Beat the Coronavirus: Rapidly Move Your Business Online Right Now

by | Mar 27, 2020

3,280,000 unemployment claims (source).

Yes, that’s correct.

The coronavirus has impacted travel, retail, service, and business so significantly that last week unemployment filings shattered the previous record set in 1982 of 695,000.  It’s also 3M more than just the previous week!

US jobless claims from coronavirus

Even if you aren’t directly unemployed, that slowdown in the economy will undoubtedly impact nearly everyone.  And the scary part is, we still aren’t at the peak of this thing.

So you can either sit on your couch, hope for a government check, and wait for things to blow over…


Or you take MASSIVE action in finding ways to serve your customers online.

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If you are physically able and well, it is your duty as a rugged American to get yourself working safely from home and providing incredible value for others (namely you customers!) who still need you – while keeping your own business going strong.

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So let’s get right into it, here’s what I’m going to lay out for you right now:

  • Idea for Shifting More of your Business Online
  • Building a Website that Converts to Leads and Sales
  • Using Google Ads to Immediately Activate Search Traffic
  • Reaching Your Target Customer with Social Media Ads
  • Other Resources

The idea for Shifting More of your Business Online

Okay, so you used to provide services in-person and now you can’t.


But can you provide some version of that service online?

Offer Online Events

Conferences, seminars, and coaching can be done remotely through webinars these days.  Using Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or MeetFox many events hosted in-person can be done online.

One of our clients holds group cooking classes in cities across the country.  Due to social distances, they have to pause those classes but instead are now offering online classes.  It forced them to create this new offering to serve their homebound and bored customers, and didn’t require much more than putting an iPhone on a tripod in the chef’s kitchen as a subscription to Zoom Webinar.

The extra exciting thing about this is that even after the coronavirus outbreak has passed, their online class option can still be a service they can offer to those who wish to cook remotely.

Our clients TalkDesk and InfluxData have moved their conferences completely online with specialized virtual conference platforms that make it easy.

Deidre Begley from Communique says that “One silver lining with virtual events is the ability to tap into the tremendous data they generate. This can reveal much more about the interests and intentions of audience members than a physical event might provide. When you take an event to digital you have the ability to understand the digital body language in the room – the ability to capture behaviors and capture interests and signals. You are not just showing who has attended and who hasn’t, you are understanding collateral and content they consume during that experience. You are understanding the engagement, questions and answers they received, responses to the polls, direct feedback through surveys, calls-to-action, and what they are tweeting on Twitter.

This data can be directly integrated into scoring models and nurture programs and used to direct attendees down curated follow-up paths after the event. Furthermore, the content of a virtual event can live on well after the event and repurposed into snackable content, both video and online.”

Promote Ecommerce

If you sell physical products, then you should already be offering e-commerce, but if not then this is a great time to start.  With tools like Brandbass and Stacks it has never been easier. It’s also a great time to offer more of the personal service you were able to provide in-store, online.

That can mean adding live chat, live video selling (think QVC!), scheduling time with customers to be a personal shopper, and other ways to provide great customer service that few brands offer — certainly not Amazon!

Promote Gift Cards

Ok, so if you’re a fine dining restaurant, video arcade, or massage therapist, this is going to be difficult.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take the opportunity to sell gift cards for future use.  Free Play is a video arcade chain in Dallas, TX that has been forced to close all locations temporarily.  They are offering gift cards as a way to keep revenue coming in even while their customers cannot. If you are in the hospitality business a tool like HotelTreats will even do the work for you when it comes to creating vouchers and saving your business.

Subscription Boxes & Services

Continuity programs are an incredible sales channel that too few businesses take advantage of.  A subscription service ensures you have months or years of automated recurring billing and customers don’t even have to think to buy from you.

The subscription service can start after the quarantine period ends if you cannot provide service remotely or if you can, start mailing products out right away!  Platforms like Recurly and Stripe make recurring payments simple to execute.

Building a Website that Converts to Leads and Sales

Now that you have some ideas of what to sell, let’s get into how to sell it.

First off, before you start driving paid traffic to your online store, you need to make sure your website is going to turn those visitors into buyers.  Just like hosting a house party, you need to get your place in order before the guests arrive.

This is where conversion rate optimization and user experience come into play.  If you need to get something up quickly, I highly recommend using a single landing page on a platform like Unbounce which our agency uses extensively for clients.  We find that our Unbounce landing pages convert at nearly 2X compared to standard website pages.

Unbounce has 100’s of landing page templates for all types of business so you don’t have to start from scratch but rather just fill out the template (or have an agency like Upgrow create it for you!).  This can be created in 1-2 days so you’re ready for business quickly.

It’s still worth making sure your main website has a strong conversion rate.  StoryBrand has a great blog post for thinking through how to effectively layout your homepage in much more detail.

Here is an example of how Donald Miller from StoryBrand breaks down a great homepage, this should give you a good idea of where to start:

Dr Gala Website Example

What We Love: A headline that’s all about the customer.

Dr. Thad gets right to the point with his headline. Sure, this is Dr. Thad’s website, but the headline isn’t about him. It’s about his clients living a healthier life that’s not reliant on medication.

What You Can Learn:

You’ve got to capture a visitor’s attention in a matter of seconds. That’s tough to do if you’re talking about yourself. But if you’re instantly showing what’s in it for your customers — the problem you’re going to solve — you’ll find people staying on your site longer to learn more, reach out, and buy.

See more examples here.

As far as a website platform, I highly recommend Webflow. Our site is hosted and built on Webflow as are many of the sites we build for clients. It’s simple to create, has 100’s of website templates to start with, and now offers e-commerce as well. And if you prefer a done-for-you site then we’re pleased to give you a quote for that any time, so you can have a high-performing site live in a matter of weeks!

Also, be sure to message on your website that your physical store is closed but you’re still open for business online!

Using Google Ads to Immediately Activate Search Traffic

Google Ads, also known as SEM, PPC, or Paid Search, is a spigot of website traffic you can quickly turn on or off as needed.

It’s an incredibly powerful channel for a number of reasons:

  1. Immediate, see clicks in under an hour usually
  2. Performance-based, you only pay when a user clicks on your website
  3. High buy intent, the visitor is actively shopping and ready to buy
  4. Highly targeted, only bid on keywords and audiences relevant to your business

A successful Google Ads program starts with building a great keyword list.  Some ideas for building your list of keywords would include:

Spending at least a few hours on building a keyword list is time well spent, for a very comprehensive guide check out this blog.

Pro Tips:

  • If you’re a local business, be sure to geo-target your campaigns to only run in your regional market.
  • Layer on demographic and audience-targeting with the keyword targeting.  You can target users based on their interests, age, gender, whether they are in-market for buying in your category, and more.
  • Use manual CPC bidding, the quickest way to fail is using automated bidding.  Manual CPC gives you much more control
  • Set daily budgets you’re comfortable with
  • Commit to running until you have enough data, don’t worry if you don’t get any sales on the first day of advertising, commit to spending a set budget and period of time that gives you the data you need to adjust things before you give up.
  • Prioritize Product List Ads (Google Shopping Ads) if you sell physical goods.
  • Disable display network, focus on paid search to start but do add retargeting display ads
  • Setup conversion tracking and optimize for conversions, not just traffic
  • Create a Google Data Studio dashboard to monitor performance

Google offers a checklist for launching that is helping your first time.

Reaching Your Target Customer with Social Media Ads

Another reliable source for getting in front of homebound customers is social media ads.  The most popular are Facebook/Instagram for B2C businesses and LinkedIn Ads for B2B businesses.

These platforms allow you to precisely target users based on their demographics, interests, behaviors, geographic location, and many other factors.  If you already have a customer email list or have the Facebook or LinkedIn pixel on your site you can also target those users as well as look-a-like users who are similar to your customers and visitors.

Hootsuite has an excellent 2020 Guide to Advertising on Facebook and Hubspot has a good one for LinkedIn Advertising.

This is a particularly good time to advertise on these platforms as many other marketers are pulling back and retreating right now so costs are falling while more users are online due to the shelter-in-place restrictions.

If your product is

Other Resources

Have other ideas?  Leave your comment below!

Need help to ramp your online business up quickly?  Book a free assessment now to see how Upgrow can help!

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Ryder Meehan

Ryder has been on a 16-year journey to master digital marketing from every aspect. His resume includes Razorfish, Slighshot, Fossil, Samsung Mobile and Tatcha before launching Upgrow. Ryder is the acting CEO, heading business development and account services. He has been featured as a digital marketing leader on Forbes, PRNews,, Workamajig, Databox, Fit Small Biz and other outlets.

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