The coronavirus and new social distancing mandates have shut down many traditional sales and marketing strategies. However, some small businesses have found unique ways to adapt and pivot in response to COVID-19.
Donovan Reynolds, a realtor in Atlanta, has had to rethink his face-to-face business. "With the onset of the COVID-19, we are no longer able to hold open houses and are reluctant to take in-person listing appointments. We have even had to limit showings for buyers," he says.
But by going digital, he's still able to operate. He’s moved to running virtual open houses. Using Facebook and Instagram Live, his clients can take people on a virtual tour of their homes. He also creates 3D mapping of the interiors. "That way, prospective buyers never have to step inside. It gives a better sense of space that a regular 2D picture can’t provide," Reynolds says. Reynolds shows that while you may need to rethink your approach, with digital tools you can potentially keep your business running.
With video conferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime and Skype, business owners can still schedule virtual “face-to-face” meetings with your staff, customers and prospects. At the same time, many customers are staying at home, spending hours online and looking at their phones. This could be a good time to ramp up your digital marketing strategies with social media, published content, Google ads and email campaigns.
Finding Ways to Help
The event planning service Tracy Taylor Ward Design is located in New York City, where all social gatherings have been suspended. Instead of completely halting her business, Tracy Taylor Ward, its proprietor, decided to focus her energy on what these cancellations must mean to her clients. "Having one of the biggest days of one’s life upended by this pandemic isn’t something any of my clients could have predicted," says Ward.
Ward decided to help by waiving her usual fee and offering free consultations for those whose events had been cancelled. She reached out to social media influencers to share news about her campaign, and she estimates that this drove a potential reach of more than 29 million social media impressions for her business and helped fill her calendar for the future.
Adapting to New Customer Needs
Branch specializes in selling premium office furniture, a tough sell when a lot of the country is now working from home. But this sudden change led to a brand-new opportunity as people working from home may not be using the best equipment. "We all know too well that bending over the kitchen table results in back and neck aches quickly," says Torin Rittenberg, head of growth at Branch.
Branch created a new package of furniture for home offices. This meant adjusting their business model. "We’ve usually strayed away from doing residential office furniture, but these are interesting times, and folks aren’t going into offices," Rittenberg says. Rather than sticking to their original plans, they quickly adapted to new customer needs so they can keep making sales.
Consumers still have needs—they’re just different from what they were a few weeks ago.
Consumer demand hasn't completely evaporated—it has only changed. Businesses that rethink their product lines may be able to address the needs of those who are now spending a majority of their time at home.
Delivering Virtual Events and Classes
Classes, conferences and conventions have been shut down around the country, but people still want a chance to network and learn. That’s why RoadBotics, a Pittsburgh technology startup focused on improving roads and infrastructure, launched their own online series: Remote with RoadBotics.
"Each week, we release six to eight web events for civil engineer and public works professionals," says Alison McGee, marketing associate at RoadBotics. They are already starting to see results from these courses. "Thus far, we held seven web events with over 240 registered attendees, many of which are not current clients," she says.
Companies can pivot by helping to fill the knowledge gap with virtual classes or events, educational videos on YouTube and social media, or by publishing thought leadership pieces in industry trade journals. These provide an opportunity to forge and develop a reputation of expertise.
Improving the Sales Process (For Now and the Future)
As business owners try new systems to get through the social distancing era, they may uncover ways to get better at selling even when things return to normal. Sa El is the co-founder of Simply Insurance, an insurance agency based out of Georgia. Instead of speaking with prospects over the phone, he uses video conferencing so he can share his slides, show his calculations and present more information than just a conversation.
"The reason I could close so many calls was because I was sharing my screen and going over the information with the customer in real-time over the phone," he says. While talking, he can also fill out an application and send it to the client to print and sign during their meeting instead of waiting for later, when he may have lost momentum. "It made it a streamlined process and much easier for the customer in regards to their understanding and trust."
Businesses that work with new technology should consider what would improve the sales process even after social distancing ends. For example, if clients need to sign contracts, they could explore electronic signature software to get their signature during a call rather than asking them to manually sign after the call ends. There's also an opportunity to streamline sales meetings with video conferencing.
The upcoming stretch will be challenging for the U.S. economy, but by taking advantage of ideas like these, business owners can continue making sales and help put themselves in a stronger position when the economy returns to normal.
Photo: Getty Images