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4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Generate Leads and Sales Online

Some timely advice for restaurants and retailers struggling to stay open during the pandemic.

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Panic or prosper. We've got two choices when it comes to how to react to the current state of affairs. (If you are currently panicking, you can make the switch. Pretty sure I was a combination of meltdown/nervous breakdown before the calm took over.) The good news is, while customers aren't coming in and to-go orders are down, you can still generate sales to provide cash flow right now. Here are some strategies you can implement immediately.

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

1. Pre-sell gift certificates

Give folks at home an incentive to buy a gift certificate right now for future use. This not only generates more cash flow, which is super important, but ensures the customers come back in when your location reopens. Big, glaring asterisk on this one though — don't just ask your customers to buy a certificate. That only benefits you. At a time when many are worried about money, you've got to make it worth their time and truly benefit them.

Offer $50 gift cards for $25. Or a free $25 gift card with any $100 gift card purchase. Or a free personal-styling session (hello there, casual Saturday outfit I didn't know I had) once you reopen with any gift certificate purchase. To get people to buy now, the incentive has to be so good they'd be hard-pressed to say no. Get this right and they will not only buy now, but will share it with others.

Related: How to Think About the Future of Retail

2. Contactless and transparent delivery

If you are a restaurant, instead of just offering takeout, opt for transparent and contactless delivery. First, set up a webcam in the kitchen where the food is prepped so your customers can see the safety and cleanliness measures you have taken. Use can use Facebook Live to broadcast. Then for delivery, let the customers know when you are approaching via text, and instead of knocking on the door, leave the food at the threshold and depart. No person-to-person contact needed.

For added buzz, offer a special incentive for delivery at this time. Like with your dinner order, get a second order you can give the kids for lunch the next day. (Let the mammas rejoice!) Retailers can offer delivery of the "item of the week" to your best local customers with an added gift certificate to use in-store once you reopen.

3. Start a Facebook Live program

People are yearning for connection and community right now. Reach out to your tribe with a free video series via Facebook Live. Connect with them daily or weekly, offering updates, insights, your knowledge, trivia, etc. You do you. And don't worry about being perfect. Everyone knows you are at home without fancy equipment or sets, so just be authentically you. It's the perfect time to have imperfect progress on something new. A few to inspire you:

  • The Cincinnati Zoo is offering a free Facebook Live at 3:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, letting kids get to know a different animal each day and raising funds for the zoo.
  • Epernay Wine & Spirits Nantucket Island ran a virtual happy hour to share green drinks that aren't traditional on St. Patty's Day to celebrate the holiday.
  • I ran a virtual book reading for author Leslie Streeter when all of her launch events were cancelled. We not only sold some of her books, but it gave me a legit reason to hand the kiddos to my spouse while I had a cocktail with a girlfriend.

Facebook Live with Kim Walsh Phillips

Connect with your audience and continue to grow your tribe now while people are online more than ever before.

Related: What Small Businesses Need to Do to Win in Online Retail

4. Paid program via video

While people are stuck at home, there are ways to make money with your expertise. Offer a paid and interactive cooking class where you walk them through the steps of making a dish normally found only in your restaurant.

Retailers can offer a weekly shopping show where you display some of your customer favorites and viewers can make purchases that you'll deliver to their door, or a private styling service done virtually, using the person's closet at home to map out outfits. Get creative.

The most successful brands in the history of our nation came out of times of turbulence because they didn't copy what everyone else was doing. They got resourceful.

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