In this article, I talk to three female business owners who are making lockdown work for them; whether that’s launching new online services or marketing in more creative ways.

Claire Sofield - Four Recruitment Webinar
Image courtesy of Claire Sofield, Four Recruitment

Coronavirus lockdown has had a significant impact on businesses across the world, but not always in the way you might think.

For some organisations and entrepreneurs, the lockdown has meant that they’ve been forced to look at new and interesting ways to market their businesses, in the absence of traditional meetings and networking events. Recently, I saw on LinkedIn and Facebook some of the new ways in which female business owners in my network were connecting with their customers during this unsettling period – so I reached out to them to find out more about how they’re making lockdown work for their businesses.

“I knew that a lot of my existing clients and prospects were thinking about how they were going to navigate lockdown, with some companies looking at pivoting their businesses and others wondering how to market themselves during this time, so it made sense to start talking to my audience about these topics,” says Lisa Jackson, who has run Cumbria-based Acorn Marketing for the past nine years.

Lockdown has forced many business owners to push themselves out of their comfort zone to come up with more creative methods to engage with customers.

Lisa initially started delivering Facebook Live sessions through her Facebook business page to connect with a wider audience and to speak directly to her customers about the challenges they were facing as a result of the Coronavirus.

“I actually came to the idea of doing a Facebook Live through attending a virtual conference on Marketing. It made me realise that there are people out there looking for guidance at the moment, and I have the knowledge and skills which can help them with their marketing during this time, so although doing a Facebook Live can be quite a scary prospect, I was going to be helping businesses. That’s how I framed it.”

And the results have gone beyond just the actual Facebook Live session.

“The impact has been overwhelming. During the first Facebook Live, there was lots of interaction, but since the sessions finished, I’ve had numerous direct messages, emails, people downloading resources from my website, businesses signing up to my newsletter and I’ve even been asked to be a guest on a podcast. All from getting outside of my comfort zone and using Facebook Live as a way to connect with my audience.”

Getting out of your comfort zone – in the comfort of your home

Getting out of your comfort zone is a theme which all three of the founders I spoke to can identify with at this time, as current restrictions mean business owners are looking for ways to develop a more direct and personal connection with their customers online, away from the office.

I have also used this time to finally get the confidence together to publish a podcast for my business, something that I’d been wanting to do for years but never committed to. Seeing lots of businesses around me posting videos, webinars and podcasts gave me the push I needed to launch The Sales Way so that I could connect to new customers who are spending more time online during lockdown.

Once I got over that initial hurdle of putting the podcast out there and promoting it, everything was fine, and now it feels just like any other marketing activity. Recording and publishing the podcast is now part of my routine – whereas before it was a daunting, new activity.

Navigating your business post-lockdown

Many of the new initiatives business owners are launching under lockdown constraints are likely to become the status quo once restrictions are finally lifted.

In the case of Claire Sofield, Co-Founder and Sales Director at Manchester-based Four Recruitment, her first foray into webinars is likely to transition into normal post-lockdown business activities.

“As a business, we recognise that life post-lockdown won’t go back to normal straight away, so we don’t see our new approach of hosting webinars and posting videos on LinkedIn as something we’ll stop doing once lockdown is over,” says Claire.

“We originally started a LinkedIn group called Business Leaders Together to stay connected to our clients and to show them that we were still operating as a business. However, we were struggling to get engagement going in the group so we reached out to the group members and asked them ‘what would work for you?’. A number of people suggested the webinar format, so we decided to try it – although it wasn’t really something we’d done before as a business.”

But the gamble has paid off for Claire and Four Recruitment, and she is now regularly delivering webinars and videos to her connections across LinkedIn.

“The results have been amazing. We’ve now done four webinars and, in each one, the format is improving. What has also had a big impact is publishing short videos, summarising what we covered in the longer webinar. These videos have got thousands of views and I’ve got in front of so many more prospects than I would usually do. We’ve now had new leads getting in touch to advertise job vacancies with us, requests for meetings, calls and lots of messages as a direct result of the webinars and videos.”

This move to offering videos across social media was initially a daunting prospect for Claire.

“Posting videos of myself talking on LinkedIn isn’t something I’ve done before, and I was initially nervous about the response. But, I’ve found that if you focus on being yourself and being authentic, then people appreciate you putting yourself out there.”

Moving existing services online

Another business owner that had rarely used videoconferencing previously, but is now embracing webinars across their entire client base, is Anne Williamson, author of ‘Are you a one night stand business?’ and the MD of Customer Love, a company focused on improving the customer experience.

When lockdown was announced, all of Anne’s face to face training sessions were postponed or cancelled, so she had to investigate options to enable her to continue to deliver her customer service training sessions to those clients.

Anne has already started rolling out her training via webinars, calls and mastermind sessions using Zoom videoconferencing. As a result of the online sessions being well-received, Anne then went on to develop a new online offering which is currently being trialled by 12 businesses across the UK.

“The feedback from the ‘guinea pigs’ so far is encouraging and I’m now looking to roll out this new service at the beginning of June,” says Anne. “I can now deliver training across the UK and even internationally, so that’s opened up a lot of new opportunities for the business.”

Anne has found she’s taken to the online experience well.

“During one of my virtual training sessions, my broadband went down, so I just picked up the phone and dialled straight back in and carried on. I’ve learnt new things from being pushed to move my training online but I’ve taken it in my stride and it has changed my business moving forward.”

Thriving, stronger than ever

The key point echoed by all of the three founders I interviewed is the need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and not to be afraid of putting yourself out there in order to strengthen your business both during, and after, lockdown.

“I’ve seen some fantastic examples of marketing from businesses during this time,” says Lisa Jackson at Acorn Marketing, “and those are the business who are thriving and will come out of this pandemic even stronger.”

So what can we learn from these founders’ experiences?

  1. Lockdown is a great time to try webinars and live video streams for your business because many of your peers are also recording and publishing online currently, so it won’t feel as unusual or out of place if you’re also sharing this type of content.
  2. For many people, live streaming or posting videos of themselves will involve them getting outside of their comfort zone – this is natural but the only way to make it feel more normal is to start doing it.
  3. Don’t expect to be on your A-game on day 1 – it might take a few goes and attempts to get your format, style and method just right.