So you’re an entrepreneur whose dream business was finally taking off, and then an economic shockwave hit. Like the rest of the world, you’re trying to not only survive yourself, but also to preserve your livelihood and that of your employees.
Now, although American is slowly rebounding, businesses are definitely not going back to the “normal” they once knew. In fact, for most industries, it’s unpredictable and about as easy to forecast as the wild swings in the stock market. A large part of that uncertainty lies in the mindset of consumers right now.
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A recent Economist/YouGov poll found that 66 percent of Americans are worried about being impacted directly by this crisis, and 75 percent think there is some degree of likelihood that opening the economy will result in more illness. That means even with all the talk of reopening and restrictions being relaxed, your business is nowhere near the same level of sales that you were before the worldwide disaster struck, and you’re wondering if the rebound buzz is the light at the end of the tunnel or just a mirage in the desert.
That’s why a relationship with your customer is so critical at a time like this. I have always been a strong advocate for having a direct sales relationship with your customers built on trust, a solid product and in the case of marketing, humor. Now is the time to double down on that mindset, especially when social media and online platforms are the only ways you're going to connect with potential new customers. Here are four ways to use a direct sales relationship to grow despite of the challenges.
Reacting is jumping at every little shiny object that looks like it might offer a shred of increased sales or a quick fix that keeps you afloat. But the mindset of action is having the focus to not only survive, but thrive, during a time of total upheaval and disruption in your industry. It allows you to make a plan and implement it.
Your message is your sales pitch, your 30-second elevator speech to the target audience that closes the deal and creates a new customer. Don’t confuse this with branding or slogans — those aren't something you should be focusing on right now. Get sales coming in the door now, and you will have all sorts of opportunities in the future to build brand over time.
Think about how you sell your product face-to-face. What problem are you solving for the customer? How do you get and keep your customer’s attention? What questions do you ask? What stories do you tell? An important part of nailing your message, which many companies overlook, involves making sure your online message is cohesive with your normal sales pitch. That leads to the next step.
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This is where your message is translated into an online sales funnel. I’m not talking about a generic website filled with products, slogans and cheesy photos of you and your team. I’m talking about an online experience that mimics real-life interactions. Walk your customer through the sale exactly like you would if you were standing face-to-face with them. Empathize with the problem your customer faces. Introduce a solution (your product) and demonstrate how it will help them overcome or avoid the problem. Build credibility and overcome concerns.
Your online sales funnel can also include a video. If you can’t sell face-to-face, video is the next best thing. Work with what you have. If you can afford a nice cinematic camera and lights, great! But don’t hesitate to shoot video on your phone if that is all you have access to. Sincerity almost always trumps polish, and introducing a little humor or light-heartedness can make a wonderful connection with your customers.
An effective online sales funnel is a crucial pivot that can not only be a lifeline but also take your business to the next level. You should always continue to refine your message and sales funnel through testing and customer feedback.
Branding is what will set you apart in your niche market and create more customers who not only buy, but are also excited to be a part of your business. At this point I recommend developing your brand character. Donald Miller, author of How to Build a Storybrand, teaches that your brand character needs to show both empathy and authority. These are the attributes that win your customers’ trust.
Once your branding is established, you can make the move to marketing nirvana, branded advertising. This is where your brand and brand characters you’ve developed take on a life of their own, where people are entertained and identify with your brand and become loyal customers. They will even help you market by voluntarily sharing your content with an ever wider audience.
So why do I share all this now in the midst of this unprecedented time of upheaval and disruption? Because although I know we will sadly see businesses go under and fail, I believe that the American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. Your business might have the next product or service that’s ready to solve a problem, take the market by storm create jobs in your community and ultimately bring more hope — and a little humor — to a world very much in need of both.
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