I am waiting for the Murder Hornets to arrive! That can be the only next logical step after what we have seen in America over the last four months. I have never experienced anything like this before and I must say as it keeps evolving the only thing that would possibly make sense next would be the Murder Hornets to just swarm down on everyone. Let’s hope not!
Not unlike you I am an also an entrepreneur and have been for quite some time. I used to own a boutique store for many years and believe me I know exactly how joyful and stressful your routine can be, and how many hats you have to wear to make sure that things are running smoothly. Almost two decades ago I decided to open my own independent health insurance brokerage. I had to start from the ground up again, building up my book of business and developing new customer relationships in order to generate and keep a healthy business. My company grew over time and just recently as I was running my day to workflow that consisted of referrals, service, and closing deals every week…the pandemic hit!
Different than many other major insurance companies my independent business is focused on helping local small businesses and individuals only that do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act. We offer a large portfolio of different, affordable coverages and I made it a point to focus all efforts towards my small-town audience because I knew I could be their personal advocate or “local agency” that any local business or individual could go to if they need assistance with filing claims and educating them on how to become more proactive in their own health. A person who will fight for them when the doctor’s office refuses to file a claim or accept their insurance. It was a great little niche until the economy started collapsing due to COVID-19. Suddenly, I started having chargebacks, a drastic cut in my income and absolutely nothing to do but trying to stay cool and find peace in the midst of global chaos where a majority of us felt like we have been hit from all sides at once.
You know the insurance business is not always seen as “warm and fuzzy” it has always been thought of as a necessary evil in the minds of many people, so to pick up the phone and say, “Hi how’s your health insurance” won’t fly at all nowadays. In reality, I am always the first one they come to for help and the first one to get beat up when something goes wrong, or when their premiums go up. In something as dire as a pandemic there was no other option but to get creative with finding ways to keep my business alive, so I’ve decided to look at what other people like myself are doing these during times and they are all going to social media.
Social Media – What a quandary! It can be your best friend or your worse enemy. It is a slippery slope full of comments and fake assumptions. Nowadays, whatever is on someone’s mind can be posted on social media. Pick any social media platform like Instagram, Facebook or TikTok, for instance, it is very tempting to chime in with the opinions posted but as a business person, you and I both know it’s always in our best interest to completely separate ourselves from whatever opinion we may have and focus on the task at hand, which is keeping businesses relevant and alive during a time that people can’t come to us. So, here is what I started doing for my business instead.
Facebook Videos – I have had a FB page for my business for a while but then I started to get more serious on how I could start interacting with people once again using social media. To get started I pulled out FB marketing tools and I began trying out new things. I had never shot a video of myself, so to make myself approachable and friendly I sat at my desk and duct-taped my cell phone to my bookcase (no judgments, please) angled the camera in it in a way that was somewhat flattering, and I taught myself how to make videos for my business by using simple communication tools like “Hi, how are you? this is Lydia Delrossi let’s talk about what’s happening” in easy-approachable short videos like 2-3min long, and then I learned how to “boost” them within a 50-mile radius of my customer base, and I actually began to see responses again.
Boost Ads – I also started looking at some of the ads I received from large companies to see what their big budgets were creating and got all kinds of creative ideas. I downloaded free clipart and started creating my own little ads that I would turn around and boost, sometimes in a 20-30 mile radius but always within the MSA area of my client base. They were somewhat light and whimsy, but my initial goal was to keep my company name out there is a very cost-effective manner to boost results.
Website – This was also time for me to redo my website. I created my own website using the web host GoDaddy which is not pricy compared to other web hosting companies where I can update my message by making sure the website reflected what was happening at the time and instead of “gloom and doom we are closed and don’t know when we will re-open” I tried to keep it witty and informative because people already get enough bad news from the media on a daily basis. My goal is to give my customers a lot of good sentiments and positivity when they come to me. 80% of businesses is how a person feels when they are with you and I want them to feel good like they are in good hands. I then also reacquainted myself with Instagram Business to start sharing some of my posts and videos regularly.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS OPERATING
Let’s be honest here, this is a big issue. Last year I made the right decision for my type of business to change from a sole proprietorship to an S corporation, it’s still just me but with a Federal Tax ID number and filings and then contracted ADP to help with payroll services. I projected what I could generate as an annual income a flat $30k – $50k for example or whatever you feel most comfortable with and it would calculate how much needed to be set aside each pay period for state and federal taxes so all of my commission income is deposited directly into my new corporate bank account, they would then access that account weekly, deduct the state and federal taxes from “payroll” and put the rest in my personal account. It is the easiest and best move I’ve ever made because I do NOT have an “accounting” mind, it takes that responsibility off my shoulders as a small business owner, and I could then put all my efforts into networking and growing my business. Because I had taken those steps last year (look into it you will be glad you did later) you can change your “income projections” at any time. I was qualified for the PPP loan program which of course had been scarfed up by giant companies both times the government had announced them as available, so I found emergency funding were available not through a bank who focuses on a small business like mine and yours but through PAYPAL. What a shock!!! So, I filled out the two-page application and I was granted $6,800 dollars. Not much in the big scheme of things, but enough for me to not panic, keep my payroll going for a minimum of seven weeks at least, and give me a sense of relief in continuing to focus on getting my business presence online now. I can sit back and get creative in my ongoing marketing efforts.
This pandemic has been and continues to be a challenge for all of us, but I’ve learned how to use these times of isolation to my advantage and taught myself how to market my business more effectively. I have also organized my agenda to start sending out newsletters to my customer base.
It has been a whole new chapter in business development for me. Doors began opening again the phone is ringing once more, and people are mentioning my videos! I just recently had a new customer call who was interested in buying tell me that she felt like she knew me from my videos. If any of these ideas can help your business, do it! I am learning as we go. I hope nothing less than success for each and every single local business in America who desperately needs support. We are in this together and only together we can make each other more successful and stronger. Just keep an eye out for those bees, folks!