Local and small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19. Many of them are classified as “non-essential” and have been required to close for the last several weeks. Local restaurants have been reduced to take-out only, and with limited budgets to advertise, many are losing the battle to larger chain competitors.
However, the news is not all bad. While small businesses deal with challenges from the Chicago lockdown to stoppages in cities all over the country, many are using this time to pivot and improve their businesses.
What is the pandemic meaning for local businesses and how can you adapt? Here’s what you need to know:
What Is a Pandemic?
There’s been some confusion among Americans about the real pandemic definition. When you look at a pandemic vs. epidemic, you might think that they are pretty similar. After all, they both involve a lot of people getting sick and dying.
However, they are not the same. An epidemic is a widespread outbreak of the disease in one specific population or area. For instance, if COVID-19 had been contained in China, it would have been an epidemic.
A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread through multiple countries or continents. What we’re dealing with now is a pandemic – it’s affecting countries all over the world.
The last pandemic was the H1N1 flu (or Swine Flu). It started in Mexico in 2009 and spread around the world. Before that was the 1918 Spanish flu.
The death rate of COVID-19 appears to be much higher than H1N1, but it’s hard to tell. Without widespread testing and with many cases being asymptomatic, it’s impossible to determine the exact figures. When you don’t count them as infected, the death percentage will be artificially inflated.
How Are Small Businesses Responding?
As a small business, what can you do to protect your business and minimize your losses?
Many companies are having to make hard decisions about layoffs and reduced hours. Others have had to close entirely and don’t have the ability to pay staff in the interim.
Even if you have to close your physical storefront, you can look for creative ways to keep money coming in. Some businesses are using the time to do projects they’ve long put off, from deep cleaning to renovation. With no customers coming through the doors, you can do those things without interruption.
Others are focusing on their online options. In North Carolina, the owner of the jewelry boutique Embellish is using her time to build a website to create online sales. This wasn’t something she had in place before, and it could turn out to be a huge boost to her business even after things get back to normal.
If you don’t already have a virtual storefront, now is the time to create one. Whether you’re a boutique or a restaurant, you can list your products and services online and make it easy for customers to buy.
Even better, you can take advantage of local business SEO to boost your website over time, helping you create an ongoing stream of new customers.
Other Ways to Get Local Business Support
The stimulus bill passed recently also contains assistance for small businesses affected by COVID-19. Whether you are a small business in Chicago or Dallas, these initiatives can help keep your company going through this tough time.
The Small Business Association (SBA) has a page dedicated to small business guidance and loan resources. You can apply for loans and debt relief, for instance. There’s a paycheck protection program that gets you a forgivable loan if you retain your employees. This money can help you pay folks and support your staff even while you’re closed or have reduced hours.
There are also loan advances, bridge loans, and relief from current SBA loans available.
The SBA page also contains helpful advice for small businesses about how to keep customers and employees safe, including cleaning guidelines, encouraging sick employees to stay home, and more.
There are also tips to help you plan for other possible disruptions, including supply-chain issues, changing demand, and workforce capacity. These tips will help a business in Chicago or anywhere else in the country survive this crisis.
How to Grow and Even Thrive: Local Business Marketing
No matter what kind of business you have, local business advertising can make all the difference when it comes to surviving – and even thriving – through a tough time.
Perhaps your physical store is closed. But can you offer gift cards now for future purchases? Can you build an online store and promote it? Can you offer sales?
If you don’t have an online store yet, this is the perfect time to create one. It’s also proof that doing so is well worth it – after all, having a fully-functioning online store can mean that your revenue drops only slightly during a closure.
You can promote your store in two ways: using short-term strategies and long-term strategies.
In the short term, promote your offers on social media. Run contests and offer sales. You can even announce a grand opening or your online store if it’s new, with all of the (online) fanfare of a full opening.
You can also promote products and services to your email list. Let them know you’re still out there, you’re working hard to keep everyone safe, and you need their support. Many people are making a special effort to support small and local businesses during this time.
The short term will give you an immediate boost, which you definitely need. However, you can’t ignore your long-term efforts. This is where local business SEO becomes so important.
You want to do keyword research to find out what terms people use when searching for your products and services. You should also include local phrases with those keywords, such as your city, neighbourhood, or street.
Be sure you also claim your Google My Business profile and begin soliciting reviews, if you haven’t already. Having a complete Google My Business page is a big part of ensuring your website ranks highly on Google and shows up in the Local Pack.
The Local Pack is where your small business will really shine. When users search for a product or service, Google highlights local businesses that fit the need. It’s in a box off to the side and includes a map, business names, reviews, and contact information.
The Local Pack shows up above the number one search result, so it’s a big deal!
When you have excellent SEO, you can rest assured that you will have new leads coming in regularly no matter what.
Get Help With Your Marketing Today
If you want to survive and even grow through this experience, you need to take advantage of digital marketing. If that’s not your expertise, don’t worry. At Local SEO Search, Inc., that’s all we do.
Don’t waste your time and money on strategies that may not work for your company. Let us evaluate your current positioning, suggest a unique strategy for your exact needs, and execute on it.
You can make it through this crisis. We would love to help. Contact us today for the digital marketing plan your business needs.