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Has COVID-19 Closed Down Your Business?

COVID-19 Closed

Has COVID-19 Closed down your business?  A lot of small businesses like yours are having a difficult time right now.  Some have been formally closed down by the government.  Others did the right thing and closed down much sooner allowing their employees to go home to lessen the risk of bringing the coronavirus home to their families and communities.

With COVID-19 forcing everyone to stay home, now may be a good time to rethink the way you do business.  Some of the suggestions below will help you to hit the ground running once this emergency passes and hopefully allow you to continue with some of your products and services while sticking to social distancing rules.

I often hear from overworked small business owners that they are so busy running their business that they don’t have the time to consider technology as a way to improve their sales and to make it easier for customers and clients to find them.  Now, it is more important than ever to get your business online so that people can find you.

I am a sole proprietor running MTech Services Web Design For Small Businesses so I understand the challenges of a limited budget.  I provide small businesses with low-cost options to get them online so that their products and services will Google well.  If your products and services don’t Google well you could be losing potential customers and clients.

Most people will search using Google or Facebook to find items and services that they need.  If your business is not online then they will not be able to find you.  Some of the suggestions listed below are even free!  If you need help getting any of these online options up and running just give me a shout.

Over the next few pages I will discuss the following options. Several are free so worth taking a look.

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS ~ Free to $60

GMB

Creating a Google My Business account (GMB) is probably one of the best things that you can do to allow customers and clients to find your business.  When you create a Google My Business account and configure all of the options such as your hours, services or products, location, etc. your business will show up under the Google map when people search for items that you provide.  This is known as a local search.  For example, I live in Napanee and that is where the physical location of my business is.  When someone in the Napanee area does a Google search for Web Design my business shows under the map right on the first page!  This is what you want to accomplish.

Google My Business even allows you to set up a very basic website.  Not ideal since it has a Google address or URL and not your business domain, and all of the websites look the same with limited colour selection BUT in these times, when funds are limited, GMB is free!

If you are comfortable on the computer and are confident with going through all the various options and configuring them it won’t cost you a penny.  If, on the other hand, you are not comfortable with setting Google My Business up yourself, it is still cost-effective to have MTech Services set it up for as little as $50 when combined with other services or $60 without the purchase of other services.

I can have Google My Business set up and configured within just a day or two after you provide me with the required information.  There are no hosting fees or hidden costs.  The only catch is that Google insists on using snail mail to send a postcard to your physical location with a verification code.  This can take up to 12 days to arrive.  At that point, you need to enter the code into GMB (or contact me if I set it up for you).  Your business will then be verified and you will start to see the effect of setting up Google My Business.

CREATING A WEBSITE ~ Starting at $450

Create a website

Many of your customers look for goods and services using Google and other search engines.  They will use laptops, cell phones, and other devices.  Most people no longer grab the Yellow Pages to find goods and services.  Instead, they pull up Google or Facebook to find what they are looking for. 

If your business does not “Google”, potential customers and clients may be unaware that your business even exists, possibly heading out-of-town instead of buying locally at your store or business.

I can set up a simple one-page site, a multiple page site, an online store, and even add a blogging feature for you.

I will help you to choose a domain name and purchase it for you (this is included for 1 year with all website packages)

Provide you with hosting, email addresses (included for 1 year with all website packages).

Update your site as required.  There is a nominal charge to make changes to your site BUT all of the updates and upgrades that happen behind the scenes to keep your site secure are included with hosting.

Connect your website to Facebook and other social media.  Many of our clients opt to have their Facebook feed show in a widget on their website.  You can even opt to have your Facebook reviews show on your site as we have done.

SELLING ONLINE ~ Starting at $600

Online store

With COVID-19 shutting down non-essential retail outlets and people being told to stay home, now would be the right time to offer your customers the ability to purchase your products online.  You could continue selling online long after this emergency is over and people are open to buying things online since there are not a lot of options available. 

I can set you up with an online store fairly quickly.  I usually tell my clients that I can complete a website or online store within a couple of weeks but that timeline is dependent on you providing me with the information, pictures of products, etc. that I need to make it work. 

There are many features available with an online store or can be added to an online store.  For example, secure payments can be configured to accept credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, and even eTransfers.  There is a Canada Post plugin that will calculate shipping charges to the location you need to ship to or you can add in a flat rate to deliver products yourself.  Customers add products to a cart to make a purchase just the same way as large companies like Amazon do it.

Online stores can track your inventory, send you the orders, provide your customers with confirmation that their order has been received or shipped, and send them a receipt.  You decide whether to notify customers that a product is back-ordered and whether or not to allow them to order it anyway.

All online stores include the purchase of a domain name (if you don’t already have one) and hosting for 1 year, email, and a blog.

The cost of an online store varies depending on the number of features selected and the number of products you want to offer to get started.

STARTING A BLOG

A blog is an excellent feature to keep your customers and clients updated quickly which is very important when this COVID-19 emergency is constantly changing how you operate.  You can write articles including tips and tricks that will create interest or even amusement that makes your customers and clients wanting to keep coming back to your site to see what you will say next. 

A blog can be used to list your sale items with pictures, perhaps posting your print ads.  If you have an online store, the sale price is shown on each item that is on sale and clearly marked that it is on sale but a blog post would still allow you to draw attention to it.

You can have MTech Services post on your blog or I can provide you with training so that you can do this yourself.

ONLINE SEMINARS

Virtual Meetings

Are you an instructor or teacher? There are several companies offering solutions that would allow you to continue with your classes online instead of being in your studio.  My husband is a music instructor and owns North Shore Music in Napanee.  This morning he trialed one of these products and taught a drum lesson!  Perhaps not quite the same as an in-person lesson but when social distancing is the rule this worked well.  Here are a couple of examples of products that will allow you to do this:

Zoom

Zoom offers the ability to be able to set up a “meeting room” complete with several features including the following:

  • Conference calling both audio and video
  • White Board
  • Screen Sharing
  • And more…

Click here for Zoom pricing. Make sure you see CAD beside the price.  They do have a free option so you can sign up and “play” with it to see if it will work for you.  The free version allows you to have up to 100 participants but is limited to 40-minute sessions.  There is an option for Telemedicine that is HIPPA compliant which may be a good option if you need that requirement.

Free Conference

This one is similar to Zoom and has a lot of the same features.  One of the differences I noticed was that with the free plan you can have a lot more participants.  A thousand people can dial in but there is a limit of 5 who can attend by web.  The free version does not include toll-free numbers so unless your client/customer has unlimited long distance they are likely to end up with long-distance charges.

You can upgrade to paid service which increases the limits and provides toll-free numbers.  Click here for the pricing plan.

This is the web conferencing service that my husband used this morning to do his drum lesson.  It worked well.  Since it was one on one the free version was all he needed.

There are others of course but I have not yet looked into them.  These services will also allow you to keep in touch with those employees that you sent home.

My daughter in law informed me that her office uses Doxy.me.  She works for an optometry clinic.  It also has a free version and is HIPPA compliant. Click here for pricing information.

Facebook Pages ~ Starting at $60

Facebook Page

If you haven’t created a Facebook page yet, this is a must.  With so many people using Facebook today they also look for products and services right from Facebook.

If you have a Facebook page already make sure that it looks professional.  If the cover picture does not fit and is cut off it could make potential customers leave your page.  The tricky part is that Facebook uses two different sizes for the cover photo.  They use one size for larger screens, (PCs and laptops) and another size for mobile devices (phones and smaller tablets).

I will write another post later on how to get the right size picture for Facebook and other social media.

If you already have a Facebook page you need to go through every setting, make sure you have your services listed, etc.  I will create Facebook pages from scratch or go through your Facebook page and provide you with recommendations on how to make your Facebook page work better in searches and implement them.  The charge for making recommendations is $20 which will go towards the fee for optimizing your Facebook page.

ONLINE DIRECTORIES

Online Directories

Sign up for the various free online directories.  For example, the Yellow Pages offer a free online directory listing, as does Yelp.  Check to see what other local directories offer free listings.  Greater Napanee has a business directory that offers a free listing.

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