The impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) presents enormous challenges for small businesses. In times of financial uncertainty, when looking to cut business expenditure, the temptation is to reduce what is often deemed as non-essential marketing activity. However, with social restrictions set to be in place until the end of the year,[i] this is a long time to keep the marketing pause button pressed.
There's no doubt that as we look to embrace what's being described as the 'new normal', balancing sales and marketing spend with the need to keep loyal consumers informed and engaged, while also attracting new business, is now more critical than ever.
Research identified a 21% increase in online orders in March 2020 vs March 2019[ii], with 41% of respondents saying they were currently shopping online for things they would typically buy in-store. So, if your business does not already have a web presence, you should consider making this a priority.
Even pre-COVID-19, there has been an ongoing steady rise in the number of retailers selling products online.[iii] Some operate solely online, while others are bricks-and-mortar businesses that also offer products and services via their websites.
The internet has transformed marketing opportunities. Regardless of sector, product or service, digital should be at the heart of any small business marketing activity.
How to create a website
If you want to avoid the cost of a web designer, it's easy to design and build your site using tools such as Wix and Wordpress. For retailers, another option is to sell your products through an established online outlet, for example, eBay or Amazon.
Find out more about creating your website here.
Having an online presence allows you to communicate with customers collectively, for example sharing information about opening hours, products or appointment availability. You can also offer reassurance about the necessary steps you're taking to adhere to COVID-19-related safety, and what customers need to be aware of.
Is your site Google-friendly?
If you already have a website, now is an excellent time to review its content and functionality. Is it Google-friendly, for example? With the right information, your site is more likely to appear higher up the list when people search for you online. This is called SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
Find out how to rank higher on Google here
How to get customers online
Running a business can leave little time to focus on managing your website, and not everyone can be a Google expert. This doesn't mean your business can't benefit from being visible in search results; there are tips and tools to achieve this.
Online business directories and listings sites can drive potential customers to find your business. Benefits of featuring in these directories include:
- Reasonably low-cost.
- Customer reviews and ratings.
- Trade specific versions available, i.e. Checkatrade.com.
- Google-friendly and SEO optimised.
As the most used search engine with almost 90% of the world's searches,[iv] Google has a useful tool called Google My Business, which can help your audience find you online and read reviews about your work.
Find out how to get customers online and understand Google My Business here.
Another way to feature in Google's results is to run advertising campaigns, pay-per-click (PPC). When a potential customer searches for something your business offers, your advert appears at the top or side of Google's search results, depending on the bid you've placed. If they click on your ad, you pay a fee, but hopefully, the click will lead to a sale.
Find out how to use Google AdWords here
As well as including key phrases and words relevant to your products, making your site easier to browse on mobile devices is also looked on more favourably by Google.
Find out how to make your website mobile-friendly here.
Understanding how people are interacting with your website
With all this focus on improving your online presence, wouldn't it be useful to know who's using your website, and more importantly, what they're looking at when they visit? Google Analytics allows you to understand your customers and how they're interacting with your website.
Find out about Google Analytics for businesses here
Whether your business is already active online, or perhaps you're looking to embrace new digital marketing opportunities, these are just a few ways to strengthen its online presence.
Quotes from well-known and specialist insurers, including: