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A shutdown of several weeks or months brought chaos to your meticulously planned business model. As you reopen, you face a new world of social distancing, limited physical access, online ordering, and uncertainly about your ability to stabilize business operations in a fluid environment. How can you keep up with changing requirements, serve customers efficiently and safely, and keep your business afloat?
Consider adding a few new tools to your toolkit. These free and low-cost tools can help you reach customers, showcase your products and services, implement contactless purchasing, and regulate traffic flow into your physical location.
Need to create an online store, quickly? Square offers a variety of e-commerce tools for small businesses. You can create an online storefront and catalog to showcase your products, menus, or services. Customers can place orders, securely pay online, and arrange for curbside pickup, delivery, or shipping. You can sell eGift cards, process coupons, and even offer special discounts. The Square website includes informational resources for small businesses. You pay per transaction or service.
With reduced foot traffic, you might be worried about attracting and retaining customers. Expertly-written online content can solidify relationships with existing customers and magnify your reach to attract new ones. But only if it’s seen.
SEO helps ensure your marketing messages, newsletters, and blog posts don’t get buried on the eighteenth page of Google’s search results by more directly connecting your message with customers’ needs.
Use Yoast to learn what SEO is, how to improve yours, and why it matters. Yoast offers information, resources, and free and paid tools. The free SEO training and blog are a great place to get an introduction to SEO and some pointers for improving your website.
Since many businesses are operating with limited capacity, asking customers to make reservations is becoming common in everything from gyms and swimming pools to shoe stores and florists—businesses that may not be accustomed to operating this way. Calendly lets customers schedule appointments directly to your business calendar, without the need for back-and-forth communication.
You set the scheduling rules around availability and buffers between appointments, and Calendly handles the rest. Customers can create or change appointments, helping you to manage traffic flow and safely accommodate visitors to your business. It’s integrated with Google, Outlook, Office 365, and iCloud calendars for automatic updates and no double-bookings.
Zoom has become a go-to tool during pandemic shutdowns. In your small business, use Zoom to meet with customers “face-to-face” to provide coaching, conduct interviews or consultations, and even host social events like lunch-and-learns or virtual happy hours. Use of this tool has grown tremendously during the COVID-19 crisis, and Zoom has added a wealth of resources for new users, as well as significant enhancements to security.
Posting social media content is a great way to reach customers with news, offers, updates, and valuable information. But posting content once means very few people will see it. You need to get the message out over and over again!
Increasing your social media presence doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming, though. Reach out regularly to customers with timely information—and do it without letting social media management dominate your schedule.
You can get scheduling under control with a social media manager like Hootsuite. Schedule and monitor feeds from multiple social media platforms, all in one place. Hootsuite’s free plan allows a single user to link three social profiles—an Instagram feed, Twitter account, and Facebook page, for example—and schedule up to 30 messages at a time.
Pandemic or no pandemic, these tools just make sense. They make it easier to reach and serve prospective customers locally, nationally, or even globally.
Which ones will you add to your business toolbelt?
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