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  • Writer's pictureWalter Recher

Small Business Social Survival Tools For the Crisis and Beyond

I have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from local communities to help keep small businesses open during the ongoing crisis, as people have come forward to patronize them in these very challenging times. As has become the norm, social media is playing a huge role, as activity is up over 500% nationally.

Here in my hometown, our Lake Carmel Residents page offers an opportunity to help support local businesses, first responders and essential workers, as residents on their Facebook page vote for their favorite shop, and the funds raised will be split- half to buy coupons from local merchants and given to the first responders and essential workers from the top 30 merchants in the poll, and half to a winning resident who voted.

There are many other great examples of how communities are pulling together on a local level, working with business leaders to make people aware of what they can do to help survive, and then thrive when life returns to normal.

So what can small businesses to to help themselves? Here are some tips we developed to support them with our Putnam County EDC that may be helpful to anyone struggling to remain open, and create more visibility in their communities:

1. Change your social media landing pages and add a photo and a brightly colored sign stating, “We Are Open!’ and include a photo of your delivery truck, van, or car.

2. Offer free items to service workers on the front line. Announce the time and date on Facebook with an event, and re-post on your other social channels. It is the right thing to do, and it is good business to show you care, as these courageous, brave, hardworking people – and their friends and families – will remember your generosity.

3. Partner with a Nonprofit – The nonprofit organizations are facing tremendous challenges of their own, as they rely on events and donations to provide important programs that keep our communities alive. You can help them and generate new business at the same time with a sales promotion on your social media and offer to deliver your items with a bonus. Example: If you are restaurant delicatessen, let them know that, for every purchase over $25, you will donate $5 to a nonprofit cause of their choice. And post photos and links from their social media pages to yours.

4. Hold a social media contest - The winner can get a coupon for 20% off any item when they shop online, or even a free item added to a purchase. Examples are sharing hashtags, asking customers to share your posts, or having contests where customers post photos with your products or services for a prize.

5. Town/County Trivia Game - This could be an online scavenger hunt. Use your social channels to announce and help people participate. An example in our community wouljd be to ask how old Sybil Ludington (our Paul Revere) was when she went on her famous ride to Danbury, or, what year Cold Spring was founded? The first to post an answer on your Facebook or Instagram page gets a free appetizer or drink. And/or a monthly giveaway of dinner for 2 delivered to your door.

6. Update your Website and Google Listings – You can improve your Google search results and increase traffic growth without advertising. How is your Google My Business listing doing? Can you update your store hours, business description, photos? Making these changes will improve your search rank locally for mobile searches. And - reach out to your loyal customers and ask for a Facebook or Google review.

7. Virtual Video – Any yoga, fitness or health-related business can setup a Facebook event for Facebook Live, or hold video classes at normal times your customers expect. Or your local arts council can offer live or recorded virtual events sponsored by a local merchant.

8. Generate Referrals – post that you will offer coupons for every 5 deliveries.

9. Help Your Staff – they are your best advocates. If you offer a delivery service, add a tip box to your checkout forms.

10. Partner – we are all in this together, like no other time in history. Reach out to fellow merchants, and come up with ideas to partner. Pair a food delivery with wine or beer from a local distributor, and promote them in your posts. Package selling gifts from your local shop with a discounted item from a neighboring merchant. Follow each other on your social media pages.

Bonus tip: To remind people that you are open for takeout, consider setting up an outside table or “lemonade stand” in front of your business with a poster or flag, to make sure people know you are open for deliveries. Include your Facebook, Instagram or other social media address.

I hope these tips and techniques help you in your effort to survive, and eventually, put you in position to thrive when we return to business as usual!

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