2020 wasn't easy for SME's and independent businesses, but you don't need us to tell you that. It's been a hard 12 months for everyone.
The COVID-19 pandemic was like something from a horror film. Think Danny Boyle's '28 days later' with a dash of 'Outbreak' and a hefty dose of 'Children of Men' and you're pretty much there. They're all worth a watch, but all should remain well and truly on screen and not cross over into real life.
2020 saw the compromise of the safety of our employees and customers. Many businesses, from small independents enterprises, all the way up to big chain retailers, had to shut for good; they simply didn't have the cash reserves or funding to survive a pandemic. Forced changes in mass-consumer behaviour also meant that businesses had to pivot, which can be costly, risky and pull your business out of its comfort zone or traditional profit-making trading certainties.
It goes without saying that 2020 threw enough at businesses to scare most owners and staff out of their skin, and, unfortunately, none of these issues are going to disappear overnight. Instead, it is becoming ever more apparent that we are moving into a new age of business and digital customer relationships, and adapting to this shift is the key to survival and growth in a post-pandemic business landscape.
To adapt and evolve as best we can, here are a few ways you can plan for a more prosperous and forward-moving business going forward.
Top tip: bookmark this page and come back to it later, when you might need a little more inspiration/motivation to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on moving your business forward.
Update your website
This one is simple. Websites are, as they were before the pandemic, your business's shop window. They are the first major impression made on potential customers, so make sure it's working for you.
Furthermore, make sure your users are informed and receive a sense of authority from your site. Website design and the psychology of user experience is becoming more and more of a fine art, so consider expertise and ease of use just as much as design.
Add a COVID-19 statement to your homepage, header, or footer of your website, regardless of if you've been affected by the pandemic or not. If you’re an e-commerce site or have a physical store location, now is the time to spend some time building up your online inventory, updating images and creating tantalising product descriptions.
Lastly, if you haven't looked into it much before, SEO should be a top priority. Where businesses may have relied on footfall or word of mouth, this isn't so prevalent when operating digitally. Invest in your SEO and ensure your business is performing well through search engines, which includes search results, maps and local business listings.
Don't forget, we offer extensive website design and SEO services for businesses of all sizes.
Level up your social media
Social media can often be overlooked or pushed to one side for busy small business owners and often keeping them up to date or generating content can feel like hard work. However, as we grow more digitally aware of brands and businesses, it has never been more important to ensure your social media game is on point with amazing content and a schedule for all of your social platforms.
Most business owners struggle with social media, especially if you're not a social media native, and often we hear of people not knowing what to put on social media at all. Well, here's a tip, post anything!
Short videos of you or your team work well, as do photos of interesting everyday things that you encounter within your business that others do not. Customers love to see the inner workings of businesses and that's exactly what social media is for. They don't have to be Michael Bay quality productions, they just have to be intriguing enough to generate engagement or a discussion.
Remember to optimise your profiles and content with engaging copy and hashtags, so that they can appear on search results and attempt to drive traffic to your site at every possible opportunity. If you need help with developing a content strategy for your social media accounts then reach out to us.
Reviews and testimonials
A positive online presence is much easier to build when your business is receiving regular reviews and testimonials from happy customers. Ask your clients and customers to rate their experience online, either on Google or another business site, like Yelp or Bark.
It works in your favour to respond to every comment in a friendly and professional manner, regardless of whether the review is positive, or negative. You can even add a testimonials page to your website to encourage users to build trust with you and, ultimately, convert, and even share testimonials on social media for added bang for buck.
It’s not always about beating your competition. SMEs always benefit from collaboration and forming strong alliances with others in your industry is a great way to move your business to the next level.
Not all collaborations are just a social media giveaway or an online competition; they are so much more than that. Giveaways don't work in generating sales, so don't waste your time, effort, or inventory.
Contact businesses within your niche and get together to hold an online event or collaborative sale. You can run a joint discount whereby if you buy from one online store customers are automatically given a discount code for another store and vice-versa. Or, local vineyards could partner with local butchers to stock their wines, and in turn, they'll use the butchers' produce for their wine tasting days (or as is these days, their online wine tasting kits!).
It pays off to get into the mind of your ideal audience and target demographic, understand what they need, and the rest will follow.
Integrate Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the reporting tool to end all reporting tools for business owners. It is simple, easy to use and gives you statistics that you did not even know were possible to track.
To install Google Analytics within your website, create yourself a Google account, input all of your business information, then add the code to your HTML or use the tracking tag. If you are not super tech-savvy, have no fear, we can get this all set up for you, track your data and even put together comprehensive reports with detailed action points of what these numbers mean and how to improve them.
Google Analytics gives you the ability to track how many people visit your website, how long they are there for, what they do there and if they convert. Not to mention tracking who came from where, your e-commerce transaction rate, and which visitors viewed products, added to their basket, but did not check out.
I could sit here all day singing the praises of Google Analytics and why it is so incredibly vital to the running of your online business activities, however, it may just be easier for you to get on with installing it.
Keep your ear to the ground
Our final tip is to make sure you stay on top of industry news within your sector. Your business needs to keep an eye on the big players in your area, paying attention to who your current customers are and why they are buying from you.
Consumer trends have taken unprecedented turns in the past 12 months, with hand sanitiser manufacturers and toilet roll producers rubbing their hands… not just to keep them clean. Small businesses who jumped on the home delivery and click-and-collect bandwagons first have maximised their profits in this respect. Keep your business practices flexible enough to pivot when necessary and you could end up beating the competition to the punch in 2021.
The past year has not been a walk in the park for independent businesses. Even if you have seen an increase in revenue, hopped on an emerging trend, or seen a rise in customer satisfaction, the chances are that you may still have found it difficult to adjust.