Decisions That Can Help Carry Your Business Through COVID-19

Hep Carry Your Business Through COVID-19This is a difficult time for small business owners. The pressure is higher than ever for companies that already lived on narrow margins. Right now, smart moves are necessary for pushing your business into the future. Fortunately, we live in an era where technology is on our side, as long as we know how to use it. Here’s a look at a few types of tech that can aid business owners now:

Connecting While Apart

Social distancing never looked so efficient:

  • Video chat software and other virtual connection tools allow your team to meet from the safety of their own homes.
  • Remember, you need to take a tailored approach to virtual meetings to ensure they go well.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure your team is using secure communications to prevent fraud or data leaks.

 Fostering A Healthy Workspace

Keep your people safe once in-person work resumes:

  • Make sure your HVAC and air-filtration systems are up-to-date.
  • Consider having UV-C lights installed into your HVAC system to kill germs in the air.
  • Use HEPA-Filter vacuums to clean carpets regularly, and consider installing inexpensive fresh carpeting.

Moving Forward With Confidence

Set your business up to thrive in the post-COVID world:

  • Make a note of software that helps you thrive remotely, and continue to use any tools that will stay useful in the office.
  • Focus on expanding your digital marketing efforts, and hire an SEO expert to ensure you’re hitting the mark.
  • If you nail a virtual routine, consider going fully remote, which saves money on office space and widens your pool of potential employees.
  • Connect with 3SixtySMB for an assessment of other areas where your business might improve.

We are in an unprecedented moment in history. Small businesses are dealing with risk, but they’re also facing an opportunity. Take the initiative and use the right tech to your advantage, and you could see a brighter tomorrow than you’d ever imagined.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Guest Article by: Elena Stewart via https://www.elenastewart.com/

11 Tips to Realign Your Small Business for Success Today

Realign Your Small Business for SuccessWe are in some difficult times. With essentially the entire world on lockdown, business has been tough. We are seeing businesses freezing budget, pulling back on expenses and laying off employees in record numbers, just to keep their heads above water. All is not lost, business around the world is being conducted and people are winning new deals. It has just become more difficult. In times like these, we continuously need to remind our teams that the slowdown is not a result of their actions and that their hard work can and will eventually pay off. Our rule of thumb is you have to work two or three times as hard in order to close the same (if not less) business… No level of complaining will fix this problem—only good old fashion hard work will win the day! With that said, it takes more than simple hard work; you must also work smart. We’ve put together some quick hitting tips to help realign yourself for success:

  • Work Smart – Make no mistake, there is absolutely a difference between working hard and working smart… It’s the smart workers that are more likely to win the day! – Busy Isn’t Always Productive – 10 Tips To Becoming More Productive
  • Small Details Matter – Right now, business is difficult to come by and everyone is fighting for the same budgeting dollars. A great sports analogy comes to mind. Think of the Super Bowl, Word Series, NBA or NHL Finals: what differentiates the winners and losers? It typically comes down to the smallest of details that gave them the extra inch to win the day. In times like these, the difference of winning and losing business can sometimes come down to the smallest of details. – Sales Is A Numbers Game, How To Increase Sales Without Increasing Pipeline
  • Take Losses Gracefully – In business, you are going to get a lot of noes… Unfortunately, during times like these, there is no denying that the amount of noes vs. yeses is going to grow exponentially. Don’t take it personally; take a loss with grace, and down the line, it will pay off… – Take A Sales Loss Gracefully
  • Educate More, Sell Less – When business is taking a slump, it is only natural for management to push harder for sales. Here’s the problem: everyone is pushing harder for sales and bombarding their accounts with “buy, buy, buy” messages… This tactic not only frustrates clients but comes off desperate. Instead, find new and interesting ways to educate your clients. At the end of the day, the more educational and informative you are, the more likely clients are to stay engaged with your brand. It will make the selling process much easier when they are ready to buy. – Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It
  • Develop an Account Management Strategy – It is surprising to see how many small businesses do not have a measurable account management strategy. Now is the time to develop a proper account management strategy, as it will strengthen the overall penetration you have with your account base and will increase sales without question. – Account Management Strategy 101
  • Dive In – Technically this falls in line with an account management strategy, but it needs to be emphasized. Within small businesses, we find that businesses only have one key buyer within their accounts… This is a huge mistake; not only does it put the account at risk if their primary contact leaves the business (or is laid off), but you are also missing out on the opportunity of finding additional buyers within the account. A rule of thumb is to have at a minimum of five active contacts within each account… The bigger the account, the more contacts. Some enterprise businesses could have upwards of 100+ different contacts.
  • Strengthen Marketing – One of the very first items to be cut during an economic downturn is marketing… This is an incredibly huge mistake for a business to make. Now is the time to double down and strengthen your marketing strategy. As mentioned earlier, during times like this, you need to work two to three times as hard to bring revenue in the door… Marketing is a key component to driving awareness and leads into the pipeline. Cutting marketing off is only going to increase the already growing gap in your business. – Marketing Performance Metrics Need to Be Just as Visible as Sales Metrics
  • Evolve Product and Services – Now is not the time to hold your ground with respect to your products and services. A common theme/mistake within leadership is to think you know better than your customers and prospects, making them conform to the limitations of your products and services. The reality is, in a buyer’s market, no one is going to conform to your business. They will simply move on to the next name on their list… Let’s not forget, we are all in the same boat together, and your competition will be all too eager to accommodate those client requests to win their business. – Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight, Landmark Case with TripAdvisor, Makes Businesses Think Twice About Reviews & Target Uses Local Retail Stores As Virtual Warehouses
  • Measure Everything – Continuous improvement is a strategy that is more important now than ever before… Establish baselines across the business and begin to measure them. Only once you start to properly measure the different aspects of the business, you can really know if the changes implemented are helping the business or not. – How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small Business
  • Break Down the Silos – Silos make everything difficult, full stop… Break down those silos within your business to ensure your team can work effectively and efficiently together. The better they can align themselves now, the better they can react to market and customer needs. – The Importance of Interdepartmental Communication in Small Businesses
  • Know When to Let Go – Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult tasks we all have and quite frankly, always a last resort. However, in troubling times, now is not the time to hold on to dead weight within an organization. That dead weight can and will cost you precious time and money, and it could result in the loss of more employees, or even your business down the line. We are huge fans of doing whatever is necessary to help someone turn around, but there are just times were nothing will work. – When Terminating An Employee Is Necessary

In difficult times like these, it is important to continue down the right path and do everything that you believe is right to keep the business afloat… We are all in the same boat together, but unfortunately there are going to be some businesses that simply do not make it…

Have other tips? Share them below… If you need help, feel free to contact us any time!

 

 

Five Tips to Quickly Help Get Your Business Online, Before It’s Too Late

Open and closedSomething that we at 3SixtySMB have been educating the small business market about for years, has been the need to have a digital and online presence The Importance of Having an Online Digital Presence for Local Small Businesses. Yet, some still haven’t made the change. As a result, slowly but surely, businesses that have not adopted digital and online strategies have been disappearing from the landscape one by one. However, up until recently, it has been process that has been slowly but surely killing them off… But, given the current economic pressures with essentially the entire world on lockdown, businesses no longer have years to make the shift. With most small businesses looking at significant loss of revenue, and in some cases losing their complete revenue streams, they are now looking at potentially days or weeks before they may be forced to close their doors forever. In this article, we are going to cover some quick tips a small business can use to pivot their strategies with regards to their digital and online presences. What we are about to share is not going to close the revenue gap completely, but it will hopefully provide enough revenue to keep the doors open enough to make it past these troubling times.

Let’s face it, unless you are Reckitt Benckiser (Lysol), a toilet paper manufacturer, grocery store, or Amazon, your business is going to have some difficult times ahead. The larger well-funded or profitable companies will have the cash to weather the storm, but for many small businesses, they simply don’t… The fact is that essentially the entire world has been told to stay home and it is putting a strain on businesses everywhere. This has also emphasized in an extreme way, that when you rely solely on foot traffic, you are setting yourself up for failure. In today’s market, it is important to be online because that is where your prospects are, full stop. Here are a few quick tips that can help small businesses readily make the transition:

Social Media ­– Start with social media first. Why? Well, a social media profile is essentially the easiest process to start. And with everyone basically trapped indoors, they are spending significantly more time on it. This is a topic that we tackled not too long ago How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business, however when looking to develop a strategy, you need to be quick. Start with setting up a business profile on the major channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram), and begin posting right away. At its core, social media takes only minutes to set up and has become a fundamental way for communicating with your core prospects and clients in real-time.

As an example, if you’re a restaurant, you can use your social channels to let people know about your adjusted hours, specials, menu items and other things such as that. Again, the core goal of using social media is to use it in a way to communicate with your communities in retail-time, and trust me, it works. Over the past few weeks, the way several small businesses have been communicating on Facebook has enticed my family to grab takeout or delivery from them multiple times.

E-Mail – Email is another quick and effective way for communicating, and quite honestly, something many small businesses just do not know how to properly utilize. This was another topic covered not too long ago Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It. The key, if you do not know how to get started, is to think of all the email addresses you’ve captured over the years. Most small businesses capture emails to some extent, we just find that many simply do not do anything with them. Now is the time to dust off those emails, build a list and start communicating… Again, similar to social media, email marketing can be a way to communicate in almost real-time with your customer base with little to no effort. The key thing to remember is to keep your e-mails educational and informative, and stay away from abusing the list by trying to sell too much.

Website ­– We are absolutely blown away at how many small businesses do not have websites set up… Let’s face it, the yellow pages are nonexistent, and with the fact that everyone is essentially confined to their homes for the next few weeks, you are getting zero business without a website. We get it, building a website can be a daunting task. The reality is, building a website can be fairly easy, as there are so many companies that offer plug and play website building options that enable almost anyone to build a website overnight. The goal in times like these is to start simple and build a website that covers the basics such as: product and services overview, address, hours, and contact details. Once you get the basics down, you can slowly build out the website to be more comprehensive over time. Services like WIX and WordPress offer options that are extremely low cost and fairly easy to build out with very little experience and expense.

Switch to Virtual Phones – Most businesses rely on traditional wired phones for their primary communication method. When people are in the office, they work very well, however situations like this can cause huge issues. There are many businesses today, that simply are not allowed to have employees in the building and as a result, there is no one answering the phones. This directly results in loss of business and frustrated customers… Now is the time to look into services such as Comcast Business, 8×8, and Fuze which offer virtual phone systems. These systems do not only work the same way a traditional phone system works, but in times like this, allow employees to take “business” calls directly from their computers or mobile phones without skipping a beat. It may sound like a difficult process, but transferring your existing business lines to something such as one of these services is fairly easy to do.

Offer Alternatives – This suggestion goes beyond the concept of digital and online but really focuses on thinking outside of the box for keeping a business afloat in difficult times. As an example, when the governor of Massachusetts first announced the stay home order a number of weeks ago, many small businesses were forced to close their doors overnight. But, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case… Again, I will be using restaurants as an example; there are many traditional restaurants that fell victim and were forced to close doors because they only offered dine-in options. We urge these traditional restaurants to think outside of what is traditional and find ways to offer takeout and delivery alternatives. This can not only provide you with a small revenue source but potentially give employees that would have otherwise been put out, an option to collect a paycheck as well. In cases like this, nothing will replenish your revenue stream completely, but something is certainly better than nothing. Especially when facing potentially laying off employees or going out of business.

Nothing is going to replace 100% of your lost revenue during times like these, but the more that you do as a business to shift to a digital and online presence, can and will help mitigate any losses you might be taking on… Also, when things do come back to normal, you’ll have a competitive edge that you didn’t have once before. Good luck and please feel free to reach out to us if you ever are in the need of help.

 

Marketing Performance Metrics Need to Be Just as Visible as Sales Metrics

Smarketing - Sales + MarketingWhen you think about the health of any business, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most people immediately go to sales numbers—pipeline, bookings, and revenue. And, they are not wrong. However, here at 3SixtySMB, we push our clients to focus on another aspect of the business: marketing. Let’s put this into context a bit. How often do you personally purchase a product or service from a business that you’ve never heard of before? If we are being honest with ourselves, the answer is “never” or “very rarely.” This is why we believe that tracking the performance of marketing is as equally important to the health of the business as tracking sales performance. Current statistics show that it takes an average of 5 – 7 impressions for people to remember a brand and that In 2015 Facebook influenced 52 percent of consumers’ online and offline purchases, up from 36 per cent in 2014.

Now, as a business, you can try the old school, brute-force method of focusing solely on outbound sales to generate revenue—and it does work. But in all honestly, this method is directly in line with the “working harder and not smarter” mentality, and it is guaranteed to lead to burnout of the team over time. There is the misconception that marketing equals huge expense, but that simply isn’t true; there is a significant amount of marketing that could be completed with zero budgeting dollars spent (just effort). We’ve already covered that in previous articles: Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight, The Importance of Testing in Marketing Campaigns, How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business and will continue to cover that down the road, but today we’ll talk about how to put a focus on marketing to boost overall corporate performance and morale.

A phrase we use quite frequently is “what gets measured, gets done”… However, we are also firm believers that if you really want something to be done, make sure everyone knows how a team is performing. With most organizations, this is done on a daily basis with respect to sales, as sales numbers are typically reported across the business in dashboards, update emails, and meetings. Yet, with respect to marketing, this almost never happens, and in most cases, no one knows how the company is performing from a marketing perspective. I’m reminded of my time with HubSpot. As a company, not only did they focus equally on sales and marketing performance, but they also adopted the terminology “Smarketing,” frequently combining sales and marketing in corporate communications and meetings. This ensured that both teams were on the same page and also gave everyone the sense of pride that they were all moving forward in the right direction as one team and company. In this vein, we always recommend to our clients to put the marketing team’s performance on a pedestal alongside sales.

At the very core of this, we recommend sharing at a minimum: website performance and lead performance, along with email and social media community growth on a weekly or monthly basis, paired alongside with trending data… But, these are the bare minimum and we always suggest tracking other items such as:

  • Percentage of new vs returning visitors
  • Average number of pages viewed
  • Average time on site
  • Most popular pages
  • Social campaign performance
  • Email marketing performance
  • Pipeline generated from marketing
  • Sales generated from marketing

Each and every one of these statistics provides some real insight to the marketing lifeblood of a company, and when combined with sales and trending data, they can truly lead to a deeper understanding of the real health of a business. Once you start measuring these data points, you can then try to find ways of continuous improvement to keep them moving in the right direction. Sharing these numbers publicly has an interesting side effect as well: it can boost morale … Again, thinking about HubSpot, one of the greatest things about sharing the numbers and trajectory is that it gave everyone a huge sense of pride in the business and was a large part of their culture: Why HubSpot Treats Its Culture as a Product. As a leader within your organization, give it a try and see how it affects the business… We can almost guarantee you’ll have a boost in corporate performance and morale.

 

Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It

Email is brokenEmail marketing is broken but still remains a strong communication channel… Most business professionals spend an unprecedented amount of time per day (28% of the week to be exact) chained to their inboxes responding to countless amounts of email! This would make one think: if you have such a captive audience, then why is email marketing so broken? Well, it isn’t broken; it’s the way the majority of businesses structure their messages that makes it broken.

When you break down the messages from most email marketing campaigns, they fundamentally fall into a few categorical buckets, but they tend to focus on one thing: the sender of the message and not the receiver. Let’s dive in a little deeper on this. Most campaigns can fall under the following buckets: deals, product catalogues, and the super generic sales message. As a bit of an exercise, go into your inbox and find the last ten or twenty marketing messages and you’ll find that they fall into one of those few categories. You’ll find subject lines similar to the following: “Final days To Save 20%”, “Special Offer”, “Register for this event”, or the ever so cleaver “Did you see my last email message?” and “Can we talk at 3pm?”… In this day and age, we are truly amazed that any of these messages even work at all…

I’m going to personally pick on Lyft as an example. Personally, I use Uber, but once—and only once—I had to use Lyft. And as a result, every few days they hit my inbox with a new “compelling” marketing message… but are they really “compelling”? For starters, you’ll see on March 14th, 17th, 31st, and April 4th, their key message was 10% off, with three emails entitled “Ends Soon” with a date of April 9th. Seems compelling right? Well, not so much… On the 10th of April, only one day after that 9th deadline, they hit me with a 25% off special. As you can see from the screenshot below, every single message over the period of four months is essentially the same! I’m using Lyft as an example, though they are certainly not alone; I have an untold number of businesses that use the very same tactic, which makes those “compelling offers” not so compelling…

Lyft Marketing Campaign

This is essentially why email marketing is broken for so many today. The majority of campaigns focus on the great deal, showcasing a product, or those very witty generic sales emails (that quite honestly are not so witty). The only time these messages happen to work is when you happen to catch someone right about to make a purchase where saving 25% would be valuable. Otherwise, your emails are getting deleted or unsubscribed the minute they hit their inbox.

To unlock the secret of email marketing, you need to stop thinking about traditional email marketing and the idea of needing to generate sales with every message… There is a rule of thumb in sales that four out of every five touches should be non-sales related. This essentially means that the majority of your outreaches to a prospect or customer should be adding some type of value to them beyond asking for a sale (and, no, 25% off messages are not adding any real value to them). Translated into email marketing, that means that at least four out of every five campaigns should be non-sales related… When you can fundamentally make this shift as an organization, you’ll find that not only do you stop people from unsubscribing or deleting your emails, but people actually become engaged with your campaigns. As an example, let’s pick on Lyft once again… What if instead of constantly bombarding their prospects and customers with yet another 10 or 25% off special, they found more creative messaging. As a consumer, topics that would get me to at least open the email would be something like: “Top 10 Tips for Keeping Safe While Using Ride Sharing Apps”, “Did You Know Ride Sharing Costs x% Less than Traditional Cabs?”, “How to Use Ride Share to Plan Your Next Trip”, “The Top 10 Things Your Lyft Driver Would Like You to Know”, “Legislation is Trying to Kill Ride Share. Here is How You Can Fight Back”, “The Top 5 Reasons to Ride with Lyft over Uber”… These are just a few messages that literally took me about five minutes to think up and would compel me to at least open the email… Now, I only pick on Lyft because I am a fan of Ride Share but use their competitor, Uber, and through their marketing communications, Lyft has given me zero compelling reasons to shift.

Therein lies the secret of email marketing: don’t make the message about you, make it about your customer. And again, no, a 25% off promotion is not a customer-centric message. The core of successful marketing campaigns is to find ways to continuously engage your prospects and customers by finding ways to add value to their lives. Topics that are informative and educational are exponentially more successful than your more traditional methods. There is also an interesting byproduct of utilizing email marketing in this nature, and that is creating a more informed and educated buyer… These types of buyers tend to take less time in the decision-making process and end up becoming more successful customers who are more likely to buy again, renew, or refer additional business. Email marketing done right can completely change how you function as a business…

Stuck on ideas for content for email campaigns? Here are a few tips:

  • Recent industry news
  • Addressing questions about the industry
  • Addressing frequent sales or support questions
  • Addressing legislation questions
  • Sharing an interesting use-case for your solution
  • Sharing cost of process savings stories
  • Customer testimonials

When it really comes down to it, almost anything directly or tangentially related to your company, industry, or solution are all areas that can be explored more to help keep your clients and prospects engaged via email. Once you start a strong stream of educational and informative content, it doesn’t hurt to drop in a sales-related email from time to time… Once people begin to trust your email brand, those 25% off offers will then become more valuable over time…. Finally, if you’re struggling on what messages work best, you can always address that via AB Testing which we discussed in another article. Finally, if you need assistance tackling this change of marketing methodology, you can always contact 3SixtySMB directly at 3SixtySMB@3SixtySMB.com.