We could all use a boost right now. Particularly small businesses, who are being hit with uncertainty from all angles — whether that’s pivoting to new products or audiences, focusing more on online strategies, or just trying to stay in business. It’s a challenging time.
That’s not to say that it’s without opportunities. You may have to look harder and be more creative to spot them, but there are opportunities for just about every brand to get closer to their customers, build stronger, more lasting relationships and outpace the competition by being agile and adapting to the new normal.
This kit is structured to give you the tools you need every step of the way. We’ve taken our experience working with customers and guiding them through various challenges to identify four main stops along the way:
Here’s how that might play out in our current situation. In order to take full advantage of the opportunities, you have to protect what you have by making sure you have the funds to stay afloat, protecting your employees and your business. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you can look at the opportunities at hand and start to adapt to the new landscape. The best way to adapt is to connect with others — learn from them, share with them, help them (and help you!). Then once the dust has settled and you’re feeling that business boost again, you can then help keep the cycle going by giving back, donating your time, insights, and even resources to help other organizations and small businesses.
Consider this article your survival kit for the opportunities that COVID-19 has brought our way. We’ll list specific tips, tools, and next steps in each area. Because this process will take longer than it’ll take you to read this post, you may want to bookmark this one so you can come back to it in order to complete all of the steps.
Armor Up: Protect
It’s basic psychology — you can’t focus on anything else if your basic needs aren’t met. That applies to your business as well. If you’re not sure if you’ll be able to make payroll or you’re not sure if you can make ends meet this month, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to think beyond the initial panic and stress that brings up. For better or for worse, you’re not alone. At the beginning of April, NFIB found that 92% of small businesses were negatively impacted by the outbreak. 35% of small businesses said that they could only function 1-2 months under current conditions.
There’s help out there, but you have to act fast to meet your urgent needs and take advantage of limited opportunities.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
We’ve teamed up with Womply to help small businesses get access to PPP loans faster. These funds are 100% forgivable if used for payroll, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Because the purpose of these loans is to help businesses keep their employees, at least 75% of the loan must be used on payroll.
These funds are limited and that limit has already been reached once. Once more budget is approved the funds will be replenished, so you’ll want to apply ASAP to get in the queue so you can get your share. The team at Womply is ready and waiting to help guide you through the application and funding process by connecting you with a certified lender and answering your questions.
Leeway From Financial Organizations
Financial organizations have stepped up to help customers who are experiencing financial hardship. That could mean waived late fees, help with minimum payments, or other means of assistance. Wells Fargo, for example, is offering fee-waivers, payment deferrals, and more on a case-by-case basis. Capitol One, Citi and American Express also have programs in place to help customers in need. Contact your bank to learn more about how they can help.
Small Business (SBA) Loans
The federal government works with lenders to regulate and guarantee loans for small businesses that meet certain requirements, including doing business in the United States, investing your own time and money, and operating legally in an officially registered capacity.
In order to apply for an SBA loan, you can go to your preferred lender or you can get matched with an SBA approved lender who meets your needs on the official website. Whichever option you choose, make sure you read up on the requirements, make sure you’ll be able to abide by the terms and watch out for predatory lenders.
For many businesses, the COVID-19 outbreak has been a rude awakening. Before, going through a digital transformation and taking advantage of all of the benefits of an e-commerce presence was nice to have for many businesses but not immediately required.
While that may be the case again after the outbreak is under control, we predict that this will change the way that customers spend money and interact with each other in almost every aspect. But change doesn’t always mean bad, just different. No matter what vertical you’re in, there are opportunities to build online relationships with your customers through an e-commerce presence. Here are just a few examples:
The restaurant industry was the first and hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic. Fortunately, some restaurants have been exploring innovative ways to serve and connect with customers even while they can’t do it in person. Here are a few examples:
Offering meal kits full of signature ingredients for customers to pick up and prepare at home
Online ordering and curbside pickup
Virtual cooking classes
Partnership with meal delivery apps like Doordash and Ubereats
People are still looking for fun activities and delicious food while they’re at home. Restaurants can be both for their customers and just might discover a new revenue stream in the process.
For additional reading on how the online meal kit industry is on the rise:
Gyms and in-person classes are off the table for a while, which means that people are home and hungry for fitness ideas. Fitness at home isn’t a trend that will just end when the stay-at-home orders are lifted — many people enjoy being able to exercise in their own homes, on their own time. So, what can fitness studios and gyms do to meet the changing needs of customers, keep customers engaged, and potentially bring in revenue?
Virtual memberships for online classes and resources
Online personal training
Virtual “PE” classes for kids
Instructional videos to teach proper form and technique
The key thing for fitness studios and gyms is to continue building relationships with their customers while exploring new ways to serve them during this time.
Retailers used to be concerned with getting people in the door and now that’s next to impossible. Retailers have inventory, a good idea of what their customers like, and the ability to transfer the hands-on experience to an online one. Retailers can either start or boost an e-commerce store, but beyond that, how can they make the jump from offline to online more successful?
Weekly emails to share your latest offering, exclusive promotions and more
Partnerships with influencers
Solicit referrals from loyal customers
Social media presence to showcase your product, your customers and stay top of mind
Now is the perfect time for retailers to focus on creating, maintaining, and nurturing online relationships with their customers. Not only will this help them survive now, but it’ll help them thrive long after this is over.
These are just a few of the examples of how brands can, and are, pivoting and adapting to the situation. When you’re considering a pivot for your brand, even if temporary, it’s important to keep your customer relationships top of mind to ensure that you’re building solutions that will benefit them, and you, long term.
In the best of times surrounding yourself with the right people is essential. In times like these, building a community of smart people in similar situations is absolutely critical. It’s also more complicated to build relationships with social distancing orders in place, conferences canceled and coffee catch-ups out of the question.
So, what’s a marketer to do? Virtual opportunities to connect and learn are springing up all over the internet. A few of our favorites (and a shameless plug for our own) below:
Growth Guerilla Collective (GGC)
This scrappy group of brands and marketers is growth-minded, creative, and hungry for connection. Join the slack group to talk with other e-commerce marketers, share ideas, and get notified of online and in-person events.
LinkedIn is a brand-building staple for a reason. Whether you’re posting new content, creating new connections, or following the top minds in your industry, it can help you create, nurture, and grow connections in your industry. Reach out for support, share new ideas, and find mentors who share good advice.
The star-studded, content-packed conferences we all love aren’t happening this year, but many conference producers are sharing much of the same content virtually, most even at a decreased cost. You can still get much of the same content and connection virtually at these events, all from the comfort of your own home.
There are a variety of pandemic-specific needs, from caring for essential workers to helping those who are out of jobs to generally offering a dose of positivity to anxious, isolated people. Here are a few examples we like:
Allbirds posted on social media on March 20th that they would be sending their free Tree Runners to workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. In the following week, they donated $500,000 worth of shoes and unrolled a “buy-one-give-one” effort to make sure that they could continue to support the effort. Customers can buy a pair and then split the cost of an additional pair that will go to someone on the front lines.
Another brand that launched its give-back efforts on social media, Spindrift has done multiple smaller campaigns to give back to healthcare workers, support the food service industry, and spread positivity. They’ve donated cases of their flavored sparkling water to hospitals, held contests for followers to nominate a front line worker to receive a case, and used their following to drive awareness of restaurants who are in need of support.
People all over are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, but may be unable to access resources like therapy while social distancing. Talkspace saw this as an opportunity to expand its offering to free content on social media from licensed therapists, free therapist-led support groups, and free services to health care workers and first responders.
How Can You Help in Your Community?
Everyone appreciates a brand that gives back and now is an ideal time to find a need in your community and offer some help. If you’re not in a position to offer monetary support, you can offer free services, volunteer hours (yes, even virtually!), or partnership support to causes you care about.
At AdRoll, our community is marketers. That’s why we’re offering free media spend to you and marketers like you. Use the code supportSMB250 to get $250 toward your next AdRoll campaign and we’ll match it to help stimulate the SMB community during COVID. For every code redeemed, AdRoll will donate $250 to SCORE, a nonprofit organization that provides education and mentorship to small businesses.
The Bottom Line
We’ve all experienced a roller coaster of emotions in the past several weeks. We’re by no means in the clear yet, but we’re seeing many brands see and harness opportunities to protect their businesses, adapt to the changing landscape, connect with each other and give back to their communities. We’ll all get through this but we can’t do it alone, so make sure you’re giving your business the right boost now to set you on the right track for the future.