Staying Ahead of the Competition During (and After) COVID-19
For some businesses, COVID-19 has completely changed day-to-day operations. However, for many other businesses, customers and clients are holding steady. If your business isn’t in crisis-mode, and you are able to continue without major interruptions, you are in a great position to use this time to strengthen your operations and stay ahead of your competition.
You’re a proactive business leader, and you’re wondering what you can do during this time to put your business in a better position in the long-term, once the economy picks back up again. Below, we explore some forward-thinking ways you can maintain your edge in your industry that can benefit you now and in the future.
Run a technical audit on your site to enhance user performance and Google ranking
The goal of a technical audit is to analyze your software, security, user management, speed, and high-level search and optimization strategies. An audit looks at the factors that affect your user conversion, like slow page speed and broken links, and the factors that affect your site’s Google ranking, like your user experience.
Though troubleshooting any issues found in your audit will undoubtedly take time and resources, the improvements help you grow your user conversions and achieve a better Google ranking. Tech audits can be done through automated tools like My Web Audit or a web development firm (like us).
In addition to a general site audit, make sure to take a deep dive into pieces like Google Search Console (GSC). GSC is a free platform that analyzes how Google crawls your pages, highlighting mobile optimization issues or other “dings” to your website. GSC analysis ensures that Google can easily read your pages and considers you an authority in your industry or with certain keywords.
Even if you’re not technical, learning how to use GSC can be a valuable use of your time, even if it is only to double check the work of whatever company is managing your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or web performance. If you don’t have your website added to GSC, it is easy to do (check out Hubspot’s complete GSC guide here).
Experiment with new customer outreach channels like webinars, podcasts, or social media
With many of us stuck at home right now, people are distracted online, not offline. Many professionals, especially, may have extra time because business is slow, or they may be worried about losing work. Either way, there are professionals looking to spend their free time expanding their skill sets and learning about different technical subjects online.
Whether or not you have an existing channel, now is the time to experiment with new types of content. Webinars in particular have long been popular with professionals in the “business to business” (B2B) space. 91% of B2B professionals report preferring outreach with webinars to anything else (compared to articles, whitepapers, or blog posts), and 76% of B2B buyers have used webinars in the past 12 months to make a purchase decision.
Compelling webinar, podcast, or social media subjects, coordinated with a content plan, can serve as effective lead generation for your business. If you are able to execute interesting, informative content right now, you may get more eyes on it than ever.
Explore inbound marketing for your lead generation and sales funnel
As the internet continues to impact how businesses market and advertise, “inbound marketing” has grown in popularity in recent years. In short, in contrast to “outbound marketing” that interrupts an audience with advertising, inbound marketing attracts customers organically by creating content and resources that are valuable to them. Many businesses have shifted to inbound marketing techniques (think about the last time you searched “how to do X technical thing”, and how you probably ended up on some tech company’s blog—this is inbound marketing).
Inbound marketing is effective at bringing in leads, but it also requires far more upfront work, time, and resources to implement. Now is the time to experiment with inbound marketing tools to explore what may be viable for your business. While this is an enormous topic, platforms like Hubspot, which offer complete inbound marketing solutions, also offer excellent free online certifications and classes to get you started.
Take advantage of online tech offers and discounts
As businesses tighten their budgets or change their operations, many industry-specific platforms are now offering extremely good deals or discounts. Now may be a good time to experiment with software you’ve always wanted to try for your business, or it may be a good time to renew.
Check out some of our favorite tools, linked to their special deals or lifted paywalls:
- G Suite Hangouts – video conferencing
- All customers can now host larger meetings for up to 250 participants per call, live stream for up to 100K viewers within domain, and record meetings to Google Drive
- Cisco Webex – video conferencing
- Businesses who are non-Webex customers can secure free 90-day licenses, which include unlimited usage, up to 100 participants, and toll dial-in
- Existing customers can expand usage at no additional cost
- Loom – video messaging platform
- New users get an extended free trial of 30 days, the price of Loom Pro has been cut in half (now $5/month), and there is no longer a recording limit on the free plan
- Microsoft Teams – project management platform
- MS Teams licenses are free for the next 6 months (and they compile some truly helpful resources)
- Wrike – project management platform
- New customers can now sign up for Professional edition for 6 months at no charge
- Zoho Remotely – project management tool
- Remotely is free until July 1
- Hubspot – marketing, sales, CRM, and customer service software
- Prospects and customers can receive reduced prices and free tools like Meetings, E-Sign, and 1:1 Video, customers can receive increased limits
- Calendly – scheduling software
- Customers are offered Zoom and GoToMeeting integrations (previously Premium tier features) free of charge through June
Automate and streamline business processes
Automating or streamlining your business processes is normally lost in our daily to-do lists. However, now is a great time to audit your business processes and consider how to make your team more efficient for the long-term. To get started, take the below as example of automatable tasks for an agency or firm.
- Bringing in leads from your website, newsletter, app, or other digital platform
- Inputting leads into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
- Vetting leads
- Nudging leads through the sales funnel
- Creating proposal for customers and executing contracts with their digital signature
- Creating the project flow after the proposal or contract has been signed
- Taking project into invoicing
How much of the above standard process do you automate? If the answer is… almost none, now is the time to consider experimenting with different tactics. Not only can automation make your team more effective, it can also free up time for strategic tasks like improving customer satisfaction. Long-term, these systems will make your company more process-driven and grow the viability of an exit sell (if that ever becomes your end goal).
We recommend this excellent slide deck from Mozak Design about “How to Clone Yourself through Automation”, which we’ve referenced to automate our own processes at Inspry. If you already use many different web apps and you’re looking to automate transferring info between them, Zapier is also a great tool to consider.
Maintain your network with virtual networking and personalized customer check-ins
Even though you can’t meet people in person right now, it is still a good time to reach out and check in with your customers and network. However, “checking in” during a crisis needs to be thoughtfully executed. You are not checking in with a lead; you are checking in with a person. Be genuine, and ask how you can help.
To stay in touch, Loom is a great tool for easy one-on-one video sharing with clients, allowing you to send screen-sharing videos explaining hard-to-understand topics without the pain of scheduling. In addition, consider continuing to attend the many networking events that are now moved to webinars, YouTube Live, or Zoom calls. Not only will reaching out and showing up strengthen your relationships, but it may also plant some long-term seeds that can pay off for your business in the future.
Take a closer look at your first party data and analytics
Periodically revisiting your “first party data”, the leads and customers for whom you have vetted contacted information, can provide insight not immediately obvious from your day-to-day operations. Your first-party data is contained in databases like your Customer Relationship Management (CRM), accounting books, and Google Analytics. Analyzing your data, starting with the following questions, can help inform your strategic business decisions:
- Who are your best clients, and what are they doing?
- What relationships can you grow, and which ones need attention?
- Who is looking at your website, how, when, and why?
- Based on your understanding of your current customers and active leads, does your “buyer persona” need to be updated?
Perform content and messaging audit of your website
Your business scope, branding, or story has undoubtedly evolved over time. If you built your beautiful website and then never looked back again, you’re not alone—however, with more eyeballs on your site than ever, now is the perfect time to revisit your messaging. Use this time to audit each page on your website and all of your public-facing assets, ensuring that your messaging still speaks to how you understand your audience in real-time.
In addition to your website, if your company has also devoted time and resources into creating content like blogs, ebooks, and resources, consider auditing your “content library” to ensure you are getting the best return on your investment. Start with the following questions:
- What is in your content library?
- How is your content being used?
- Do you have old content that can be reworked/repurposed?
- Do you have content that is newly relevant?
- What is your most popular content? Can it be shined up, promoted further, etc?
Update your blog with a focus on your industry
As a business owner, you know you should be blogging to build your organic growth. However, it can be challenging to find the time to regularly update your blog. If you have time to work ahead on your blog now, you can schedule these in advance to stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow your site authority.
If you are going to invest in blogging, one popular strategy is to create a tools and resource page for your customers to reference. Industry-specific online resources take time and effort, but they can be worth the investment for retaining your current customers and attracting new ones. If you’re just getting started on a resource library, check out this awesome Magnet4Blogging guide here.
Collect case studies and success stories
Your satisfied customers speak for your company in a way that you cannot, making featured success stories on your website and sales materials a powerful tool. If you are already checking in with your best customers, consider going further and asking for an interview about their buyer experience with your company. Writing the story in a “problem-solution-result” style of a case study can be a long-term investment that helps you convert leads and close sales. If you’ve never written a case study, here’s an exhaustive guide to get you started.
Revisit your password management and crisis mitigation plan
Although it is a worst-case scenario, especially during these times, you want to make sure that your team can continue necessary day-to-day work if you are sidelined for a period of time. If you are using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass, make sure you share the company vault with someone who has administrative access to ensure continuity.
A crisis mitigation plan and password security management is important to periodically revisit, even outside of our current situation. Not only does your business need to be responsible to customers by holding their data the right way, but in addition, standard protocols for passwords and resets save time and increase the security of your company in the long-term.
Devote time to planning long-term company goals and development strategies
For many business owners, it is easy to get lost in urgent tasks, like the things we need to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. However, with the sudden disruption in our busy day-to-day habits from COVID-19, we’re actually being pushed into a space of reflection.
This situation has already forced so much change in a short period of time. If you are able, try to take advantage of the changing context to devote some time to strategic thinking. Look at your business plans and goals. Talk to your team, and discuss with mentors. Use the extra time to read more, experiment, and think big about your business in the long-term. It is paramount to share your company’s vision with your ecommerce developer.
Even though everything is uncertain right now, we do know that our current restrictions won’t last forever. If you can, try to enjoy the ride—and, hopefully, use your time and energy to build a more effective and competitive business on the other side.