| Special to USA TODAY
Coronavirus: How to support small businesses during COVID-19 pandemic
Here are three ways consumers can help support small businesses who are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Q: Hi Steve: Like so many small businesses, we have had to completely alter things and shift online. But honestly, we’re not ready. Here’s where we need help: How the heck do we get noticed online this holiday season? – Becca
A: Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has wrought havoc on millions of small businesses. But – and not to be too Pollyannaish about it – there is a silver lining in this massive move to e-commerce. Namely, there are far more ways for a potential customer to find you online than offline.
Among the ways customers can find you:
• A Google search
• Social media
• Pay-per-click ads
• A YouTube video
• A blog mention
• And, oh, about 127 other ways
So the trick is both obvious and daunting: Your job is create as many of these online on-ramps as possible.
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The good news is that doing so, while a bit time-consuming, is nevertheless affordable. And, even better, if you do do what I am suggesting, you should have a very happy holiday indeed.
Your small business path forward
Create a local business profile using Google My Business: Be sure to have – or get – a local business listing from Google. Your Google business profile helps you get found and manage how your business appears on searches, maps, local listings, etc.
With a Google business listing, you can upload pictures, videos, menus, products, hours of operations and much more, allowing customers to learn what they want to know about your business quickly.
Create some compelling seasonal content: “Content marketing” is the process of making engaging content that includes embedded links or other ways to find your business.
Think of it like a TV show. A great television show engages people and generates an audience. Then, a commercial sells to that audience. That’s all that content marketing is.
What you want to do is to create some compelling content that people will want to read, watch, or listen to. It could be a blog, an article, a video, a podcast, an infographic, or something else altogether.
Then, inside that content, you embed a mention of your business with a link to your site, or your seasonal menu, or your address and phone number, etc. That’s the commercial to your show.
Circulating your content
Once you have that great content and commercial, you need to get people to learn about it. There are two ways to do that:
1. Organically: Share the content on your social media channels. Highlight it on your website. Blast it out via your e-newsletter. Ask customers to share it.
2. Paid: Buy ads. When someone searches for something, they want an answer NOW. Unfortunately, getting a Page 1 Google listing is both time-consuming and challenging. But you can buy your way there with a Google ad.
Your ad could mention your cool content, or your big holiday sale, or it could simply get people to know who you are and what you do.
And remember, Google isn’t the only ad game in town. Ads on Facebook have made Facebook, well, Facebook. They work. Or you can advertise on other sites where you know your potential customers visit. Advertise in e-newsletters. Advertise on popular podcasts. The options are endless.
Keeping your small business relevant
Ramp up your social media: Be sure that your social media pages are visually engaging and entertaining, and that all of your contact information is prominently displayed. Post compelling content. Engage with visitors. Comment. Comment on comments.
Have an event: Host a virtual holiday party for your customers. Do a Facebook Live event. Create holiday-related content.
The thing is, COVID-19, happily, won’t last forever, but the e-skills you can master during this trying time can serve your business long after this tough era is over.
Steve Strauss is an attorney, speaker and the author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed, and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.
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