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Guest Column: Start bringing your business back to life

Guest Column by Dean Swanson

 

Local small business CEOs are considering a common question right now. How do I bring my business back to life again? We have started the process of trying to follow the phase-in of opening up businesses. Most are frustrated with the seemingly slowness of the process plus the frustration of trying to follow the guidelines and keeping alive financially.

All business owners face daily challenges, and you know from experience that, when unforeseeable events happen, you dig deep, adapt and overcome. That`s what it takes to run a successful business, right?

But of course, the current situation is different, in every imaginable way! So, what choices are there for businesses in light of what’s going on right now?

You can either wait until things resume to something resembling normality — or innovate, react and adapt. Let us consider two helpful things to do just that.

1. Revisit your brand and marketing strategy to establish an online presence that is strong and effective.

When considering your online presence, be sure to give consideration to your branding. A professional-looking brand is essential; it’s a representation of your business and plays a critical part in establishing yourself as a trusted, enduring business.

Some business owners think that branding is only for the big players. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Every business (no matter the size) should strive to develop a consistent brand strategy. The good news is that creating one is not so hard these days; there are several platforms that help you create a logo and other branded materials like business cards, brand books and branded social posts, which you can use to help inform your strategy.

However, your brand and marketing strategy shouldn’t only be about the visuals; it’s also about your voice. Together, they set the tone of your business and help you connect and resonate with your target audience. When taking your business online, think long and hard about how you want your brand to look and sound for your new online audience.

2. Let your community know you are there.

If you were asked where most of your business comes from today, what would you say? Many small businesses tell us “word of mouth.” When done correctly, online marketing provides more opportunities to extend the word of mouth that’s already so important to your business. 

As you know, business is built on relationships. Online marketing also allows you to strengthen existing relationships with current customers and build new ones. As a small business, you have a huge advantage over big businesses because you actually know your customers. Many times you interact with them in a way big businesses cannot. It’s that intimate knowledge that can keep your business top of mind and give you an edge.

Ultimately, we’re talking about engaging with people.  The location has changed to a digital format but at the other end of those devices are people. And people do business with businesses they know, like and trust.

People are looking for businesses online all the time.  Research tells us that 69% of people search for a local business at least one time per month according to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey. That means there’s potential for people to find your business when they go looking.

Furthermore, businesses that are online are seeing growth. Forty three percent experience significant growth with online sales according to an Insureon poll of more than 2,400 business owners. That means there’s potential to do more business.

The sad result is that if people don’t find your business when they go looking online, it begs the question, “Does your business even exist?”

It might sound paradoxical due to the unprecedented decrease in pedestrian traffic, but if you`ve never used online marketing or tried free local business listings before, now is the time to start.

Google My Business, Google Maps and local online directories such as Golden Pages, are ways you can freely advertise your business online to your community.

Using free marketing channels can help you in several ways. A free Google business profile enables you to connect with your customers on Google search and maps automatically — enhancing engagement and giving you a platform to advertise your contact information, possible opening hours, reviews and any offers or services you are providing.

Remember the new “word of mouth” is online. Let me close with this question: What do people find when they search online for your business? The more you can do to keep your business top of mind and make it easy for others to talk about you, the more you increase the chances of people recommending or seeking you out when they need what you offer. Beyond being part of the conversation, you must understand what people may find when they go looking for your business specifically by name, or by something your business offers.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer  certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region.