Throughout most of this year during the pandemic, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with executives at a number of technology companies serving the small business community.
And while there are a number of themes that have recurred with many vendors and across the months we’ve been dealing with COVID-19, the ones that have resonated with me have been the descriptions for small businesses I’ve heard over and over again: innovative, creative, resilient and inspired.
During a recent conversation with Melissa Schneider, GoDaddy’s VP Global Marketing Operations & Product Marketing, she went even further in detailing a couple of real life examples of just how resilient and inspired small businesses have been in order to survive and succeed in the midst of the coronavirus.
Interview with Melissa Schneider of GoDaddy
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. To hear the full conversation, click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
Small Business Trends: What were the initial things that they [your customers] were focused on? What are the biggest challenges and how has that changed over these seven months or so?
Melissa Schneider: I think we at GoDaddy woke up in March the same way a lot of folks did and just recognized the incredible impact that the pandemic, even in those early days was going to have on small businesses. We wake up every morning thinking about the everyday entrepreneur, the smallest of small businesses and thinking about how we can provide all the tools and help that we can to help them succeed online. And so looking at the early days of the pandemic, we reached out and started engaging with folks saying, “Hey, what are your expectations for the future? How is this impacting you today? What can we do to help?” But just in terms of what we saw in terms of impacts, in the early days it was the initial what’s going on?
How am I going to pivot from my brick and mortar business, from my in-person services business to a mode where I have to serve people digitally in a way that I never have before? So we had a set of surveys that went out, we’re engaging with customers everyday live. And what we noticed was that about 75% of them in those initial months recognized a clear impact to their business and to their revenues. About two out of five of them had to, if only temporarily, shut down entirely for some time. But what we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, early days and even in today, is that small businesses and entrepreneurs are incredibly resilient.
Those same conversations we were having with them, we saw that about 70% of them expected to make it through and not just make it through, but they saw growth coming out of the pandemic. So the early days were really about how is this going to impact my business, and I just shared some ways that that impacts actually flowed through. But now what we’re seeing is folks thinking about how they’re going to reopen, how they’re going to emerge, how some of the things that they’ve started to engage with out of necessity online as part of the pandemic are going to translate into long-term growth for them. So we’re very in the middle of this, but I think what’s inspiring is again, to see that resilience be married up with the ability to start engaging with new technology and services to help drive business growth.
Small Business Trends: Let’s talk a little bit about where small businesses are. We have the high flying small businesses who are already built in the cloud, so to speak, but then you also had the traditional ones and they make up the majority of small businesses still that had to either switch quick or die, and it seems like we’re seeing and hearing more and more of these making that switch. So talk a little bit about that in terms of small businesses the traditional guys having to go start selling in the cloud where they were really used to having people come into their stores.
Melissa Schneider: Yeah. I’d love to share with you just a couple of real examples of people that we’ve seen adapt and make this transition. We had this amazing event with our customers called GoDaddy Open where thousands of small businesses came together to join us in, again, just talking about the ways that that adaptation has happened, the ways that GoDaddy can help to help small businesses make that change, and again, that sense of making it through binding together, resiliency came through as we saw so many of those folks join us to have some of those conversations with folks from GoDaddy and some other small business experts. But I want to highlight just a couple of real examples. One of them is right there in Atlanta with you, Brent. We’ve got Amber and Kibwe Robinson who along with their three children before the pandemic had built up this side hustle called MOKIPOPS, where they were making these health-conscious vegan popsicles.
And they were just at the point of getting to where they were going to scale, get that storefront opened up, create a real operation where they were going to be able to service customers in person when COVID hit. So what they needed to do was get creative, was to think about how do we transition what we thought was going to be to what we know needs to happen. So they were firing up those social channels. They were getting their message out there on Facebook and Instagram in new and exciting ways and in terms of their model, they were thinking about and started to engage with more delivery, a Popsicle delivery. Did they imagine that that was how they were going to be running their business? No. They’re engaging with pop-ups in COVID friendly settings around Atlanta.
So maybe a little plug to visit mokipops.com, and just check them out as an example and in the background know that these are folks that had to just think differently about their business model and what it meant to engage and sell online. And that is an example of someone who was thinking they were going to have a physical storefront. Some of the businesses that were most impacted here were businesses that provide in person services. So at our event yesterday, we talked about a customer of ours named Ramon Bostic in Arizona, he’s a personal trainer. He was going and running a very personal face-to-face service with folks and his business dropped off completely as so many gyms and trainers and yoga studios.
And all these kind of exercise-based and health and fitness based businesses experience with the pandemic. So Ramon started running his classes over Zoom. He said, “I need to start taking appointments online. I need to get out there and engage with customers, again, in social channels with beautiful content that gets them to recognize my brand, my worth and then I need to deliver a way for them to engage with me.” So he’s doing zoom classes, he’s got a great website and he has an amazing social presence thanks to GoDaddy’s recently announced Over capabilities, which allow you to create really beautiful content across your entire online presence. And he’s digital now. He is a digital physical trainer. So when you think about the types of transitions folks had to go through, they run the gamut. But again, like the creativity, again, from delivery to online services, it’s all inspiring.
Small Business Trends: I still see a stat out there that says, and it’s like a stat that hasn’t really changed a lot over the last decade or so, where only roughly about 50% of all businesses have a website. And this as a stat is just … it could be actually longer ago than that, but it’s something that doesn’t seem to have changed a lot over time. Do you see the pandemic affecting companies to say, that don’t have websites, “We have to have one now,” and then on top of that, it seems like they not only have to have the website, they have to have a website that actually digitally transacts business. Are you seeing more companies that hadn’t had one, be interested in one, and then also needing the functionality of being able to transact digitally now with all this going on?
Melissa Schneider: Well, in general we’re seeing more small businesses just recognize the importance of the whole of their online presence, including a site. And just because someone doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t mean that they’re not engaging online. These everyday entrepreneurs start out by jumping into social channels by thinking about the places that already have traffic and engagement where they might want to sell online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy. So one of the things that we’re really focused on at GoDaddy is saying, “Look, as the criticality of your total online presence is coming to the forefront, we’re providing you a way to connect all of those dots together by way of our website’s marketing solution to say you can have your beautiful content that you generate around your brand online that shows up in your social channels where you’re going to be able to generate engagement and eyeballs.
We’re going to help you make sure that you can make sales via those social channels and we’re also going to help you connect that online store presence that you want to build back to the marketplaces that you’re already in or that you would like to be in.” So I think that we’re all shopping more online. Small businesses by necessity need to be ensuring that their customers or prospects can find them and can transact with them and get their products and/or services online. And it’s not just about getting a website, but thinking about having a solution that’s going to allow them to touch all of the places where their customers and prospects could potentially engage with them.
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This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.