platforms from broadcast to digital to old fashioned snail mail, take this time to let current and prospective customers know that you care.
We are all waiting with bated breath for this to move past us. In the meantime, here are a few resources small businesses can leverage to connect with customers and let them know that their business means everything to you.
Digital and Social Media
Right now, customers are frequenting two places – their homes and their favorite online resources. Take advantage of the opportunity to connect with your customers through social media, whether you’re in a spot to show customers you care through organic (regular, unpaid) posts or you’re ready to take the next step and ramp up your paid advertising and targeted customer acquisition efforts. Wherever your small business is in their journey back to normalcy, screen time is up for most of us and billions of consumers are browsing products and services on social media right now.
Take the time to let customers know what you’re doing to keep customers safe, while gently reminding them of the offers they can take advantage of. If your social media content calendar is ticked and tied for the foreseeable future, consider leveraging other marketing vehicles to amplify reach like paid search and targeted email. Google, for example, is helping small businesses connect with their customers by offering SMB customers worldwide $340 million in ad credits until the end of 2020 across Google ad platforms. Keep your eyes peeled for ways to get closer to your customers exclusive to small businesses, like the many deals you can take advantage of through the Stand For Small coalition, a group of over 40 U.S. companies who have joined forces to provide resources to small businesses.
In a time when your customers are likely to have a steady soundtrack of dogs barking, children learning or their partners making work phone calls in the next room, invest in connecting with your customers through creating a podcast that will last well beyond the pandemic. Matthew Passy, a podcast consultant and 15-year veteran in the media industry, says you don’t need millions of followers right off the bat to have a successful podcast. He recommends building out a series with the goal of sharing your story, building authority, keeping your clients in the loop, or building leads for when we're all feeling more financially secure and ready to spend.
Check out more of his tips for getting on the radar of your prospective customers now to benefit you in the future during your rebound here: 5 Ways to Use a Podcast for Your Business During Coronavirus.
One of the best ways to get operational advice is to tap the knowledge of industry thought leaders. Keep your eyes peeled to take advantage of livestreams and webinars from companies and subject matter experts who have a proven track record of helping small businesses succeed. For example, Old Dirty Boston is hosting a Podcasting 101 webinar on May 28th (sign up on Eventbrite here).
Google shared some great information on how to manage your business remotely in times of uncertainty during a recent livestream event. Grow with Google OnAir offers free virtual workshops, events and 1:1 coaching sessions to help you get the most out of digital tools. Whether you own a small business or you’re searching for your next job, Grow with Google experts and partners can teach you digital skills that can help you grow.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, round up your subject matter experts and plan out a livestream or webinar yourself! Leveraging these tools is an easy way to provide free counsel and advice for customers, putting you as not just a seller of products and solutions but also an authoritative voice in the industry.
Signage and Custom Printed Products
The waiting period we’re in is the perfect time to map out what your signage will look like in-store upon re-opening so that customers know to follow safety precautions in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. To help small businesses communicate these safety best practices, Staples Print and Marketing Services is providing templates to help get the signage you need quickly. This signage provides an opportunity to connect and update not just your customers but your employees as well. Templates include posters, signs, flyers, rack cards and floor decals to promote social distancing and frequent hand washing, communicate store hours and product limitations, communicate a temporary closure and more.
Another priority for all businesses right now is showing customers you wouldn’t be here without them. A tried and true way to express customer appreciation is through custom connections. This could be a simple note of thanks or providing an exclusive offer or announcement like the extension of your return policy due to extenuating circumstances. Pre-populated templates through Staples Print and Marketing can help you with creating custom appreciation cards, notes, postcards, labels and other branded needs to keep you top of mind.
We hope you find these resources helpful as you continue to plan for your business’ reopening!