The world is in panic.
With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the entire world has been upended. People are buying up supplies, stores are changing their hours of operation, people are wearing gas masks to walk their dogs, and we’ve even seen some brawls in parking lots over something as simple as toilet paper.
Many retail stores, bars, casinos, and health studios (gyms) have been closed due to mandatory requests by the government.
But, while the world is in chaos, this isn’t a time to make rash decisions. Having a leveled mind and striving to think clearly and meticulously about the situation will help business owners better understand their plan of action during these uncertain times.
Many brick-and-mortar businesses are losing sales. That’s just a fact because the CDC and governmental powers that be are recommending or making it mandatory to stay at home.
Throughout the USA, we are seeing businesses temporarily close up shops, firing employees, and even stopping marketing services entirely - not the best course of action. If anything, now is the time to continue with marketing services to keep in touch with your customer base through this insane global event.
Another fact: Business will come back!
This isn’t going to last forever and as we’ve seen in past pandemics and even after recessions, the business will ascend with plenty of customers to keep your hands full.
If anything, businesses bounce back so quickly and drastically after a global event such as this that they become booked or sold out. We aren’t saying that this will happen for every business, but we are hopeful that business owners and managers will keep an open mind during this difficult time as local buying starts to grow back.
What is certain is that Google is on board with ridding the world of the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, Google’s cousin Verily (child company of Google’s parent company, Alphabet) is taking strides to test those with COVID-19. Currently, this testing is taking place in California.
Google also wants business owners to shed light on how they are being proactive during the time of the coronavirus. This starts with updating your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing(s).
Google Business Profile Help Center - “Businesses affected by COVID-19: Provide customers with updated info. If your business is affected by COVID-19, update your Google Business Profile to provide the most accurate information to your customers. For example, change your hours of operation if you’re closing early, or add more details to your description. The updates will show on your Business Profile on Google Search and Maps.”
When you get a message from Google that requests you to update your GBP listing, you don’t ask questions, you just update it as quickly as possible.
Log into your GBP listing’s account and you’ll probably notice the following message show up on your location’s home dashboard.
Even if your business hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, it’s a good idea to alert your local community that you are still operational.
To keep your customers updated on recent updates caused by COVID-19, we’ve got five ways you can optimize your GBP listing immediately.
1. Add a Detailed GBP Post
The best way to send updates to your clients is via GBP posts that are accessible on your GBP listing’s dashboard under Posts. Anyone searching for your services or products will find your posts on your GBP listing toward the bottom of the panel under your business description section.
For COVID-19-related posts, you should create a COVID-19 post.
Outline how COVID-19 has affected your business at that particular location. Tell your local community what it is that you’re doing to keep your location clean (if you have a physical storefront), any updates to your hours of operation, and details for what your employees are doing to keep themselves and customers safe and healthy.
Now is the time for compassion and care, and you need to let your customers know that you care about this unfortunate situation. Customers appreciate a business with high work ethics, morals, and great service to both customers and employees. If you are offering benefits to your employees who are missing work, let it be known in your post!
If you’re in an industry that can’t make a post, such as the cannabis industry, temporarily change your business description to include a summary of the changes due to COVID-19.
2. Update Your Hours of Operation
If your hours of operation have changed even slightly, you need to update them.
Your operating hours are at the top of your GBP listing on Google, which means this section is one of the very first to be seen in searches.
Just because you have a post on your GBP listing doesn’t mean that everyone will see it
If you don’t make it perfectly clear that your hours have changed, customers will still come to your location or will try calling you for your services. Anyone can write a review on Google, and you might get negative ones if you aren’t 100% honest with your customers.
Google won’t have those reviews removed.
Post stating this 24 Hour Fitness gym will be closed until further notice:
Hours of operation are still the same even though the post says they are closed:
Yes, even some of the most well-known businesses make the mistake of not updating their hours in a crisis situation.
3. Invite Customers to Choose Delivery Options or Order on Your Website
So many customers are stuck indoors or are afraid to go outside for fear of getting sick, especially elderly persons. Instead of losing more sales, offer a solution to your customer’s problem.
If you have a delivery service, booking online, or an e-Commerce website for online ordering, make it obvious and accessible for customers!
GBP makes it very easy for you to add appointment links, links to product pages on your website, and delivery services to your listing. Make the sales funnel easier for your customer by adding these options to your GBP listing.
If you work at a restaurant, people are still hungry! Add a link to your Grubhub account so customers can order.
If you’re a shop with an online store, add the link in GBP posts and in the products section on your listing.
For service businesses, the best you can do is inform your customers that you are doing everything in your power to keep them safe when you go to work on the project.
4. Focus on the Community’s Concerns
The message that you send to your customers during this time is extremely impactful. If you make it sound as though you aren’t concerned with their safety and are “all-business”, then you might as well not be in business.
Empathy and a focus on your community’s concerns are going to get you much farther and acquire more sales. Do your research for what your district, city, or province is facing with COVID-19 and devise your strategies based on their circumstances.
Not everything is just business though. You’re dealing with people, and people want to know that they are being heard and that you care. Show them that you care about your GBP listing.
If a customer is requesting that your employee can only come into their home to fix a clogged toilet if they wear galoshes, a face mask, and medical gloves, give your consent.
5. Keep Updating Your GBP With New COVID-19 Information
Don’t just make one post about how you’re handling your business and the coronavirus, keep updating your local community. Many of your competitors aren’t going to be ahead of the game on this, but you will be.
If your hours change again due to regulations and directions from the government, then tell your customers.
If you are shutting down your storefront but can still make deliveries, write a post or change your business description.
You can still reach your customers during this time of confusion and scarcity. People still need professional services, they still need food, and they still need YOU. Unless the government says so or you know that your business will go belly-up by keeping it open, don’t close it.
Do what humans do best, evolve. Take the necessary precautions as you hear more news and keep your customers happy
We will get through this, we will survive, and we will come back stronger!