A Guide To Marketing Your Small Business During COVID-19
Published on 7th September 2020
A guide on how to market your business during a pandemic is certainly one blog post we never could have predicted we’d need to write, but, several months in, it’s clear that coronavirus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and with the ‘new normal’ comes many new challenges and opportunities for business owners.
The impact of COVID-19 on the small business community cannot be overstated. With the economy in recession and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future, many businesses have been forced to make tough decisions due to decreased demand, supply chain disruptions, falling profits, and business models ill-suited to life under new restrictions.
When crisis strikes, we understand that it’s tempting to pull back on marketing and switch to a more cautious approach to see your business through. However, doing so is actually more likely to hinder your chances of long-term success.
As is often the case in business, remaining flexible and adapting to the new challenges you find yourself facing as a business owner is key. It’s those businesses who are able to pivot their marketing and make the most of new opportunities that stand the greatest chance of thriving during uncertain times such as these.
So, how exactly should you do this? Even if your business is unable to operate as normal right now, there are still many ways you can market your business during coronavirus and set yourself up for success both now and in the future. Read on to discover our top tips for promoting your business through a pandemic.
The questions you need to ask to inform your marketing strategy
The coronavirus pandemic has affected people’s lives around the world, so it’s highly likely that your customers’ needs and priorities have changed as a result.
This may mean that your existing marketing strategy is no longer relevant. If you’re going back to the drawing board, it can be helpful to focus on the following questions:
1. Are you still targeting the right audience?
Consumer behaviour has changed drastically over the last few months, which means that now is the ideal time to re-evaluate your target market. You should have a clear idea of who your typical customers are – use this insight to determine whether your products or services are still relevant for them right now.
It could be that you need to adapt your approach to this existing customer base, or it might be more beneficial to your business to target an entirely new audience. If so, look at who has been purchasing your products or enquiring about your services during the lockdown, and this should help point you in the right direction of who to market to next.
2. What are your customers’ new pain points?
It’s all very well and good targeting the right audience, but you need to have the right messaging to go along with it.
As we all continue to embrace and adapt to the new normal, our individual priorities have shifted and new concerns, interests, and distractions have come along. Your marketing needs to reflect this.
It may be that your existing target market still need your products and services, but ask yourself if the angle of your marketing is going to resonate with them as it did before. Consider the new problems that your offerings can provide a solution to, and adjust your messaging accordingly.
3. Does your original business plan hold up?
Take some time to consider your overall plan for your business and the products or services you’re offering. Ask yourself what you can change to align these with the current situation – likely a very different world from when you first put your business plan together.
It’s possible that you need to focus on promoting a slightly different range of products or services right now – look for gaps that you can fill by providing a niche solution to address the many new challenges your customers are facing. Or, as above, seek out new audiences to market your existing products and services to.
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions and figured out where to take your marketing from here, you’ll be ready to start planning and executing your new strategy.
The dos and don’ts of marketing during coronavirus
This is definitely not business as usual, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to market your business during this time. Be prepared to mix up your marketing, think outside the box, and take action, and you may just find that this is the perfect opportunity to reinvent how you connect with your customers.
Keep these key things in mind as you plan your new strategy and you won’t go far wrong:
DO check in with your customers
It’s important that you stay connected with your target audience, even if your business is unable to run at full capacity right now.
Keeping in touch with customers will reassure them that you’re here for them and your business isn’t going anywhere. It can also help you find out what they want from your business and what their current pain points are.
To stay connected, we’d recommend sending out email updates, posting on social media, and running surveys.
DO think carefully about messaging
Take a long, hard look at the content you’re putting out. You need to be sensitive to the current situation whilst staying on brand, so be mindful of the messaging you’re using. Put the needs of your customers first, keeping it informative, empathetic, genuine, and helpful.
Also make sure the graphics you’re using are still relevant – avoid images that go against the current guidelines, such as large groups or people in close proximity.
DON’T neglect your online presence
There’s never been a better opportunity to build your online presence, with more people online than ever before.
To take advantage of the record numbers of potential customers online, you must have a strong website that’s working hard for your business. Use this time to make sure that it’s working well on all devices, to create valuable content, conduct an SEO audit, and to revise your keywords to make sure you’re still targeting relevant searches.
Need help improving your online presence? At it’seeze, we can take care of all things website-related for you with our hassle-free web design services. Just get in touch to find out more.
DO get creative
Now is the time to explore unique ways of marketing your products and services. Finding a new and original way to promote your offering will help you stand out – now and in the future – and can help draw in new customers. The more creative you are, the better.
Get brainstorming, make use of different tools and techniques to switch up your marketing strategy, and keep track of your success to discover what’s working most effectively for you.
Two tools we’d recommend adding to your arsenal are Google Trends and Rising Retail Categories. These will help you stay up-to-date on what keywords, topics, and products are currently popular.
DO offer something unique
Although many businesses are starting to open their doors once again, there are still numerous restrictions in place – and more may be imposed if case numbers begin to rise.
If your business model is affected, try to find a niche product or service you can market at this time that ties in with your typical offerings. Perhaps you could offer something virtual, like an instructional class or training session. Or give customers the opportunity to recreate your services at home with a DIY kit or care package.
Coming up with a creative solution to the challenges your business is facing will help you navigate the current crisis – and gives you a unique angle to market your business with.
DO lend a helping hand
Consider what you can do at this time to help your customers and your community. The focus for a lot of people right now is on what businesses are doing to give back, so contributing in whatever way you can will show potential customers you’re a business that cares.
This might mean offering something for free, such as an online class or a particular product, or providing value for your audience with compelling content that either educates or distracts – such as a downloadable guide or participatory activities such as polls or questionnaires.
Anything you can do to help people out will be appreciated, and comes with the added benefit of being a great way to spread the word about your business.
DON’T look like you’re out to make a profit
Be very careful with your pricing when marketing during the pandemic. Are there any adjustments you can make to your prices to make your products or services more attractive right now?
Bundled deals and free delivery offers are especially popular, especially with more people making the switch to online shopping. Many businesses have also shown their community spirit by offering discounts to key workers.
One thing’s for certain – you should avoid the hard sell in your marketing by shifting the focus away from pricing and promotions where possible. You also want to make sure your pricing is appropriate, as giving the impression that your business is profiteering will be extremely damaging for your brand.
DO ensure everything is up-to-date
Keeping customers informed at a time like this is crucial. With everything in a constant state of change, people are more reliant than ever on you providing the most up-to-date information.
Make sure your website, Google My Business profile, online directory listings, and social media pages are kept updated to reflect any changes to your services, opening hours, delivery times, etc.
You should also give plenty of attention to the new safety measures your business has put in place as a result of COVID-19. This will help to reassure customers whilst also making it crystal clear what they can expect when they next do business with you.
DO keep an eye on the competition
For any successful marketing strategy, it’s always wise to have an idea of what your competitors are doing to promote themselves. Keeping tabs on the competition is currently even more essential, as it could provide you with vital info on what’s working well during coronavirus – and what’s really not.
Take a look at what some of your closest competitors are currently doing – or failing to do – to tackle the new challenges your industry is facing and see if there’s anything you can learn about how to better connect with your target market.
DON’T be afraid to ask for help
It’s no secret that this is a trying time for businesses. As much as you want to be there for your customers, it’s likely that they want to be there for you too.
Many people have shown their support for their favourite businesses by making bulk purchases and ordering gift cards for future use, but that’s not all your loyal customers can do.
Ask them to help spread the word about your business by leaving positive reviews and recommending you to others. This may just help you reach new customers who wouldn’t have heard about you otherwise.
The marketing methods we recommend right now
Once you have an action plan in place for your marketing, it’s time to get down to the doing – but where should you start?
There are several tried and tested digital marketing methods that we believe you should be focusing your efforts on for the foreseeable. Many of these will already be a part of your marketing strategy, some may be new territory for your business, but all are channels that are performing well for businesses successfully navigating the new normal.
Here’s what to try in the weeks and months ahead:
There are two factors making paid ads a great option for small businesses right now – more people are online and fewer businesses are advertising. This means that online traffic is rising whilst costs per click are falling, so you’ll be able to reach more people than ever before at a fraction of the price.
With reduced competition, the chances of success from paid social and search advertising are significantly higher, which means you should expect to see a strong return on investment.
Being active on social media will help you maintain a strong brand voice during this time whilst encouraging your customers to engage with you.
Particularly effective right now are social campaigns that show the human side of the business – behind-the-scenes videos and photos of your products and interviews with key team members work well.
Running online contests and promoting exclusive special offers via social media are also options worth considering.
A key part of social media but worthy of its own mention is the live video.
Broadcasting live to your followers is a great way to show the people behind your business and will provide engaging content that helps your customers relate to you more.
Going live on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn (depending on your target audience) gives you the opportunity to host a Q&A session, provide product demonstrations, share top tips and inspiration, and much more.
Creating valuable online content is incredibly important for boosting your presence in the search results and keeping your target market interacting with your website. Not to mention the fact that blogging will have long-term value for your business, with content continuing to perform well long after it’s been published.
Think about what will help your customers right now and research trending topics around your industry, then use your blog to answer popular queries and share your insights.
If you’re not already selling online, it might seriously be time to consider it.
With online shopping rates continuing to soar, selling through your website could give your business a significant boost at a time when social distancing measures and safety concerns are likely to limit the footfall to your brick and mortar store.
Even if you aren’t a retail business, there are still ways you can make the most of the ecommerce boom – you may be able to offer gift vouchers, online classes, subscriptions, or at-home kits.
If you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to start a newsletter, this is it. Encourage sign-ups via your website and social media, and then craft a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly email to send out to your subscribers.
This is a great way to build trust in your brand and keep your business in people’s minds, and you can be sure you’re targeting the right audience as you’ll only be communicating with those who have opted in to hear from you.
Use your newsletter to send out regular updates about your business and products, share interesting content, and promote special offers.
Hosting a webinar – or a series of webinars – can be a great alternative to attending live events. It gives you the chance to share your expertise with your customers and engage them remotely by inviting them to take part in an interactive experience with you.
Your webinar could take the format of a demonstration, a Q&A session, a training course, or even an informal discussion.
Of course, not every one of these methods will work for your business, but now is the time to get creative, try new things, and adapt to the changing situation.
Whatever you decide to do, keeping your marketing activities going throughout this pandemic is going to play a crucial role in your business’s current and future success. By testing out new strategies, you’ll be able to add long-term value to your business and ensure you’re in a stronger position when it comes to growing your small business in a post-COVID-19 world.
At it'seeze, we've made it our mission to help small businesses grow by providing a hands-on web design service that takes care of all your website needs. If you'd like to find out more about our services and the ongoing support we offer, please get in touch with our team today. You can also book a free website audit with us to discover how to improve your existing website and get your online presence back on track.
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