The pandemic presented an unimaginable challenge to U.S. small businesses. Nearly 93% of small businesses report being negatively impacted by COVID-19, resulting in a loss of 5.5 million jobs from March to April 2020 alone.
The Connected Commerce Council (3C) – a non-profit advocacy organization of digitally enabled small businesses – saw firsthand the struggle to adapt to the “new normal” that eradicated in-person sales and threatened livelihoods. Mom and pop shops were faced with navigating complicated emergency loan applications, rapidly changing state lockdown policies and plummeting revenues from the subsequent recession, making it impossible for them to plan at all. Panic was setting in – and many members told 3C that they didn’t know where to find answers.
We broke our coronavirus response strategy into two core pillars: support and connection.
To better support its small business members, 3C built a COVID-19 Resource Center and Funding Finder tool to provide small businesses with a frictionless way to find funding programs, apply for emergency loans and grants, learn about e-commerce and other digital tools and quickly review policy updates from their state regarding lockdown regulations.
We established a rapid response team to identify, compile, and organize available resources for small businesses on a daily basis. By aggregating these resources in a single place, 3C saved small business owners time, money, and energy, allowing them to focus on their day-to-day operations.
To ensure overwhelmed small businesses knew there were resources available to them, we launched a digital advertising campaign primarily on Facebook targeting small businesses most impacted by the pandemic, such as restaurants and retail. Because we had a limited advertising budget, efficient ad performance was crucial. We used a look-alike audience modeled after our own members to reach similar small businesses.
In addition to our educational programming, we connected 1,020 small businesses with 3C’s technology partners to leverage the companies’ small business relief offerings through our Virtual SkillsConnect events. Our 10 state-specific virtual roundtable events allowed participating small businesses to speak face-to-face with their members of Congress and state officials to ask questions and assert their priorities. We also created a small business support group and weekly virtual Happy Hour to give small business owners space to network, grieve, and problem-solve.
We collected and amplified dozens of small business success stories, and we released the pilot episode of 3C’s Digital Makeover series. We paired two small business owners who had previously attended our networking events to work on a full remodel of a small business’ digital presence with the guidance of a digitally enabled “mentor” business. Coaching sessions were held on Zoom and our team designed a new website, logo, social pages, and online ads for the business.
3C membership tripled as a result of our smart digital advertising strategy. Our efforts resulted in more than 8,000 new member sign ups and more than 100,000 website visits from March to the end of the year. A post-launch survey revealed that 68% of members found the coronavirus resource center “helpful” or “very helpful.”
During a virtual event hosted by 3C, Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-1) told the organization, “I can’t say enough good about you, how you all have stepped up in some of the most challenging times this nation has ever seen. And, we’re proud of you. God bless you all.”