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Marketing Tips for the COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for small businesses everywhere. As business owners are concerned about the health of their families at home and employees at work, many also face impending financial struggles. Sales are taking a hit as brick-and-mortar companies are forced to cease or limit operations and customers become more judicious about spending money. Fortunately, there are some relief efforts underway (which you can learn about through SCORE’s Coronavirus Small Business Resource Hub to help struggling entrepreneurs. Also, there are some marketing strategies you can use to help keep your business on customers’ radar during the coronavirus pandemic.

7 Marketing Tips to Help Small Businesses Weather the COVID-19 Storm

1. Show Compassion and Humanity

Resist the urge to go full-on into “sales” mode. The coronavirus crisis is affecting people everywhere in a very personal way. If you ignore the situation at hand, your brand will appear tone-deaf and unconcerned. Rather than pushing your products and services, consider expressing your heartfelt concern and camaraderie. Then, tactfully sharing how you can still serve your customers’ needs during this time (or after any restrictions on your business have passed).

2. Don’t Let Your Business’s Social Media Presence Slip

While at home, waiting to go back to work after “stay at home” orders are lifted, people will be spending more time than ever on social media. Seize the opportunity this gives you to stay connected and raise awareness of your brand. As we mentioned above, show compassion and humanity in your status updates. Project how you relate to what your followers are going through, share positivity, and focus on how you can serve them to make their lives easier during these difficult times. If you have employees working from home, consider involving them in your posts. That will help to demonstrate the human element of your business and reinforce that your team is doing their part to flatten the curve through social distancing.

3. Freshen Up Your Website

As you experience some downtime, consider cleaning up and updating your website content. Especially pay attention to details that have changed as a result of the coronavirus.

  • Location closures
  • Hours of operation
  • Contact numbers
  • Ordering information
  • Response times

4. Proactively Communicate with Your Customers

Whether it’s by email, phone, social media messaging, or otherwise, reach out to customers to keep them informed about how COVID-19 is affecting your operations. Of course, also make sure you express your hope that they are staying safe and healthy. In all that you do during this time, showing your care and compassion will be critical.

5. Offer Your Services Virtually

If it’s a good fit for your type of business, consider going digital in how you deliver services to your customers. For example, personal trainers, physical therapists, and others are holding client sessions through apps like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts. First, make sure there are no legal restrictions that would prevent you from doing so legitimately.

6. Look for Ways to Do More for Less

Some social media and marketing platforms are offering programs to help business owners that are feeling the financial crunch of COVID-19. For example, Facebook has launched its Facebook Small Business Grants Program, which provides cash grants and ad credits to eligible small businesses. Check with the platforms you use to see if they will offer discounts or deals that can help you keep your marketing efforts going at a lower cost.

7. Reach Out to a SCORE Mentor for Ideas

Realize you don’t have to go it alone during this challenging time! A SCORE mentor can help you through it by offering fresh ideas, providing valuable feedback, and aligning you with resources. Contact us today to talk with a mentor about what you can do to survive and succeed!

image of customer giving five star review

6 Ways to Leverage Customer Testimonials

Word of mouth remains a powerful force for attracting new customers. Recent studies show that 72 percent of consumers trust a business more if it has positive testimonials and reviews. Customer testimonials can reinforce your value, validate your expertise, and build trust. However, they can’t do those things unless you find ways to use your customers’ glowing remarks to your advantage.

In this post, we’ll share ideas for encouraging customers to share their positive experiences. We’ll also offer suggestions for how to leverage customer testimonials to attract more business.

Tips for Encouraging Testimonials from Your Customers

While many people are quick to leave negative feedback for businesses, they may need some nudging to take the time and effort to write about their positive experiences. A few ways to get more testimonials include:

  • Ask them for feedback at the point of sale by having survey or comment cards available.
  • Send an email survey after customers visit your location or make a purchase.
  • Tell them which social media platforms you’re on, and invite them to share their thoughts in a post and tag your page or account.
  • Post a sign with the review websites you participate in (for example, Yelp, Google My Business, Citysearch, TripAdvisor, etc.). Just be careful with how you word your signage. Some review sites—Yelp, for example—prohibit asking customers to leave reviews. Yelp does, however, allow the use of some of its brand assets so that businesses can let customers know they can be found there. Also, never pay or offer other incentives to customers for writing positive reviews.

6 Suggestions for Leveraging Customer Testimonials

Before using all or parts of customer testimonials for your marketing purposes, get permission from the people who wrote them. This applies to the online reviews that customers post publicly, as well. You might consider creating a testimonial release form to protect your business legally and ensure customers know how you will use their testimonials and where they may appear.

Here are some tips when using testimonials to highlight what’s terrific about your business:

  1. Feature the most compelling part(s) of testimonials—especially those that are long-winded. If you pull out various snippets from different places in a testimonial and piece them together, get approval from the customer before using your amended version.
  2. Fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. As long as you’re not changing the meaning of their testimonials, customers will likely welcome proofreading edits. Again, share any changes that you’ve made to get approval before publishing testimonials.
  3. Publish testimonials on the pages of your website that they are relevant to. For example, say someone raved about a bike shop’s repair services in their testimonial. By prominently placing that testimonial on its Repair Services page, the bike shop will give site visitors interested in repair services confirmation of its competence.
  4. Include one or two compelling quotes from customer testimonials in your email signature. Every time you send an email to prospects, they will get a glimpse of how happy your customers are with your business.
  5. Share them on social media. Weaving testimonials into your social media content will serve to humanize your brand and reinforce your value to customers. Consider strengthening the human connection to your brand by asking customers if they will provide or allow you to take a photo to accompany their testimonial.
  6. Record them on video. Consider asking a few customers if they’d be willing to share their testimonials in a video message. These could take the form of amateur snippets recorded with a smartphone and used in social media posts. Or, they could be professionally captured by a videographer and woven into an impactful story that you can feature on your website’s home page, on YouTube, or in TV spots.

The Most Important Testimonial Tip Of All

Your business must earn positive testimonials. Customers will only give them if you deliver excellence, so make sure you provide the best customer experience possible. If you need guidance on what your business can do to achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, connect with SCORE.  Visit the SCORE website to get a mentor or sign up for workshops.

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Marketing Trends and Tips for 2020

2020 is fast approaching! That means it’s time to tune into marketing strategies and tactics that can boost your business in the coming year. Of course, there’s a wealth of information online, but only limited time to research it all.

To help you stay on top of the latest best practices and trends, we’ve curated a list of helpful marketing articles below.

Marketing Wisdom to Help Your Small Business Succeed in the New Year

Marketing (all-encompassing)

Marketing Trends for 2020: Here’s What Will Happen That Nobody is Talking About –  Neil Patel, co-founder of NP Digital, recently published this insightful article. In the article, he describes what he sees coming down the pike in 2020.

4 Key Digital Marketing Trends – Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media and blog contributor at SCORE.org, touches on four evolving areas of digital marketing. You may want to consider implementing them to improve your chances of getting noticed online.

Blogging

What Can You Blog About When All the Good Ideas Are Already Taken? – If you have a business blog, you know the struggle of consistently creating content. In this article, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse shares six tips to help you never run out of fresh ideas.

Guest Blogging: A Step-by-Step Guide – Guest blogging on reputable industry websites can expand awareness of your business to more of your target audience. This article by Ann Gynn, editor of the Content Marketing Institute Blog, walks you through the process.

Content Marketing

8 Content Trends for 2020 – This article shares the Convince & Convert Consulting team’s insight about what businesses should make their top priorities in the New Year.

5 Big Content Trends for 2020 – Search Engine Journal also offers valuable food for thought about what businesses need to consider when creating content in 2020.

Email Marketing

9 Email Marketing Best Practices for 2020 – Social Media Today provides a helpful list of what to do to make your email marketing efforts pay off.

Three Email Trends Retailers Should Keep in Mind for 2020 – eMarketer highlights three top-of-mind trends that will shape email marketing best practices in the year to come.

Influencer Marketing

Why the Future of Influencer Marketing Will Be Organic Influencers – Influencer marketing is evolving. In this article, Social Media Today explains more about the power shift from traditional influencers to organic influencers.

What Will Influencer Marketing Look Like in 2020? – HubSpot’s Kristen Baker shares interesting stats about influencer marketing. Also, she offers tips for working with different types of influencers.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

11 Deadly SEO Mistakes to Avoid in 2020 – Often, avoiding worst practices is the ideal way to make sure you are doing the right things. This Search Engine Watch article tells you what NOT to do to improve your visibility in Google searches.

The Definitive Guide to SEO in 2020 – Backlinko has developed a comprehensive guide packed with SEO trends and tips for improving your search rankings.

Social Media

6 Key Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 – What will make your social media presence stand out in 2020? In this post, Lucy Rendler-Kaplan discusses the trends shaping what businesses will need to do in the New Year.

Social Media Trends for 2020 and Beyond – This Influencer Marketing Hub article shares eight social trends you should expect and prepare for.

Next Steps for a Merry and Bright Future for Your Business

Digging into the resources we’ve shared above is a great first step toward making 2020 your most successful year yet. Next, take action with the help of SCORE! Check out our upcoming workshops to learn more. Or, visit our site to request a SCORE mentor. Our mentors have the knowledge and experience to guide you in all aspects of starting and running your small business.

woman and man in office

You. Twitter. Get Noticed!

Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool, but many  entrepreneurs find it challenging to build
a following and stay top of mind there.

Five Twitter Tips to Help You Get Noticed

 

1. Increase your tweeting frequency.
Twitter has a faster, more dynamic pace than Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. To get on
people’s radar on Twitter, you need to post more often than on other networks. How often,
you ask? After analyzing the results of 14 different studies, CoSchedule (a social media posting
platform) says 15 tweets daily (spread out throughout the day/night) is ideal. That may sound
overwhelming but see tip five below for a way to make it manageable.

 

2. Tweet what matters to your target market.
Think before you tweet. What is your audience interested in? What are they hungry to learn?
Mix things up by tweeting not only your own content but also content created by other reliable
resources. Appeal to users with different preferences by posting tweets with various types of
content (e.g., blog articles, infographics, videos, etc.) Also, consider what people may not want
to see; political commentary and other hot-button content can drive away followers.

 

3. Use hashtags.
Including hashtags in your tweets will help people find you and increase engagement. Go easy,
though. One or two will do the trick. More than that can be a turn-off and cause followers to
tune out.

 

4. Follow companies and people you want to interact with.
Make a list of clients, prospects, vendors, business partners, influencers, and others with whom
you would like to establish or maintain a relationship on social media. People and brands that
are active on Twitter will often reciprocate and become your follower after you follow them.
Besides following other accounts, take a few minutes each day to interact with their tweets
(either retweeting, liking, or replying to them). The more you engage with others on Twitter,
the more engagement you will get in return.

 

5. Use a social media management tool.
Tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and SocialOomph offer free versions and can save you a lot of time.
They allow you to schedule tweets and posts across multiple social networks, enabling you to
get back to business while maintaining an active social media presence. Hootsuite’s dashboard
functionality also makes it convenient to keep track of key followers’ activity on Twitter. Free
accounts on these platforms have limitations, and other plans are available (for a fee) that offer
expanded capabilities. Other social media platforms with subscription plans that you may want
to look at include SproutSocial and CoSchedule.

 

Ready to give it your best shot? 
As with any form of networking, building awareness and trust on Twitter requires time and
repeated exposure. The above tips will help you gain traction, but you’ll still need some
patience. For more advice on marketing your business online (and offline), contact SCORE to
talk with a mentor.

4 Tools to Help You Write Better Content

 

Writing content isn’t every entrepreneur’s strong point, but bootstrapping startups don’t always have the funds to hire professional writers or marketing firms to craft content for them.

Fortunately, some online tools are available to help even the most unaccomplished writers among us improve our writing and make a great impression.

4 Writing Apps to Help You Create Better Content

Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator

When you’ve hit a wall and can’t think of what to write about, Hubspot’s blog topic generator can help you break through writer’s block. It prompts you to add up to five different nouns of your choice, and then it will generate seven blog topic ideas related to those nouns. While some of them might not be a perfect fit at face value, you can modify them to your liking, or they might help you develop new ideas.

Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway app helps ensure your writing isn’t too complicated and over the heads of most readers. It assesses your content and tells you at which grade level it is readable. Anything above a grade-9 reading level is flagged as less than ideal. Hemingway also alerts you to overuse of adverbs, use of passive voice, and complex phrases and sentences.

Power Thesaurus

If you love the assistance of online thesauruses but get annoyed by the advertisements on their websites, meet Power Thesaurus. For the most part, the app is ad-free (except for some non-intrusive advertisements by premium sponsors). It has a simple, uncluttered interface that suggests synonyms for whatever word you type in its search box. Fast and effective, Power Thesaurus helps you power through finding just the right word more quickly than when using other thesaurus websites.

Grammarly

Grammarly is quickly becoming a tool of choice (for writers and non-writers alike) for fine-tuning writing. Its free version detects critical grammar and spelling errors. Grammarly Premium has enhanced capabilities including offering vocabulary suggestions (if you appear to have used words out of context), flagging complex sentence structure, and evaluating content according to its intended purpose, audience, style, and emotional impact.

Bonus Benefits

Not only can these tools help you fix weaknesses in your content, but also they can help you improve your writing skills over time. As you use them, you have an opportunity to learn to think out of the box, increase your knowledge of grammar rules, and broaden your vocabulary.

Of course, apps can’t do it all! Another resource available to help you assess the content you create for your business is a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have experience and expertise in all aspects of entrepreneurship, including marketing, and they are here to offer honest feedback to help your business succeed.

Cultivate Your Leadership Skills

 

As a small business owner, strong leadership skills make or break your company’s chance of success. Without them, you risk missing your goals and not gaining the cooperation you need from employees and project partners.

Not everyone is a born leader but with some effort, you can develop essential and improve upon essential leadership skills.

Here are several leadership skills you’ll want to hone as you build your business:

 

  • Listening

As important as it is to share your guidance and thoughts, listening to what others have to say is equally—if not more—important. Your customers and the people who work with you have valuable insight that can help you make decisions that can improve your business. Want to learn how to be a better listener? Forbes has some helpful tips for strengthening your listening skills.

 

  • Communication

The importance of expressing your goals, guidance, and vision clearly and professionally should never be underestimated—whether through email, phone, face-to-face interactions, or in presentations. Improving communication skills requires a multi-focused effort involving attention to: organizing your thoughts, keeping emotions in check, refining grammar and spelling, and more. This list of 17 tips offers ways you can give your communications skills a boost.

 

  • Time management

Without a grasp on how to effectively manage your time, critical tasks and responsibilities can fall through the cracks. The keys to time management are being organized and knowing how to prioritize your to-do’s. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for managing time, these six tips provide a good foundation upon which to improve your ability to make the most of your time.

 

  • Delegation

Even if you’re a solopreneur, you can’t always do everything on your own. Whether you have employees or opt to use subcontractors, there will be tasks and responsibilities that should be done by someone other than yourself, so you have time to focus on critical business-building objectives.

While this Harvard Business Review article addresses delegation from the perspective of larger companies, it provides many takeaways that small business owners can consider for improving their delegation skills.

 

  • Motivation and self-discipline

Leading also requires maintaining enthusiasm and embodying the drive to accomplish what needs to be done. When you’re the boss, you’re responsible for motivating yourself and staying on track. Contributing editor Geoffrey James at Inc.com has shared an interesting perspective and helpful tips to help entrepreneurs strengthen self-motivation skills. This thought from his article might help motivate you to become more self-motivated: “Use self-motivation to make yourself successful at life rather than just at work.”

 

Don’t believe “leaders are born not made.” While leadership is easier for some small business owners than others, you can get better at it with effort and practice. If you need guidance on ways to become a stronger leader, contact us about talking with a SCORE mentor. Our volunteers have a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of starting and growing a business.