Marketing during difficult times can be extremely tricky and calls for a well-thought-out approach that will need to be constantly adjusted to respond to a changing landscape of events. Whether it's a world-wide pandemic or mass protests (hello 2020), the “do no harm” approach (avoiding anything that can offend anyone or appear insensitive during a difficult time) should be your baseline. It is important that your brand is not only staying relevant, but also addressing the crisis head-on by furthering the conversation and providing genuine support to your customers and your community. And, of course, at some point, there will be a time to get back to promoting your business again.
Everyone’s affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but at Flagship Bank we know first hand that many small businesses are feeling particularly vulnerable right now.
Whether you're a brick-and-mortar retailer that’s temporarily closed your doors or an online business that’s experiencing a spike you weren’t anticipating, we want to share some next steps suggestions for your business we found from various marketers that may be helpful. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you and your business as you navigate this unique time.
If you find yourself in need of inspiration and encouragement, don't hesitate to reach out (virtually) to your community of fellow entrepreneurs. We're all in this together, so try to set aside some time to share a few stories, trade information about what's working well, and build a stronger sense of camaraderie with your peers.
It’s also important to stay connected to your customers and supporters, too. Here are a few ways you can do it.
Keep folks updated. No matter what type of business you’ve got—whether you run a hair salon, a clothing store, or a stall at the local farmer’s market—there are plenty of people out there who want to hear from you. Consider adding a signup form to your site and sending regular email updates to keep the conversation going with your customers, fans, and friends. Not only does it help you keep folks in the loop about any changes to your hours or product availability, but it’s also a great way to let them know how they can support you during this difficult time.
Strengthen bonds with your community. Right now, a lot of people are adjusting to new daily routines. For some, that might mean working from home, for others, that might also mean taking care of (or homeschooling) their children. If you’re able to provide any resources or services—even if it’s just a free, downloadable coloring book to help keep kids entertained—consider creating a landing page to help you easily share it with those in your community. Our friends at Lab did this with their Creative Kits you can order online.
There are a variety of ways businesses can respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, by being resourceful. For your business, this means being considerate of the real impact on your customers. Consider your relevance to the situation; don't try to force-fit your brand into places where it doesn't belong. Reach out to your audience and find out what they need and what you can do to help.
For example, when Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis saw that there was a desperate need for hand sanitizer throughout the local community, they realized they were in a unique position to help. So, they made the decision to temporarily shift away from spirits to focus on producing hand sanitizer.
If people can't come to your business in-person, think about creative ways you can bring your business to them. For example, if you’re a restaurant or coffee shop owner who’s not able to serve customers right now, maybe you can create a series of online classes to teach people how to prepare some of their favorite dishes or drinks at home. Or, if you operate a gym or yoga studio, perhaps you can offer live streamed sessions that members can attend online.
What You Can Do Today
Even if you’re not able to operate your business as normal right now, there are still things you can do to help navigate all of the uncertainty and set yourself up for success in the long-term.
If you don't have a website, consider building a shoppable landing page where folks can buy your stuff online. You can even use it to sell gift cards that folks can buy now and use later on when the situation improves.
Landing pages can also be a great way to collect contact information from your audience. Create a page with a signup form, share the link across your social channels, and then start sending regular updates to keep folks informed about everything going on with you and your business.
Alternatively, maybe your business has experienced a dramatic (and unexpected) increase in online traffic and sales as a result of recent events. For you, it’s about being strategic in your response and understanding how you can continue to meet the needs of your customers.
If you’ve got a product that’s been particularly popular, consider setting up social media ads to boost awareness among your existing customers—and brand new audiences, too.
Are you seeing increased traffic to your website because the content you offer is resonating right now? Be sure to capture that data so you can use it to make informed marketing decisions (while staying true to your brand) down the road.
With so many folks confined to their homes right now, many people are spending more time online. Focus on creating meaningful content that resonates with your audience. Be sure to consider the context and timing, however; not every message is appropriate for every channel.
Here are a few examples of the types of content you could create.
Plan social content that provide audiences with a look at the human side of your business, like a weekly “meet the staff” feature that introduces folks to your team or a behind-the-scenes look at how you make your products. Flagship Bank does this on Wednesdays with employee spotlights!
Send a postcard to let your customers know you’re thinking about them and can’t wait to see them again. While you’re at it, you can even plan ahead and create postcards to welcome new customers when you’re open for business again.
Instagram stories can be an interactive way to connect with your audience. Try posting a few to show off your upcoming products, discuss your plans for the coming months, or just chat about how you’re doing. We like to feature small businesses in the Twin Cities in our stories.
If you’re knowledgeable about a certain subject and you’ve always wanted to share what you know with others, now’s the time to start organizing your ideas. You could create a downloadable guide, an ebook, or even a series of helpful (and SEO-friendly) blog posts. Like the one you are reading right now.
If you find that these (or any other content opportunities you’ve discovered) resonate with your audience, consider adding them to your long-term marketing plans. Any strategies you put into place now will only make your business stronger on the other side.
We know that this is a difficult time for everyone. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re committed to providing you with accurate, relevant, and timely resources that you’ll need as you navigate through the uncertainty ahead. We’re in this together Minnesota, and we’re here to help.