Marketing Strategies for Small Business during the Crisis
Small local businesses are the hardest hit during this pandemic. When sales are dwindling, or has come to a standstill, how can you continue to reach out to your customers. It is not time to sell, but to connect.
Here is how you can do it.
As more and more countries are under lock down, small businesses are suspending their operations, some even forced to shut shop. Many are contemplating whether to pause their marketing activities, while some have already put a stop to it.
There is no right and wrong in these times. Each day is pushing business owners to the edge. It is no longer just a health issue, it has seeped into all parts of the economy leading to an unprecedented crisis.
My husband's travel and money exchange companies are among one of the most affected. The abrupt stop to revenue with no clue of future, has forced him to temporarily shut doors. Individual business cash-flow is dependent on many factors daily sales, walk-in customers, and seasonal business. Many small businesses including beauty salons, hairdressers, local stores, health and fitness classes, art and photo studios, child care, cleaning companies, clothing stores, tailors, car repair and servicing, and start-ups, have been brought to a screeching halt.
While some businesses will bear greater brunt of this crisis, others still have some scope to keep it going, even if it is slow.
Don't let COVID break your link with your customer.
Small businesses may not have a crisis marketing plan, but with few basis steps you can create one to stay in the game, during these trying times.
Mindful marketing is the need of the hour
No marketer can really be fully prepared for a crisis of this scale. This has only grown multi-fold spreading from country to country initially as a health scare and now, into a full blown economic crisis affecting countries, communities and businesses.
In these times, business owners need to be tactful and show empathy towards consumers and the community that connects them. Once you are cognizant of this, you can adjust your communication to be more meaningfully.
Do a quick review of your marketing activities and decide what campaign in your pipeline you need to keep and what you need to pause.
Evaluate what you have been communicating. Change or adapt based on the current COVID-19 context. Change visuals, rewrite text, or reframe your message.
Bring your company's human element in your communication. Share aspects of your vision and values that connect with consumers who are affected or impacted or inconvenienced during to the current crisis. Be authentic.
Build a strong digital presence
If you are a brick-and-mortar business, and have limited digital presence, now is the time to create an online marketing strategy and shift most of your business online.
There are multitude of platforms to consider, don't jump into all of them. Choose based on who your audience is and which platform do they prefer. Maintain an active online presence to engage with your customer.
Turn your website homepage into a store front, reception or showroom
Update your Google Business status and lead them to your landing pages
Add live chat to replicate live customer interactions
Keep your blogs live and up-to-date
Be active on social media
Your business may be temporarily shut, but keep your social media alive and kicking. Redirect the reduced footfall to your store/ shop/ showroom towards your online store, or website.
Customers are spending more and more time on social channels to stay up-to-date on news and to stay connected with family and friends. You need to let them know you are here for them.
You can create a variety of content to keep your customers informed and engaged.
Company's actions in keeping employees safe and healthy
#WFH approach and online networking sessions
Employee communications during lock down
Messages to customers and clients
Change in timings and customer contacts
Discounts offers, free delivery, pickup and drop options etc.
Lead your customers to your website, online store or webinars
Share your charity initiatives
Express genuine concern for the community in the context of your business
Stay connected with your high-value customers
Your customers understand your situations, but they will be happy if you connect with them. Share your story, your struggles, your efforts and your ideas on how your are staying afloat during these trying times. Be sensitive, your customers are also affected by this crisis, sometime they may be affected even harder. Be kind,
If you are out of sight, you are out of your customers' mind.
Email marketing is still one of the most powerful tools. Keep your customers in the loop on your actions, availability, discounts etc.
Opt for online advertising, if possible
Facebook messaging has increased more than 50% over the last month. People are now spending up to 70% more time on Facebook and Instagram apps.
Voice and video calls have more than doubled on Messenger and Whatsapp, an opportunity for small businesses to reach out to customers.
The cost per click (CPC) for advertising has dropped. Review your marketing plan and run your digital campaign relevant to the current context.
Traffic to social media sites is only increasing by the day. This is where your target audience is spending time during lock down, market wisely. However be careful, do not share misinformation.
Stay connected, reach out to customers and don't get out of their sight.
This is our new normal, at least temporarily.