Transcript: Wells Fargo Small Business Webinar
Learn more with our companion webinar content guide.
Welcome. I’m Roby Schapira, National Field Initiatives Leader for Small Business at Wells Fargo.
These are unprecedented times, but what’s not unprecedented is the resilience and strength that we see from you: America’s small business owners. In difficult times like these, we look for the people that are helping. My personal belief is that it takes a village to support a small business. And we’re so proud to be a part of your village today. Because business owners like you, you’re innovating and finding new ways forward. You’re lifting up your communities, you’re bringing people together. And here at Wells Fargo, we’re so proud to help you adapt, rebuild and grow.
Our goal today is to share information, to inspire you and to provide some guidance. We designed this webinar and our Small Business Resource Center to help you navigate the current situation, to reimagine your business, identify sources of capital, market your business and chart the path forward.
As you explore these resources, I invite you to speak with a local Wells Fargo banker. Someone who will really listen and provide support in how these resources on the Small Business Resource Center can help you and your business.
In the meantime, we hope this webinar provides you ideas you can use right away and in the future.
Thank you for joining us.
Welcome to our webinar and thank you for joining us!
You may be doing a lot of webinar-style meetings lately. It’s one of the many changes the world is experiencing in the wake of COVID-19. With millions sheltering at home, many businesses have gone digital. Today, we’re going to take a look at the effects of that, as well as a number of other aspects of life and business during and after COVID-19.
Our goal is to give you a better sense of how you might want to adapt and rebuild your business going forward, so you can navigate this unprecedented time with confidence.
Before we get started, let’s get a sense of just what’s shifted so far.
Starting in early March, COVID-19 became a major problem in American cities, and local governments began responding. By mid-March, the federal government implemented a social distancing directive. As a result, large portions of the economy shut down, including travel, retail, restaurants and entertainment. Meanwhile, other industries saw business increase—like online retailers or takeout food shops.
By summer, 79% of small businesses were at least partially open. However, the extent of operations, and whether there may be new setbacks, may vary by location.
Which leads to another part of the uncertainty: Many people are having vastly different experiences with COVID-19. Some regions have had very few cases, whereas others, particularly major cities, have seen large spikes.
Reopening is also happening at different paces and with different guidelines depending on location. Most cities or states are monitoring the situation and expect to pause reopening or adjust policies as needed based on the number of COVID-19 cases. As business owners, that’s a lot of information to keep up with and act on. So it makes sense that so many businesses — eight out of 10 — are adapting or plan to adapt their business in some way.
Knowing that also makes it easier to understand why more than half of small business owners think it will take six to 12 months for things to get back to business as usual. If you think about that, it means most businesses won’t see any kind of normal until 2021.
That’s one of the reasons we want to help. While COVID-19 can feel overwhelming, grounding yourself in your business and your community can help you through this unprecedented challenge.
Throughout this webinar we’ll talk about ways you can help your company stay relevant and maintain the DNA of your business.
And don’t worry about taking detailed notes. We’ll make a replay of this webinar available for you to re-watch, along with a content guide that will include links to the resources we discuss. We’ll make sure you’re able to access the information here and keep learning if you’d like.
We’ll start today with some insights. There’s a lot of noise and speculation going on, so we want to take a look at how humans have coped with similar situations in the past. We hope this can help you get a grasp on what might happen next.
We’ll also talk about your business strategy. That means looking at what’s going on with your business today, what’s changed with your customers during COVID-19 and how you might change your business going forward. Business strategy is all about figuring out a way to adapt your business while staying true to who you are as a company.
From there, we’ll look at your connections. This refers to a broad network of people, including potential mentors, industry contacts and customers. We’ll explore how you can work together successfully and strategically.
Then, we’ll discuss marketing. Your messaging may need to shift to accommodate new customer needs and any potential changes to your business. So we’ll build on what we’ve already discussed to figure out how you can get a marketing plan together.
Finally, we’ll talk money. There are a plethora of new resources available for business owners, so we’ll tackle what’s out there. That means looking at how you can help position yourself to improve your cash flow and keep your company running even when business may have slowed.
Let’s get started!
As we mentioned, it’s important to get some perspective on our current situation. While what we’re going through is totally unprecedented in many ways, there are similar incidents in history that can help us better understand our path forward.
We’ll take a look at how humans have coped with past illnesses as well as how businesses bounced back during previous downturns.
We’ll also look at how you can get the information you need to stay positive and keep your business on track.
While we’ve never been through a situation quite like this one, humanity has faced unprecedented challenges in the past. And we have persevered.
In 1957, a new strain of flu struck the United States and the impact was significant. Similar to COVID-19, world leaders took ill, stocks tumbled, and the economy tipped into recession. But the flu was short lived. We were able to develop a vaccine, and American companies ramped up production to inoculate as many people as possible. In the end, the recession lasted just three quarters, and the stock market bounced back from a 20% decline in less than a year.
Or consider the Italian Renaissance, one of the most important periods of growth in our history. The revolutionary focus on art, music and architecture followed one of the darkest periods in European history — a major plague in the 14th century. In this instance, humanity not only persevered; it thrived.
Businesses are often just as resilient as humanity. Let’s examine some of the recent bear markets and how industries recovered.
Take a look at the S&P 500 in the early 2000s, when the dot-com bubble burst. It took roughly seven years for the stock market to recover. Following the Great Recession, the S&P took roughly six years to make up the losses. You can see both of those bear markets, and recoveries, in the charts.
But the charts don’t tell the whole story.
Let’s start with the dot-com bubble. In 2000, a number of internet companies with inflated valuations failed, causing the stock market to plummet. But while the market crash eliminated a significant amount of household wealth, the crash did not cripple the economy. In fact, from 2000 to 2002, retail spending actually increased. Despite an overall market downturn, retailers did well.
In the Great Recession, there were a number of companies that succeeded, too. For instance, discount retailers performed well by catering to customers with less disposable income. Similarly health care companies, grocery stores and other businesses that provided essential services were somewhat insulated.
The takeaway here is that even in bear markets, when things seem quite negative, there are silver linings and paths to success. They key is to understand how customers are being affected and adapt your business accordingly.
So how do you find those silver linings? Staying up to date on what’s happening is a good start, but it’s also helpful to keep perspective and not get too wrapped up in negative headlines.
First, find trusted news sources that present information in a way that makes sense to you. COVID-19 is affecting different areas differently, and local rules and regulations can vary. Picking one primary source can help you avoid confusion by streamlining that information. Consider checking that source once, maybe twice a day.
It’s also important to try to focus on the positive. COVID-19 is a particularly challenging scenario, since many people are staying home and may have limited exposure to positive news. This can make optimism challenging. Meanwhile, it may feel like somber and worrying news is everywhere. As a business leader, try to find and share positive news with your clients and employees.
You might even consider developing a system to share these insights, like a digital newsletter. This could help you keep tabs on the morale of your employees and customers, which can help you assess how to better serve them. Ultimately, these small gestures can give insights to help you adapt and rebuild your business.
This sets us up well for our next topic: business strategy.
We’re often told that character is built during tough times. That who you are comes out under pressure, not when everything’s going your way.
That sentiment may also be true about business, particularly in 2020. COVID-19 has forced some businesses to take a look at their goals and why they got into business in the first place.
This may boil down to serving your customers. So we’ll look at how you can assess what’s changed with your customers. And we’ll walk through how you can evaluate your value proposition to make sure you’re still delivering a unique and lasting benefit.
Finally, we’ll talk about how you can share your strategy with both your employees and customers to make sure you feel the full impact of any changes.
But first, let’s take a moment to talk about who you are as a company.
If you don’t already have a formal mission statement, write one down. A mission statement is a short explanation of why a business exists — its purpose and goals.
Many business owners intuitively know this, but many business owners don’t have time to take a step and think about the big picture when the day-to-day is so chaotic. If you need to evaluate your business in regard to COVID-19, and consider making changes, consider starting with a refresher of why you went into business in the first place.
A mission statement doesn’t have to be intimidating, and it can be broad. For instance, a physical therapist might write a mission statement that goes beyond “offering PT services” to something more fundamental. “We want to improve the health and well-being of our clients.”
Having this statement as a guide can help that physical therapist figure out how to best serve her clients if in-person therapy becomes harder to schedule.
With your mission statement in mind, let’s think about your customers.
You may or may not have mapped out a customer journey for your clients in the past.
If you haven’t, a customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand.
If you have already built a customer journey for your company, this section can help you remap that journey to account for how the current crisis is changing the lives of your customers.
Often, this journey gets surrounded with a lot of jargon. For instance, many marketing firms call the customer journey a “marketing funnel.” But the customer journey doesn’t have to be complicated.
Essentially, a customer journey is the process through which someone discovers your business, recognizes it offers something of value and then decides to become a new customer.
Understanding what your current customers value about you, and why they decided to become customers, can help you re-create and improve that process to attract new customers more efficiently.
Even if you understood the customer journey for your business in January, it may be different today because customers’ needs and mindsets are different. While people have felt the impact of COVID-19 in unique ways, it’s safe to say that everyone’s life has been altered. And our habits have changed significantly.
Research from the Harris Poll at the end of May looked at how Americans expected to act through the end of 2020 and beyond.
At that time, 54% of Americans said they wouldn’t travel for leisure in 2020, which could affect any business catering to the travel and hospitality industries, as well as restaurants and entertainment.
83% of Americans said they’re more likely to exercise at home than go to the gym.
25% said they intend to go to movie theaters, though 75% said they prefer to watch movies at home.
There are some things that Americans still like to get out and do, though. 76% said they’d be more likely to buy groceries in store than online, and a similar number said they prefer to shop for household products in store.
These statistics emphasize a key difference between COVID-19 and previous challenges to business and the economy — an emotional component. Even as businesses reopen, many Americans still worry about getting sick or spreading COVID-19 to their loved ones. Health and safety remain a top priority in helping consumers ease back in to more “normal” activities.
Finally, while data and research are incredibly helpful to understanding your customers, it’s equally important to talk to them and get anecdotal information about how they’re doing. COVID-19 is very personal and localized, and the way people feel in your area may vary from what’s reflected in a national poll.
Let’s go back to thinking about the customer journey. We’re using a sample journey here with five steps to help you get a sense of the process. Consider these five steps.
First: What is your opportunity?
Your business exists to serve a customer’s want or need. But as we’ve just seen, what customers want and need is likely changing. In the past, a customer may have walked past a store window and thought, “I want that shirt.” However, with less foot traffic, you might need to do something new to spark that want. In order to figure out how to create that initial connection, take a moment to think about opportunity.
Second: How do customers first discover you?
The scenarios for how a person first encounters your business may be shaped by COVID-19.
• If their first encounter is that you’re helping to fight COVID by adapting your products, that may encourage them to learn more.
• If their first encounter with you is that you’re operating at partial capacity, let them know that this is temporary and because of COVID-19, which can put a positive spin on scaled-back operations.
• You can also consider the messaging that’s associated with how a customer discovers you. You might say, “We still have reduced hours to help prevent the spread, but here’s how we can help you.” This can help you make a positive first impression, which we’ll talk about later in the webinar.
Third: How long did they know about you before they considered a purchase?
• It can take people multiple encounters with a company before they become customers. So figuring out what customers hear and learn about you during the decision process can help you win them over.
• Remember, some people may be comparing you to another brand. Others may be deciding between you and not making a purchase at all. How you’re handling COVID could affect this decision.
Fourth: When it’s time to buy, how is the customer making the purchase?
• Are you making the process easy during COVID when people are staying home more? For instance, have you set up e-commerce on your website?
• Have you set up contactless payment for in-person transactions? If customers can pay by tapping their phone or card you may ease some of their concerns about germ transfer.
• And finally, as you set up these payment systems, consider whether your customers have used these type of digital systems before. If going digital is a big shift for them, you may need to explain how things work — maybe with a sign next to your hands-free checkout.
Fifth: Once the customer made a purchase, were they satisfied? Have they come back? Why?
• Thinking about customer experience and loyalty can be very important during this time.
• If you tend to have repeat customers, spend some time thinking about how you can keep them engaged. Or, if there’s a natural break in the relationships, start thinking about ways you can win them back in the future. For instance, if you run a gym that had to close, did you reach out to your members? Making customers feel valued can help you win them back, and it’s never too late to start that dialogue.
• You may need to take existing customers through this whole journey again, but if you had a good relationship before, reengaging may be simpler.
Try to remember: If you understand the path to converting customers, you can use those tactics to win back customers who may have left because of lockdowns and social distancing and attract new customers, too.
One of the reasons we started this section with a focus on customers is because everything about how we live and interact as consumers has changed. Your customers are definitely feeling different now. But your business may or may not be.
To get a better handle on what may or may not need to change about your business, let’s home in on one concept: value proposition.
Your value proposition is the benefit your company promises to deliver to customers should they choose to buy your product or service.
This may have changed since the beginning of the year.
For instance, if you were the only company that offered delivery, that is incredibly relevant. If you were the only company to offer a brick-and-mortar option, you might want to modify your value proposition to accommodate customer concern about in-person shopping post-COVID.
We recommend four main steps to approaching your value proposition. The first is to make sure it’s relevant and impactful for the target audience. That’s why we talked so much about the customer just now, and we’ll talk even more about it in a moment.
The second is to stay true to who you are as a company. Serving a new customer need is great, but if it’s not authentic to who you are or what you do, it may feel forced and might not be sustainable.
Which brings us to: Continue to stay relevant over time. You may need to shift your value proposition to account for the unique and changing situation we’re in, keep in mind that a radical departure may hurt you a year from now.
And finally, your value proposition should differentiate you from the competition.
We’re going to dive a little further into how to think about your value proposition during COVID-19 using this framework.
First: Is the benefit that you’re promising customers relevant and impactful? We’ve just seen how customers have changed, so what’s relevant and impactful to them may have changed as well. Some businesses may have made this adjustment instinctually, like breweries making hand sanitizer or clothing manufacturers making face masks.
Other businesses may have found more service-based changes. For instance, hair salons who are limiting the number of clients, or whose clients are still nervous about spending hours in a salon, might post videos of at-home dye tutorials and offer curbside pickup of professional dye.
In fact, expanding delivery options, like curbside pickup, is one of the more common ways businesses are staying relevant and impactful as the crisis evolves. Some restaurants, for instance, have moved beyond just offering takeout and have offered meal kits. These might include partially made dishes and ingredients, along with special recipes or instructions.
It’s also possible that you haven’t needed to change your business at all since COVID-19, and that’s normal, too. Not all businesses have needed to adjust.
If you have made changes, take a moment to think about whether these changes can be relevant and impactful over time. For some, these changes may phase out as habits reach a new normal. But for other businesses, new products and ideas may add value to your business that you want to keep into the future.
Consider a dance studio that launched online classes in March. Those classes may have just been finding a new way to deliver the same value. But if the studio developed a dance class option for the parents who are stuck in the room supervising their kids’ dance class, that might significantly change the benefit the studio is now able to offer.
In this case, the business may even update their value prop to include how they cater to parents and incorporate this change in in-person classes, too.
In all of these instances, the changes to the business matched the original goals of the business, or the mission statement. And unique ideas may help differentiate these businesses from their competitors.
All of which can enhance the benefits you’re offering your customers. So spend some time thinking about whether you’re shifting your overall value proposition. A change to your value proposition can help you shift your business strategy by reminding you what makes your business special and unique. This allows you to plan ahead and market yourself better, too.
This brings us to sharing your value. While we have a whole section on marketing later, we want to take a moment to touch on how you talk about any updates to your value proposition or business strategy with the people around you.
Word of mouth is one of the biggest ways you can raise awareness of your company and any changes you’ve made. After all, 78% of consumers listen to recommendations from friends and family when making decisions about what to buy.
So when you’re talking to friends and family, outside of any formal marketing efforts, make sure you’re sharing any updates you’ve made to your business.
Try to think of it in simple terms: If someone asks you how your business has changed because of the crisis, do you have a simple answer?
Consider a spa. You might say: We’re still committed to helping you stay healthy and relaxed, so we’ve posted a number of self-treatment videos online. If you’re still not comfortable coming in just yet, we hope you’ll start there.
This is simple enough that the next time someone says, “I need a massage!” you want it to be easy for someone to reply with “I know a spa that’s been posting helpful self-care videos online!”
It’s also important to pass a shareable message on to your employees. The Society for Human Resource Management, in a paper on crisis response in 2016, found that companies that actively communicated with their employees weathered crises far better than those that did not.
This is partly because of social media. Employees are likely sharing information about what you do, even if it’s indirect posts about their work life. Communicating thoughtfully with employees may help you throughout COVID. With the recent jump in the unemployment rate, employees are likely very tuned in to their job and job security. If they know how you’re thinking about value and relevance, it could help ease their minds. They may even have insights or ideas for how to create value for customers.
To that end, some 78% of businesses have opened COVID-specific communication channels with their employees. According to an informal survey by the Harvard Business Review, a number of business owners have established portals, emails, video town halls or some new way to routinely communicate with employees about COVID-19, or as a result of this new situation.
According to experts, that communication really can pay off. Employees talk, and if you’ve been a transparent about your efforts to add value, word generally spreads.
That’s a lot of information we just covered on updating your business strategy. As a recap:
Start by writing your mission statement: Why you exist as a company and your goals.
Now, based on the research we’ve shared and what you know from conversations with customers, colleagues and friends, list the most relevant way you think your customers and potential customers have changed because of COVID-19.
With those changes in mind, write your value proposition, or the benefits you bring your customers. Are you still delivering the biggest-possible benefit? If you’ve made changes as a business, does this alter the benefit you’re able to offer your customers? If so, make a note of your updated value proposition so you can include these upgrades in your planning going forward.
Once you’ve determined how your business has changed, part of your strategy should be sharing these changes with your family and friends. Use simple language to try to generate word-of-mouth buzz. You also want to share your new strategy with employees. This not only helps them feel like part of the team, they can generate word-of-mouth buzz of their own.
You might be noticing a theme — that connection and communication are incredibly important to weathering this period. So let’s dive deeper into how your connections come into play.
A wide network of customers, partners, competitors, mentors, industry peers and more can help you adjust and rebuild. One of the reasons COVID-19 is so unique is that entire industries are affected — not just one or two, but many; retail, travel, hospitality, entertainment, dining and more.
Because of this, many businesses have shifted from competitors to partners to help get through the initial phases of COVID-19. In this section, we’ll look at how mentors can help guide you through this downturn, as well as how to effectively build digital connections.
Let’s start with mentors.
Not all business owners have a mentor, but mentors can be incredibly effective in guiding business owners, particularly during trying times like this. In fact, 92% of business owners who have a mentor say that this relationship has directly impacted their success. They are a great resource to use since they likely have experience with adjusting, rebuilding and reengaging customers, whether through their own ventures or assisting others.
If you don’t currently have a mentor, think of the people you connect with and go to for advice. If you don’t have specific questions yet, these people might be a good place to start having high-level conversations about any concerns you have with your business. These conversations can help you get your thoughts in order, so you can focus on what needs to be done.
It can also help you figure out if you need to seek specific, even specialized, advice.
When it comes to finding the best advice for your business in a crisis like this, there are a few steps you can take.
This might be a situation where you consider a new advisor to help you tackle the specific problems you’re experiencing. Or if you don’t have a traditional “mentor,” make a list of the people you go to for advice. This might be a legal or financial advisor, or even a personal confidant. You might also want to talk to other small business owners, since they may be facing similar problems and could have helpful ideas.
List the specific goals or things you want advice on. Asking for advice about a vague problem like “I’ve had to shut down my business and I’m worried” might provide inspiration, as we talked about on the previous page, but it’s generally less effective than asking something specific. Instead, try something like, “My clients are canceling their subscriptions and I’m worried this will affect my ability to pay bills. Do you have any ideas on how I can bolster my revenue streams right now?”
Specific questions can also help you pick the right person to ask. You want an advisor whose experiences align with your goals. If a fellow business owner struggled with a drop-off in subscriptions a few years ago, she might be your first call. For an experience like COVID-19, think about business owners you know who have been though previous economic downturns, like the 2008 recession. Owners who’ve experienced natural disasters may have insights on how to handle a shuttered economy. Be sure to consider how these types of experiences are similar to the current crisis, as well as how they’re different. This can help you assess what advice is most relevant to you.
While finding a mentor to help with advice can be a big help, mentors aren’t the only connections that matter. We touched on this earlier, but advice from other small business owners, your peers, can be incredibly helpful.
The best way for you to connect with other business owners, or network, may vary a lot depending on the line of business you’re in. But in the COVID world, there’s one great equalizer: Nearly all connections, whether they’re existing or new, are going digital.
How you present yourself online, including how you connect and communicate with your peers, customers and vendors, can have a big impact on how you endure COVID-19. This crisis has made it more important than ever to build an authentic digital presence. That means making sure your voice and brand — the things that make your company special — come across whenever you post.
Let’s look at the social media network that’s focused on helping professionals connect: LinkedIn.
LinkedIn saw a 55% increase in users as people began staying home and working online. There’s also been more content posted to the platform, and much of it is aimed at helping professionals navigate this situation. 33% of new content centers around how to handle COVID-19. Between the beginning of February and late March, when the nation transitioned from awareness of the disease to lockdown, engagement with LinkedIn content increased nearly 3,000 percent.
The takeaway here is clear: Digital connections matter. If you still keep track of your connections the old-fashioned way (maybe you have an address book on your desk or in your phone), you may want to “friend” them online.
Beyond taking your existing connections digital, you may want to expand your network. If you aren’t already part of a professional organization, now may be a good time to consider joining one. These organizations often have up-to-date news on resources that can help you adapt and rebuild your business.
To find a professional organization, try the “Professional Association Finder” on CareerOneStop.org, a career-focused website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
For example, if you run a machine shop making gears for tractor assemblies, search for professional organizations for machinists and manufacturers. You can even search for industry organizations that encompass agricultural work or automotive.
Some of these organizations are free, while others charge membership fees. If there are fees involved, be sure to analyze what the organization can offer. Ask about trial memberships and see what kind of payment plans they might offer.
Organizations based on location, instead of industry, are another way to go. The most common might be your chamber of commerce.
You could even join organizations outside of your business. If there are neighborhood associations or volunteer groups, consider joining these. As a business owner, you can provide unique insights to these groups, and they can provide helpful information in return. You might learn more about your customers, the economic climate and potential resources.
Whatever networking situation you find yourself in, whether it’s meeting new people in a professional organization or reconnecting with existing connections online, how you approach the connection matters.
If you’ve met the person face to face, try to mention shared interests or experiences during your connection request. LinkedIn prompts you for this automatically, asking how you know the person and if you want to add a personal note.
In addition, if you have already established a network of contacts, are you checking in? Try to reach out to say hi, including personal details, but without any agenda. Often times, we think about saying hi, or we want to say hi, but we feel too busy to do it. Take the time to do it now, since you might need these connections as you rebuild.
Next, consider approaching your connections with a giving spirit. While many people want to help their connections, especially now, it can be off-putting to ask for favors or help right out of the gate. See if you can start from a place of giving. If you own a restaurant, can you reach out to other restaurants, including your competitors, about a plan to donate meals to medical workers or first responders? Experts suggest offering help when networking, not just looking for how people can help you.
Finally, have some specific goals or “pain points” in mind when talking to your network. If you are doing steps one and two, checking in and offering help, chances are someone is going to ask what you need as well. When that happens, you want to have a specific goal in mind.
For our restaurant owner, that might be, “How am I going to pay rent when my revenue stream has dropped sharply?” Pointed questions like this are more likely to get action-oriented, helpful responses.
Keep in mind, these techniques aren’t specific to LinkedIn — try them on any digital platform that fosters connection. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on can all be helpful ways to stay in touch with colleagues, mentors and even customers when you can’t network in person.
For your action steps in this section, start by creating profiles on all of the social media sites where you have partners, clients, vendors, customers or friends.
If you already have these accounts, revisit them to make sure they’re up to date, you’re satisfied with your pictures and everything accurately reflects any of the updates you may have made to your business, as we discussed earlier in the webinar.
Next, seek professional organizations in your field. Make a list of names, including potential contacts at each.
Develop a plan for checking in with your connections. Make a list of your top customers, top vendors and even your top competitors and make a point to reach out to them to see how they are handling COVID-19. Think about ways to reach out to contacts at the professional organizations you found, too.
Draft your notes thoughtfully. You don’t want to sound overly formal but be sure to include relevant questions and say more than just, “Hey.” These details show you care. You might be able to use one template for all of your customers and another for all your vendors — just make sure that the note makes sense. Think about what you’d want a note to convey to you in uncertain times and try to convey those thoughts to your connections.
So far, we’ve discussed where we’re at in the crisis, how your customers are feeling, how your business may have changed and how to stay connected. The next step is to lean on all of these factors to build a new marketing plan that fits with the current climate. All of the topics we’ve discussed so far, from reviewing your customer journey to sharing your value proposition, should prepare you to market your business.
In this section, we’ll look at how you can take the work you’ve already done and use it to build an adapted marketing strategy that can help you engage your customers and start to rebuild.
Earlier in this webinar, we talked about how your customers’ lives are changing. We also talked about how the way they interact with businesses is changing as a result. Because of that, we took you back to your value proposition and how your business may have adapted to help customers. As part of that discussion, we touched on the need to share that message with your current and potential customers. We used the question “How has your business changed because of COVID-19?” as a jumping-off point.
For your marketing, you may want to convey these same ideas proactively and not wait for someone to ask the question.
Let’s start with your marketing message, which is just that: The message you want to send your customers, via your marketing effort. Keeping in mind that your customers are on a unique path right now, let’s start by thinking about your goals.
• Do you want your marketing to focus on keeping existing customers, who may be leaving due to COVID-19?
• Do you want to focus on winning back customers who may have left?
• Do you want to alert the general public about how your business is changing and helping in the hopes that you can build positive brand awareness and potentially win new customers?
Knowing what you want your marketing to achieve can make it easier to craft a message. It can also help you determine when and how you want to target your audience.
Finally, make sure your marketing message hits on your biggest selling point. And as you know from our earlier discussions, what your biggest selling point is during COVID-19 may be different than your biggest selling point before or after.
Once you’ve determined these three things — your goal, your audience and your biggest selling point — start thinking about how you can turn them into a simple sentence in plain English.
For instance, say you own a flower shop and you’re worried that people’s concern about traveling could lead couples to cancel or reschedule their wedding plans. Your audience is brides — who are likely stressed about wedding planning in addition to the COVID-19 stresses. And your biggest selling point may be that you’re able to offer a discount to brides if they confirm they’ll still work with you (with whatever conditions you’ve decided work for your business).
Your marketing message might be: We’re still open and we want to help! We’re offering discounts to our loyal customers. Together, we’ll get through this.
It’s also worth taking some time to think about whether you want to mention “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in your messaging. Some people may avoid it because, by its very nature, it’s negative. However, content that mentions COVID-19 or coronavirus performs well. According to data released by LinkedIn, COVID-19 posts had 30% higher engagement in April than posts that didn’t mention it.
Next, consider how you want to convey this message. The need to socially distance has created a major shift toward digital communication. Since the most effective marketing targets customers where they are, consider digital in your marketing whenever possible.
This doesn’t mean ignore traditional marketing. For example, if you have a brick-and-mortar restaurant, consider developing a plan to keep your storefront relevant.
But digital marketing is important. When it comes to digital, you have multiple ways to convey your marketing message, including on your own website or social media pages, in any coverage you earn and via any promotions or ads you run.
Consider getting your digital presence in order. We’ve talked about this before, but make sure your online profiles are up to date. Since the COVID-19 outbreak and our responses to it have been fluid, it’s important to have clear and relevant information posted.
Consider a customer who shows up for a piano lesson only to realize the lesson has been moved online. You’d expect her to be frustrated, but with COVID-19, that frustration could take on an additional layer. She could be worried that she was exposed to unnecessary risk traveling to and from her lesson. So the stakes for keeping your digital accounts up to date are higher than normal.
Beyond your website and account, what type of digital marketing you use likely depends on your business and your customer. Think back to the customer journey you developed for COVID. Where are you most likely to find potential customers and how do you keep in contact with current customers?
This can help you determine how to best use digital communications.
For instance, that same restaurant from a moment ago might notice their customers are spending more time on social media. It might make sense for them to prioritize social media marketing, creating more posts and a strategy for sharing and promotion.
A medical supply company might note that doctor’s offices are still operating on minimal staff, so email messaging has a bigger impact than in-person brochures or visits. That company might rethink their messaging and budget, and begin to apply it to an email campaign.
Come up with a game plan for the most effective way to find people based on your business.
Once you figure out your digital marketing tactics, think about how you’ll measure their success. One upside to digital marketing is it makes it easy to track how well your message is doing. You might even be able to A/B test your messaging, where you send different versions of your message out and see which performs better.
Since everyone responds to a crisis like COVID-19 differently, this may be a good opportunity for you to get a better sense of how your customer base and potential customers are feeling right now. And this can impact not just your marketing but how you potentially adjust your business going forward.
As you can see, all of the elements we’re discussing so far on this webinar are connecting, with customer experience at the core of it all.
As you do this, consider whether you have any marketing budget.
Remember: There are free ways to market your business, including shareable content on social media and email campaigns.
But many business who are already spending money on marketing may be tempted to cut back right now, so I want to spend a minute looking at the best way to approach that question.
If you’re thinking about cutting back, you’re not alone. 70% of digital ad buyers adjusted their spending in the first quarter.
But notice that messaging is almost as important. Of those who are still spending, 63% have changed their message. If you need to cut back on spending while you get your messaging right, you may want to do so.
But if you have a message you’re confident about and you have room in your budget, consider keeping up with any paid marketing efforts. Remember that to rebuild on the other side of all of this, you’ll need customers. Paid marketing can help you keep that connection with current customers and attract new ones.
The key is to be strategic about your spending. I do want to reiterate that you don’t need to spend money to engage in marketing. Think about where your customers are spending the most time in quarantine. If you think your clients are spending more time on Facebook than usual, you may be able to market effectively simply by producing additional content. But if you think they’re spending so much time on Facebook that your posts will get lost in the mix, you may want to consider a marketing spend to promote your content there.
We’ve just covered a lot of information around marketing, including a lot of references to our earlier discussion, so let’s boil it down into a few action steps.
First, craft a marketing message. Do this using your goals, audience and key selling point.
Next, update your digital presence, like your website and social media channels, to reflect this new message.
Then, develop a marketing strategy by figuring out the other channels you might want to share your message on, including email and social.
Finally, figure out whether you want to spend money on these ads and start to build actual campaigns so you can test your plan.
Remember, the goal is to adjust your business in a way that helps you engage current customers, especially those that might be thinking about leaving, while also finding new prospects. While your marketing strategy is rooted in what’s going on now, the ultimate goal is to help you attract the customers that can help you rebuild when this is over.
Finally, we need to talk about money. This might be the most pressing concern for you, but there are multiple options available to help you, from government-sponsored initiatives to industry-backed funds, and more. Our goal is to help you assess which options are available to you and which might be most helpful as you begin to rebuild.
Figuring out capital during this crisis is, in many ways, similar to figuring out capital during normal times. We’ll start with cash flow. Figuring out where specifically you’re seeing gaps can help you be more targeted in how you approach and apply for various funding opportunities.
If you haven’t run a cash flow report, you may be able to run one using the same software you use to track your balance sheet or income statements.
Each month, your cash flow report can highlight what you spend money on. It includes fixed costs, like rent and payroll, as well as variable costs, like vendor payments. On the other side, you’ll see any incoming cash—sales, payments made to you, possibly even the return on any investments or assets your business holds.
If you do this for the last year, you can get a pretty good sense of where your money comes from and where it goes. By looking at this information for 2019, you can get a sense of what your “normal” baseline is.
Now look at the last five or so months to analyze which of your revenue streams or incoming revenue have been affected by COVID-19.
On the other hand, see which of the orange expenses, or “money going out,” you might be able to address more creatively. If cash flow is tight, can you ask your landlord for a deferment of rent? Can you negotiate with your suppliers? Consider whether you can apply for COVID-19 related aid and how you might apply it. We’ll get to that more in a second. But understanding where your money is coming from and going, with some degree of detail, can make the next few steps easier.
One of the most talked about sources of funding for small business was the Payroll Protection Program. If you received funding through PPP, be sure to track how you’re spending the money, because this can help you later on when it comes time to apply for loan forgiveness or set up repayment terms with your lender. Keep in mind, the Small Business Administration updated the provisions around PPP on June 5th, extending the terms for use and repayment. If you received your loan prior to June 5th, you may still be able to access the updated terms, so talk to your banker.
Of course, PPP isn’t the only funding source available. The Small Business Administration has a variety of funding resources that you may qualify for, so start your search for aid there.
If you require a larger loan, the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program might be an option.
In addition, the Opportunity Finance Network lends money to small businesses as part of community development initiatives. Visit their website to find a community development financial institution (CDFI) near you.
Finally, consider local resources and private funding, too. A number of cities and states have created resources for small business owners. Plus corporations and trade groups have set aside funds to either help small businesses or affected employees. All of these might be resources to consider.
The content guide that accompanies this webinar will include all of this information, as well as links to where you can find more information.
In addition to applying for funding, there are some more traditional options you may be able to explore with your bank.
Start by reviewing your financial statements. If you’re encountering fees, perhaps for low balances as you work through cash flow issues, talk to your bank about potentially reducing or waving fees.
Or if you have outstanding loans, talk to your lender about reviewing your interest rate, which could potentially lower your interest payments, saving you money and freeing up cash. You could also ask about adjusting the terms of your loan to bring down your monthly payments.
To summarize what we’ve covered on finances:
If you were one of the many recipients of PPP or any funding associated with the government-backed CARES Act, be sure to track your spending. This can help you later on with repayment and potential forgiveness.
If you’re looking for additional funding options, consider some of the many opportunities that are available via nontraditional sources. Organizations across America are eager to help small businesses, so research and apply.
Finally, talk to your banker about small adjustments you can make to improve your day-to-day situation and cash flow. Specifically, look at any potential fees and review the terms on any existing loans or lines of credit.
We’ve covered quite a bit in this webinar, so as we wrap up, there’s one final thought I want to leave you with.
There is a lot to think about right now, the situation is changing constantly and your business requires you to be thinking a lot about the short-term. But try to remember the future. What I mean by that is: Keep an eye on long-term planning.
Like all crises in the past, whether it’s been an economic downturn or an unknown illness, humanity has always persevered and we will again. While thinking about the big picture isn’t always easy, it can help you prioritize and stay optimistic when things are challenging.
And as always, we are here to help.
If you liked today’s webinar, we’ve put together even more resources to help you adapt and rebuild your business during COVID-19, with a focus on engaging or re-engaging your customers, and how you can start to find new customers going forward.
You’ll find that content at wellsfargo.com/smallbusinessresources.
For instance, we talked about the questions to ask to update your customer journey in response to COVID-19. In our content hub, you’ll find a more detailed look at a sample customer journey and a worksheet to help build a customer journey specific to your business during this unique period.
We also have articles focused on what your current customers can teach you about adapting your business and how to adjust your value proposition to accommodate changing customer needs.
And if you wanted to revisit anything we discussed today, we’ll be sharing a replay of this webinar, as well as a summary of the content and resources discussed, via email.
We know there’s a lot of information out there right now, so we aimed to boil it all down to what you really need to adapt and rebuild following this tumultuous period.
Finally, while we hope this presentation has given you some ideas, and that our new content hub can help you execute them, we also know sometimes you need a personal touch. If you have any questions, particularly around funding growth, you can always reach out to your Wells Fargo banker with questions.
If you don’t yet have a banker, call 1-800-359-3557 to get started.
This concludes our webinar. Thank you for joining.
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For SBA loan products, determination of SBA eligibility by the Wells Fargo SBA Lending Group is also required.
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