By now, small business owners know the score of COVID-19. Already, the pandemic has brought entire industries to their knees. It’s forced thousands of companies to close, and it’s massively interrupted global supply chains. More than 10% of U.S. workers may lose their jobs.
With no end in sight, small businesses can’t afford to hunker down. The smarter strategy? To reach out.
Networking is critical in small business marketing. That fact hasn’t changed. How leaders should do it, however, has.
Is it possible to grow a business in the midst of a global pandemic with huge financial … [+]
Networking, Meet Social Distancing
I’ve written before about the value of networking for small business marketing. But when I last covered the subject, the economy was humming along — in fact, I said so in the lede of the article.
With the economy tanking and social distancing guidelines in place, I wanted to revisit the topic. Some of the advice I gave then still applies, but for others, a near approach is needed.
Marketing your small business as local, for example, still makes sense. But rather than try to bring people in off the street, it’s a better idea to use the “local” label to remind community leaders that entrepreneurs around them are struggling.
Using data about your customers for social networking is a good idea, too. Online interactions will be key while people are isolating themselves. Building relationships through sites like Facebook and Twitter can translate to in-person visits once the pandemic has passed.
But there’s one particular networking approach I want to address: conferences. Sixty-eight percent of small business leaders say attending educational events or presenting at conferences improves their ability to run their company.
Conference events are critical to small businesses. But with nearly all of them called off, what’s a small business leader to do?
Dig in with Digital Conferences
Anyone who’s been on a videoconference knows it isn’t the same as an in-person conversation. Conferences from afar can still help small business leaders connect, swap growth strategies, and pivot as needed — but on such short notice, there aren’t a lot of options.
One I’ve been following is the Quarantine Conference, hosted April 7 by Hawke Media. Billed as “a no-contact networking and idea exchange,” the Quarantine Conference covers what small businesses can do to thrive during the COVID crisis.
The Quarantine Conference is still developing in real time, with new speakers being added daily. The current lineup already addresses several small business obstacles and opportunities:
Not many know more about crisis adaptation than Brandon Webb. A former U.S. Navy SEAL and bestselling author, Webb lost his business, life savings, and marriage — all at the same time.
The stakes may not be quite that serious for small business leaders. But make no mistake: A lot of companies will lose customers during this pandemic. Some will go out of business entirely. Knowing how and when to pivot will be key.
Leveraging social media
The closure of public venues, coupled with stay-at-home orders, has inevitably led to an uptick in social media consumption. Utilizing influencers at a time when consumers are spending more time on their devices is a no-brainer.
Michael Senzer, Warren Lentz, Chris Sawtelle, and Josh Richards of TalentXEntertainment will help brands figure out how to leverage online clout to boost sales when other revenue streams are drying up.
With in-person sales falling or restricted by government mandate, small businesses need new channels. But selling online isn’t as simple as posting a product on Amazon and crossing your fingers.
To help women small business leaders, in particular, get the hang of e-commerce, Madeline Fraser will present at the Quarantine Conference. The Gemist CEO and founder built what is often called “the Warby Parker of jewelry.”
There are still things small businesses need to do in-person — if not meetings, then at least supply drop-offs and order deliveries. Those become substantially more difficult with social distancing.
The co-founders of The Music Division have a unique take on the topic. Joe Bellioti and Jeremy Gilbert will explain how social distancing and live streaming are bringing us closer to music. Their off-the-beaten-path presentation should hold clues on how to create emotional connection while keeping your physical distance from employees and customers.
Like sales, business development is a lot tougher to conduct virtually. If anyone knows how to do it, it’s Scott Taylor, Hawke Media’s vice president of business development. Taylor has previously presented alongside Google leaders on using Google and YouTube placements to bring in new business.
Still, Google and YouTube aren’t the only games in town. Taylor is expected to talk about other tactics for doing business at a distance, including email and influencer marketing.
Service model changes
There’s always more than one way to deliver a product or service. Business leaders with tangible products may not be able to sell from their storefront, but they could learn from SnackNation’s Andy Mackensen’s door-to-door delivery model discussion.
And if the audience needs to change? Not that long ago, SnackNation primarily delivered to offices. When it announced it was focusing on direct-to-consumer sales, that channel made up only 10% of its revenue.
In times like these, it’s easy to feel alone in your struggles. Now more than ever, advice is indispensable for companies attempting to navigate this global crisis.
Author and speaker Cameron Herold will lead a panel discussing some of the most pressing questions he’s heard from entrepreneurs. He’ll offer his advice on leading a business through uncertain times.
Small business leaders may be stuck at home like the rest of us, but they can still take part in conferences. And if they have to be held virtually for a time, so be it. We’ll enjoy them that much more once it’s back to business as usual.