Future-proof your SME: 6 Steps to take your business online

By Dylan Kohlstadt, The founder and CEO of Shift ONE digital

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The Covid-19 virus has put a strain on many businesses of all sizes, and especially SMEs worried about the impact on their customer base are desperately looking for ways to stay afloat in these uncertain times. We offer some steps you can take to digitally transform your business and future-proof it by taking it online, and why the lockdown is the time to do it.

Neil Patel, in a recent article on the topic, shares the following:

• In China, the virus caused retail sales to drop by 20.5% and the unemployment rate jumped to 6.2 in February.
• The virus is expected to lose the travel industry 820 billion dollars. Virgin Atlantic just asked their staff to take an 8-week unpaid leave.
• It’s estimated that in total COVID-19 will cost the global economy $2.7 trillion.

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And not only are people losing money, but they are losing traffic and conversions:

Traffic growth or decline due to covid-19
Source: Neil Patel

So, what should you as a business owner or Marketing Manager do during such tough times?

Opportunity to cut marketing spend?

When economic times are tough, the first step businesses usually take is to cut their marketing budgets in an attempt to reduce costs and minimise business losses. Marketing is usually seen as a luxury, and as not having a direct benefit to the bottom line.

Cutting your marketing spend might appear to be a good way of saving money during tough times; however, it is not the answer. By panicking and switching off your marketing, you will negatively impact your business in the long run by drying up the sales funnel…leading to a knock-on in reduced sales down the line.

Or, opportunity to grow?

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”
– Warren Buffett.

Instead of killing your marketing spend, you should view this as an unprecedented opportunity to reach your customers while most of them are at home under lockdown, and many are turning to social media, videos and the internet more regularly for support, information and entertainment. They don’t have meetings or interruptions as when they are office-based, and you have an opportunity to stand out, for your content to connect and resonate with your audience, like never before.

‘Fortunately’ for us, this disaster has hit us during the digital age, which is all about connectivity – allowing businesses to interact with customers online; maintain customer relationships and future-proof their businesses.

This strategy will allow your business to be top of mind, during the storm and once it has passed.

Below we explore a few practical ways you can take advantage of this unexpected opportunity and come out ahead of an otherwise unfortunate situation.

1. Set up a productive office space

If you haven’t worked from home before, this is the first thing you’ll need to get working for you as we all know how distracting TV and social media can be, especially for those not used to managing their own time, in their own homes.

What I learnt early on as an entrepreneur is to set up a workspace for yourself where you aren’t distracted by TV and social media. The space that you should create should be neat and organised with minimal distractions. Switch the TV off!

Create a to-do list starting with the most intense work, and ending with the lighter tasks. Book time out in your calendar for each task to make sure you are doing the right work at the right time. After you’ve completed the day’s list of tasks as a reward you can go on Instagram, watch the news or binge on a few episodes on Netflix (not all at the same time!). Get up early, shower and get dressed as if you are going to work. If you’re going to work from home, you need to make sure you are actually able to work from home!

2. Digitally transform your business

Hold your meetings and events online using programs such as Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts. Run webinars to equip your customers with the skills that they still need and want. With many events, restaurants and bars have closed down for the unforeseeable future; people will have more time on their hands than ever.

If you don’t have social media, set it up now. If you are a creative or a business that doesn’t have an online shop, create one now. By using social media and digital marketing, you are virtually face-to-face with your customers (and potential customers) without putting them, your staff or business at risk. Not only will you be able to build relationships and support them digitally, but more importantly, you’ll be able to continue to sell your business’s products and services online, which is beneficial to your bottom line.

3. Move to the cloud

If you haven’t already moved all your company files to the cloud, now is the time to do so. Google Drive, Microsoft Box, Dropbox are easy to use and within minutes, you have your business fully backed up and accessible anywhere in the world. Share folders with clients and work on documents at the same time, plus never lose documents again due to crashed hard drives, or stolen laptops.

4. Set up click-funnels

Now more than ever is the time to build those click funnels you haven’t had time to get around to building – they create a top-performing lead-generation journey for your customers so that when we emerge from this dark night, you can switch them on, and the leads can come pouring in.

Click funnels are designed to not only make sales more seamless, but also lead your client step-by-step through the online purchasing process.

5. Content creation

Most companies are very focused on sales, take this time to build your brand and stand out from your competitors. Create informative content, write blogs and articles, create videos and podcasts that are relevant to your audience.

Your audience will want to be productive during this forced time off or at home so now is the time to educate your customers on your services and products – why not hold free webinars with live Q and A sessions? Live Facebook or Instagram streaming is also a fantastic way to build rapport with your audience during this downtime.

Pull together your helpful articles and blog posts and create an eBook for your audience or publish a printed book for sale via your click funnels.

6. Technology is your friend

Remember that technology was built for a time like this; technology is your friend and can make your life easier and will make you more productive and efficient.

Whatsapp is a great way to stay in touch with clients – reach out, let them know that you care and that you are still available. Many of our clients run their businesses via Whatsapp. It’s a brilliant way to communicate with your branches, suppliers, staff and customers.

Webinars are a fantastic alternative for conferences and events – if you need to cancel or postpone an event, or even have an idea for a new event or conference, |hold it online.

• Use social media platforms to share your content and reach your audience. Remember that these online platforms will be replacing the social contact that people usually experience offline. Apps like Hootsuite help you schedule content, and Canva enables you to create artwork without paying a designer.

Live video streaming (Facebook or Instagram, YouTube or Twitter) is a brilliant way to connect with your audience – share a bit about your business, do a live unboxing of new products, or hold a live Q and A session.

Facebook groups are also a great way of staying in touch with clients and others in your field. Sign up to our Facebook group, Digital Marketers Unite here and see what we are doing in this fun space.

• Managing projects and employees remotely doesn’t need to be daunting or difficult. Download Asana for group project management to stay on top of deadlines and share tasks.

Slack, another incredible application, is perfect to use for remote collaborations and is a better solution than email in many cases.

Google Drive, MS Box or Dropbox are also all great and easy options for saving both private and shared documents onto the cloud.

• Build your websites quickly and easily on Shopify or Wix. Businesses can now also set up a Facebook store that connects with Instagram for a quicker way to build your online shop.

While we are all feeling the anxiety brought about by COVID-19 and the economic difficulties and challenges resulting from the virus and its impact on around the globe, it is essential not to become disheartened. Take proactive steps to protect yourself, loved ones and business. Digitally transform and take your business online to safeguard its future.


This article first appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Your Business magazine. Read the issue online or download here.


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