man wearing headset working on laptop
From pivoting sales and events virtually to ensuring your marketing efforts are carefully curated, there are several strategic ways to grow your business during a pandemic. — Getty Images/kupicoo

At a time when many companies are working remotely, operating at limited capacity or shut down completely, it may seem like there are few, if any, opportunities to achieve business growth. Despite these setbacks, there are ways to make the most of the current circumstances and continue growing your business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some things you can do to keep sales coming in and your customers and employees engaged, no matter where you (or they) are.

Be strategic about your digital marketing efforts

Although many digital marketing channels like blogs, email newsletters and social media are free or low-cost, businesses trying to grow right now must be strategic about the time and resources they dedicate to their marketing efforts.

"We have to careful and resourceful with every dollar we invest in marketing," said Mark Kohlenberg, who launched Milwaukee Boot Company this summer in the midst of the pandemic. "We don't have the luxury of trial and error; we have to execute every single time. Achieving awareness for a new non-essential brand in the middle of a pandemic is extremely challenging. We have to work harder … to ramp up quickly."

[Read: Free Marketing Tools for Your Small Business]

Keith Phillips, CEO of realLINGUA, agreed that carefully planned marketing campaigns are essential to business growth, especially in the current climate. More importantly, companies need to measure results to understand what's working and what isn't.

"The key for us has been … tracking the effects of our marketing efforts and making constant adjustments according to what the data and customers are telling us," Phillips told CO—. "Of course, this is really marketing 101, but as a startup faced with unprecedented resource constraints due to the pandemic, we’ve had to get laser-focused more quickly than normal."

Consider your customers' perspective when interacting with them

Social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn have become even more important for brands that want to stay connected to their customer in the age of remote work and store closures.

To make the most of social media right now, identify your target customers and pay close attention to what they're saying and doing online. At a time when everyone is feeling uncertain about their health and the economy, you can stand out by responding to your customers' current needs and concerns, and addressing things from their perspective.

"Look at your brand from the vantage point of the consumer," said Kohlenberg. "Are you different? Are you affordable? Does the market really need you? There is always opportunity for uniqueness and compelling products regardless of the economy, but in these times, it requires a careful and well-executed approach."

[Read: 5 Ways to Retain Your Customers During the Coronavirus Outbreak]

Brush up on your virtual selling skills

Most companies have shifted their sales processes into the virtual realm, but just because you're pitching over a Zoom call doesn't mean it's any less professional. Treat your virtual sales calls like in-person meetings and prioritize first impressions. Dress professionally, optimize your background and home office environment, and make sure your audio and video are clear for seamless communication.

When selling virtually, it helps to provide value up front. Be proactive and offer relevant, useful resources like tools, guides and workbooks to your prospects. This will keep you top of mind for your target customers, even if you don't close the sale right away — a challenge many startups are facing during the pandemic.

"Our target markets became a bit slower in their purchase decisions, which then lengthened the sales cycles within … our [business development] strategies," said Phillips.

There is always opportunity for uniqueness and compelling products regardless of the economy, but in these times, it requires a careful and well-executed approach.

Mark Kohlenberg, founder, Milwaukee Boot Company

Host virtual events that will interest and educate your audience

Planning and hosting virtual events that are relevant to your target customers' needs is a great way to provide value while reaching people in the comfort of their homes. Of course, because these events are becoming commonplace, you’ll need to find ways to make your webinar stand out from the crowd.

Create an interactive experience and, if budget allows, provide incentives such as giveaways and expert speakers to entice people to join. End your event with a clear call to action that will leave your audience feeling connected to your brand and willing to continue a relationship with you.

Let your network know what you're doing

Business growth opportunities often present themselves when you know the right people. This is especially true during a global pandemic, when entrepreneurs are all trying to connect and help each other stay afloat.

That's why Phillips recommends focusing on networking right now — not only in terms of building new, valuable connections, but keeping your existing contacts apprised of your current goals and progress.

"We have [been] keeping all of our supporters, stakeholders and our angel investor updated … on what we’ve been doing, the milestones we’ve been hitting, and our successes," he said. "The people 'in our corner,' so to speak, want to know about all of these things because they support us and believe in what we’re trying to accomplish."

The key, Phillips added, is to update but not inundate your network. Share your progress every once in a while, but do it "with a lot of tact and empathy that recognizes that things have been really, really difficult for everyone all around the globe," he said.

Prioritize authentic, transparent communication with customers and employees

Like you, your customers are likely feeling scared or uncertain about the pandemic, but they'll remember the companies that reached out and supported them during these difficult times. Take a holistic approach to your customer communication strategy that includes the changes you’ve made due to COVID-19 and what they can expect from your business.

Don't forget to check in on your employees, too. Your team needs leadership in a time of crisis, and they'll turn to you for updates on how the pandemic is impacting the company.

Use this time to build a stronger sense of community among your team members. This can give your employees a better sense of their value to the company and make them feel more motivated and productive, which ultimately leads to business growth.

[Read: How to Manage Employees Through Difficult Times]

Regardless of the audience, be authentic and transparent in all your communications, and remember to listen to your customers and staff. Asking about their circumstances and checking in on them shows you value them as people. Pandemic or not, a little bit of empathy goes a long way.

For more resources on adapting and growing during COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus Small Business Survival Guide.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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