It is exciting to see businesses continue to open their doors as we enter Phase 3 here in Northern Virginia. This is a key reopening phase that is shaping our new normal. As small businesses consultants in Arlington VA, we work closely with our clients to ensure their physical space and digital space is optimized for Phase 3 and beyond. While it is time consuming and often requires a heavy dose of creativity, most businesses have a good idea of what they need to do to manage the physical changes for Phase 3. However, updating and maintaining the digital presence is critical and often not being accomplished.
Neglecting Your Digital Marketing is Costly
It is critical to review your online presence to ensure that you are properly communicating the changes and safety procedures you may have in place for your business. Don’t make customers guess about how they can stay safe while continuing to support your business.
- Tell Them. Via email marketing, website pop-ups, social media, and signage. Message to customers what you are doing. Can they order or reserve a spot in advance? Can they pay online? Can they wait in the car?
- Show Them. Post pictures of employees in masks. Show them the plexiglass you have installed. Take pictures of employee temperature checks and hand washing stations.
- Remind Them. Don’t just post once. Remind customers what you are doing. They may not be ready to hear or see the message the first time, so maintain the communication so they choose you when they are ready to come back.
Read below to learn more about what changes you can apply to your own business and what adjustments you may need to make in your online strategy.
Platforms such as Google and Facebook are working hard to help businesses adapt during this time. There are new features popping up every few weeks. Below we explore a few that may be useful for your business.
Time to Update Google My Business
Hopefully you already know to update your operating hours and to note what safety precautions your staff is taking. If not you should read up on Marketing during Phase 1. There are options to click on to show customers if you are temporarily closed, offering limited services such as offering curbside pickup, or if it is business as usual.
This is also where you want to note if there will be anything different about the client’s experience. For example, are you asking clients to call your business before entering to ensure you are operating at a limited capacity? Are you offering virtual classes or consultations? What does working with or shopping at your business look like right now? Even the smallest details are significant. It is better to be explicit with descriptions and instructions than to leave your patrons wondering. A loyal customer quickly becomes a former customer if they turn to a competitor due to lack of information.
COVID-19 Update: This is a unique type of text post that will show up at the top of your business profile in Google My Business in the local search results. This post will stay at the top regardless of other content you post. This is where you need to put all the information regarding hours, safety precautions, services, etc. However like any other post the shelf life is only for 14 days, so be prepared to repost or create a new post as needed.
You may have access to some unique features depending on what industry you are in. Our education clients have an option to indicate that they are providing online classes and can include a link for sign ups. Our home builder client has the ability to note that they are offering online estimates and can provide a link for an appointment. Go to the homepage of your account to see what options are available to you.
COVID-19 Support: If you are a small or local business that had to close down when the pandemic first hit, then this is a great feature to use. Customers are able to purchase gift cards or send donations to your business for support.
Using Yelp in your Strategy
Yelp has launched a COVID-19 section for businesses listed on their platform. This section will let business owners show what services they offer, like indoor or outdoor dining, and what safety measures they are taking. Customers are able to verify these health and safety guidelines once they check into the business on Yelp.
There is a timestamp each time a business owner updates the COVID-19 section so a customer can see whether information, such as hours of operation or business updates, are current. If your business relies on Yelp customers, it is important that you keep this space up to date.
Implementing Facebook’s Latest Features
Facebook is an important strategy for many small businesses. You will want to relay much of the same information on your social media platforms as you do on Google My Business. Pictures and video are helpful mediums to communicate exactly what your business is doing. Post a video of your new physical space and how customers interact with your business. Share reviews from customers highlighting your new procedures. Apart from implementing this information into your content strategy, we have some tips below to make this information prominent.
Facebook: Create a post that is marked at a COVID-19 update and pin this post to the top of your page. This is the first piece of content customers will see when scrolling through your page.
Instagram: Update your profile bio with information regarding how your business is operating. Offering virtual consultations or curbside pick up? Say so, include a link as necessary. Don’t leave your customers wondering – tell them what you are doing. If they are unsure of anything they might turn to your competitor who is doing a better job communicating.
Instagram Story Stickers: Are you active on Instagram Stories? Work some of the new stickers into your strategy the next time you post a story. When people use these stickers, their story will be added to a shared Instagram story so their followers can see what businesses they are supporting.
- Support Small Businesses: Show your love of a local business by mentioning them directly in this sticker. This feature also gives their followers a preview of the business account.
- Donations: This allows eligible nonprofits and their supporters to raise money.
- Food Orders + Gift Cards: These stickers allow customers to directly order food or purchase gift cards from the businesses story by bringing them to a separate page to complete the order.
If you missed it, these are from our #locallove series where we highlighted local businesses in the area and how they adapted to working under COVID-19. The full story can be found on our highlights.
Website Updates for COVID-19
Homepage: It is important to acknowledge COVID-19 on your website. Whether you chose to invest the time to integrate it throughout your website or opt to utilize a special banner or pop up – you must clearly address COVID. Customers who are coming to your website now are looking for more information about your new COVID procedures. Grab their attention with clear language and easy to use instructions for navigating your business. Your website is a resource hub for much of the same information that we have discussed above. If you are mentioning your safety procedures and new hours on your social then your website needs to support this information. If you are a small business with a robust Facebook page but limited resources for comprehensive website revistions, be sure your website includes a strong call for customers to learn more detailed information on your facebook page.
If your Google My Business is checked off for curbside pickup then that should be noted on your website. If you are offering virtual consultations on your social media then there should be a way for customers to book this online.
You don’t need to revamp your entire website but for many businesses we recommend they add a COVID-19 tab. You want this information to be prominent and easy to find. Don’t forget to review your existing imagery and promotions to make sure that they align with the current messaging.
When quarantine first happened in mid-March, Oakwood School added a pop up to their website. That pop-up has now transformed into its own tab of information to inform interested parents what the latest updates are with the school and what their plan is.
Contact Page: If your team is getting hit with an influx of emails consider adding a note acknowledging the unusual response time and when an inquiry can expect a response.
Overall, to thrive in this current market you need to make sure you communicate:
- Physical changes. If your business has a physical location and the ability to enforce proper social distancing between individuals.
- Current operating hours.
- Procedural changes. Share how you will interact with customers and how patrons will be separated from each other. This will differ between businesses salons vs. gyms vs restaurants etc.).
- Health guidelines. Repeat how you are following the CDC’s guidelines for safety procedures and how your staff is maintaining these practices. Don’t make a customer assume you are following them – remind them again and again.
Are you a business in need of marketing assistance during the time of COVID? Read our previous blog posts on marketing and messaging during a pandemic and during phase one. If you are interested in our services book a consultation with Heather at .