Marketing during a crisis can be a challenge. As small businesses struggle to get their bearings, many wonder how to market themselves.
More than 60% of small and medium business owners surveyed said they felt their revenues would shrink for the next six months. Given the shaky economic conditions, they want to retain current customers and appeal to new ones, but how to communicate without sounding opportunistic can be tricky.
So what can they do to market effectively now and as we move forward? To provide some help and direction, I asked nine marketing and communications pros for their best advice.
I asked: “If you could give one piece of advice to small businesses as they prepare for the recovery, what would it be?”
How Can Small Businesses Prepare for the Recovery?
Focus on Digital
“I think every business needs to stay focused on building digital capabilities. If you can sell online, hone in on improving the digital shopping experience. And if some or all employees could work remotely, keep developing the tools and skillsets needed to make remote work seamless. Ultimately, these things are the future, whether we have another “wave” of covid19 or not.”
– Kim Scaravelli, Digital Strategist, Content Designer, founder of Trust Communications
Connect with Your Customers
“During this crisis and any crisis, small businesses need to decide what they want to be for their customers and audience. Your customers may not be able to visit your brick and mortar location, but that doesn’t mean the relationship ends. Use social listening tools like Talkwalker Alerts to see what your target audience is talking about. What are their current needs? Pain points? What can you do to help them with this need now? Once you have this information, use social media and email to talk to them and showcase how you can help. Have a retail store? Show them how to style their outfits. Have a restaurant? Give virtual cooking lessons. Have a bar? Teach people your favorite cocktails. They will remember the people who gave back. They will remember that you took the time to make special moments with them. When we are all stuck at home, we realize how much we crave connection… so go connect.”
– Christina Garnett | Strategist | ICUC, https://medium.com/@christinagarnett
Find Ways to Humanize Your Business
“Who knows what ‘back to normal’ will mean. Trade shows won’t be happening any time soon and travel will be more complicated than before.
So if you can’t always be in the room with a customer or prospect, the next best thing you can do is let them see your face and hear your voice.
You’ve probably already embraced video meetings. But bring a human element into your content creation, sales outreach and even internal company communications as well by using tools like Loom.com to record short videos.”
– Joe Sullivan, Co-Founder, Gorilla 76, gorilla76.com/learn
Invest in Personal Branding
“The best single piece of advice I can give to prepare for recovery is to invest in your and your employees’ personal brands. Why? Because, people want to do business with people, not businesses. Personal brands put the personality into your products and services. Support your team with professional training on how to build an intentional and relatable brand. Then encourage your team (at all levels) to begin sharing their expertise, insights, stories of failure, and lessons learned. Doing so will ultimately make your business more relatable as the world recovers together.”
– Ryan Foland, Speaker, Author of Ditch the Act, Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success, https://ryan.online
Be Ruthless About Prioritization
“Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. A quick look back to the history of 2008 and 2000 will confirm this. That means that prioritization, discipline, and patience are key. Identify the opportunities to position your business for the altered world in which we live. Ruthlessly prioritize with an eye on two things. Firstly emergency measures to survive short term. Secondly, actions, plans, and investments for the long term. Stick to those priorities and recognize that you may need to be patient for your hard work to pay off.”
– Matthew Woodget, founder and principal consultant, GoNarrative
Carefully Craft Your Messaging
“If a small business is going to thrive in our ‘new normal,’ it will be crucial to nail down messaging, especially if leveraging any kind of online marketing strategies. I always say, ‘If your clients can’t see you, they can’t buy from you.’ With a surge to move online with offerings, it’s more important than ever for your message to stand out in a crowded market. That means you’ve got to convey WHAT you do so that it’s relevant to your ideal buyers. Use the ROCS Method™ to create Relevant, Outcome-Driven messages that move your prospects from interested to invested.”
– Melanie Benson, Profit Amplifier, Host, Amplify Your Success Podcast, www.MelanieBenson.com
Adapt As Needed
“Businesses need to remain flexible. In fact, they need to be willing to shift their efforts and resources quickly, and with ease.
We are seeing significant changes in consumer behavior. Needs and wants have shifted tremendously. Products and services, processes and priorities, need to be adjusted accordingly.
As we enter into the recovery period, these shifts will continue to occur. Businesses that adapt will find success.
This being said, my biggest piece of advice would be to keep a close eye on your audience and on your competitors. Your audience can help you determine what to adjust and your competitors can help you decipher how to (or not to) do so!”
– Gabriela Cardoza | Corporate & Personal Brand Strategist | https://www.cardozagab.com/
Pivot to Find Additional Streams of Income
“The most important thing for a small business to focus on is a lesson we all learned from the Great Recession: positive net cash flow. No matter how large or small, a business with positive net cash flow will do fine. A business with negative net cash flow will eventually go out of business. Thus, EVERY business needs to have an eagle eye on their cash flow and do whatever it takes to bring in more money than it spends. On the expense side, that may mean furloughs or layoffs, as human capital is typically a business’ largest expense. On the income side, that means finding as many additional streams of income as possible, from pivoting your core services to adding new income from non-traditional revenue sources. Net cash flow is your bible during the pandemic and recovery.”
– Christopher S. Penn, Chief Data Scientist, TrustInsights.ai
Focus on Human Values
“According to a new Valuegraphics study on post-pandemic recovery, 48% of Americans said they’d miss locally owned small businesses, amongst other things, if they did not survive in their community after the pandemic. But when forced to choose the single most important thing they’d miss, only 2% of Americans choose small locally owned businesses, preferring to see the survival of professional sports teams, stadiums, and shopping malls.
So what can be done? Countless studies of human behavior stretching back decades in the fields of sociology, neuroscience, and psychology all prove a key principle: what we value determines what we do. In other words, the things that are most important to us – our values – are responsible for how we make decisions. Small local businesses can use human values to help them attract the customers and clients necessary to win a larger share of support.”
– David Allison, Human Behavior Expert and Pioneer of Values Thinking, founder of Valuegraphics
Small Business Marketing Must Go On – But Let’s Keep It Human
While the months ahead hold uncertainty, small businesses should stay out in front of their audiences by continuing to communicate, keeping in mind customers are looking for brands that remember there are humans on the other side of the screen. Small business marketing is always more likely to succeed when you put your customer at the center of your efforts.
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About the author: You’ll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and freelance writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, Attorney at Work, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and more.