Powering Small Business Through The Pandemic - Forbes

Powering Small Business Through The Pandemic - Forbes


Powering Small Business Through The Pandemic - Forbes

Posted: 15 Dec 2020 07:21 AM PST

Second in my series celebrating ingenuity despite the pandemic, today's piece salutes GoDaddy in an abridged interview with Fara Howard, CMO of GoDaddy.

MaryLee Sachs: Open We Stand was such a novel program and it seems like it came together really quickly after the pandemic set in. How did you mobilize so quickly.

Fara Howard: It is a campaign that became a movement for GoDaddy because it's so connected to our mission, which is part of why it was so powerful. It was created by our in-house team called GoDaddy Studios. Since we were among the first to shut down (on the west coast, our creative teams immediately started to build great empathy for what was happening in our communities and for our small business customers. They came back within a week of being home and said, 'We need to change our campaign strategy,' and brought forward the premise Open We Stand.

I think the strength of the campaign and the movement is the fact that it was driven by human insight, which is what was happening in the world made us all want to be open, physically open, emotionally open. It was a campaign premise that related to everyone, whether you are a small business or not. And what we learned at the same time was there was an opportunity to make this so much more than a campaign. So Open We Stand really quickly evolved in a three week window. We launched on YouTube on March 25th with the campaign, but the campaign quickly then evolved into being more than that and became an opportunity for us to outreach to many, many partners to join us. And we made a decision to direct all traffic from our advertising to openwestand.org instead of godaddy.com.

As a result, we were able to get a lot of traction really quickly because everyone we reached out to said, 'Yes, we want to help small business too, how can we join in?'. So, the campaign evolved pretty quickly as a result.

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MaryLee Sachs: You had a lot of partners. How quickly did that come together?

Fara Howard: We did have a lot of partners, over 70 in the end, which is great. And when I say in the end, we're far from done. So over 70 as of now. And that also unfolded quickly. In our first month, many of the conversations were around asking partners to join us and actually go to market with us, with their media. And as you could imagine, all companies and all marketers were scrambling trying to figure out how to communicate, what to communicate. And so that proposition wasn't as compelling as a, 'Join us, bring forward your content and your offers and we'll host it on a central location,' hence openwestand.org.

And as soon as that premise was brought forward to partners, they started signing up very rapidly. So over a three-month window, or what felt like one long day, we brought the majority of those partners on board. And what was interesting is as we approached the summer, folks started reaching out to us directly saying, 'Hey, can I be a part of this?'. So it really shifted from pitching partners who work in our space and support small business, to partners coming to us.

MaryLee Sachs: What role did the organizational purpose play in all of this? Because it sounds there's a built-in ethos in the organization.

Fara Howard: Open We Stand is the manifestation of our corporate mission, which is to empower everyday entrepreneurs. Which is part of why I think not just the campaign was born quickly, but the organizational support of it being much more than a campaign also happened at the same pace. Open We Stand became an internal rallying cry too. Because we were also, all of us as human beings were figuring out what our new normal would be for the foreseeable future.

MaryLee Sachs: So what were two or three of the biggest challenges that you had with the advent of the pandemic from a marketing perspective?

Fara Howard: The first one was very tactical – how do we make the things that we make? It sounds very basic, but so much of what we do as marketers is physical. We are in-person, hands-on making stories in conjunction with our customers. But we couldn't go out in the field. We couldn't engage directly with customers and we had to employ very different ways to build content. I think the most important thing that we struggled with in the beginning was making certain that what we said and the tone of what we communicated to customers really resonated.

We're really fortunate in that a huge portion of our team are GoDaddy Guides who talk to our customers every day. So we have the opportunity to know real-time how our customers are feeling. We can rely on that firsthand data. And so we had to listen even more than we always do. And honestly, that's something we'll carry forward. We all should as marketers.

MaryLee Sachs: What have you done during the pandemic that will become much more of a permanent fixture? Obviously, listening has become really critical. Anything else that comes to mind?

Fara Howard: Yes, there are two other things. One, we were already actively featuring our customers in our stories. Ultimately, they are the hero that we are supporting through the work that we do. And we have had to, and are still continuing to acquiesce creative control to our customers. Because we're not leaving our homes, jumping on planes. So the customers remain the center of our stories, but letting them tell their own stories in their own way is something that we're starting to do more of, out of necessity. But personally, I think that those make the most authentic communication and content and so it's the right way to build marketing and messaging.

MaryLee Sachs: So how does that manifest itself?

Fara Howard: It's everything from having the customers provide their own content, where historically we would fly out a crew, be on set, do everything from coordinate their wardrobe, to thinking about lighting, to really having folks using their device and shooting themselves at home and providing that content to us. And that type of very real, sometimes perceived to be gritty, content has been received really well.

There's been lots of side-by-side Zoom episodes that we've syndicated, that have had really high engagement because it's the reality that we're all living in right now. So that is one area that we'll continue to do. The second is that historically I would say that marketers tend to think about communication specific to a campaign for a finite duration. And we have to employ more flexibility with how we engage with our customers. And so we have become incredibly flexible over the course of this past year. We've had to, and we have to continue to do that. The way we communicate with customers' needs to be consistent. But if mentality is changing, based on what's happening in the world, we need to respond to it and we'll continue to do that and be very, very nimble. It's one of the benefits of having an in-house team. You can do that quite easily.

MaryLee Sachs: So we're getting to the end of 2020, and we've all learned a lot of things. What are some of the new things that you might be thinking about putting in place for 2021?

Fara Howard: Some of the things that we are thinking about is partly continuing what we've done. Open We Stand as a premise is far from over. We all seek to be open. We all want to be able to stand up and bring our ideas into the world.

Additional things that you can expect from us will be different year over year, but for one, our tone will be more optimistic. I recognize that 2021 is just another date on the calendar, but psychologically, people enter new years with optimism. We want to embrace that optimism and help entrepreneurs know through our tools and what we offer them, that they can be successful. There's lots of messaging in the marketplace with quite somber tone in these challenging times. Folks know it's challenging, they don't want to be reminded of it. So you can expect appropriate optimism from us in terms of how we communicate with our customers.

Another thing is that we'll talk much more about the full set of tools that we have for customers. E-commerce is critically important. We've been talking a lot about our e-commerce tools and capabilities, our digital marketing capabilities. These are all ways that today new entrepreneurs are going to market with that first, where often they would buy a domain, buy a website, and then start moving into e-commerce or marketing. So you'll hear us talk to customers about starting differently, because we have lots of different ways for them to get their idea out into the world.

I think those are the big things. Again, I do believe that continuity in communication's really important. And like I said, unfortunately, there will be some continuity into 2021. Businesses are not as open as they want to be, nor are cities. But like I said, expect us to be able to lift up our customers and talk more about optimism.

MaryLee Sachs: What has changed in terms of the media mix or the marketing mix of tools that you're using?

Fara Howard: The media mix, in terms of what we're communicating, needs to be more than just advertising. I'll give you two examples: the Open We Stand campaign, general movement, and openwestand.org website are all critical components of our marketing messaging. But so is content like Made in America, which is content that we've built with entrepreneurs where they are telling their stories about what it means to launch a business. So is content like School of Hustle, where folks are getting exposed to other entrepreneurs in an interview-based environment where they can learn what it means to be an entrepreneur. So are webinars; lots of learning content is critically important, and then finding ways to bring people together digitally.

So this year in September, we ran our first-ever digital event called the GoDaddy Open 2020. And that event is something that had incredible reception from our customers. It was a mix of inspirational content from folks by the likes of Guy Raz from NPR, as well as bringing forward GoDaddy Guides and experts who could teach our customers and prospects about the tools they have or the tools they should consider using to bring their business online.

Those are all really important parts of our mix. Additionally, we need to be present across a host of different channels. Television alone is not sufficient, even though people are watching more TV now than ever. So making sure that we're in digital media, in radio, looking at podcasts, really assessing where people are spending time and making certain that we're present there.

MaryLee Sachs: How did the Open We Stand program impact sales?

Fara Howard: If you look at our business performance over the course of the past year, our business performance has been incredibly strong based on our earnings reports. But what is also quite compelling to me as a marketing leader is yes, our existing customers are engaging with us, but more and more new customers are coming to us. So year to date, we've had over a million new customers join us at GoDaddy, and that's the largest nine-month increase that we've seen in our history. That's directly tied to both the products and services that we offer, but also the messages that we put out in the world.

We wish it didn't happen on the back of the pandemic, but we're very happy that future entrepreneurs are seeking us out for help.

MaryLee Sachs: One of the reasons why I'm doing this series is that it's been such a hard year for so many, but there's little bright spots, like what GoDaddy has done which should be an inspiration for doing something different.

Fara Howard: It has been tough. I will say in the spirit of bright spots, I've had many moments this year that have been goosebump, make-you-cry-in-meeting moments. Not just hearing the customer stories, which are heartbreaking, but on the flip side, partners immediately saying, 'Yes, what can I do? How can I help?'. It was business for good. Folks coming together and saying, 'We really understand the importance of small business. What can we do?', which was awesome. And the coming together of organizations that wouldn't have historically is going to have a lasting positive impact on business and on small business, which gives me a ton of optimism for the future.

Stay tuned – tomorrow's piece will showcase a conversation with Bill Tine, Vice President of Marketing, King Arthur Baking.

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon says 90% of small businesses have exhausted PPP funds - CNBC

Posted: 15 Dec 2020 06:02 AM PST

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon told CNBC on Tuesday that small businesses it surveyed are in dire need of another round of emergency Paycheck Protection Program funding.

"They really have needs; 90% of them have exhausted their PPP funding at this point," Solomon told Becky Quick in a "Squawk Box" interview. "More than half of them have had to lay off employees and really constrain their businesses."

Solomon's comments come as lawmakers are taking negotiations to approve another coronavirus stimulus bill down to the wire. Most versions of bills being discussed include fresh funding for the government's small business relief loan program, part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in late March, as well as enhanced unemployment benefits.

Goldman has recently surveyed participants of its 10,000 Small Businesses program, a decade-long effort that gives entrepreneurs access to training and capital, Solomon said. The investment bank also announced that it funded the program with an additional $250 million, bringing its commitment this year to more than $1 billion.

"This is a huge employment engine for the economy, and they're suffering right now," Solomon said, adding that more than half of business owners weren't taking a salary to keep their operations afloat. "They need capital, liquidity to bridge them. They can see light at the end of the tunnel."

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett also spoke on "Squawk Box" on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to agree on a fresh round of support for small businesses. Buffett, who is co-chair of the Goldman program's advisory council, has been involved with the small business group since its inaugural class.

Small businesses "have become collateral damage in a war that our country needed to fight, but we in effect voluntarily had an induced shut down of parts of the economy and hit many types of small business very, very hard," Buffett said. "I hope very much they extend the PPP plan on a large scale."

Buffett and Goldman have a relationship that goes back more than a half century. While Buffett generally has a dim view of investment bankers, whom he has accused of pushing mergers that aren't in the best long-term interest of the companies involved, he has maintained close ties with Goldman over the years.

At the height of the financial crisis in 2008, Buffett plowed $5 billion into Goldman, getting special preferred shares paying a 10% dividend and warrants to buy another $5 billion in stock. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway sold most of his Goldman shares this year.

County awards Small Business Boost Grants - Thegardenisland.com

Posted: 15 Dec 2020 02:05 AM PST

LIHU'E — The County of Kaua'i announced it will provide grant funding to approximately 180 Kaua'i businesses that remain on its application waitlist for the Small Business Boost Grant Program, which originally opened in August.

The program is funded by the county's share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The $7,500 grants will be provided to qualifying small businesses and nonprofit organizations that have experienced a loss of business or change in business due to the pandemic.

These businesses applied during the initial application period in August. However, the program's $5 million funding was exhausted before their applications came up for review. The first $5 million of the Small Business Boost Grant funded 650 Kaua'i small businesses.

"The County of Kaua'i has been determined from the start to spend every dollar given to us through the CARES Act and ensure that funding goes directly into our economy and into our community," said Mayor Derek Kawakami.

"As the year comes to a close and our deadline for the CARES Act grant draws near, our county agencies and grant managers are working meticulously to meet our goal. That's why we have re-prioritized our CARES budget to provide an additional $1.35 million to our small businesses through this second round of the Small Business Boost Grant Program," he said.

All 180 applicants on the program's waitlist are being notified of their $7,500 grants.

The Small Business Boost Grant Program is administered by the following credit unions: Kaua'i Government Employees FCU, Gather FCU, HawaiiUSA FCU and Kaua'i Teachers FCU.

This program would not have been possible without their support, Kawakami said.

2021 Small Business Economic Outlook | Inc.com - Inc.com

Posted: 15 Dec 2020 03:02 AM PST

2021 is weeks away and business leaders must be prepared for abrupt shifts in the needs of their customers. For example, if your business boomed during the pandemic, are you prepared for a post-pandemic slowdown?

Investor fear that Zoom might not be prepared for this has cost its shareholders. Since peaking at $588 a share in October, Zoom's stock had lost 32% of its value by early December.

Why? I'd guess part of it is due to good news about Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and others means that investors are betting that the pandemic will end and people will go back to the office and not use Zoom as frequently.

Its stock fell on November 30 when Zoom announced a growth slowdown. More specifically, for the third quarter Zoom reported 367% revenue growth while forecasting still blistering 329% growth for the fourth quarter ending this month, according to CNBC. Since then and December 9, Zoom stock fell 17.7%.

The point? Regardless of how the pandemic has affected your business, its end is likely to change things. You should prepare now to change your business strategy to take advantage of the new forces that could propel its growth after the pandemic.

2021:A Sideways-W-Shaped Recovery

Bearing in mind the idea that the pandemic has been great for some industries, terrible for others, and a toss-up for ones in the middle, I think 2021 will feature a sideways W-shaped recovery in 2021.

You should be able to find your industry in one of the three prongs of the W below. For each one, I describe how things have been going for your industry this year, what is likely to change in 2021, and the questions you should be thinking about now.

1. Covid-19 winners like Zoom and Wayfair boomed in 2020. Can they keep growing?

The first prong of the W is companies like Zoom, Shopify, Wayfair, and others that have boomed during the pandemic -- thanks to the surge in people working from home.

In 2021, these companies will need to decide how to adapt to a world in which the pandemic ends and people return to a mixture of how they lived in 2019 while continuing to adopt some of the new habits they adopted during the pandemic.

Business leaders in this category ought to initiate close conversations with at least 100 users of their service. Discussion topics might include:

  • Will you go back into the office when the pandemic ends?
  • If so, how will you split your time between working from home and in the office?
  • How will that change affect how you will use our product?
  • What new services or modifications to existing ones will you need as your work-style changes?

Based on the responses, leaders should re-imagine their business strategy, develop prototypes of new services customers demand, get feedback, and refine the services so they can launch them as the pandemic ends. 

2. Covid-19 pivoters won by aiming their product at surging demand. Will they tack in the right direction?

The second prong of the W will be companies that adapted their strategies to take advantage of the increase in demand due to the pandemic. What comes to mind here is a company that provided ultra violet lighting for diamond retailers that enjoyed a surge in demand when it changed its ultra violet light to kill airborne viruses and bacteria.

As I wrote this August Eden Park is a maker of ultraviolet lights designed to distinguish fake from real diamonds. Within weeks of the pandemic starting, Eden Park was able to retool and launch a product that used UV light to kill the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 killer in crowded spaces.

Eden Park shipped 1,000 prototypes within weeks of launching them and by August, the company had grown 10-fold and was making a profit. However, will such companies be able to sustain their growth when the pandemic ends? 

My advice would be for their leaders to research their current customers to gain insight into how their needs are likely to evolve and revamp their strategies as the pandemic ends.

3. Covid-19 losers like airlines and movie theaters are barely surviving. Can they ramp up when demand surges?

The third prong of the W is companies that lost 90% of their business during the pandemic -- such as airlines, cruise ship operators, restaurants, and movie theaters. While they cut back costs to survive during the pandemic, they will need to quickly add capacity and staff later in 2021 as the pandemic ends to meet what could be a surge in pent-up demand.

Once the pandemic is under control, such companies will hire back people and order supplies to handle those who return to these businesses. Make sure you've lined up the financing you'll need to do that quickly.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Paul Hartmann: Financing considerations for small businesses | Business - Petoskey News-Review

Posted: 15 Dec 2020 04:30 AM PST

SCORE mentors are often asked about getting financial assistance for the client's business.

With COVID-19 in the rearview mirror (hopefully, soon!), the state and federal governmental assistance that many of our small business owners have received (PPP and EIDL, for example) may no longer be available. Local business financing will again be at the forefront of the necessary assistance we depend upon for growth and success. Of course, SCORE, the Small Business Administration and Small Business Development Center will still be available to help small businesses with advice.

Also, I am learning more about Nav (nav.com/score): did you know that businesses have a "credit score?" Seventy-two percent of owners do not know their business's credit score! Nav offers "transparent, start-to-finish services" to help get businesses financing. Nav will explore more that 110 different financing products to recommend the right one for each client. They use a data-driven approach and can help with grants and loans up to $350,000.

During this horrendous pandemic, many businesses have diversified their offerings, become more adept at digital online options, and have reevaluated their business plans. Many of us still need to budget for supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), perhaps that requirement should help convince our business owners to have an "emergency money supply" for unexpected expenses.

Many experts warn us that interest rates are likely to rise in 2021, so current and future borrowing should take that into consideration. We may well see credit terms tighten from suppliers, which in turn should invite a review of the terms we offer to our customers — perhaps long overdue.

On Nov. 30, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $10 million grant program to meet the urgent working capital needs of small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Application for grants up to $15,000 will open on December 15, 2020. The specific requirements are available at www.michiganbusiness.org/about-medc/covid19/relief

Finally, here are a couple of suggestions:

Score.org is our website with lots of good information, and our Tip of the Mitt SCORE chapter has a new, improved Facebook presence! The chapter-level website is tipofthemittscore.org

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