Given the ‘cancel everything’ vibe right now, you could be forgiven for thinking you should cancel the things you’re doing in your business too. But now is not the time to hold back on marketing activities. Now is the time to stand firm and get out there.
Yes, things are very serious, and yes, life might quite literally never be the same again. However, small business can shine if it does the opposite of the naysayers, catastrophisers and... big business.
If one of your key marketing objectives is to drive further reach of your business to create awareness with even more prospective clients, then ramp up those efforts. If you’re looking to retain existing clients, then engage more than ever before to instil buying confidence.
Here are 5 strategies to weather the COVID-19 storm.
1. As Big Business Retreats, Small Business Should Step Into The Spotlight, Stand Firm & Lead
It’s likely that large corporations will tighten budgets across the board in an effort to conserve resources or bolster other areas of the business that are suffering. This means we could be looking at a reduced saturation of marketing messages from big brands and an opportunity for smaller brands to shine through. Small businesses should do the exact opposite and get out there more than ever (via technology, of course). Take advantage of this opportunity, not least because it instils overall consumer confidence to see small businesses carrying on despite everything, but because it's your chance to shine.
So, continue your usual marketing activities as well as demonstrating leadership in the face of adverse circumstances.
If your business activity is directly affected by COVID-19, for example if you are in the travel sector, aged care or co-working to name just a few, then immediate marketing activity should take the form of policy, procedure and response comms; outlining what your business will do differently to deal with the current situation. Look for ways you can offer reduced or slimlined product or service levels to help clients stay with you through this period rather than them cutting your service completely.
If you sell to an industry or sector that is directly affected, then you should direct comms. to your clients or prospects that demonstrate your ‘take’ on the situation. In other words, within your area of expertise, what do you advise these businesses should do that can help them get through this challenging time? Communicating more than usual is a good idea at this time. You want to keep close to them and bed in your value.
2. Make a Plan & Communicate to Clients
Consider how COVID-19 affects your business operations and decide what, if anything, you need to do differently to adhere to Government guidelines, to support your staff and for your own personal comfort level and tolerance to risk. Next, decide which aspects of your plan you need to communicate to your clients and whether different clients need different information from you to meet different needs. Finally, create a communication to be sent out to clients to let them know your plan and offer to answer any questions they may have.
3. Self-isolation Does Not Mean Hibernation
If you’re going to survive any economic downturn, you need to be on the pitch, playing the game. If you reduce marketing activities, you reduce your presence and visibility in the market and you don’t remind prospects why they need you.
Similarly with existing or even lapsed clients, in times of crisis more communication is better than less, and it’s certainly better than none.
If you are used to using more traditional methods in your business, now is the time to look to digital marketing and technology to help you stay on the pitch and keep playing. This could mean investing in online meeting or webinar technology and moving your service delivery online.
If you are already using marketing automation softwares or other types of subscription services and external providers and you have to cut costs, then here's a few ideas:
Subscriptions to marketing softwares - if you're not already paid up for the year, consider dropping to the lesser subscription meaning you don't entirely lose momentum and can still make use of the software, even if you have to do a bit more manual work.
External marketing providers - if you usually have a copywriter writing your content, do not pull this entirely. If you absolutely must cut costs, get more specific and focussed on the essential content that is better delivered by an experienced writer, then keep them working on that content. You can write some of your own stuff to make up the shortfall. Similarly, with designers, what must they design vs. what you could potentially do yourself in Canva. Social media posts, for example, can easily be done in Canva for the time being.
Cut back on the methods, don't cut out the activity.
4. Get Digitally Social
Right now is a great opportunity to get social online and connect with your target audience on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Get to know people, ask questions to find out their frustrations and needs, start a discussion within your areas of expertise. You can also get active on newsfeeds and engage with posts, articles and discussion forums. Just imagine who you could meet and what impact that could have on your business?
I really feel that right now, online socialising is going to boom! Everyone will become more social and engage more because they will want to feed their human need for connection.
If your team doesn't usually work remotely, grab Slack for a really cool way to interact with each other.
Additionally, whilst businesses may need to tighten purse strings meaning they may not be looking to take on new projects or work with new providers right now; they are more likely to be planning ahead for what happens after we get through the worst of this. As such, it's a great opportunity to start conversations so that you have some possible leads sitting in the wings for when the world presses the 'play button' again.
5. What You Should Definitely NOT Do
Whilst most people with an entrepreneurial mindset will be seeking ways to turn this situation into an opportunity, it is not advisable, nor will it be tolerated by Google or Facebook, to make direct claims about your ability to ‘solve COVID-19’ via a cure or otherwise. You should be very careful about using puns or jokes as this could massively backfire and cause brand damage.
It is also not advisable to go in for a hard sell. However, time is of the essence, so if you have a service that will be in more demand right now, then make yourself known, useful and empathetic to a prospect’s immediate needs. You’re there to support in crisis, not to make them feel you are taking advantage of their circumstances. Tread carefully, but do tread.
Finally, stay present, available and engaged. Where possible, retain an upbeat attitude and be a solutions provider. Lead, don't hide.
Stay safe out there everyone!
Stevie V Brown coaches small business owners’ to increase their marketing know-how, build their confidence and create and implement a growth marketing strategy that attracts and nurtures more of their ideal clients and gets them paid what they're truly worth. Apply for a FREE Marketing Accelerator with Stevie and get crystal clear on the next 3 actions you can take to grow your business today.