The implications of COVID-19 are forcing a lot of small businesses to re-evaluate their business model. What our future customers need and want from us has – at a minimum – been modified. In some instances, it’s changed completely.
Small businesses need to really listen to customer feedback and consider modifications that make sense in a COVID-19 world.
Let me provide a very specific, real-world example.
I work for First Call Computer Solutions in Missoula, MT. We’re an IT company that helps our clients with everything from managed IT, to cybersecurity, to web development.
Back in March, when the governor of Montana sent everyone home, businesses had to scramble to accommodate remote working. On top of that, remote working setups had to be safe and secure.
We knew what our clients needed, and put together several product offerings that would help clients with the work environment challenges they faced.
Once the products were in place, we completely redid our website. We continued to offer the services that we always have, but we updated our messaging to align with the current needs of our clients. We created web pages for our work-from-home packages. We created e-guides, pillar pages, and blogs around our new offerings. We developed social media campaigns around those assets to let our clients know that we were listening and that we are here to help.
We did the same exact thing with our web department. Based on analytics, we analyzed where we could make improvements. We upgraded our chat-bot so that our customers could get what they need from us in real-time. We also put together a COVID Recovery Web Package for those small businesses who know their website is the lifeblood of their business but don’t have the extra budget to redo their website right now.
So once you know what your clients need from you in a COVID world, the next step is to analyze your website. Here are a few tips to help you with that…
The first thing to do if you are rethinking your business model due to COVID is to recognize your most valuable client communication asset is your website. Overnight, websites became a crucial 24/7, 365 day a year employee who is ready, willing, and able to talk to your customer and deliver the information they are looking for. Since websites don’t catch COVID, you can rely on them exclusively to deliver your new hours of operation, business operation modifications, and new offerings you have developed to help your customers during COVID.
Once you acknowledge that your website is your most valuable communication tool, dive into Google Analytics. What pages are people visiting the most? How much time are they spending on those pages? Are visitors engaging, or are they bouncing away immediately?
When we did this for the web side of our business, we discovered we had a high bounce rate on our pricing page. We believe hiding our prices frustrates potential customers, so we want to be transparent with our pricing. Still, there was something about the pricing page that was turning people off (and we were confident it wasn’t the pricing because we’ve been careful to provide affordable packages for every level of business).
We had to pause and reflect on the pricing page. What was good about it? What wasn’t good about it? Our web team agreed – our pricing wasn’t laid out very well. We didn’t provide enough detail on what each package offered, which left a real gap in our value proposition. We have a bronze, silver, and gold package and our colors for those packages were not super appealing. We trimmed some fat off the top of the page so that everything a potential customer would need to know about pricing was above the fold. Believe it or not, after just a couple weeks the bounce rate went from 80% to 2%. In addition, we sold a website to someone who had filled out the contact form on the pricing page, about a week after we made the updates.
So think about that for a second. We are in the web business, and WE needed to improve and update our web presence. Now that we did it, we are getting the desired results. Most importantly, our would-be customers are finding what they need, the information is being delivered the way they want to receive it, and they are engaging with the content.
If I was a bettin’ gal, I’d wager a bet that your messaging was outdated before COVID. I only say that because a) I spend WAY too much time looking at websites and b) we are in the web business and our messaging needed to be updated too.
If you are rethinking your business model, this is the perfect time to take a long hard look at your messaging and ask yourself, “Does this messaging still align with our business and what our clients are looking for?” and “Does this messaging help my customers who are dealing with new COVID related challenges?”
As the old adage goes, “It’s all in the presentation.” Once you have your messaging figured out, consider where that messaging lives. Where and when are your future customers going to find your message? Are there messages that need to be front and center? Should some messaging be moved to secondary pages because it’s just not as relevant right now? By the same measure, should some messaging be moved to the homepage? Should it be moved “above the fold”?
Messaging and presentation will require you to get out of the headspace you’ve been in when it comes to what your customers need from you. Take a couple of quiet hours to step inside the minds of your would-be customers and figure out what they need, and how you can help them during COVID. Then update your website messaging and presentation to show your customers that you truly know them, you are listening to them, and you are genuinely interested in helping them.
If your site doesn’t already have a chat-bot, consider installing one. They are much easier to implement than most people think AND you don’t have to man them 24 hours a day for them to be useful. All the ones we’ve come across allow you to specify when you will get back to the visitors you’ve missed (example: “We are away right now, but please provide an email and someone will get back to you within one business day”).
We’ve found our chat-bot to be extremely helpful to both our customers and us. It’s a great way to pre-qualify a lead – through just a brief interaction, you can determine if the services and products you provide align with what the visitor is looking for. Chat-bots also provide visitors with a comfortable way to visit with your business. To use a chat-bot, a visitor doesn’t have to provide a phone number or an e-mail address (unless you’re away), so it feels like a less invasive way to get the information they are seeking.
Lastly, chat-bots are a great way to build a quick rapport with your visitor. They allow for easy, no-pressure, conversational exchanges. A couple of weeks after updating our chat-bot, we sold a website to a businesswoman who began engaging with us through the chat feature.
In order for your messaging to be found, it needs to be finessed and structured.
In the first place, web content needs to be optimized by incorporating best SEO practices. Blogging should be done on a regular basis, blogs should also be optimized, and for optimum visibility they should be structured into a pillar page. Then you will need to decide if it makes sense to create an advertising campaign around updated messaging and new blogs.
These are crazy times. COVID has forced us to re-evaluate – and in some cases – re-invent what we do and how we do it. Business survival depends more heavily than ever on adaptability and a web presence that showcases that adaptability.