Let’s set the scene: You’re a small or midsize brick and mortar business that depends on foot traffic, or maybe you need those in-person meetings to survive. You’ve miraculously received your PPP loan from the government. Congratulations! But not so fast. The many restrictions put on businesses like yours have you rethinking how you’ll operate in the weeks and months ahead.
PPP (which, fun fact, stands for the Paycheck Protection Program), is a loan program built into the CARES Act. It incentivizes small businesses to keep workers on payroll. But what if your current staff isn’t equipped for the essential shift your business has to make to become more digital? As a business owner you need a different team and, according to the requirements of PPP, you need them on your payroll within eight weeks of receiving the funds to be eligible for loan forgiveness.
Some of our clients have already had to completely change their go-to-market strategy overnight. In those cases they had an agency already in position to help. Your loss of revenue may not allow for new investments like a digital marketing agency right now. That’s fine! There’s another option for kick-starting your businesses’ digital transformation. It starts with building your own killer digital team, or even hiring one key digitally savvy employee who will keep you connected to your audience.
PPP is required to be used for payrolled employees, not agencies. 1909 DIGITAL has no skin in the game here. We just want to help our community thrive. So, from our team of big-hearted digital marketing pros to you hard-working business owners, here are our tips for making the most of your PPP dollars before the window of opportunity passes you by.
WHAT SHOULD MY BUSINESS DO WHILE ITS DOORS ARE CLOSED?
You need to have some solid digital strategies in place first, then knock those strategies out of the park by hiring an epic team to carry them out. Beyond simply riding out this wave, focusing on digital transformation through key staff hires will set you on the path to success when you reopen.
- Don’t hide. Choose a digital platform that makes the most sense for your audience and share updates about how you and your business are faring.
- Give your loyal following reasons for sticking with you. Remind them why they’ll want to return the second you re-open (safely). Take them along the journey with you. Show that you’re human.
- Stay true to your brand and tone. Don’t have a brand and tone? This is a great time to discover it, and hone it.
- Create consistent content that is relevant for your business. If you can’t promote your in-real-life services, shift to sharing your industry expertise or curate useful resources.
- Invest in digital advertising. And do it right. Directly target your audience using Facebook Business Manager rather than just boosting posts. If you’re a non-profit, ensure that you’re using your $10k Google Ad Grants.
- Update your web presence with your current status. Let your audience know how they can reach you and what services you are offering during this time. Your homepage is your front door right now. So is your Google My Business listing, Facebook, etc.
WHO CAN I HIRE TO DO THIS STUFF?
Understandably, PPP doesn’t mean you have a bottomless pit of money to spend. Instead, you want to mitigate current risk and get your people back to work. Take a breath, take a minute, and take in these brief job descriptions. At this stage of your digital journey, a generalist that has some experience in a few of these roles is probably a better fit than a specialist who can only do one. Consider what may be the best fit for your team and your business needs right now.
Digital Marketing Strategist: The one-stop-shop of digital marketing skills. This role will be able to speak to the complete online user experience behind your brand.
Who you’re looking for: Someone who understands how to build your brand, target relevant audiences, optimize conversions (clicks, views, purchases, engagements) to reach your goals, and plan strategically across all digital channels and platforms.
Social Media Manager: Social media is the virtual front-of-house for your business. If you’re doing it right, you have a savvy pro (who you trust to speak for you and your brand) stationed on your accounts nearly 24-7 to hold down the fort. It’s tough for a business owner to give up the keys, for sure, but there’s so much more than just publishing a post or two. You need backup. Level-up with a social media manager who will serve as an online community manager for your Facebook group, LinkedIn group, or otherwise.
Who you’re looking for: An experienced social media campaign producer, able to ideate creative content, strategically schedule posts, assess and discern engagement behaviors, track metrics and shift based on findings. Depending on your platform needs, it’s helpful if they can crush an Instagram Story.
Digital Marketing Manager: Your website and web directory business listings are one of the first places a prospect or customer interacts with or locates your brand. Brick and mortar and B2B often businesses succeed in spite of their web efforts. You need to make it easier for customers to do business with you. This could mean a website refresh that makes it easier to contact you. It could be setting up an ecommerce website, adding online ordering capabilities or digital product catalog to your current website. This role will be key to the success of your digital transformation.
Who you’re looking for: This isn’t a place to skimp on experience or payroll. Many times a business new to digital will hire a co-worker’s kid fresh out of college or the VP’s niece or nephew. The person in this role should skew more technical than creative and not be afraid of acronyms like SEO, CMS, and GMB. They should know a spider isn’t just an insect and that WooCommerce isn’t something Rick Flair used to yell. You are looking for a geek, and unlike your high school days we mean that fondly.
Digital Advertising Coordinator: Don’t assume that the Social Media Manager should also do your Facebook ads. There’s so much more to paid digital advertising. There’s Google Adwords, (which is a whole different skill set), and there are display ads, (like banners on websites). Social advertising strategies run deep, and change by the day.
Who you’re looking for:Someone with experience building digital advertising campaigns, A/B testing, optimizing, and reporting on their results. Certifications are available for many advertising platforms and show coordinated effort and specific knowledge.
Email Manager: If your business is lucky enough to have an existing email list where subscribers have opted-in to receiving communication from you, email them. But also don’t annoy them. An Email Manager can help sort all this out. They ensure your lists are being optimized, templates are well-designed, copy is written for conversions, and that you’re testing to get the right results.
Who you’re looking for: A strategically-minded person who has prior experience within an ESP (email service provider) and is ready to take your businesses’ content and make magic happen by getting it to the right audiences’ inboxes.
Digital Designer: Depending on the level of visual resonance your business and brand holds, a designer can take you to new heights—especially when your audience is only connecting with you virtually. A designer can bring your content to life through video, graphics, memes, and all of the other visual languages of the internet. When it comes to digital platforms, a graphic speaks a thousand words.
Who you’re looking for: Someone who can talk the talk with file types and doesn’t bat an eye at resizing a piece of content to ensure it’s just the right fit for that digital platform. A great digital marketing designer can elevate your brand and make it stand out on a crowded social platform or in an email inbox, all while keeping the look and feel true to your business.
Digital Copywriter: This person will be able to walk in and dive into your brand, tone, and style like they’ve lived it their whole lives. They will be able to write content in short-form for social media, medium-form for blogs, or long-form for web, press releases, or white papers. They can also serve as a copyeditor for your content.
Who you’re looking for: You’re looking for someone who can shift tone and style for the audience of the platform they’re writing for, while still staying true to the nuance of your brand. They are independent workers and can do their own background research to fill in gaps, check on the details, and ensure consistency.
One or all of these roles can make a business shine as you shift to a digital focus. Often, you’ll be lucky enough to find a highly skilled person who’s a great mix of a number of these positions. In any case, it’s helpful to keep the above skills in mind when considering your next investment. Wherever you find yourself as a business owner, we hope this time can be one of transformation.