Like many small businesses, the COVID pandemic has left my business threatened with closure. After a year struggling with unpredictable restrictions, when I learned of the state’s plan to reopen on June 15, I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. However, there was an oncoming train – the Delta variant.
Instead of joining the nearly 29% of California small businesses that have closed in the wake of COVID, I’ve managed to save my business by turning to the latest digital marketing tools. To help other business owners achieve similar turnarounds, I share my digital transformation story.
My company, Tally Hockey Jerseys, dresses amateur hockey teams with custom gear. I started Tally in 2007 as a side business while working in the tech industry. Like most people chasing a dream, I have focused on creating a great product that reflects my personal passion. I didn’t know anything about marketing. I was relying on the product to sell.
In Tally’s early years, I found old fashioned clients. City after city, I reached out to recreational “beer leagues” and offered teams a quick and fun way to design their own embroidered badges and choose jerseys from a range of classic styles. The teams loved my ‘customize today, ship tomorrow’ template, and sales have been increasing steadily.
Just as my dream came true, disaster struck. The pandemic has arrived and the sport, along with what appeared to be everything else, has been shut down. In order to survive, I knew I had to reach out to that subset of clients who were always planning for the seasons to come, who kept the flame alive. But I had no easy way to identify and target them.
I had always operated Tally as a hybrid of in-store sales and e-commerce. From the start, I started Tally’s online presence with a regular static website. But constantly updating product photos has proven to be awkward and laborious.
In the next step, I tried ecommerce platforms like eBay and Etsy, but they introduced new challenges like relying on customers to find you. After the pandemic, we had to become proactive and attract customers to us.
With our sales evaporating and customer engagement plummeting, we were in desperate need of a game changer. After noticing that social media was driving most of our inbound traffic, I decided to find out. on purchasing tools on social networks. What first attracted me was their simplicity. I could manage sales and shipping from a single ecommerce site, rather than operating multiple storefronts.
Sales resumed immediately. The digital business tools I was using quickly became our lifeline. And very quickly, we went far beyond simple survival. To date, our online sales through social media have already surpassed our pre-pandemic eBay and Etsy numbers. By the end of 2021, we expect our Facebook sales channel to triple in size creating a whole new customer base for our products. Thanks to these same tools, we will soon begin to expand internationally.
Like many business owners new to digital marketing, I first worried about creating affordable content. Then I learned to rely on customers. If your customers like your product, they’ll be happy to help you promote it. At Tally, we ask teams to post pictures of players wearing our jerseys at fun times, like scoring a goal, winning a trophy or celebrating after a game. We link this eye-catching content directly to our social media stores, where customers can personalize and order Tally’s products.
Our social media content strategy also benefits customers. Players can express their passion for hockey and show off the uniforms they have created. In return, we generate a buzz around our products which keeps our community enthusiastic and attracts new customers.
While the COVID crisis threatens many businesses with a series of challenges, it also points to opportunities for innovation and growth. My team and I hope that “beer league” hockey will make a big comeback soon. In the meantime, we will continue to increase our sales using the lessons we learned during the pandemic – and we hope others will take note of our lessons as well.
With the latest digital tools, whether our customers are admiring a personalized patch on social media or enjoying a post-game celebration on Instagram, they’re just one click away from the Tally Hockey Jerseys purchase page.
Dave Dykes is the owner of Tally Hockey Jerseys in Del Mar.