Are you wondering how your business can possibly stay afloat without traditional, in-person networking? The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in the way many businesses usually find and land new clients, but it doesn’t have to grind your business to a halt. Here are X ways businesses can keep acquiring leads through the pandemic and beyond.
First, Review Your Finances
Even with new leads, it may take time before your business returns to full capacity. Can you stay afloat financially in the meantime?
Before you do anything else, revisit your firm’s finances to set a realistic goal for lead generation and identify areas where you can cut back. Small businesses can renegotiate with vendors, landlords, and insurers; reduce labor costs through furloughs, pay reductions, and layoffs; and slash location costs by moving to a cheaper site or going fully remote.
Financial assistance programs can reduce the cuts you have to make in response to the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program, for instance, provides funds for businesses that keep employees on payroll. That’s only one of several funding options that include government programs and grants from companies like Facebook and Amazon.
Up Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Without events and other face-to-face networking opportunities, businesses have to shift their outreach to meet clients where they are: at home. While your business is cutting costs elsewhere, consider how you can invest in digital marketing to generate new leads.
Search engine optimization is one smart step every business should take to get in front of customers’ eyes. Local SEO increases website traffic, leads, and conversions by helping potential customers find your business. SEO tactics to employ during COVID-19 include optimizing Google My Business listings, including information on how you’re operating during the pandemic, and using local keywords and content on your website.
Content marketing is another great way to get your name out there during the pandemic, especially for B2B companies. Content marketing not only keeps your business’s name at the top of clients’ minds, but video content in particular is useful for showcasing products and services. Keep in mind that content doesn’t have to be directly about your brand to be effective. Infotainment and educational content can build an emotional ROI that pays off financially down the line.
Businesses shouldn’t rule out events entirely during the pandemic either. By reimagining conventions, summits, trade shows, and other industry get-togethers as virtual events and livestreams, businesses can keep making contacts even as COVID-19 keeps them at home. Social media is a great tool for this; in addition to pay-per-click ads and social media content, businesses can use livestreaming on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other platforms to connect with clients and promote their business.
Leverage Your Network
You might not have many in-person networking opportunities during the pandemic, but that’s no reason to let your network go cold. Your business’s network is a valuable source of referrals, reviews, and testimonials to drive new business.
While many entrepreneurs worry about appearing desperate by asking for referrals, most clients understand the predicament otherwise successful small businesses find themselves in during the pandemic. Nevertheless, it’s important to take the right approach when requesting a referral. Stick to asking for referrals from clients who know your work well and have a history of positive feedback. Requests should be personalized and specific and there should be something in it for the client. Whether that’s a discount on future services or a handwritten thank you note, showing your appreciation makes clients more likely to recommend your business in the future.
Find Creative Ways to Engage
After generating leads, your business needs to convert them. That’s where engagement comes in.
Small businesses have three main outlets for digital engagement: their website, their social media, and their email list. While social media and websites are great for getting new customers interested in your brand, email marketing is where businesses really have an opportunity to convert.
Email open rates have risen dramatically compared to the same time last year. Year-over-year conversion rates, too, have increased by 17%. Businesses can leverage this thriving channel by using their landing page, social media, and virtual events to grow their email list. Stashlr has great insights into using Instagram to grow your email list.
When sending emails, businesses should acknowledge COVID-19 as it pertains to client needs and company operations, but avoid oversaturating customers’ inboxes with pandemic-related content. After getting inundated with COVID-19 content in the spring, many clients are looking for more uplifting news in their inboxes.
Local businesses can also turn to traditional marketing to follow up on leads. Sales calls and direct mail may seem like outdated marketing channels in today’s digital environment, but contacting clients the old-school way could be what makes your company stand out from the crowded inbox. Some companies are even springing for branded face masks and hand sanitizer to use as marketing materials.
Seek Outside Work
If you’re struggling to get clients to come to you, why not go to them? While it may not be how you typically do business, selling your services on freelance marketplaces could help your business maintain cash flow while sales are down. In addition to platforms like Upwork, Toptal, and Guru, small businesses can advertise their services on local platforms like Craigslist.
When it comes to keeping the doors open through COVID-19, small businesses should leave no stone unturned. From applying for loans to generating leads to freelancing on the side, there are a lot of strategies businesses can use to keep cash coming in through the pandemic — and for many businesses, it will take more than one. But by continuing to be creative and flexible, you can land the work your company needs to make it through this crisis in the black.