The bad news: The current global situation is beyond challenging for most businesses right now. Some businesses are temporarily shutting their doors.
The good news: People still need your business.
At SharedTEAMS, we want to focus on the entrepreneurial spirit of flexibility and resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some businesses are adapting to the economic and social changes, and are quickly pivoting their offerings or moving their in-person operations online so they can continue serving their customers.
No, not every business model works in a digital format. But many can.
To the businesses whose operations are halted because they work directly with people, we can’t wait until the CDC and the WHO say we can visit your business again. In the meantime, most of these tips will still benefit you.
To those who are still able to run their businesses virtually or through other means, we encourage you to buckle down and focus on your customers.
Here are 9 tips for marketing your business during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Before you connect with your customers and prospects through your marketing efforts, be sure to take stock of your business’s needs first. Consider yourself, your leadership team, and other employees, as well as your stakeholders. Inform them of any big decisions before informing others. Then, keep them informed as changes occur and the situation progresses.
Many businesses are making their employees work from home with additional sick leave. If you are able to offer these opportunities, they will likely provide your employees with some relief.
Do what’s best for your business, regardless of what other businesses are doing.
Depending on your business type, you may have quickly adapted to the economic changes due to the COVID-19 outbreak or you may still be figuring out your next steps. Either way, don’t stop marketing your business, especially when it comes to communications.
Communications, which is just one part of your marketing strategy, is vital during times like these. You need to communicate with your customers, stakeholders, prospects, and employees because they deserve to know what changes your business is going through.
These communications, especially to your customers and prospects, don’t need to include all the details, but they should inform, educate, and relieve stress, if possible. Your audience cares about your business, so let them be in the know when big decisions are made, especially if your store or customer service hours are being limited.
Another way to continue communicating with your audiences is to maintain your content marketing efforts. By continuing to relate to, inform, entertain, and educate your audience through a variety of content pieces, your brand will stay top-of-mind. This includes blog articles, social media posts, podcast episodes, news releases, email marketing, and other content efforts.
Maintaining consistent and genuine communications with your customers is just the first step to retaining their business. Serve them, even if they cannot step into your store or restaurant. There are many ways you can serve them, including:
- Update your business hours on Google My Business, your website, and other business listings.
- Ask customers for reviews of your services or products and then thank them.
- Consider outreach opportunities with other like-minded businesses. Combine your efforts to serve both of your audiences.
- Consider media outreach opportunities. Do your local media outlets need a business story?
- Encourage engagement via email, social media, or other platforms. Start a conversation and then keep it going by responding to your audience.
Think about what your customers need right now. How can you serve them well?
If you’ve planned and scheduled content ahead of time, we recommend checking that content before it goes live or even after it recently published. If you have scheduled content about in-person events, for example, you likely need to remove and possibly retract or update that information.
The key point is to keep your audience in-the-know, even if you make a mistake. If you do make a mistake, own up to it right away and your audience will likely forgive you quickly and be grateful for the update. The key is to be honest and offer clarity to your audience.
We already touched on this in the introduction, but this piece is very important.
Schools, gyms, and music educators are offering online classes. Retail shops that previously only sold in brick-and-mortar stores are now selling items on Etsy, eBay, and Instagram. Public agencies are shifting to telecommuting, phone calls, and webinars.
Businesses that previously didn’t consider telecommuting before are now experiencing its benefits and challenges. Product-based businesses are mailing their products like never before (thank you, USPS). All of these businesses are being flexible and adapting to their new, hopefully temporary, normal.
Can you take some or all of your business online using email, video chat, and phone calls?
Almost every business is likely to take an economic blow because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. You can still use this time to build your brand, nurture your prospect and customer lists, and refine your marketing strategy.
If you are confronted with the need to cut your marketing budget, cut the short-term projects instead of the long-term projects.
Just as one campaign doesn’t make a brand, stopping a multi-channel marketing strategy can harm your overall brand perception. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t trim your multi-channel effort for the time being. Be practical about what you can cut; think about your long-term branding efforts if you do cut projects, rather than short-term, fear-based cuts.
Stopping long-term efforts, like content marketing, can make it even harder to grow when you dive back into them. In the meantime, your competitors are likely continuing those long-term efforts, which means you will have a lot to “catch up” on.
Plus, your audience likely still wants to see your brand in the usual places, especially during trying times like these. Be there for them.
What short-term campaigns do you need to cut? What long-term efforts do you need to maintain?
If you have some downtime because business is slower than usual, take this opportunity to update your evergreen content (content that is always relevant and is not only relevant to a specific time in the past). Not only does updating your evergreen content help increase your SEO, but it can also further benefit your audience when they read it.
A popular way of doing this is to go through your business’s old blog posts, review them, update them, and add the “updated date.” This not only notifies your audience that you care enough about the information to update it for them, but it can also improve your Google ranking and your click-through rate.
What evergreen content can you update?
Many businesses are using this challenging time to offer promotions. Some online-based businesses are offering free trials for those who are self-quarantining or social distancing. Some membership-based businesses are providing a discount on membership fees.
Brick-and-mortar businesses like restaurants are selling gift cards and they are finding that their biggest supporters are buying those gift cards in an effort to help keep their businesses afloat. Other restaurants are offering-in home delivery services to local residents to keep business going and community members fed.
Depending on your offering, it’s important to first determine whether the promotion will only benefit your business or if it will also benefit the customers. If it’s mutually-beneficial, we encourage you to create the promotion and start publicizing it to your audience via email and social media.
Unless a project is complete and ready to launch, now is not the time to start a new project. In fact, if your team is in the middle of a project, it may be best to pause work on that project.
Now is the time to buckle down on your current offerings. Why? We don’t know how long this situation will last, so we don’t want to dwindle your business’s limited resources for a project that can wait.
However, if you can pivot all or some of your offerings so you are still able to serve your customers (e.g. going virtual), then start right now.
It all comes down to resources and cash flow. How can you pivot to continue business operations?
We hope this pandemic will be short-lived. We also hope your business will be flexible and resilient during this challenging time.
If you pivoted your business to accommodate the current social and economic changes, please let us know. We’d like to hear your story.