This is not a time to panic. I repeat, this is not a time to panic. This is a time to pivot and prepare for what’s to come, even though it might not be crystal clear at this moment. With everything currently hanging in the balance, it’s imperative that your business is not. 

Your customers and clients are still there. They’re just stuck at home with their kids or roommates or pets watching an excessive amount of Netflix and doing yoga in their living room. We all need to adjust to meet people where they are right now, literally and figuratively.

If you own a business that is stuck in the paper and pen era or has yet to adopt a digital presence, now is the time to do so. Don’t beat yourself up for not having done it in the past; we’re not mad at you. There’s no better time than the present, so let’s take some action.

We’ve been having a lot of chats amongst our team at DSM and one thing that keeps coming up in conversation is that this unfortunate pandemic is going to catapult traditional businesses forward into the virtual world – whether they like it or not. Businesses that function on a face-to-face basis or are structured with pen and paper are going to have to make some moves to stay afloat.

This might just be the push some traditional industries need to go digital and benefit from all it has to offer. 

And, as we promised, we’re here for you. We pride ourselves on helping one another and doing the right thing. As self-proclaimed internet nerds and Google Chrome extension aficionados, we’ve done our due diligence to compile a list of recommendations for next steps and free (or super cheap) tools to get you started on your digital acceptance journey. 

Let’s start with the basics:

The bomb.com 

Do you have a website? Even if it’s just one page, can people “Google” your company’s name and find you? Believe it or not, there are folks out there who don’t exist somewhere with a .com after their name.

As we said earlier, that’s okay. Take this as a sign from the business heavens to jump on the bandwagon. You can create a beautiful and simple site with practically free tools like Wix, Squarespace or WordPress

At the very least, make sure you have your contact information and the most updated details about your business during this unusual time on your website. Are your hours limited? Are you only taking phone calls? Are your delivery and take-out options still available? Are you only booking virtual appointments? Let everyone know. 

Make sure you have a phone number for people to call or a place for people to submit a question so you can connect with your customers and clients easily. Remember- don’t panic, keep it simple and just provide what is relevant and important. No need to design the Mona Lisa of websites right now.

Be a social butterfly

We are going to sound like a broken record throughout this post, so apologies in advance. 

Now is not the time to think you’re too old for social media or be fearful of it. Your customers and clients are looking for you and you want them to know you’re still here and adapting to these changing times like a pro. 

Again, keep it simple. A Lot of people are on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and/or Yelp – so make sure you are too. Create a page for your business with your basic information and keep your audience in the loop on what’s happening with your products or services. Good or bad, your loyal customers want to be involved. No one wants to go searching for simple answers, so provide them upfront before anyone has to call your office (which is empty because we’re all social distancing) for the answers. 

Before we found ourselves in this pandemic, we were (and still are) in a “Google first” world. Is your favorite pizza place still open for take-out? Google it, find their Facebook page, see the most recent post that says, “Hey gang, it may be cold and desolate on the streets but we’re still cookin’ hot pies in our oven – come and get them for take-out or delivery.” Question answered.

If you haven’t already, you could try an easy to use and virtually free customizable online menu service like eMenuExpress and start connecting your restaurant to the hungry consumers who are looking for information on how and when they can get their food safely. eMenuExpress offers the lowest industry fees, immediate payments on all your web orders and most importantly a way to communicate updates to your menu quickly.

Hello, can anyone see me?!

So, you’ve gotten yourself a seat on the social media train – well done.

Now, use these pages to tell your community what’s going on. Specials, closings, hours of operation changes, etc. You can use resources like Pexels and Freepik for royalty-free stock photography and Canva or PicMonkey to edit them, or create any kind of marketing material you need from scratch. Posters, Facebook Posts, YouTube page artwork, menus, Instagram stories, literally anything. There are templates and great ideas to get you up and running. No graphic design degree required. (Don’t tell our creative team we said that.)

Not everything you post on social media needs to be custom-created on Canva, but it does help if what you put out into the world looks like you thought about it and matches your brand’s look and feel. Uniform logos, colors and fonts are a great place to start.

Put your best face forward, literally

Another amazing tool that a lot of people have adopted now more than ever is video conferencing. This is something that a vast part of the world has access to. All smartphones have front-facing cameras and most laptops come with built-in cameras. The video conferencing apps out there like Zoom, UberConference, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. are accessible on mobile devices or laptops and desktops, which makes it that much easier.

You can literally be on a face-to-face call with a client, interviewing someone for a new position, having a team meeting from the comfort of your home office (a.k.a. your couch) or even teaching a fitness class. If these types of tools have made you nervous in the past, it’s time to put your adult pants on and go for it. 

Everyone will be a bit forgiving during this very transitional time, so take advantage and just jump in. No one will judge you for having a technical difficulty logging on to Zoom for the first time. We are all adapting and thinking on our feet. 

Sharing is caring

Video conferencing apps usually come equipped with some kind of screen sharing option, which is great. At DSM, we use screen sharing for all sorts of things from client conference calls, to team meetings to training. 

With a click of a button, you can be walking a client through a contract that’s on your screen even though you’re miles apart or you can be reviewing an assignment with a student who’s having trouble with a certain topic. Anything you’re looking at on your computer or phone can be made visible to the person on the receiving end. Plus, you can collaborate with them on these items in real-time instead of sending an email attachment and waiting for a reply.

Ready to take screen sharing one step further? Applications like Vidyard and Loom allow you to record video of your own screen while simultaneously taking a video of you speaking. We love using apps like this when we are seeing a problem on a website and need to show a teammate what we are looking at and explain the issue to them at the same time. They’re so useful and the options with apps like these are endless. 

Working from home or in separate locations should not stop you from collaborating with your team, stakeholders, customers or even strangers. Access to others is at the tips of our fingers, so take advantage. 

Who’s picking up the phone at your office?

Maybe your customers need to get on the phone with you to discuss something specific. Hopefully, you’ve already forwarded your office phones to your personal phone, but if you need to get a new number set up quickly, you might want to try something like Kall8. This is also a great time to implement call tracking software like Dial800. They capture a slew of data about who your callers are and how they found you that you can use to make better marketing decisions. With people picking up the phone instead of coming through your doors, this is a great time to start capturing data.

Don’t forget about the (virtual) human touch 

As you begin to transform your business into a virtual entity, it can be easy to forget that human interaction and relationships are at the core of every company. Like we’ve said before, working remotely doesn’t mean your business can’t collaborate together like you’re back in the office. 

In fact, with tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, it’s never been easier to stay up to date with your staff and give them the support they need to feel engaged and rewarded while working remotely. 

Yes, it can be done – and we would argue it needs to be done now more than ever with everything going on around us. 

Both of these platforms support instant messaging, group chats and audio or video calls. They make talking to your team as easy as walking over to their desk, just like when you’re at the office. Don’t worry, if you’re afraid about distractions, there are plenty of options to manage your notifications. 

Slack and Microsoft Teams make real-time communication seamless. No more picking up the phone and getting a voicemail or waiting hours for an email response. They’ll give your staff a better sense of belonging and facilitate increased teamwork, collaboration and productivity. It’s a win-win for everyone. 

It’s no surprise then that companies are now using them in unprecedented ways to stay in touch as we all adjust to working remotely. 

Team building hasn’t stopped for many forward-thinking companies. Rather, it’s gone virtual, too. From online book clubs to movie nights, companies are using these tools to give employees a much needed social fabric they can rely on during this trying time. 

At DSM, we’ve begun holding everything from working group sessions to our Friday happy hours online over Slack video calls. It’s been a great way to stay in touch, brainstorm ways to support our clients and, of course, share our top Netflix picks for staying sane during this quarantine.  

digital business

Although we are very excited for you to get yourself online, remember that this is not just something you need to do to supplement for right now. You are preparing your business for the future. If the world is becoming anything, it’s becoming more digitally accepting. If you want to keep your piece of the pie, you’ll need to pivot from what you might have been doing for the past 30 years and prepare for the changes to come so you’ll be in a better place for the next “toilet paper apocalypse.”

We’ve seen pandemics before, we’re in one now and we may see one again. Brace yourself for impact rather than fighting for the last life vest on board. It will be worth it.