Small- and medium-sized businesses have had it tough since the coronavirus pandemic began. Most countries locked down in response to COVID-19, which has caused lots of repercussions for SMBs, like:
- having to completely close brick-and-mortar locations for an undefined amount of time
- disruptions in supply chains, causing missing stock and shipping delays
- a drop in sales as people worldwide were laid off or furloughed and started spending less
But the beautiful thing about times of crisis is that people always seem to step up to help those who are struggling. Nonprofits have sprung into action to provide food and supplies. Medical workers have put forth superhuman efforts to care for the sick. Individuals have hand-sewn masks and sung from balconies to boost spirits. ❤️
Organizations of all kinds are offering assistance programs and extra resources for struggling SMBs, too. Our communities wouldn't be the same without these businesses, so it's important to all of us to help see them through these trying times. If you're part of a small business that's been negatively impacted by the virus, read on! We've put together a list of resources and tips to help you weather the storm.
Chatfuel's SMB Assistance Program
Chatfuel is proud to offer a helping hand to small- and medium-sized businesses during the pandemic. Here's a list of the programs and resources we've launched for your business to take advantage of:
- Free Pro features for everyone 🆓 As of May 29, 2020, we've decided to make every Chatfuel Pro feature free for all users. That means you'll have access to game-changing tools like A/B testing, our Facebook Ads integration, and Cart Reminders for the first 50 users of your chatbot.
- 20% more users free for SMBs 👥 Once you've validated your concept with 50 bot users, you can upgrade to a larger audience. For qualifying SMBs, we're offering 20% more chatbot users free for the rest of 2020 when you upgrade your bot to Pro. That way, you don't have to invest until you've started seeing returns with your bot. Even then, it'll cost you less to reach more prospects and customers. Apply for this discount.
- $100 in Facebook ads credits, free 💵 Facebook has made it possible for us to offer free ads credits to qualifying SMBs, too. You can use them to advertise delivery services your restaurant now offers. Or, advertise to help sell merchandise from your gym or fitness studio online while your doors are closed. Apply to claim your $100 ads credits.
- The opportunity to make your voice heard 📣 We want to know what else we can do to support your small business during these difficult times. Reach out to us here with additional feedback.
Other resources for small businesses
Plenty of other organizations have stepped up to offer small business resources during this time, too! Check out some of the top assistance programs for small or local organizations like yours.
Facebook has created several different types of resources to support your small business during COVID-19. They have:
- a small business grants program
- new tools and sections to add to your Facebook page to keep your audience informed about your business during the pandemic
- a free online course on how to take your business online
...and more. Take a look and take advantage!
Google is providing small business resources to help you take your operation (or aspects of it) online. They have:
- made their premium video meetings free for everyone, to make digital communication with staff, vendors, and others easier
- tips and advice for keeping customers informed and adapting your advertising
- free digital skills trainings to help you boost your business
Shopify has released lots of new resources to help small- and medium-sized ecommerce businesses through the coronavirus pandemic, including:
- educational resources like courses and live webinars
- new shipping options, like local pickup and the ability to print shipping labels from home
- a new Pinterest integration and ads credits to help your business advertise
- access to financial support and resources, like funding applications and advice on strategy
Shopify also still regularly publishes helpful content for new and experienced sellers. You can also access their Experts Marketplace if you'd like to hire marketing agencies or freelancers to help you grow.
Mailchimp has committed to offering these services for small businesses in the COVID-19 pandemic:
- up to three months of Mailchimp free for qualifying small businesses
- free .coms for qualifying small business websites for five years
- a local business directory that can help your brand get more exposure
Hubspot has pledged to support SMBs during this time by:
- cutting the price of their Starter Growth Suite in half for small businesses, and increasing call and email limits for 90 days
- making some of their most popular tools free for SMBs for 90 days
- launching a new educational content series called Adapt 2020 to cover relevant marketing and sales topics
Their coronavirus response page also has information on how they're protecting their own employees and supporting the community during this time.
Instagram's response to COVID-19 has focused on making it easier for businesses to communicate and sell on the platform. They now offer small businesses the ability to do all of the following using Story stickers:
- sell gift cards
- offer food-delivery options
- ask for donations
Learn more about Instagram's new features for SMBs.
Is your small business active on TikTok? If not, now could be a good time to start. They're offering $100M in ads credits to small businesses. Their COVID-19 response page also details how they're supporting the greater community with donations and educational resources.
Yelp is looking to help local organizations dealing with COVID-19 and its effects too—especially "independent local restaurant and nightlife businesses." They're offering:
- free access to Yelp page upgrades
- three months of free access to reservations features for restaurants
- $100 in free ads credits for restaurants offering delivery/takeout
- temporarily waived advertising fees for qualifying businesses
They're also making some updates to their website and app to make it easier for consumers to support their favorite local businesses. Find more information on their pandemic-response page.
Carson's COVID-19 response page says it well: "Remember, it’s not one thing/offer/program that will help us, as business owners, navigate this economic downturn, but rather a combination of smart decisions, resourcefulness, optimism + community support." 💙
They've also collected special offers for almost 150 Shopify apps for small ecommerce businesses (an estimated value of $5k-10k USD!). They're offering major discounts for these apps for a few months, or "until the storm passes."
SMSBump wants to make it easier for small businesses to reach their audience via SMS during these times. They're offering these resources to help small businesses through the pandemic :
- a 14-day free trial of their paid plans
- 5x startup text credits for new customers
- 24/7 premium support to help businesses get up and running with their platform fast
Tips to give your small business a boost during the pandemic
Finally, here are some strategies your small or local business can use to keep your audience informed and your doors (real or virtual) open during the pandemic.
Offer gift cards 🎁
Did you know? Facebook has partnered with brands like Shopify and PayPal to make it easier for you to offer digital gift cards to your audience. Gift cards give your loyal customers a way to support you from home. Then, they can redeem them for your products or services when you reopen.
Facebook has information on their gift card program, from how to sign up with partners to free post templates you can use to advertise your gift cards. (You can now promote gift-card sales in Instagram Stories, too.)
Sell merchandise online 💳
This tip isn't just for ecommerce merchants! If you run a gym or yoga studio, for example, you can set up a basic ecommerce shop to sell your merchandise online. Restaurants and cafés that have branded t-shirts, mugs, etc. can do the same to bring in revenue while their doors are closed, or capacity is limited.
Offer delivery 📦
When you think of delivery, food is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Restaurants in places where dining is still not allowed can switch to delivery and takeout options. You can offer your full menu, a limited menu, or even sell kits of your ingredients that customers can use to make fresh meals at home. (This last option can help you generate content from users for your social media, too! You could ask customers to share photos or video of them preparing their meals to help you advertise your service.)
It's relatively easy to get set up on one of the major food delivery apps, like Uber Eats or DoorDash. Or, if you have the resources and want to avoid a third party taking a cut, you can set up your own online ordering system. Or, stick to taking orders over the phone. Just make sure to follow safety and hygiene precautions to avoid spreading the virus during delivery or pickup.
Local delivery may be an option for other types of businesses too. A bookstore could deliver a new bestseller to local readers who were on the waitlist, for a fee. A café could deliver orders of their coffee beans to locals who order $X worth or more. If you have the resources, get creative with delivery ideas for your business during the pandemic.
Look for ways you can educate your community 🎓
To keep your customers engaged, consider sharing entertaining and educational resources with them while your doors are closed. It'll help keep your brand top of mind for your audience, so they'll support you when your doors open again. Or, you could even ask for donations or collect a small fee to generate some revenue, depending on the digital resource you create. Some ideas:
- A pottery studio could offer craft tutorials using household supplies 🖌
- A bike shop could share videos on at-home bike-maintenance basics 🚲
- A yoga studio could offer guided, donation-based sessions live on social media every week 🧘♂️
We've started running a (free) weekly livestream on bot-building and marketing here at Chatfuel, too! Join us on YouTube for Chatfuel School every Wednesday at 11am PST. You can sign up to get a Messenger reminder when we go live, too.
Missed a session? Get the notes on our blog, or check out past recordings on our YouTube channel. Here's one! 👇🍎
Partner with other small businesses 🤝
Now's a great time to build relationships with other small businesses in your community. You could partner up to provide your services, like a coffee shop and a bakery letting customers order their products together. Or, you could simply partner up for promotions. Support other small businesses relevant to your audience on social media (and encourage them to do the same) so you both can benefit from the other's followings.
Build a chatbot 🤖
A Messenger chatbot is a powerful tool, especially in times like these. The best part: Anyone can build a bot with a no-code platform like Chatfuel! (Get started with a free account today.) Here are just a few ways chatbot marketing can benefit your business during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Answer FAQs about your business instantly, 24/7. Save your staff time and get your audience the information they need—fast.
- Tell new people about your business. Run click-to-Messenger ads to market the products or services your business is still offering during the pandemic. They'll bring users right to your chatbot, which can then offer more information and get users to convert.
- Generate and qualify leads. If your local business is now selling any services digitally, a chatbot can help you get new leads.
- Sell products. If you're selling products or merchandise, a Messenger chatbot can help with that too. It can recommend products based on a user's specific preferences, and encourage them to buy. A bot can also send abandoned-cart reminders to boost sales.
Learn more about why your business needs a chatbot. ✅
Offer product bundles 👯♂️
If you own a small- or medium-sized ecommerce business, product bundles can help you boost sales during the pandemic too. This tactic is especially effective if the bundles make sense for people while they're at home in quarantine. For example, imagine that you sell...
- Hair-care products🧴 You could create a bundle of shampoo, conditioner, and some special deep-conditioning treatments. That way, customers can enjoy a high-quality hair-care routine at home until their favorite salon reopens.
- Bedding 🛏 You might build a bundle of your most comfortable sheets, a plush duvet cover, and a satin sleep mask. You could aim it at those who want to make their bedroom as luxurious as a hotel, since vacations have been postponed because of the pandemic.
- Gardening supplies 🌱 Since at-home gardening is on the rise since quarantine began, you could create a product bundle for that. It could include a few small pots, starter seeds, a trowel, and an email or chatbot message with a video on gardening for beginners.
Get more tips on selling ecommerce products during the pandemic.
We stand with small businesses 💙
Small businesses are part of the fabric of every community, so we can all benefit from showing extra support for SMBs during this time. We hope that the resources we've collected here will help your SMB come out the other side of the pandemic intact and stronger than ever. Let's save small business! We're in this together.