Just yesterday, I had a call with a client who asked me “How do we handle this crisis in our business? Can you prioritize the marketing services we are doing and help us figure out what to do if this continues to go bad?”
That client is not alone. So many are concerned. If you’re concerned, you are not alone.
Like you, we keep hearing that this will get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to act, not retreat.
We understand the fears that this pandemic creates. We are a small business, too. It is human nature to feel this way. But, you can be smart about what you do for your customers and your business.
Willingness To Adapt Is Paramount
If you’ve read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” you know that there were four mice in the book: “Hem, Haw, Sniff & Scurry.” Two of them saw their cheese pile was getting smaller and smaller. They saw the writing on the wall and knew they needed to accept the change, and adapt.
The other two mice never noticed. They did not pay attention. So, when their cheese pile was empty they didn’t know what to do.
For you, it’s important to look ahead. See and accept that change is happening whether you want it or not.
How will you adapt your marketing strategy to overcome the uncertainty that comes along with this change?
The “Soft Skills” Side Of Marketing
No matter what type of marketing you’re going to do, there are some universal truths to keep in mind. First, let’s start with some tips that you may find to be common sense, but they’re worth mentioning anyway.
- Be human. Have compassion and understanding. If you’re not a patient person, learn to be. Times like this can be stressful for both you and your customers. Be a breath of fresh air.
- Offer resources. Help others. Maybe your best marketing is recognizing a need and delivering a new solution.
- Be thoughtful. People want off of social media because their feed is full of #Coronavirus #Covid19 posts. It is creating more fear and people are looking for something positive, so be the light. Give them something to look forward to. Help them to “slow their scroll.”
- Be clear and communicate often. Certainly, don’t go “dark”.
- Be smart about what you are saying. Are you helping or hurting? Are you being the “salt” or are you “stirring the pot”?
Who Are You Marketing To?
When marketing at any time, but especially in a time of crisis, you need to decide if you want to market to attract new customers or if you want to market to your existing clients.
In a time of crisis, your best bet may be to focus on what you already have - your current customers. For you that could mean creating a loyalty or VIP program. While most of the time coupons and discounted services are frowned upon, now may be a time to make an exception. If a coupon or discount gets your customers back in your door - by all means, get them back in your door!
Social media and email are two great platforms to use for retention marketing. These platforms allow you to easily and inexpensively stay in touch with your current clients. Remember to be interesting and relevant while also being transparent and compassionate. In relation to the Coronavirus, tell people how they can still do business with you during this time, and educate them on the precautions you are taking to make it safe to do business with you.
When doing retention marketing, because your audience already knows, likes, and trusts you - this is a great time to utilize video. Put yourself out there by sharing your knowledge, tips and experiences. Just remember to be open, honest and helpful - always. Because people get to hear and see you, there is no better marketing medium to show empathy than video. Post your video on social, in a blog, and in an email campaign.
With acquisition marketing, you will be focusing on getting new customers. Even when you’re not in a time of crisis, acquisition marketing is often much more difficult or costly. But do you have a product or service that is critical to people’s lives? They’re going to be searching for someone to advise them, to answer their questions, and to be helpful. Do you have marketing already in place to do that? If not, now is the time to get that task completed.
Consider lead generation. What is lead generation? So glad you asked! Simply put, it is creating content that is valuable to your potential customer. In order for them to get the info, they’re going to give you their email address - which will allow you to then stay in touch with them. This might happen with an ad that links them to a landing page that asks for their email, then they get an email with the promised content they signed up for. From there you’re sending them emails in a series specifically created to nurture the relationship and turn them into a customer. Lead generation can happen in a wide variety of ways, this is only one example.
Should I Stop My Marketing Services?
In times of crisis, one of the most damaging things you can do to your business is to stop marketing. You’re already in a situation where many people are scared and are choosing to be more frugal in their spending. To stop making people aware of your products and services, and to choose not to educate them on the how and why of doing business with you - especially in these times - is just irresponsible and dangerous, to both you and your employees who depend on your business.
In addition, some services are dependent on ongoing effort. SEO is an example of one of those services. Search Engine Optimization is a long process that, if stopped, can cause your Google rankings to drop. When the crisis passes you will regret having stopped or pausing that service. Instead of stopping that service, boost it with more content.
If business is slow, use this time to create more content, more blogs, and more pages to continue to solidify your website as an authority with Google.
What About Boosting Facebook Posts Or Other Paid Digital Advertising?
This is a moment when we need to pull in some of that common sense we talked about. Are your customers hurting and your ads will be insensitive during this time of crisis? If so, turn them off. However, if you can be helpful, solve a problem and do so while being empathetic, then - by all means - keep going!
What makes sense for you AND your audience? Do that! So many times people react far too quickly and without much thought. That is when we most likely make our worst decisions.
Don’t turn off your ads too quickly. Maybe all you need to do is rework them a bit. You could have a different product or service to offer your prospects that will make more sense during the crisis. Maybe only the messaging needs to change. Either way, think about what it is that you’re promoting and how it fits into the crisis.
Boosting posts on Facebook could be a great solution for you. If you’ve created posts and folks are engaging with them amidst the crisis, promoting those posts can be a great opportunity to extend the reach and engagement.
I Don’t Know What To Say!
Let’s first stop. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts.
Communication is key. You have to find a positive balance in your messaging. You should not over communicate, yet it is also important to share the information that needs to be shared. Remain relevant, honest about timelines, possible delays, and how you plan to move forward.
Most importantly don’t confuse people with mixed messages. Be crystal clear in your messages. Be consistent, compassionate and confident! In a crisis, people are desperate for confidence and they tend to cling to others who are confident.
Be sensitive to what is going on locally, regionally, nationally, and across the world. Your audience deserves timely messages and reassurances that you will be present for them.
As we have referenced a few times, remember to be human. Understand that people are scared, their lives have been turned upside down and they don’t know what to do.
Marketing to your audience can be a win-win. They’re looking for relevant, helpful, knowledgeable information - and you can deliver it.
Think about your clients and potential clients. What are they struggling with? What are their pains and problems? What frustrates them and what makes them feel better about the crisis they’re in? Deliver information that will be helpful to them. For example, you’re reading this because we have had customers ask us how to handle marketing during this crisis. Well, here’s the answer!
Just like most marketing messages, you want to share information but be sensitive to not turn your audience off. You want to capture their attention, not increase stress and uncertainty.
Your marketing can be used to send announcements, special offers relating to the crisis (you may have a product or service that can make their lives easier), helpful tips, or resources.
Reassure your customer base that you are still available to serve them. Show them how you’re making adaptations and how you’re prepared and ready to serve.
A Couple Of Examples
During the Coronavirus crisis, auto repair shop owners need to reassure their customers that mechanics are washing their hands before they get into their car, they’re wiping down the steering wheels and wearing gloves.
With the right message, religious based gift shops can thrive given that many people will turn to their faith to help them thrive.
Where Are My Resources? Who Do I Go To? What Do I Believe?
I hate to keep saying it but, this is another time when common sense is critical. So many people believe false information and trust unreliable sources. Consider first who to believe. Who do you trust normally?
Today, we are facing the pandemic of the Coronavirus. So let’s look at that. It’s a health related issue. So, look to the National Center for Disease Control (CDC). From there let’s bring it more local. For us in Louisiana, that is our Governor’s office, our local parish government and emergency management team.
Also from a national level, when it comes to business, always look to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Chambers of Commerce and economic development organizations.
We’ve put together a list of resources to share with you. Here are some important, helpful resources to help you as you continue your next days, weeks and months.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - COVID 19
United States Chamber of Commerce - Coronavirus Updates & Resources
Louisiana Economic Development (LED) - Opportunity Louisiana
Small Business Administration - Guidance & Loans
Facebook Business Resources
Take Your Business Online With the Proper Tools
Yesterday, we let all of our staff know they could go home. Bring your computer and monitors with you and take care of yourselves. We want our team to know we care about them as well as our customers.
Truett Cathy, Chick-Fil-A Founder, was known for his approach to doing business. It was all about the people.
So, let your team know you care about them and they’ll care about your customers. Your community will know you care about your team and your customers will feel that same love, dedication and loyalty.
Not all businesses are able to do this, we understand. But if you can take your business - or even part of your business - online, do it! Here are the tools we use and depend on to maintain our business while operating remotely.
- Zoom. We use Zoom for not only teaching webinars, but also for internal and client video meetings and communication. It’s a must-have for us! Zoom is widely known and appreciated. The mobile app is a winner, too!
- Breeze. Well, Breeze makes our management of projects and clients - a breeze! This is our project management software where we keep track of projects, tasks, and project communication, time tracking and deadlines! All in one place!
- Slack. Without Slack our email inboxes, texts and more would be overflowing. Slack allows us to communicate internally in private messages or in group messages. It is a beautiful piece of software with a lovely mobile app that keeps us connected everywhere!
- Dropbox. Where else would you save and share files? Well, we do use Google Drive (as mentioned below). It’s easy to utilize and widely adopted in the business world. Keep your files “in the cloud” and organized!
- Google Drive. I’m not sure we could exist without Google Drive. We use it for organization, document creation, spreadsheets, slides/presentations, forms and more. Our entire team has access and it is a vital part of how we do business.
With these tools we’re good to go no matter where we are in the world!
I think the biggest challenge with the Coronavirus is taking the first step. It is taking a moment to stop, breathe and think. Make decisions and then let’s go! You CAN do this. Don’t allow fear to overtake you and paralyze you.
Your customers and your team need you to lead with confidence. Don’t be afraid to try something new. The Coronavirus has everyone in the world changing their thought processes, habits and patterns. Talk about pattern disrupters - that’s the Coronavirus.
Take a step back and make decisions based on what your customers need and want. But, don’t stop marketing. It’s the worst time to do that!
You’ve got this!