In this article, I have included grants, funding and ideas for businesses. Read on for more information and opportunities.
These are testing times for the majority of SME’s, so I’ve tried my best here to collate a few ideas, strategies and tips for persevering on during these challenging times. I shall be following up this post with a guide to best help employees with mental health when working from home.
Bland and meaningless statements
During the past 3 weeks, I’ve received a number of emails from several businesses stating that they are still operating. Whilst this is great to see and I’m glad that businesses are continuing to trade, in some instances, these emails have been sent without any real consideration for their customers. In such emails, businesses have positioned themselves as “we are still open to help you”, but let’s be honest, SMEs need more than this!
This isn’t a statement to simply say that we are still open or to simply state, as others are, that we are here to serve you without any substance. We are here to help you and your business to survive and I shall explain how.
True colours shining through
This testing time is showing the true colours of many individuals, business owners, and businesses. In the headlines, we have seen businesses in retail and food/beverage continue to trade and then shut down the next day, making thousands of people redundant. In another example, a large consulting firm has just announced that they are asking employees to take a 40% reduction in hours. These are just a few examples and there will be many more – both good and bad.
As a digital agency (with an office in London) and with clients in a wide range of sectors, we were aware of the economic impacts before many other businesses. We saw a number of our clients shut down completely within the first week of March, whereas others are busier than previously. We’ve had the clients most affected ask us to delay payments or pause services (this is not something we would normally do). Where we can, we have made accommodations, especially for those most affected, but in turn, this led to us asking suppliers to do the same. I won’t name and shame, but some businesses have provided no accommodations or the bare minimum that they would normally provide in any case. Suffice to say, we won’t be using them again, nor will we be recommending them to others. Other businesses have been wonderful and they are a real credit to the business community. During this time, my advice would be to consider that your choices and the way that you treat others will define whether or not people work with you again in the future. Instead of thinking about self-preservation alone, consider how helping others, may, in fact, lead to mutual benefit.
Why is the economy important?
It’s not about money, it’s about trade. Entrepreneurs and business people have created an ecosystem of interaction. It’s more than just money. I’ve seen a number of people who think that business owners are simply trying to line their pockets and it might be true in the smallest number of instances, whereas in many cases, most business owners are suffering equally as much as their employees.
The option of furloughing is theoretically fine, but it means that a business has to have enough money to pay for the salaries up-front. With no confirmed timeframe as to when the repayment will be made by the government, this might be a challenge for some businesses. For those businesses endeavoring to keep employees as active, this is also hard, because the revenues might not be sufficient, but they need to continue to exist.
As a digital agency, unlike companies in other sectors, we sit in the middle, we are continuing to trade, but we’ve also seen cancellations. Alongside this, we are getting a significantly lower number of enquiries compared to normal. Fortunately, we have a number of sources of revenue and reserves, so we are able to continue on. It’s all about the little wins and we’ve continued to help our employees and clients achieve little wins during recent weeks. For some clients, we are continuing to expand campaigns and helping them in turn to keep their employees active and their clients happy.
Why is all of this relevant?
As with many businesses, we don’t want to furlough our employees. Remaining active continues to give purpose, fulfillment, social interaction, community, a sense of belonging and a greater goal. We are continuing to ensure that this is maintained. After all, being stuck inside of 4 walls isn’t easy for anyone. Whilst it might be a busy time and the workload or the work itself might not be ideal, it’s so very important to find purpose in the work and that’s what we are continuing to do.
In order to provide support to our employees, our clients and to our wider network, we need to spread the message of support, educating on what can be done, where support is available and how to get access to it.
Note: Research shows that people who are unmotivated or unable to find a solution are more successful in finding motivation if they help someone else, rather than to ask for help. So instead of asking for help, offer your help instead.
Why is offering support important?
Everyone is suffering, each and every person has their own story, both at home and work (which for many are now very much one and the same). Sacrifices are being made by everyone, in different ways. This article relates to businesses, so these are potential ways in which businesses can help other businesses:
As a supplier:
- Offer to pause services.
- Offer immediate discounts.
- Offer deferred payments.
- Offer extra products or services for the current price.
- Offer advice and guidance and ultimately, listen to you customers.
As a buyer:
- Rather than canceling a service, just reduce to a minimum.
- Offer to pay now for a service for the future.
- Offer to have a discussion about an exchange of services.
- Explain your situation and discuss your required outcome.
Some businesses haven’t seen the impacts yet, others think that this is simply temporary. Some businesses are fortunate enough to be in high-demand, and others are awaiting the impact. Either way, this pandemic will impact every business in some way, if it hasn’t already. Even the businesses that provide cleaning-related products, protective gear or other currently in-demand products will quite possibly see sales subside once the demand has diminished, leaving them with a hole to fill. This in itself is a problem that needs to be considered. This is not likely to be over any time soon, so let’s all work together to plan for the here and now, as well as the longer-term.
As a business, what can you do during this time?
Whilst you might not wish to spend on marketing, or in fact wish to spend any money at all, allow me to explain a few ideas that you can benefit from…
Grants and Funding
Fundamentally, try to avoid loans at all costs. You don’t want that looming over you, especially if and when the markets start to recover. Taking a loan to make payments may not be necessary, instead, try to speak with your suppliers to ask them what they can do to assist you. There are still a number of grants, bursaries and other ‘free’ funding options available for businesses, you might just have to look a little harder.
- Grants for Cumbrian businesses – https://www.thecumbrialep.co.uk/news-detail/2020/growing-our-potential–support-for-businesses-to-grow/
- Google Ad Credits – https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9803410?hl=en
- Facebook Ad Grants – https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-apply-for-facebooks-coronavirus-business-grants-2020-3?r=US&IR=T
- Government Grants – https://www.gov.uk/business-finance-support?types_of_support%5B%5D=grant
- Grants for businesses in the North East of England – https://www.nbsl.org.uk/nebsf
There might be many more, so take the time to have a scour around the internet. Most grants can be spent with novi.digital, so feel free to let us know you if you need assistance with the application process.
Continue with Demand-led Marketing
SEO and PPC are both types of demand-led marketing, here are 6 reasons why you should continue to do both:
- PPC – Most businesses are thinking they shouldn’t spend, in turn, this is bringing PPC prices down meaning that you are able to obtain traffic for a lower cost than before.
- PPC – There are still people searching for your services. Whilst search volume has decreased, it’s unlikely to impact conversion rates dramatically. Ultimately, with PPC, you only pay if someone clicks your Ad and if your campaigns are set up correctly, you should only be paying for highly-relevant visitors in any case.
- PPC and SEO – Some businesses have already closed and ceased trading, meaning that there is less competition and thus more opportunity for you to capture a larger share of the market. This is particularly beneficial with regards to renewals, if you sign up a business now at a low cost, they will likely renew with you. Like buying shares, you are buying when the market is low.
- SEO – With SEO, you aren’t paying per click, so this can keep costs low at this time.
- SEO – SEO takes time. Whilst there might not be a demand right now, there will be in good time. If your markets open up again in several months and you start to think about SEO at that point, then there will be a period of time where you are missing out on opportunities. Do SEO now, whilst your competitors are letting it fall by the wayside. You’ll have to do less SEO than you would in the more competitive times and will likely achieve better search performance in the short-term and longer-term.
- SEO and PPC – There are good offers to be had from agencies right now, so you are in a position whereby you can get a premium service for a reduced rate.
How do you know whether there is still a demand? It’s quite easy really, you can check here on Google Trends: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=GB&q=seo%20agency. Let us know if you would like our team to walk you through how to best utilise Google trends for your business.
Focus on working on you and your business
This is an opportunity for some downtime, so use it wisely. What can you be doing?
Here are my top 10 tips:
- Work on your business plan and business strategy for the next 1, 3, 5 or 10 years.
- Conduct market research to find new opportunities.
- Pivot your business to supply a new demand.
- Training yourself and helping to train your team.
- Updating your website.
- Revising your mission statement and brand values.
- Audit your business processes to find areas for improvement.
- Create a recruitment plan.
- Speak to your customers, past customers and potential customers to ask them how you can help. Listening to their needs will help you to create solutions to fit their needs.
- Take a break from the business and focus on your wellbeing.
How can Novi.Digital help?
We have a number of different services that we can offer you at this time, these include:
- Website Updates – images, text, plugins, dev, design.
- SEO Management.
- PPC Management.
- Paid Social and Managed Social – for branding and customer engagement activities.
- Digital Marketing Strategy.
- SEO and PPC Audits.
- SEO and PPC Training.
- Conversion Rate Optimisation and UX Testing.
- Business Planning.
- Business Consultancy.
- Market Research.
- Competitor Research.
- Recruitment for your digital marketing roles.
Adjusted Payment Options
- Retainer-only Fees – Pay us a monthly retainer of £100 + VAT. This keeps us on as your digital agency, available as and when you need us. This retainer will grant you a 20% discount on our standard prices. Think of this like a taste-card of sorts, or a really low-cost law firm retainer!
- Performance-based SEO – Pay us a small administration fee and we’ll conduct our services without further charge until we generate you leads or sales. Note: This is restricted to certain specific sectors.
- Reduced-rate Training – Haven’t got a day to spare? Instead of a full day, we are offering a 1-hour training session for £50 + VAT, this will be followed with a 15 minute Q & A. If you want further employees or colleagues to join, it will only be £20 + VAT for anyone else in the company who wishes to conference in.
These are just a few examples of the steps that we have taken to help businesses who are most in need of support. How can you help?
Further Tip for Businesses
- Follow further tips here: https://moz.com/blog/operating-during-covid19-tips-for-local-businesses?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=2020-operating-during-covid19
- Make sure to look after your welleing as well as that of others: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing/guidance-for-the-public-on-the-mental-health-and-wellbeing-aspects-of-coronavirus-covid-1
- Ensure that you focus on Digital ROI – https://www.tide.co/blog/business-tips/net-profit-margin/
- Look at the most profitable industries during recent years and see where you can look to expand: https://www.mileiq.com/en-gb/blog/profitable-small-business-industries-2018/
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you have any further questions, recommenations or ideas, let me know and I would be happy to discuss.