Tag Archives: webinar

COVID-19 Creativity!

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly derailed 2020 for a whole lot of folks. For business owners, staying afloat while people are staying at home is a primary concern, reflected by a downturn in the economy and a rising unemployment rate. For a small business, the key to surviving a crisis like a pandemic is an ability to pivot from its current offering to one that’s easily provided and highly desired given the circumstances.

COVID-19 graph on blue background with bulb and question mark
Covid -19 graph on blue background with bulb and question mark

We’re seeing examples of this everywhere right now. Businesses are resilient in light of the challenges COVID-19 creates, finding creative opportunities to not just survive, but thrive. In our “COVID-19 Creativity! How to Pivot Your Business” we’ll discuss:

  1. Government programs – Which ones are available to you? Which make the most sense to pursue?
  2. Cash flow – How can you make sure that you stay afloat?
  3. Getting online – Will “going digital” open new markets for you?
  4. Virtual services – Can you provide your product or service online while you can’t offer it face-to-face, or add products or services that are available exclusively online?
  5. Manufacturing Pivot – Can you pivot to manufacture products that are in high demand during the pandemic?
  6. New supply chains – Can you create new supply chains to get products to customers?
  7. Customer loyalty – How can you use your time to strengthen relationships with your customers?

Government Programs

Most governments have infused money into the system during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist struggling businesses. Assistance includes:

  1. Wage subsidies – Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Summer Jobs
  2. Rent support – Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance
  3. Loan programs – Business Credit Availability Program, Canada Emergency Business Account, BDC Co-Lending Program
  4. Export support – Grants

Speak to a representative at your financial institution to see if your business fits the criteria for any of these programs!

COVID-19 Cash Flow

Cash is still king! You must have enough money left in the bank account to cover expenses each month, even if your storefront is closed to flatten the curve. Here’s how some businesses do it:

  1. Gift cards – $25 is $25, whether you’ve sold someone a meal or a gift card for a meal. The restaurant doesn’t need to be serving food in order for you to sell a gift card for a meal, though. The gift card’s allure of giving people money to spend (so to speak) in your restaurant when lockdown is over may keep revenue coming in while lockdown is on.
  2. Memberships – Use your creativity to keep your membership program going while you can’t offer the services you regularly do. Maybe the members at your gym get online classes while they can’t access the physical gym, or their money refunded at a later date for every day that the gym was unavailable to them. What matters is that the cash you get from memberships remains available to you now, when you need it.
  3. Reduced Operations – Sometimes consolidating operations saves time/money in the long run and lets you plan better. There’s a good example of this involving an irrigation company in the webinar. As a social media manager, I like to schedule as much posting as I can in advance so that I have to spend a minimal amount of time on it each week.
  4. Getting Online – Plenty of businesses have shops on their websites filled with their products, but you don’t even have to get that specialized if you don’t want to – Etsy, Yahoo, and Amazon are all existing online markets where you can sell products. However, some companies that already have an ecommerce presence chose to use it to meet a need created by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, GoJava.ca opened a website to take grocery delivery orders in addition to their primary service of helping offices operate in an environmentally conscious manner.

Virtual Services

Speaking of getting online, some businesses pivoted during COVID-19 from offering face-to-face services to offering services online through video-teleconferencing once lockdown began.

  1. Mental Health – Counselling services delivered online help people to deal with the mental health stressors that come with the lockdown situation
  2. Exercise – Classes and/or personal training delivered via Zoom let people work out at home and gyms continue to collect money from memberships.
  3. Education – What can you teach over Zoom? Art classes? Writing seminars? Computer skills? Quilting or sewing? Depending on the popularity of your classes, perhaps you won’t even have to charge that much to make them profitable!

Consider what services you already offer and how you can adapt them to offer them online – the work could be minimal for significant reward!

Manufacturing to Meet COVID-19 Demands

If you’re in the business of making things, consider whether you’re equipped to pivot at this time to make vital supplies for dealing with the pandemic that are currently in short supply.

  1. Masks – More and more, people want masks to wear when they’re out in the community, and retailers can’t keep up with the demand. We need to be sure that masks are available for them, so that they’re not buying up the more specialized masks required by front-line workers who put themselves at risk all day, every day. Businesses that work with fabric materials for which demand has dropped have pivoted to making and selling cloth masks.
  2. Disinfectant – Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and cleaners (household and industrial) are very difficult to find right now because people have been hoarding them. Some companies that specialize in handling and mixing chemical have pivoted to making hand sanitizer, to help out with the need.
  3. Other PPE – The World Health Organization has said that the global stockpile of PPE, or personal protective equipment, is deficient – there are not enough gloves, gowns, and N95 respirators to protect front line medical staff treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Is it feasible for your business to do a manufacturing pivot at this time? What can you provide? If you’re a Canadian business, let the government know that you can help.

New Supply Chains for COVID-19 Times

Being in lockdown sometimes makes it difficult to get what you need, whether you’d like a bottle of wine or some beer after a hard day of Zoom meetings or you’re out of something that you need for the evening meal or you shouldn’t be in grocery stores because you’d be a high-risk case if you got infected with COVID-19.

Can your business create new supply chains that make products easier for people to get?

Examples:

  1. Wine and beer delivery from Toronto restaurants to customers became available through third-party company soon after the pandemic began, making it unnecessary for people to have to leave the house to buy alcohol.
  2. Pop-up grocery trucks that visit food deserts and communities low access to food help people meet their nutrition needs while keeping them out of the grocery stores.
  3. While libraries are closed in Ontario due to the pandemic, food banks have been using the buildings to store donations.

What else might people need during the pandemic to which they might not want to dedicate a trip to the store? Is there a way that you can create a new, safer supply chain for them?

Customer Communications

Customer loyalty can see your business safely through a crisis. Stay in touch with your customers and let them know what you’re doing to ensure their safety during this time.

In general, after any sort of social crisis, focus on the following in your communication strategy:

  1. Connection – Touch base with your customers as soon as possible and reassure them that you’re there. You cannot over-communicate at this point.
  2. Safety Updates – Tell people the measures you’re taking to preserve their safety and give them clear instructions about any measures regarding your products or services that they must take. Depending on your business and what products and/or services you offer, you may be required to offer information in multiple formats. Consult the accessibility laws for your province or country for more information.
  3. Loyalty – Think about how you might build loyalty even if you can’t offer your customers all the services during lockdown that you can face-to-face. How can you demonstrate to them that you’re thinking of them and the challenges that the pandemic creates for them, that might set you apart from other businesses in your community offering the services that you do? Customers remember companies that treat them as more than numbers and are more likely to become and stay return customers.

Steer into the COVID-19 Skid

When Sarah took Driver’s Education, many years ago, she learned that the best way to get out of a skid on a slippery road is not to slam on the brakes, as people reflexively do.

To increase your chances of getting out of the skid safely, you must keep steady pressure on the gas and steer in the direction that the skid. If you slam on the brakes, you’ll lock them, and lose control of the vehicle.

Ask yourself how your business can steer into the skid of COVID-19 – pivoting your business to take advantage of potential opportunities it creates – to increase your chances of safely getting out of it. Don’t slam on the brakes and lose control of the direction in which the pandemic takes you!

If you enjoyed the COVID Creativity Webinar watch our other webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Strategic Planning, Small Business Planner-Style!

We’re six weeks into 2020 and everyone is doing strategic planning for their small business! Which is a great thing…because, as we all known, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail…but as we were preparing to do this year’s strategic planning for Small Business Solver, we noticed that there were no good resources or tools out there to help small business owners through this process.

White 3D figure with a black necktie examines the word "Plan" in large, red, 3D block letters with a magnifying glass. Keyword: strategic planning
Time for Strategic Planning!

So we created a strategic planning process of our own! We used it to do our own planning, and have since used it with 50 small businesses, non-profits, and large associations! We’ve been so excited by the results that we’ve made it a training module on the Small Business Solver Website! It was also the subject of a recent webinar:

In this webinar, you’ll learn about:

  1. The importance of defining your vision
  2. What makes an effective mission statement
  3. How to do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Weaknesses) Analysis
  4. SMART goals
  5. Strategic Activities and getting them done with a Workplan

Defining Your Vision

Your vision tells you and the people involved with your business where your business is headed – it is your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal! For strategic planning purposes, this goal is set for 5 years, although you’ll define goals for the 1, 3, and 5 year marks. Keep your mind open, because you’ll be setting Impossible Goals as well as Possible Goals! (As the webinar explains…)

An Effective Mission Statement

You’ll want to write a strong mission statement as part of your strategic planning. The webinar gives you a formula for writing a mission statement that is:

  1. Memorable
  2. Personal and inclusive
  3. A description of your daily activities
  4. Focused on your target market
  5. A description of the ideal result of your actions for your target market.

Your mission statement should motivate you and your staff!

Strategic Planning and SWOT!

A SWOT analysis forces you to take both internal and external inventory of factors that will affect the success of your business:

  1. Strengths – What do you have going for you?
  2. Weaknesses – What perceived gaps are holding you back?
  3. Opportunities – What are the possibilities or opportunities you can leverage
  4. Threats – What do you need to watch out for?

Your strategic planning will be much more effective when you have a clear idea of what you have to work with!

Strategic Planning Includes Strategic Goals

At this stage of strategic planning, you must define 3 – 5 critical areas for your business that are related to your Unique Selling Proposition. You’ll learn in the webinar that most small businesses list Revenue and Communications or Marketing as critical areas, and you’ll also see examples of other areas. Once you’ve defined your ctitical areas, you’ll write a strategic goal for each of them.

Your strategic plan really starts to take form once you’ve set these goals.

Strategic Activities and Workplan

You now need to list the activities required to make your strategic goals a reality create a workplan so that the work gets done! Ask yourself:

  1. What tasks need to be done so that the goals you’ve set are achieved?
  2. In what order should these tasks be done?
  3. Who is responsible for each task?
  4. What is the deadline for each task?

Keep your workplan and the strategic tasks in view so that they stay on the radar of everyone involved! See the webinar for some suggestions on how to do this.

Strategic Planning – Bottom Line!

Strategic planning lets you take a large amount of data about your business and the areas within it and reduce the overwhelm around what to do next. You’ll end the process with a manageable number of goal, a plan for getting them done, and (hopefully!) a commitment to repeat the process the next year!

Check out the webinar…and then check out our new Strategic Planning Training Module and get your strategic planning done for 2020! And be sure to let us know what you think (here, or on Facebook, or on Twitter, or by email at sarah@smallbusinesssolver.com)…because we love to hear from you!

Twitter Mastery, Small Business-Style!

Cartoon blue bird sitting on rope, singing - "Tweet" comes out of its mouth in a bubble. Keyword: Twitter

Twitter – love it or hate it, you can’t get away from it. So why not learn how to use it? We asked Allan Pollett, social media consultant and the “SEO Guru”, to talk to us about stragegies for entrepreneurs to make Twitter work as hard for their small businesses as they do…and he didn’t disappoint!

Beginning with the Twitter Basics

Twitter is great, Pollett explains, because it lets us communicate with anyone in the world at any moment – no phones, no wait times for mail delivery, no need for even formal introductions. Twitter has a billion accounts, and you can send out messages, or tweets, to each of them from your Twitter account, with no charge per tweet.

You can put links, images, gif files, and videos in a tweet.

You can Like and Retweet tweets that other Twitter users have made.

You can track views of your tweets, engagement with them, and other analytic information.

Hashtag #Madness!

When you send a tweet, it shows up on the timeline of each person that follows you. You won’t have any followers when you join Twitter, and most people don’t have followers (although some do!) However, you can increase the potential audience for a tween by using hashtags. A hashtag looks likes this: #. When you add it to a word or phrase (like #ThursdayThoughts), then anyone who searches the #ThursdayThoughts hashtag, even if they don’t know you, will see your tweet and maybe interact with it. You’ve expanded your reach and joined the conversation about Thursday Thoughts!

Hashtags are a great tool for businesses, and Alan talks about a few great ways to leverage their power.

The 60-40 Rule

Because Allan is such a Twitter rockstar, he actually figured out that Twitter works best for businesses when 60% of their tweets are business-related (tweets about products, offers, sales) and 40% are other information that your customers might find useful – articles, resources, relevant humour. Great tip: People really like quotations by famous people, and tend to share them with others.

Growing Your Twitter Following

Call a tweet to someone’s attention by tagging it with @ and their twitter handle:

Hey @businesssolver! Love your webinar series!

(I guarantee that if we saw this, we would like it, retweet it, and follow you! Just saying.)

When you tag someone in this way, you leverage not only your audience, but theirs too. If their audience is very big, that could be very good for you!

Alan has a technique for finding and growing an audience that’s truly interested in you and what you have to say. Check out the webinar to see what it is! (Here’s a hint: Follow your competitors’ followers!)

Final Things to Consider…

  1. Keep your tweets engaging.
  2. Use hashtags that reach a large audience (3 or 4 per Tweet)
  3. Jump right in and make yourself part of the conversation! It’s not that scary…really!

Thanks so much to Allan Pollett for helping us out today! You can learn more about Allan and the services he offers at his website.

This is our last webinar for 2019! We’re busy getting the line-up for 2020 together, so please let us know if there’s a topic you’d like covered. Happy Holidays!

Sales Funnel Optimization

Your sales funnel drives sales. Can it get easier than that? Make sure you set it up properly so that it creates as many sales as possible for you.

In this webinar you’ll learn about:

  1. The importance of your sales funnel
  2. The purpose of a sales funnel
  3. The parts of a sales funnel
  4. How to optimize a sales funnel

Let’s get started!

The Importance of Your Sales Funnel

When you understand sales funnels, you’re best equipped to observe your sales process and see what areas need improvement. You can identify bottlenecks, or areas in the funnel through which customers are moving slowly compared to the rest of the funnel.

Once you know what’s wrong, you can fix it. You can examine the bottleneck areas, develop and implement strategies to move customers through them more smoothly and quickly. Optimizing your sales funnel in this way ensures that you can move more customers through, with a shorter sales cycle.

That’s good for business!

Purpose

A sales funnel is a numbers game.

Every potential customer enters your sales funnel unaware that your business exists. Your job is to move them through the funnel, converting them from potential customers to people who have bought from you.

A large number or potential customers start a sales journey with you, and people fall away at each stage, for a variety of reasons. Usually it’s a small percentage that move through all the stages of the funnel to become customers. This is where the funnel shape comes from

Parts

A sales funnel has four basic parts:

  1. Gain their Awareness – Use marketing to let people know you exist
  2. Gain their Interest – Get people interested enough in your offering to want to find out more about you
  3. Make them Ready – Convince people of benefits and address doubts and concerns so that potential customers can become paying customers.
  4. Close – Close the sale

Some sales funnels break these basic parts into many more, but the funnel shape holds across all of them: A lot of potential customers start the first stage, some drop away at each stage, and a few finish as actual customers.

When you know at what part of your sales funnel bottlenecks are happening, you can start to optimize your sales funnel.

How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel

In order to identify bottlenecks in your sales funnel, you need to:

  1. Know the stages in your sales funnel
  2. Know the conversion rates between each stage – the goal is 10% or higher.
  3. Make note of whether each of those rates is 10% or higher.
  4. Know the lowest of the these conversion rates – even if the lowest rate is over 10%, this is a bottleneck.
  5. Figure out why this area is a bottleneck
  6. Develop and implement a plan to resolve the bottleneck.

Small Business Solver has a tool to help you figure out where your bottlenecks are and what you need to do to resolve them, but here are some general strategies, linked to Small Business Solver modules to help you learn more:

  1. Finding Prospects – Make sure that you understand your customer, that your customers are qualified, that you’re using a lead list, and that you’re making use of referrals and seeking channel partners.
  2. Improving AwarenessIntegrate your marketing campaigns so that you’re presenting the same message everywhere. Prioritize this work – it’s important!
  3. Improving InterestControl your message by representing your brand wellhone your presentation skills and always leave a great impression! Learn how to address common objections to doing business with you.
  4. Improving the Close – Learn how to gauge interest so you’re not misreading whether people are ready to close. Reduce risk so that people are more inclined to close. Make sure that your closing tactics actually work for you and not against you!
  5. Improving Follow-UpCreate a follow-up plan for customers, so that you can improve retention and create opportunities for upselling.
  6. Improving Delivery – Continue to get to know your customers and build relationships so that you consistently provide a positive experience for them. Set expectations wisely by underpromising and overdelivering.

Small Business Solver can help you do all these things. Sign up today for a pay-what-you-can account to view any of the modules in the above list.

We hope that the the webinar was useful for you! Visit our YouTube channel to view more of our webinars.