Kim Grotto

Kim Grotto: Effective Marketing Strategies in Times of Crisis

Kim Grotto is the Founder and Owner of Grotto Marketing. Grotto Marketing quickly gets to the heart of what’s important, crafts a strategy and builds a system to deliver business growth.

Join Kim Grotto and Lauren Barron’s webinar:

April 9th at 11am

Below, she provides advice and actionable strategies on how to approach your business marketing in the midst of these tough times.

Times-and People-Have Changed

Our current state will last longer than a few weeks. I think it will be at least into the fall, and we should expect about 18 months transition from “before” to “after”. After does not mean back to business as usual. The world is forever changed. Here are a few of my observations:

We are seeing innovation and adoption at a record pace (examples include food delivery,eLearning and performances). This will only continue as businesses are forced to pivot and adapt or close their doors.

The longer the uncertainty remains, the more people will face a reckoning of their values, behaviors and habits. Social chatter reveals a renewed focus on hyper-local community, mental well-being, exercising, supporting small business, education, and the arts… with a willingness to pay for it.

Building an Online Presence

It is more important than ever to have an online presence. This is the way people will discover you and is an efficient way to communicate in times like these. In some instances, your digital delivery will also be your only revenue stream.

Focus on the fundamentals. Are you satisfied with your website? Can it deliver your products and services, today? What eCommerce options do you have and how quickly can you build it? Have you claimed your Google and Bing business listing? Do you own all of your social media handles and is your information up to date? How regularly are you communicating? When was the last time you sent an email to your audience?

A DISRUPTION OF THIS MAGNITUDE OPENS UP MANY OPPORTUNITIES

With so much of us stuck behind closed doors, computers and phones are the gateway to the outside world. If you’re not interacting online, you’re at risk of being forgotten.

The Power of Communication

If your tactic is to outshout everyone else, stop it. There’s always someone willing to yell louder. And if you’re using social media as a billboard, you’ll go unnoticed. With 24/7 news cycle captivating our feeds, you must take a hard look at your communications strategy and adjust it according to today’s conditions:

Focus on communicating and connecting over your values, not your product. Now more than ever, people are seeking a genuine connection, and they’ll pay attention to those who create it.

Do not assume people know anything. Do not expect them to connect the dots.

Deliver digestible chunks of information. In the reactive state we are in, the average person- more than ever- doesn’t have the attention span or capacity to process a long-winded message with multiple takeaway points. Bullet points and 2-3 sentence paragraphs are your friend.

Concentrate on frequency and repetition. In this environment, it may take 3-5 exposures to your message for someone to take notice and for it to sink-in.

I will note that audiences seeking thought leadership and evergreen content will have a higher tolerance for well-thought, more in-depth pieces.

Create a Marketing Strategy

There’s a reason marketers have one strategy for prospects (acquisition) and one strategy for customers (retention, cross-sell, upsells, referrals). Zero in on your audiences and strategize for them individually.

Remember: a disruption of this magnitude opens up many opportunities.

Covid-19 is a pretty big interruption to the usual thought patterns and routines. People’s everyday lives are completely different. Their habits and routines have been turned upside down. They’re searching for answers and sharing information like crazy. And their values and character are being pressure tested.

Collectively, this opens the door to discovering new solutions and exploring new ways of doing things. There’s an opportunity for awareness and, if the meaning, value, and relevance are there, there’s a willingness to try it out. Think about your prospects and customers as individuals and meet them where they are.

Lean into Marketing

Do not cut your marketing budget to zero! I know it’s the go-to expense to pull back on but there are much wider implications to this than simply advertising dollars. Effective marketing encompasses both strategic and tactical execution to drive awareness, consideration, and conversion. If you eliminate it, you’ll not only lower expenses, you’ll simultaneously reduce the opportunity for revenue, growth, and innovation. Now is the time to lean into your marketing. Just make sure you invest in it wisely.

The following are just a few of the many strategies you can implement into your business to continue to advantage and grow your business. Thank you to Kim Grotto for sharing her insights.

Stay Up to Date

Learn more about Grotto Marketing and the ways in which they can help grow your company by visiting their website!

Connect with Grotto Marketing on Instagram and LinkedIn. Find Kim on LinkedIn.

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

Lauren Barron: Helping Entrepreneurs Navigate a New Normal

Lauren Barron received an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management; she is also the founder and co-owner of Gray Matters Games (GMG). GMG is a company that creates lively and cognitively challenging board game experiences for people with active minds. Through its games, Gray Matters promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research. She shares her advice on how to tackle the challenging times ahead.

Join Lauren Barron and Kim Grotto’s webinar:

April 9th at 11am

Planning Ahead

COVID-19 and the economic impact it has will fundamentally change the small business landscape. If you are not already, you need to think about this as more than a 2-4 week issue. There will be supply chain shocks that have not yet manifested, consumer confidence may be shaky and people will just operate their day-to-day lives differently. Plan now as if this will impact your business at least through the end of 2020. The good news here is that – if you tackle this head-on, make the tough choices now and consider how COVID-19 can help you adapt your business model, you can absolutely come out of this with a stronger business.

Do Not be Complacent

I worked with struggling business owners for 5 years during the last recession, and the ONLY commonality among the businesses who did not make it were that they were complacent – either in their business model, in how they managed their financials or both. I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

So – the big question on every small business owner’s mind is: Now What?

I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

Understanding Customer Demand

I have put together a list of high-level questions to help you start to take inventory of your situation:

Is there still demand for my product or service? All of these questions will help you assess flexibility in your revenue line, which is comprised of two main drivers – demand/volume and pricing.

If the answer is no, consider this: What will customers want when demand returns? OR What does my business offer that’s of value that can drive demand?

Travel-related businesses are a great example of this – demand is low right now; however, domestic travel is likely to recover quicker than international travel in the coming months. What can you do now to address this forthcoming need? Are there domestic travel packages you can devise that will help people with vacations in late summer or fall this year? If yes, start working on them now.

If the answer is yes, but people can’t access your business the way they normally do, what can you do to adapt? Move to virtual services, move selling on to your website, offer delivery, curb-side, etc.?

If the answer is yes, but pricing is a barrier, what can you reasonably charge customers that helps them fit a budget and still covers your costs (at the very least – ideally, still making a profit)?

I am a huge proponent of charging your worth; however, right now, people need help. Let’s all remember that we are humans doing the best we can and try to be in service to each others’ businesses and success.

Reassess Your Business

What is happening in my cost structure? The time is now to reassess every single expense you have on your most recent P&L. What is a variable cost that can be eliminated or reduced now without negatively impacting your ability to operate? What is a fixed cost that can continue in the short term?

What is a fixed cost that would need to be eliminated if there is a protracted COVID-19 impact or resulting recession? Assess your resources – what can technology do to help you eliminate manual processes or help lower payroll? Where are there opportunities to create other efficiencies in your operations?

What is the bare minimum you need to operate? Write a list of everything you would have to spend money on to service a baseline of demand. You should know this now, not later.

Can you seek relief related to utilities, rent or debt payments now? Don’t wait until you really need it – be proactive. Do you have subscription services or other regular expenses that are not necessary right now? Where else can you pivot and adapt on the cost side? What balance sheet risk am I willing to take?

There is a temptation right now to offer suppliers or customers extended terms. I urge you to think about this VERY carefully before agreeing. Unlike in other recessions, the impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, and unless you have intimate knowledge of a supplier’s financial situation, liquidity and ability to weather this storm, I would encourage you to protect your business as best you can. You have no idea if that supplier will go out of business and won’t be able to pay you in 60 or 90 days. You can always consider Cash on Order or Cash on Delivery as an alternative if you really need supply.

Show Your Value

Last point. If you have historically been a “push marketer,” you need to change your message now. The best thing you can do is: (i) show your value to clients and potential clients in their time of need, and (ii) BE IN SERVICE TO THEM – really and truly. Think every day about what’s in it for them and how you can help.

This list of questions is just the tip of the iceberg on how to navigate an unprecedented time to be a small business owner, but in a situation that can feel paralyzing, I hope it helps give you a start.

While these times are difficult, emotionally draining and, at times, scary for us all – please know this: there are people like me in your corner ready to assist. You do not have to do this alone – in fact, you shouldn’t. The small business community is a powerhouse of people who care a lot, and we stand ready to serve you. We are one.

Stay Up to Date

Learn more about Gray Matters Games and the fun board games they create by visiting their website!

Connect with Lauren on Instagram and LinkedIn.

For additional resources, visit our Small Business Resources to Overcome COVID-19 blog post.

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

Small Business Resources to Overcome COVID-19

The information in this post was last updated on April 8, 2020.

To help entrepreneurs and small business owners find the help they need in this time of great uncertainty, we have compiled a list of resources targeted at COVID-19 related business challenges. This list will be updated as new information and resources as they become available.

The College of DuPage Business Development Center website is being updated daily with information for COVID-19 Small Business Assistance.

See something we missed that should be included? Shoot us a message at ID@InnovationDuPage.org.

Financial Help

Loans and Grants

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act was unanimously passed by Congress on March 27th, 2020 and is the largest economic stimulus package in American history. This act involves multiple areas of assistance and this link will help you better understand what may apply to your small business. For additional information, check out the U.S Chamber of Commerce’s Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist’.

Small Business Association (SBA) Disaster Relief Loan

This loan brought to you by the SBA can be used for: Fixed Debts, Accounts Payable, Payroll, other Bills. For more details and information on how to apply, check out our dedicated ‘SBA Disaster Injury Loan’ post.

Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)

The WBDC knows that access to capital is critical for business success. They provide loans to small businesses who otherwise cannot get a loan from a bank.Loans are available to small businesses located in Northwest Illinois and targeted towards businesses with less than $1 Million in annual revenue.

Illinois Department of Commerce Loan

Small businesses are the backbone of the Illinois economy, and the Advantage Illinois program is there to assist. By working with the state’s banking community and venture capitalists, they help entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund

The Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund will help to provide small businesses with emergency cash flow during this immediate health crisis. Applications will begin to be accepted on March 31, 2020.

Facebook Small Business Grant Program

Facebook is offering cash grants and ad credits to businesses that may be experiencing disruptions in these uncertain times. The money given can support your workforce, help with your rent costs, connect with more customers, and cover operational costs.

Honeycomb Credit

Community sourced loans for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 via the crowdfunding platform. Honeycomb is offering 45-day payment free periods, 6-month interest-only periods and reducing their posting, success, and investor fees.

Google Ad Credits

$340 million in Google Ads credits available to all small and medium-sized businesses with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms.

Tax Relief

IRS Tax Relief

The IRS has announced the extension of tax filing and federal tax payment deadlines to July 15th. In addition, a plan is in place to implement a Coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses.

Illinois Tax Help

In an effort to assist eating and drinking establishments impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is waiving any penalty and interest that would have been imposed on late Sales Tax payments from qualified taxpayers.

What is Available to Employees as a Business Owner?

COVID-19 Changes to Unemployment Rules

Unemployment benefits may be available to some individuals whose unemployment is attributable to COVID-19. IDES recently adopted emergency rules to try to make the unemployment insurance system as responsive to the current situation as possible. Please review this link for the information to assist your employees.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

This program helps those with low-incomes buy the food needed for good health.

Tips for Working from Home

Github’s Guide to Remote Work

GitHub has curated a remote work emergency toolkit for leaders and managers and a remote work starter guide for employees to assist businesses during this time in order for everyone to maintain optimal productivity and stability.

Facebook Minimizing Business Disruption During Emergencies

Facebook is helping workplaces stay connected by helping minimize disruptions to businesses during emergencies. Utilize their multiple channels to stay in touch with customers and employees.

Video Conferencing Services

The following are video conferencing resources allowing businesses to stay connected and productive while working remotely.

Microsoft Resources

Google Hangouts

Go to Meeting by LogmeIn

Zoom

DuPage County Business Help

The College of DuPage Business Development Center

The Illinois SBDC/PTAC/ITC at College of DuPage, as expert advisors, are here to advise and guide small businesses within our community. They post a weekly COVID-19 Small Business Update answering questions they receive.

Choose DuPage

Choose DuPage is volunteering their expertise to assist businesses in DuPage County. Get help with Banking, Education, Insurance, Legal, and Marketing. Join the conversation on social media about what businesses and residents are doing to help during these times by using the #DuPageDifference.

DuPage County Health Department

A resource in maintaining the health and safety of residence of the DuPage county. Stay up to date on what is happening in your area.

Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce

View the WDCC’s informational fliers in relation to COVID-19 and how they are supporting businesses during this time .

Western Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The WSSCI is committed to serving regional businesses and community prosperity through best practices, advocacy, access to leaders, economic development, collaboration and business education. Check out their page for a list of resources available to those impacted by COVID-19.

Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce

View what professions are considered essential and non-essential along with a list of local grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices and other critical services located near Glen Ellyn.

New Policies and Legal Resources

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

IDFPR has announced new guidance on license expirations dates, continuing ed deadlines, and more to help licensees maintain their licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can find the official press release here .

Insurance Interruption Coverage

Your business insurance may contain interruption coverage you can use during COVID-19, learn more by clicking the title.

Emergency Family & Medical Leave Expansion Act

On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and signed. These are two provisions providing paid leave to employees forced to miss work because of the COVID-19 outbreak: the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Learn more about how this could serve you in the link.

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

Woman looking at her laptop

SBA COVID-19 Disaster Injury Loans

The information in this post was last updated on April 8, 2020. It will be updated as new information is released.

The College of DuPage Business Development Center website is being updated daily with information for COVID-19 Small Business Assistance.

As small businesses and entrepreneurs face fear and uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) has been working tirelessly to make vital resources and assistance available. On March 17th, the SBA announced new Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for small business owners impacted by the Coronavirus.

The SBA is now offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury from COVID-19.

Read below to learn how your business could benefit:

SBA COVID-19 Disaster Injury Loan for Small Business Working Capital

Loans can be used for: Fixed Debts, Accounts Payable, Payroll, other bills that can not be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

For more information regarding the:

  • Collateral needed
  • Fixed interest rate of 3.75 percent for small businesses, 2.75 percent for non-profits
  • Long-term repayments with a maximum of 30 years
  • History of revenue necessary

Please visit the Coronavirus Disaster Assistance page.

Things to know

Repayment does not start until 4 months after you sign the promissory note. You can put the payout on hold if you do not need the money immediately.

The credit scores of all owners with more than 20% ownership are extremely important. If your credit score was great in the past, and if it declined due to COVID-19, have proof of it.

The timeline from a complete loan application to payout is 3-5 business days. You will need to prove that the business is able to make the payments through operations (have a previous Profit & Loss report) and with a personal financial statement.

SCAM ALERT: There have been reports of scams COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans. To avoid these, remember THERE’S NO:

  • Immediate deadline to apply
  • Application fee
  • Credit card information required

Eligibility

Screenshot

According to the SBA office of disaster assistance, “small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are currently eligible to apply for a long-term, low-interest loan due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

This loan is only available for natural-born U.S. citizens or those with a valid permanent resident card(green card). As we find out about other economic support programs for those business owners who do not possess these qualifications, we will let the public know.

Applicants must additionally be able to show a loss effective January 31, 2020, to now and/or in the future, as compared to 2019 financials.

Application

You can now begin the application process.

UPDATE: Due to problems caused by high traffic volume, the SBA has streamlined its application process requirements into a new three-part webform. Find the easy-to-follow online application form here.

START EARLY – the biggest reason for delays in processing is due to missing information. Make sure to complete all requirements before submitting.

Next Steps

Need assistance with your application? Find your local Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center, or SCORE mentorship chapter here. For up-to-date information on the help that the SBDC is providing, sign up for their email list.

If your business is suffering economically and has a current business loan with any lender, consider contacting your lender to request a loan modification (interest only payments, partial or complete payment abatement, etc.) for the months in number it will allow; the bank’s ability to respond will be dependent on the type of loan product you have such as SBA guaranty program loan, in house private bank loan, or online lender.

Want more help? Check out our growing list of small business resources to overcome COVID-19 HERE.

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.