Facebook Small Business Grants Program
Announced on March 18th, Facebook states that it is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries.
To be eligible to apply Facebook's criteria states that you must have between 2 and 50 employees, have been in business for over a year, have experienced COVID-19 related challenges and be in or near a location where Facebook operates. The exact details for UK eligibility are yet to be announced.
However, it is worth keeping this program on your radar as the scheme may be able to assist in helping keep your workforce going, allowing you to connect with more customers and cover your operational costs. As a small HVAC business, a cash grant or ad credits could be invaluable in helping you recover from the impact of COVID-19. Applications will begin in the coming weeks, but you can sign up for updates here.
Aside from their Small Business Grants Program, Facebook has also uploaded steps on managing through and building resilience during this time, with additional resources to help you plan an emergency response and minimise business downtime.
Key points: Sign up for updates on applying for their cash grants and ad credits.
Google ad credits for small and medium-sized businesses
As part of their COVID-19 response effort, Google has committed $340 million in Google Ads credits for small and medium-sized businesses across the world who have active Google Ads accounts. This is therefore applicable to contractor businesses who have advertised through Google before. The allocation of ads credits will be automatic, with a credit notification expected to appear in eligible accounts in the coming months - meaning there is no need to apply. Although the exact criteria to be classed as a small or medium-sized business is yet to be published, what we do know is that you need to have been active on your Google Ads account since the beginning of 2019, and that the credit will have to be used at any point until the end of 2020.
Google has also published a helpful page specifically for small businesses, with plenty of advice on running your business remotely, adapting to new customer behaviour as well as providing links to free digital training courses.
Key points: If your business qualifies, a credit notification will appear in your Google Ads account in the coming months.
Build or refresh your online presence
Marketing can often fall by the wayside for smaller businesses, and although a pause on incoming work is far from ideal, the time out can give you a chance to focus on your online efforts to aid business recovery once this crisis has passed.
Social media: There's a healthy HVAC contractor community on social media, particularly on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you haven't already established these platforms for your business, now could be the chance to do so. A healthy social media presence may encourage greater customer loyalty, greater credibility and more business for your company, so investing some time into getting it right will be invaluable. Look at sharing some of your recent commissions and networking with other contractors - building a presence will be incredibly advantageous when commissions start to come back in.
If you do already have a social media presence for your HVAC business, now could be the time to analyse what is and isn't working. Ensure you've responded to any comments or direct messages, take stock of what posts of yours have done well and devise a simple plan to incorporate more of these posts in future and finally, take a look at competitors to see whether they're using social media in ways which will benefit you when business as usual resumes.
Website: Keeping your website updated can be difficult when you're in the thick of commissions. So if you're faced with business downtime, it is definitely worth reviewing your website and ensuring all information is up-to-date and fresh. This will be particularly beneficial following the COVID-19 crisis when new work starts to come in, as Google will pick up the changes to your website, increasing the likelihood that it'll appear on the first page of search results when companies search for HVAC services.
Key points: Focusing efforts on social media and your website will be extremely useful when attracting new business following the crisis.
Communicating with end-users
Remaining honest, transparent and available to your end-users is important during this time.
Be vocal in outlining the precautions you are taking as a business to minimise the spread of COVID-19, including any new or reinforced hygiene measures as well as social distancing measures. Of course, the situation is changing rapidly day-to-day, so it's worth putting out regular updates too. Social media or emails are going to be most effective in communicating regular updates to your end-users, so be sure to use them to your advantage.
Key points: Communicate regularly to your customers on the hygiene and social distancing steps you're taking.