Inspiration from Central Coast Businesses Dealing with COVID-19

The Central Coast business community has been hit by COVID-19, and no doubt we’re all seeing evidence of this when we pop out for our essentials or exercise. Yet, the state of things in our region doesn’t look as dire as you would first assume.

Alongside unavoidable closures of non-essential businesses, we are also seeing daily examples of small, local companies making necessary changes to stay afloat. They are rapidly moving their products online, adapting to offer external-only trade services, or offering contactless takeaway and delivery. They are embracing their social media, updating their website, and learning how to send regular email newsletters.

Despite the limiting reality of Coronavirus, we’re hugely motivated by the fighting spirit of businesses in our coastal region!

To help Central Coast businesses on their path to survive or thrive during the financially challenging months ahead, we want to share some simple yet effective marketing ideas. These are ideas you may already be considering, or even doing, (in which case, you’re brilliant!)… Most importantly, these are ideas worth sharing to keep a feeling of positivity going in the amazing community we all call home.

People Power

The most notable change we’ve seen throughout the last few weeks is a host of local businesses unashamedly calling on the power of their community. Business owners are asking residents to support them simply through the collective power of buying. And so they should! Each suburban community has a collection of core shops and services that have been impacted by COVID-19, and locals seem to be making every possible effort to support their favourite grocery store, hairdresser, cafe, takeaway or restaurant. We’ve seen signs outside shops thanking people for simply dropping by, stating “WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER!” on chalkboards that would normally boast weekly specials.

What’s one major benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s reminded people to support their communities in the face of a crisis.

Tasting Menu to Takeaway Menu

We understand that “supporting your local” means more than grabbing a takeaway coffee every couple of days. Central Coast cafes and restaurants need more than this. If a business owns and runs out of its physical premises normally, it can be quite the challenge to stay actively earning when everyone else is told to #stayhome

The solution? Offer takeaway instead.

A fresh takeaway menu for your food business can be achieved by:

  • Editing your existing sit-down menu by simplifying the options (1-2 pages max)
  • Uploading a new takeaway menu to your website + social media as a PDF
  • Focus on locally-sourced produce
  • Try creative alternatives to add excitement to your usual best sellers
  • Reduce the number of dishes you serve to limit food wastage
  • Offer bulk meals, such as freezable home dinners
  • Sell raw ingredients (surplus stock) and accompany with free recipe cards or video content

Customers will appreciate a simple takeaway menu that you’ve gone to the effort of creating just for this crisis. Don’t ask your customers to search through your regular non-pandemic menu for what’s still available or in stock, especially if they have gone to the huge effort of coming out to support your business! Creating a simple but special takeaway menu gives your customers a taste of the unique experience of eating out that they crave, while also giving your food or beverage business a chance to produce revenue.

Takeaway “menus” are also not only a great pivot opportunity for the food and beverage industry – perhaps your products could be offered in a creative menu, rather than shopfront?

Send Regular e-Newsletters

If you have never sent a single digital newsletter to your customers – now is seriously the time to do it. Do not be daunted. Do not be overwhelmed. And do not breach Australian spam laws! There are several online platforms that do all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to building, writing and sending smart-looking email newsletters. Two of our favourites are Mailchimp and Active Campaign.

We have seen a sharp rise in the amount of email newsletters reaching our personal inboxes from Central Coast businesses this month, and we couldn’t be prouder of this on-the-ball thinking. By using a regular e-newsletter to reach out and keep in touch with existing customers, a business not only has an active platform to advertise on when their shopfront is shut, but a valuable foundation (an engaged audience) to build up from once this virus recedes.

Our most valuable advice when it comes to creating email newsletter content:

  1. relevant
  2. Keep it brief
  3. Send people stuff they actually want to read (or watch) during a time like this
  4. Hire a professional content writer to manage this for your business on a weekly/monthly basis during COVID-19.

Think escapism, positive stories, short ‘How To’ videos, quizzes, competitions… And don’t forget to clearly mention changes to your trading hours, operations, and how best to connect with you online.

Tradies & Gym Services

We know. Tradespeople and personal trainers are not exactly in the same industry, but they do have similar obstacles to overcome with COVID-19. For one, they rely on physical work and person-to-person interaction. Both services also require training and prior knowledge, with a focus on maximising safety and minimising injury. This means both Central Coast trade professionals and Central Coast gyms will be facing the same challenges when it comes to retaining customers during Coronavirus.

Tradies will be suffering from longer lead times for projects, possibly combined with an overall drop in business. Smart tradies will hopefully recognise that people suddenly have a lot of free time on their hands at home to do their research before hiring an external trade service. On one hand this means pickier customers, but it also presents an opportunity to get your brand, website and social media looking better than all your competitors! At the moment, looking good and sounding great online is the key to selling your service. Remember to request a review on Google or Facebook after every job you successfully complete.

Gyms have unfortunately closed their physical doors, while many are trying to create and promote their training services online via video platforms such as YouTube, Zoom and various social media. Offering at-home programs at a reduced rate to normal membership is just one option for gyms to continue earning revenue and keeping customers. Another option – which we’re already seeing in action on the Central Coast – is for gyms to lease their equipment to current members who want to maintain their workout regime in isolation.

Personalised Online Buying

It’s been a distressing month as the Central Coast community witnessed many non-essential services forced to shut indefinitely. Businesses across our region have literally faced a crossroads where one direction means ceasing trading altogether, and the other means significantly innovating operations beyond their skills or comfort zone. Many of those who have chosen to innovate, or “pivot”, are now trading as best they can online.

With customers confined to their homes and social distancing the new norm, the best place to be is online.

We are seeing some local businesses genuinely nailing this, offering an online buying and delivery experience that is personalised and professional. Giving online customers a friendly greeting and smooth checkout experience almost makes up for the classic “Hello, how can I help you today?” which customers are used to receiving when entering your store. Today, they severely miss that personal aspect of the buying experience, so if you can find a way to offer it online or through contactless delivery – they will choose to shop from you time and time again.

We want to see more local businesses offering friendly, warm, welcoming messages to new customers. Follow up calls. Thoughtful notes of thanks. Helpful content delivered by email newsletters. This is something that a professional copywriter and e-commerce web developer can surely help with.

If you don’t have one already, now is a ripe time to consider transferring your products to a simple e-commerce website. This basically means creating a site that allows you to sell stock, and people can buy that stock directly from your site. E-commerce sites can be adapted to most industries. This is a great option for any business forced to close its shop during COVID-19 to start earning a crust again.

Quoting & Connecting with Video Tools

The last few weeks have been a scramble for small businesses to find the right digital tools that fit both their knowledge and internal operations. Almost overnight, companies have embraced online shopping, video quoting, cross-continental conference calls and contactless payment options. Although inspired by an international health and economic disaster, these operational changes have potential to benefit companies in the long-term.

By equipping their operations with smart, essential online video tools, we’re seeing firsthand how several Central Coast businesses are currently surviving the Corona climate. We’ve already helped a local children’s dance studio promote online programs, a restaurant group move to sell takeaway online, and a trade service switch their face-to-face quoting to be performed online. These businesses have found the right digital tools to create great content, connect with clients or colleagues, plus deliver their same service in a refreshing way.

We have collected a list of the digital platforms, technology, and tools we rate highly at present – if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of skimming it for ideas, explore the full list of tech tools here.

Whether you’re a brick and mortar store, online retailer, or a service provider such as a trade service or gym, one thing is clear – the customer journey has changed for the foreseeable future. It’s clear we now need to add a few more steps along the way.

More Online Resources to Help your Business Fight COVID-19:

Why Google Ads still Works Wonders during a CrisisDuring a crisis, your natural instinct is to view paid Google Ads as an unnecessary expense, but here’s proven reasons why AdWords is now a significant marketing opportunity, even during a global pandemic.

5 Ways Your Marketing Strategy Can Cope With Social Distancing
Social distancing is changing the way consumers buy. It’s now up to business managers and owners to change their marketing to help people, not sell to them.

JobKeeper Program: 3 Important Considerations For Businesses
Australia’s JobKeeper program guarantees some security for small to medium businesses, but have you considered these 3 important aspects for the next 6 months?

Has COVID-19 Changed The Customer Journey Forever?
There is no ‘business as usual’ with the customer journey profoundly changing due to COVID-19. Keep up by moving from old activities to these new opportunities.

7 Ways Marketing Can Help Your Business Survive COVID-19
Practical advice and ideas on how to adapt your business and continue advertising products and services to stay healthy during a global crisis.

Adapting To COVID-19: Video & Tech Tools For Business
Innovate your business overnight by introducing our top recommended digital tools and video technology to your business and daily remote routine.

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