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.
One of the best sources for new customers is a free Google My Business Profile. 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 My Business Local SEO
- 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.
- 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. Be careful not to list every service available under the sun. Try to focus on your most important services that hit your most important keywords.
- You can post events and special offers. This is free advertising for you.
- 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.
- If you need help building or tweaking your Google Business Page, Xizzee Web Design & SEO can help you out.
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, Instagram, and Tik Tok. 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!
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.
88% Of Consumers Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations – Myles Anderson, SearchEngineLand
With 88% of consumers going online to find reviews, it is imperative that you collect customer reviews. Some small business owners are crafty and instinctively know how to collect customer reviews, but many of us are in the dark as to how to do this easily and efficiently.
Tips on Collecting Customer Online Reviews
This QR code will take you to the landing page of Xizzee.com.
The best time to get a customer review is before the customer leaves the business or shortly after receiving a service. I am going to focus on the former: getting customers to fill out a review while in your store or business.
One of the most popular ways to capture people’s attention and share information with them is to create a QR code. If you are serving food, and the customers will sit at tables, you can easily create a QR code that takes the customer to a site to leave a review. This can include Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google+, Angie’s List, Facebook, and more. If you want to increase your following by asking customers to “like” your business, “follow” you, or subscribe to your email list, you can use the QR code to take them to any site you want including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. I’m sure there are many other sites out there that work like these, but I’ll focus on the most popular. If you want them to go directly to your website, a QR code can do that, too.
How to Create a QR Code
Many people know what QR Codes are or look like, but how they are created is a mystery to them. It’s like using a telephone; I know how to use it, I just don’t know how to create it.
Well, here are some tools to help you create your first QR code. My favorites are QuickMark and Kaywa. Each of these works differently and has different features. QuickMark is a Google Chrome extension while Kaywa is a website.
How does QuickMark work?
QuickMark is a Google Extension that works on the Chrome browser, so it works on devices like desktops, laptops, and chromebooks. You must be working in Google Chrome for this to work. Here are the steps you will need to follow:
1-Go to the Google Webstore.
2-Search for QuickMark in the top left search bar.
3-Look under the section marked Extensions and click the blue + Add to Chrome button to the right of the extension or in the top right corner of the pop-up window if you clicked on it first. If you have pop-ups disabled, you’ll have to enable them for the Google Webstore.
4-Click the “Add Extension” button in the second pop-up window.
5-Look for the QuickMark icon to appear at the top of your Chrome browser. This is a Google extension, and it will sit to the right of your URL address bar. As you add more extensions, they will add themselves to the right of this extension.
6-Click on the extension to learn how to use the extension. Be sure to scroll up and down to see all of your options.
7-Go to your small business website on your browser. Right click anywhere on the page and look for the QuickMark icon in the pop-up menu. Choose Encode next to the icon.
8-A QR code will pop up on your screen. At this point you can right click on the QR code and choose either “Copy image” or “Save image as.”
9-Once you have the QR code saved, you can paste it into any document or file you are using. You can add it to your business card, your menu, your coupons, your flyers, your magazine adds, a store poster, a stand-up sign on your counter or table, etc. The list goes on and on.
Another valuable Chrome QR code extension includes Quick QR Code Generator.
If you would like to insert your logo into the QR code, try out the QRZebra chrome extension. Here is what my QR Code looks like with my logo in the center:
It doesn’t matter which QR code generator you use so long as you are using something to reach out to your customers and get more customer reviews. The data support it, and you should, too.
If you would like support creating your first QR code, feel free to contact Eileen at Xizzee.
Empowering small business owners is what Eileen does best! If you found this blog helpful or would like to leave a comment, feel free to comment below or hit one of my social media links at the top and bottom of the page and leave a review. Thanks and remember to #harnessthepower of social media!
People love pictures. They ooooo and ahhhhhh over them; they stop to look at them; they reminisce over them.
Knowing this is quite advantageous when you are trying to get people’s attention. Because your social media postings need pictures, this infographic is your new best friend. Download it, and keep it handy. When you want it, you’ll be so glad you did.
You can also find more infographics at Visualistan
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.
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.
What’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.
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.
Smartphones – Not the Only Game In Town
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.
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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.
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