When the pandemic hit, we all know that the entrepreneurs were among those who got affected the most. Some businesses went to a screeching halt, some were forced to pivot just to survive and some tried to continue operations but with owners, very sadly, feeling they were running around like headless chickens.
I should know because I heard numerous of these stories from business owners themselves. Yes, it was heartbreaking to listen to them but you know what? I still held on to that spark of optimism. I knew that somehow, each and every one of us can help these businesses.
After all, you and I know very well that the success of just about anything never depends on the hands of only one man. Instead, it has always rested on the collective shoulders of many.
I wanted to help especially because the world, all of a sudden, heavily relied on the Internet and the wonders it could do to businesses. That opportunity to share my skills and knowledge came when I was invited by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Regional Office 10 to be a resource person on social media, online branding and digital marketing in various towns around Mindanao.
In a span of a few months, I was able to speak before hundreds of existing entrepreneurs — all eager to learn how they can establish, develop, nurture, maintain and even scale their businesses, with the help of the Internet. I was able to listen to hundreds of stories of fear — fear of the unknown, fear of the unfamiliar, fear of loss — but also hundreds of stories of hope, excitement and resilience.
I taught a lot of them, to the best of my ability, how to slowly move their brick-and-mortar businesses to the digital world and how to be more effective marketers. Marketing, after all, is a game of attention and with the Internet, just about anyone has that chance to grab everyone else’s attention.
To spice my talk a little bit, I came up with the acronym C.H.A.R.O.T. so that the attendees would be guided with what they can post online.
C – conversation. They can post lines that can spark conversations between them and their prospective customers.
H – have a story. Customers like supporting businesses that have MMK-like stories. Stories that are inspirational, stories that can tug their heartstrings.
A – authentic. This definitely needs no explanation.
R – relatable. This, too!
O – opinion. As a business owner, you can position yourself as a thought leader or as an authority in your chosen niche/field.
T – timing. Always keep your ears on the ground and post during peak times and when it is appropriate. This is crucial!
I also shared tips on how they can incorporate online payment methods.
In the Municipality of Naawan, for instance, I met a food vendor who wanted to know if I had tips so that he can sell his binignit and other kakanin more efficiently. I told him maybe he can establish his branding being the guy to go to for your “3 o’clock snack habit” — meaning he should make it easy for his customers to reach out to him during 3 PM a.k.a. snack time! He loved the idea so on that day, he created his Facebook page (I explained the difference between just having a profile and a professional page), added details such as a contact number, email address, automated messages on his page and even opened an account with digital payment platforms.
Meanwhile, in the Municipality of Lagonglong, the participants were so eager to ask questions (and I loved answering them!). That was a really good sign. That meant that they still held that entrepreneurial fire in the pit of their stomachs.
After each and every workshop, I left them with gentle reminders — to always provide value so that their customers can like and trust them and their businesses better, to always be ambassadors of authenticity and fairness, to also help other entrepreneurs and be generous with their time, to not be afraid of technology and always embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.
This way, we can be better citizens and community partners of this nation that’s fast turning into a digital one.