Small Businesses Surviving Covid

If you are a small business owner, there is no shame in just trying to survive the secondary effects of the pandemic COVID-19. Showing up in person to your business is a risk many customers are not willing to take. What can you do to minimize the effects of COVID on your business? Let’s talk about how your online presence is more important now than ever.

If customers do not feel safe coming to your store, they need access to your products online.  This can be done through images or better, try video. With the smartphone in your pocket or purse, you can record high-quality video and show your current and prospective customers your wares.  Think about new arrival videos or image slideshows. The videos are preferred for multiple reasons you might not be aware of.  Google and other search engines measure the value of your site based on how many people visit it and how long they stay on the site.  Most people are willing to watch a video because it requires so little energy unlike text which takes energy.  Video also keeps site visitors on your site longer.  That’s ideal for moving you up the Google results line.

If you are maintaining and editing your own site, switching out videos and images takes just a few minutes. If you would like to do that but don’t know how, seek out some individualized training like you can get from EFP Technology Solutions. This small business owner specializes in teaching you how to maintain your own site to save yourself money.  As a DIYer, you build skills and save money.

Now, whether you are maintaining your own site or paying someone else to do it, it’s imperative that you address the COVID situation.  Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  Use pop-up banners to let customers know you care about their safety as well as the safety of your employees if you have any.  Let them know you respect their wants and needs and that if we all work together to keep one another safe, we’ll get through it. Think about offering COVID discounts to draw in new and loyal customers.  Offer free delivery and curbside pickup.  Minimize contact as much as possible, and let your customers know how efficient the process will be.  Also, let them know what you are doing to maintain a sterile environment. Do you provide masks?  Will you have hand sanitizer available?  What will be required by all customers? What is recommended or merely a request?

I can tell you that I shopped in American Eagle Outfitters recently.  All customers and employees had to use sanitizer upon entering the store to minimize outside contamination.  All had to have a face mask as well.  If you didn’t already have one, you could take one for free after sanitizing your hands.  It seems they thought of everything.  All customers had masks on which made me feel a bit better because I didn’t want to risk touching or purchasing clothing that someone coughed or sneezed on or touched with contaminated hands.  It’s not failsafe, but it’s an improvement over nothing. The other stores I went into didn’t have any safety measures to protect customers or employees. As a result, I left those stores quickly just in case.  Why tempt fate, right?  Interestingly, I ended up going back to American Eagle and shopping some more.  That’s what you want from your customers.  You want them to feel comfortable and safe in your store.  For customer loyalty, they need to know their safety is of utmost importance to you.

Local SEO

One of the best sources for new customers is a free Google Business Page.  If you do not have one, get one.  It’s free, and you can set it up yourself.  Unlike Bull Durham, building it does not guarantee they will come.  There are some things you need to get right to make sure your business name comes up when people search for businesses like yours.

Here are some pointers to help you out.  If you don’t have time or aren’t sure you did it right, please call us at Xizzee to help you out.

Points to Improve Your Google Business Page Local SEO

  1.  Make sure you change your hours to reflect the current situation. If your hours are modified because of COVID, make sure your page reflects that.
  2. List all of your services and products, so when people type in your product as a search term, your business has a good chance of coming up.
  3. You can post events and special offers.  This is free advertising for you.
  4. To help your business out, Google has set up a support system, so you can get support from customers during COVID-19.  You can encourage customers on Google to buy gift cards from and make donations to your business.

Social Media Can Save Your Small Business

With so many people out of work and not able to go out, more people are spending hours and hours on social media like FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram. Being present and visible to them is important for the life of your business.

Review your Facebook posts and consider setting up some ads to target your specific audience. Ever since Facebook changed its rules, you have to run ads to be seen by anyone who is not already following you. When you make your ads, be as specific as possible.  Set your zip codes and choose the profile of your current and potential customers.  Make sure you always include pictures.  When you run a paid ad, Facebook provides free stock photos for you to choose from.  Take advantage of this feature available whenever you place a paid ad.

If you have a presence on Twitter and/or Instagram, make sure you are posting regularly on those platforms.

I’ll post again soon about which apps help you post once and send the post to multiple social media sites simultaneously.

If there is a particular topic you’d like to read about in my blog, please note it in the comments section or shoot me an email.

For now, good luck and stay safe!

 

 

Success is Built on Relationships

Relationships, relationships, relationships.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, success really depends on relationships.  Everyone screws up sometimes, and if you have good relationships with people around you, you can get out of hot water.

I forgot this adage recently, and I got burned.

I was hired by a small town to revamp their early 2000’s website.  I was hired by one administration and worked very well with them.  I worked through phase one which included setting the theme, creating the template for the header and menu, and setting the colors and photo slide show.

As with many small governments, and big ones for that matter, it was slow going getting the content for the rest of the site. This was nobody’s fault.  It’s the effect of an understaffed office and women who, frankly, do way more than their job description calls for.

Fast forward a few months, and November elections changed the administration.  This is where I failed.  I did not make it a priority to build a relationship with the new administration including a new town administrator and a new mayor.

Once the new administration was sworn in, they wanted the site finished yesterday.  Well, sites don’t get built in a day, and I was still waiting on a good amount of content.  To further complicate things, the new administration changed a lot of what was already approved by the former administration, so I had to undo and redo somethings that were not necessarily small tasks.

I happened to run into the mayor, and he asked when was the site going to be ready. I told him honestly that I thought it could be ready by the following Friday.  He was pleasant enough, and I was unaware that he was unhappy.  Annoyed maybe, but not unhappy.

Well, I worked my tail off and was ready to get final approval the following Wednesday.  We would be ready to launch that Friday as promised.

Sadly, it was not to be.  When I called to see if there were any final edits that needed to be made, I was told to stop working on the site and put up a “Coming Soon” sign.  “The mayor decided to go in a different direction,” I was told. “Send us an invoice for the work done.  The mayor does not want to continue this relationship.”

There it was in plain letters.  The mayor didn’t want to continue the relationship.  That was when it hit me.  I had not failed to build the website.  It was complete, and it was beautiful!  I had failed at building relationships. I didn’t take the time to meet with my new administration (my customer) and make sure that I was meeting their needs.

I still can’t wrap my head around how a small town can pay for a completed website and not use it.  The Coming Soon sign is still up, and it’s been 3 months now.  They could have had a beautiful site up for their taxpayers and constituents. I guess it just goes to show that relationships really are everything.

I’ve learned my lesson. I surely will not overlook a client relationship again.

Why should I pay someone to make my website when there are so many cheap Do-It-Yourself website companies out there? 

Hire a professional if you want to save time and money.

There are two reasons why it pays to hire a professional:
1) it will look professional, and
2) it will be completed.

How many projects have you done around your house that you regret doing?  You paid for all of the materials, took the time to complete the project, and when it was finished you realize that you lost money on the materials, and you lost time.  Some people are better hiring professionals.

How many unfinished projects do you have at home waiting for your attention?  Me, too! I have half-finished quilts, pillows, and curtains; I have yards and yards of material and patterns that are now out of fashion because I got a burst of energy and decided I would make something for myself or one of my 4 children.  What happened?  Life happened.  I had every intention to do it, but you know the famous saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It never got done.

Websites are no different.  They are time and labor intensive tasks that take skill and drive.  If you start a website, and it is only partially finished, that reflects poorly on your business.  People don’t want to see half of a store, nor do they want to see a partially finished website.

If you are task oriented and usually finish the jobs you set out to complete, then definitely give it a try.  If not, save yourself the trouble, and just hire a professional to do the job right.

Helping Customers Create Website Content

Helping Customers Create Website Content

Being a teacher of 27 years, I approach problems differently than most people (to the chagrin of my husband).  You see, I am a problem fixer.  If something is broken, I analyze it, break it down, and fix it.  Having this skill was very handy in education because if a student didn’t understand something, I would figure out a way to help him understand.

“What does this have to do with helping customers create copy for their website?” you ask.  Well, I was recently working with a client to create her website copy (that’s a fancy word for website content).  This client is full of words.  She can talk to anyone anywhere about anything.  Strangely, though, when it came to her talking about what her business had to offer, she came up short.

Possible Issues

insecuritiesWhat’s the problem?  Well, could it be she doesn’t like writing?  Perhaps she doesn’t feel like she is a good enough writer.  Maybe she is the type of person who doesn’t feel comfortable tooting her own horn.  Maybe she talks better about other people than about herself.  Maybe she doens’t know what people want to know.

What should she put on her website?  That is a great question, so let’s begin at the beginning.  All SEO aside, the first job of a website is to share information with customers and to get them to stay on the site long enough to read what is there for them.  Following these simple steps will help you get over your writer’s block.  Guaranteed!

Content Creation Exercise for Customers

Step 1: Make a list of all the questions you get about your business.  This can be a team or individual effort.  The longer the list, the better.
Step 2: Organize the questions into related groups.
Step 3: Name each group – these might end up being the names of your pages or headings for your FAQ page. It’s okay if you repeat yourself.  This can get cleaned up later.
Step 4: Answer each question either on paper or by talking.  Yes, you can talk your way through the entire process without ever picking up a pen.  Read on.

Using Technology to Help You Write

Use your smartphone to record your website content.

Use your smartphone to record your website content.

With so much technology around, it is easy to forget the powerful tools at your fingertips.  How many business owners own a smartphone?  In my totally unscientific research, I’d guess a pretty large percentage.  A voice recorder is pretty much standard on a smartphone, so grab your list of questions, hit record, and start talking.

Using this method does require you to pick up a pen and transcribe what you said, but the next method will actually turn your speech into text.  Read on!

Speech to Text Apps and Add-ons

There are plenty of speech-to-text or voice-to-text apps available for both iOS and Android phones, but not all of them are reliable.  Check out these reviews from Computer Business Review and Entrepreneur to help you narrow your focus and target a reliable tool from the start.  If you are more comfortable on a laptop or desktop, move on to the next section.

5 free voice-to-text apps – Computer Business Review

3 Mobile Apps for Converting Voice to Text – Entrepreneur

 

Smartphones – Not the Only Game In Town

You can @harnessthepower of Google by allowing it to type as you speak!

You can @harnessthepower of Google by allowing it to type as you speak!

If you have access to a Google account, you can access Google Docs which has a Voice Recorder in its Tools menu.  I just tried it out, and the accuracy was amazing.  It even corrected itself when it thought I had said one thing but had actually said another.  There is also a Google Add-on for Speech to Text that you can download for free.  Directions for how to do this can be seen at the Xizzee YouTube channel.

So if you are coming up short when trying to generate content for your site, try these quick and easy steps.  Your webmaster will thank you, and you will be able to move forward.  For more tips like this one, follow us on Facebook.com/xizzee and on Twitter @xizzee.  Good luck to you, and remember to #harnessthepower of the web.

Pros and Cons to Using Dreamweaver Software

Pros and Cons to Using Dreamweaver Software

Dreamweaver is a high end website generator that utilizes HTML and CSS.  HTML stands for hypertext markup language.  CSS stand for cascading style sheets.  The first allows web designers to create a page that can be read on the Internet.  The second give you the beautiful style you want and allows website designers to change all pages by making a change to the CSS file.

The benefit to using Dreamweaver is  (more…)

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

WordPress is a free system you can use to create your websites.  Just because it is free does not mean it will be easy.  Both are extremely time consuming to learn to use, and many DIYers start their page and then leave it up on the Web reading “Hello World.”  This is the default page for the first page of any WordPress site.  If you do not have a lot of time or an undying curiosity to learn how to create websites, you should not tackle this on your own.

There are two versions of WordPress.  One ends in .com and the other in .org. (more…)