It’s a scary time if you’re a business owner. COVID–19 could be a direct and an indirect threat to your business, your family and your customers. And we don’t know how long the outbreak will continue.
After I was asked to look at an old and unloved website the other day, I got to think about how businesses can pivot so they can thrive in the new environment.
- Will Coronavirus be the final nail in the coffin for the high street?
- When is a meeting non-essential?
- Start working on your business now
- How is your website?
- Keep in touch with your customers. Build an email list
- Update your CMS. Often
- Look at your Analytics
- Check your site
- Have a long, hard look at your content
- Make some great content
- Think about selling from your site
- Go where your customers are
- Get more ideas for your business
Will Coronavirus be the final nail in the coffin for the high street?
Let’s get the doom and gloom out of the way first. Retailers have been struggling for years under the onslaught of ecommerce. As footfall dwindles as people self-isolate—or the authorities impose some kind of movement restrictions—marginally profitable businesses will start to shutter.
The coronavirus outbreak may be the final straw.
When is a meeting non-essential?
We’ve been advised not to attend non-essential meetings. For some of us, in-person meetings are the core of our business, perhaps even the way we deliver our products and services.
I think we need to try to see all meetings as non-essential. And don’t just think about the virus, many business gurus have been warning about the cost of meetings for years.
It’s time to assess if you absolutely need meetings. If you don’t, cut them from your calendar. If you do, go online. If you don’t already use Skype, Google Hangouts or even WhatsApp, you can go corporate for free with Google’s offer of the Premium Version of Hangouts that’s currently gratis until 1 July.
Start working on your business now
At the same time, as your business processes move to the Internet, you must think about your sales funnel. How are you going to get more business in the time of Coronavirus?
Think about how you can change your offerings. Can you bring your products and services to your customers? How can you improve your products and services so you can sell them differently? Can you move more of your business online?
There are still business opportunities if you think differently.
How is your website?
When was the last time you gave your website some love?
Here are some questions you should ask: Have you been adding content regularly? Has your website been bringing in business? Have you updated your Content Management System (such as WordPress) and its plugins?
I’d urge you not to be too concerned about your site’s design. While it’s essential, you need to up your game now. Work with what you have and reach out to your customers.
Keep in touch with your customers. Build an email list
Just because you’re seeing less of your customers, doesn’t mean you will lose touch. If you have email addresses for them—in your sales records, for example—you can keep in regular contact.
If you don’t have email addresses, start asking for them now. Leave some cards around your shop, cafe or bar that people can fill in to keep in touch. Maybe you can offer an incentive.
And put a sign-up form on your website to collect people’s email addresses. You’ll definitely need an incentive there—a discount on their next purchase (like Birkenstock), an email masterclass (like me on Writing For SEO) or any other offer that you know will appeal to your customers.
There are lots of email providers out there. If you’re not already making revenue from your email list, I strongly suggest you use a provider that’s free for businesses with smaller lists.
I recently moved a list to MailerLite, which I’m enjoying for its balance of simplicity and power. Many love MailChimp, though, and I have absolutely nothing against it.
Update your CMS. Often
Chances are, if you’re reading this you have a website that uses WordPress – you’re in good company, 35% of the web is built on WordPress, including my own sites. There are many advantages to WordPress. The software is free, and there are thousands of professionals who can help you with design and development.
But there is one massive problem with WordPress. Like any popular application, the world’s hackers are focusing their efforts on placing malware into it. It’s your job to keep your installation—WordPress and its plugins—up to date.
A hacked site usually plummets in the search engine rankings. And that’s what you don’t want.
If you’re not sure how to update WordPress, log on to your site and click on Dashboard, then Updates. You’ll see what you need to do.
And if your site is severely out of date or you are really unsure of what to do, you should get in touch with your developer—the person or company who built your site—in case the updates break your website.
Look at your Analytics
Find out about who is visiting your website. Where they are based. And who is buying or getting in touch with you? If you haven’t set up Goals, you must. If you’re running Google Analytics, you can find out how to set up Goals here.
Check your site
Make sure there aren’t any serious technical errors that are stopping your website from performing. A technical audit is really a task for a professional, but you can check some essentials yourself.
- Mobile-friendliness. Pop your URL into Google’s Mobile Checker
- Site speed. Do the same with Google’s Page Speed Insights, or if you’re more confident technically, GTmetrix is an excellent place to see what’s amiss
Have a long, hard look at your content
Analytics will tell you which pages are bringing people to your site, how long on average they’re staying, and with Goals set up, which material is making you money.
Just as important, you can find out which content is underperforming and needs revisiting. Compare your site to your competitors. How can you do better than theirs?
Here is where digital marketing starts to get challenging for some businesses. If you don’t know how your site is doing, ask me for a free content performance assessment.
Make some great content
These days, Google says it likes to see content that gives people real value. For most businesses, adopting that mindset provides an opportunity to engage effectively with their customers. One powerful approach is to think about the questions people ask before they purchase.
If you’re not sure what your customers are asking, there’s a nifty tool that helps you explore their questions. It’s called Answer the Public, and you can use it for free, although if you’re serious about it, you’ll need to pay.
Other paid SEO tools, such as SEMrush’s Keyword Magic also show you the questions people are using in search.
Armed with a list of questions, you can then set about writing content to answer them. You’re not restricted to Q & A or FAQ formats, either. Write an article or a White Paper whose content covers ground to answer questions—this is where a list of questions can act as a backbone for your post.
Think about selling from your site
Maybe at the moment, your website is a sign pointing towards your shop. You must consider selling from it. If you have a WordPress site, you can add ecommerce functionality with WooCommerce, which is also free like WordPress. Or you could use another favourite of mine, Shopify.
Or, if you sell particular kinds of goods, you may want to open a shop on Etsy, Zazzle or Newegg.
Go where your customers are
Think about where to find your customers when they’re online. With self-isolation, many of us are going to be staying at home and spending more time keeping up to date online. So, in addition to building an email list so that you can reach out to your customers, you can go where your customers are.
Most people spend some time most days on Facebook. Do you have a business page there? Or are you posting to Instagram? Or Tweeting? Be very clear about where your audience is because it’s too much for most businesses to post to more than one or two social media sites. Don’t waste your time and resources.
Get more ideas for your business
For more ideas about how to supercharge your business, sign up for my newsletter.
And let me know how you’re changing your business – email me at [email protected] and maybe I can feature your story in a coming issue.
Main image:Blake Wisz
David Rosam has been working on the internet for 25 years, after a career in direct marketing copywriting for the tech and financial services industries.
Today, he specialises in Content-Focused Search Engine Optimisation—from audits, through research and strategy to implementation.
He was probably the UK’s first SEO Copywriter.