Over the past year, the pandemic has posed many challenges for companies everywhere. Small businesses have been hit extra hard, given that the loss of just one client or purchase can have a huge effect on their operations.
As the CEO of an SMB software company, I know that small technology companies have been dealing with a looming fear that their sales will flounder as organizations scale back from additional spending during these budget-strapped times.
However, our team at Axxerion has experienced quite the opposite. We've found that by changing a few of our strategies, we have been able to stay afloat – and even thrive – during the pandemic. In fact, our current clients have been renewing their contracts, new prospects are flooding in, and organic SEO traffic to our website is consistently increasing.
Below, I've summarized five key takeaways from our success that other small tech companies might find helpful.
1. Don't panic.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed with fear and panic about the health of your small tech company during these uncertain and volatile times. There are just too many unanswered questions and worst-case scenarios to consider: What if niche technology and software is not top of mind for organizations right now? What if we lose major clients? Will we go out of business? Although it may be hard, it's best not to go down that dark rabbit hole if possible.
One way to gain some hope is to consider the facts. Luckily, they are actually in our favor. The truth is, many companies are still actively searching for and ready to purchase new software and technology products not just despite the pandemic, but because of the pandemic.
According to The New York Times, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation throughout our society, thanks to the fact that the number of Americans working from home has jumped to 50% (compared with a mere 15% before the pandemic).
Organizations and individuals now need all different kinds of technology to optimize their remote working and living experiences. The new tech-savvy habits of companies and consumers mean that small tech companies aren't going anywhere. In fact, small tech stocks for companies such as Fastly and Zscaler have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Keep these facts in mind whenever the doubt and panic starts to creep in, which should help you stay motivated and optimistic about the prospects of your business.
2. Reframe your products.
Appealing to a broad audience is never the best strategy for a small business. It's always best to differentiate your product offerings and then target specific markets. This is especially important for a small tech company riding the waves of a global pandemic.
Now more than ever, it is critical to package your products as a specific solution to a specific problem – the problem clearly being the COVID-19 pandemic. It's important to think about how your product or even a single aspect of your product offers a unique solution to the challenges the pandemic is creating for organizations and/or consumers.
From there, it's important to launch a marketing campaign solely around the rebranding of your product in light of COVID-19. You can do this with new content, sales scripts, FAQs and landing pages on your website, and perhaps even new changes to the product itself if you have the time and capacity. [Read related article: How to Futureproof Your Niche Business During the COVID-19 Crisis]
In the case of Axxerion, we pivoted from the narrow focus on our bestselling CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) products to shine a light on our space management software offering and how it can help employers transition their workers safely back to the office during a pandemic. We also started emphasizing the safety and sanitization benefits that result from using a CMMS rather than the basic asset maintenance features we usually promote.
As a result, we've gained considerable new traffic for our space management software, and some prospects even ended up buying both the CMMS and space management software modules. This is because we created a sense of trust by showing that our company had thought about how the pandemic affects customers and how our product could help.
3. Focus on SEO.
With tech conventions, conferences and in-person networking out the window for the time being, it can be stressful thinking about how to spread the word about your SMB tech company on a larger scale. But this actually creates a perfect opportunity for you to spend your time on an important, cost-effective channel for lead generation and branding that does not rely on in-person interaction: SEO content marketing.
Content marketing not only helps your company website rank higher for key search terms on Google, it's also an invaluable opportunity to establish your company as an expert in the niche sector of your tech company's product.
Did you know that 75% of people never move past the first page of search results when they are looking something up on Google? That's because potential customers find companies with websites that appear on the first page of search engine results more credible and reputable. Considering that 61% of internet users research products online before purchasing, it's essential for small tech companies to invest in SEO efforts for their websites.
Your company can create lots of different types of content that can help with SEO, such as blog posts, whitepapers, client case studies, videos, and guest posts on prominent news outlets and websites. It's easy to find contractor writers at affordable prices on sites like Upwork and Thumbtack.
If your budget is tight, it should only take your own team a few hours a week to write some content on the topic that you all know best: your product. The content does not have to be sophisticated or elaborate. Clear, concise content that explains the value of your product is most effective.
4. Nurture existing clients.
If it's hard to secure new sales deals during the pandemic, it's imperative for you to make sure your current clients are happy, ensuring that they renew their current products or buy other products from your company.
Check in with your clients to see how they are liking the product and if they have any questions. Offer them free training and discounts on other merchandise. Create an incentive program that encourages existing or past clients to write reviews of their product experience on your website or on other review sites like Capterra, Google My Business, or Amazon.
Nurturing your client relationships builds a sense of trust with your clients that large companies often can't replicate. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 86% of people in the U.S. trust small businesses, while only 55% trust big businesses. This is a great chance for your company to turn your current clients into evangelists that will spread the word about your products.
5. Be patient and persistent.
The sales process is a lot slower during a pandemic. Prospects that are close to purchasing are suddenly put on hold because a stakeholder has come down with COVID-19. Interested buyers keep having to reevaluate their budget and get back to you. The list goes on and on.
In our experience at Axxerion, though, the stall doesn't mean the sale has come to a full stop. Being both patient and gently persistent with prospects can pay off in the long run.
Set reminders in your calendar to check in with stagnant prospects biweekly or monthly. Offer them a chance to sign up for your company newsletter (if you don't have one, now is a great time to get that project going) so that they can stay on top of the latest product offerings and deals.
Another great way to reel back in distracted or skeptical prospects is to offer free trials or money-back guarantees. This assures prospects that your company is confident in its product and wants them to have a good experience. Once prospects are knee-deep in the free trial, they often feel better about investing in the full product.
Running a small tech company during a global pandemic is daunting – there's no doubt about that. Many challenges will present themselves, but remember that your business is not directly headed for failure. Technology has become an essential component of our pandemic work structures and lifestyles. If you can use a few key strategies to take advantage of this new reality, you may find that your small tech company not only survives the pandemic, but finds new ways to thrive.