For small businesses or newly established businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic will have had a significant impact on business operations.
The social isolation restrictions have meant we are no longer able to shop in the majority of bricks and mortar establishments, with many businesses selling services or products having closed their doors temporarily. As a result, some entrepreneurial businesses have made swift moves to an online provision of their products or services. For all businesses the current situation has prompted the need to change the way that business is done including how they market to their target audience.
How should you approach marketing in times of crisis?
Rethink your business strategy
Be resourceful and consider how your business can be relevant to current and new customers. How can you change your product or services to meet the change in customer needs? Don’t introduce changes that don’t fit with your company but pinpoint if what you sell can be adapted or can you adapt to a different customer base? Find out what your customers need and see what you can do to help.
There have been various examples of companies doing just this – distilleries making hand sanitiser, restaurants doing takeaways and deliveries and local grocery stores offering deliveries to those in self isolation.
Are there different ways that you can bring your business to people now that customers can’t come to you? From chefs running virtual food festivals, sommeliers delivering online wine tastings and fitness instructors providing classes digitally, there are a wealth of ways that you can adapt to fit your customer needs. Keep an eye on your competitors and if they come up with a great idea, consider if it will fit with your business.
Encourage people to buy gift vouchers for future visits if you are a hotel or self-catering provider. Promote gift cards for purchases to use later once the situation changes or as treats for family and friends to make them feel loved.
Data is still king!
Collect as much information about customer preferences on your website to help filter the information they receive and enable you to provide more tailored offers. Utilise the digital tools available to automate emails to respond to customer touch points.
React quickly to demand
If your business has suddenly experienced an increase in demand in online sales, ensure that your website can cope with the higher usage and keep your customers informed regarding availability of stock and delivery times to prevent disappointment.
If you have a product proving popular or want to promote a new product or service, consider digital advertising to boost awareness amongst your current customers and attract new ones at a relatively low cost. Soft selling is key so pull back on the buy now message and focus on how your business can help the customer and promote this across all your marketing channels.
It can be lonely running a business so make sure that you reach out to your fellow entrepreneurs to share ideas, receive and offer support and build a sense of camaraderie to keep you motivated.
The same rule applies in terms of customers and followers – build the subscribers to your newsletter and make sure that you send out regular updates. This means you keep present in their lives, allows you to communicate changes to operations and product availability as well as building their support during this tricky time. If you don’t have one already, add a sign-up form to your website and promote your newsletter on your social channels.
Become a useful resource for your community
Think wider than your usual products and services – provide downloadable activities for busy families who are now home-schooling and encourage them to share pictures on your social channels.
Plan your content
More people are spending time online right now so spend time creating content which resonates with your audience to maintain communication and keep them coming back to read it. Consider what works best for your channels and audience:
- Show the human side of your business including staff features, pets, behind the scenes on your social channels or build these into your regular newsletters – keep the chatter going
- Send a postcard or small gift to let your customers know that you are thinking about them
- Instagram stories allow you to create a short narrative, show off your product range or simply share how you are doing
- Produce and share downloadable guides, pdfs, an e-book or a series of helpful posts on topical subjects to help your customers
Manage customer expectations
Keep your communication regular to reinforce the message that their custom is important and make it human in tone. Ensure that customers can communicate with you in a range of ways and make sure that your website is kept up to date including opening hours, delivery times and any changes to ranges/services including services for those in self isolation, key workers and the vulnerable.
The current situation is only temporary and calls for creative and agile thinking in terms of marketing. Embrace technology to help you and make the most of the community of customers that you already have to build a stronger relationship with them which will stand you in good stead further down the road. Customers will be loyal to those who helped them in their time of need, so make sure that your actions are genuine and offer support rather than self-promotion. Keep the long term in mind and keep building your brand, protecting your team and sticking true to the values which make your company special to your customers.