It’s a tricky thing, figuring out how to promote and market your business in a time of crisis. On the one hand, many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, hoping they will be able to weather the storm and reopen when the crisis is over. On the other hand, nobody wants to appear callous or opportunistic.
That said, there are still ways to promote your business during this unsettling and scary time. The key is to do four things at once:
- Meet your audience where they are.
- Provide clear value in a time of need.
- Be sensitive to the times and avoid missteps.
- Take advantage of special advertising offers and promotions.
Here are some suggestions to help you.
Meet Your Audience Where They Are
In some ways, the fact that most people are staying home and avoiding social gatherings gives small business owners a unique opportunity. At the risk of seeming too cavalier about the seriousness of the situation, you have a captive audience.
That means that the people you want to reach are spending more time than they usually do online. Digital marketing is going to be more important now than it ever has been – and small business owners can and should take advantage of it.
This is a good time to revisit your marketing mix. You should consider pulling money from things like direct mail marketing, if that’s something you’ve been doing, and putting it into:
- Social media advertising
- Search engine advertising
- Email marketing
It’s also a good time now that we’re a couple of weeks into the nationwide “stay at home” order to revisit your analytics and see what’s happening with them. Do you have a bunch of new followers on Pinterest? Your marketing budget should reflect that.
Provide Clear Value in a Time of Need
While many Americans are scared and out of work, there are a lot of people who are working from home and eager to support local businesses. This is a good time to get creative and think about how to serve them.
For example, I’ve seen some businesses offering “Buy Now and Save Later” promotions where they introduce offers even if the business is closed right now. It’s a good way to keep your audience engaged and buying from you – and to create some continuity to help you through a temporary closure.
Another option is to find ways to put your regular services online. This isn’t a solution for everybody, but a lot of businesses have adapted in ways that are truly inspirational. If you can figure out a way to harness technology to help your audience, now is the time to do it.
If you’re a manufacturer, then there are potential opportunities to help people in a way that’s direct and concrete. A good example is Toast, a company that normally makes phone and laptop cases and other products out of natural materials such as wood and leather. In a short time, they have retooled their machinery and engineered a completely reusable face shield that they’re making available to hospitals and emergency workers.
Refine Your SEO
Your marketing should reflect what you’re doing to provide value. If you’re providing emergency services or virtual services, you may want to put some money into SEO for keywords related to the changes. For example, a restaurant that now is focusing on takeout and delivery might put some marketing money into local keywords that include those terms to ensure they reach their audience.
However, it’s not a good idea to stop spending for your regular keywords completely. Remember that both Google and Facebook have ad credit programs for small businesses to use during the pandemic. It’s still important to maintain your Google rank for your usual target keywords. If you don’t, then you may find that your ranking takes a hit – and if that happens, it may be difficult to recover when we return to business as usual.
Keep the Conversation Going
If your business is closed temporarily or providing limited services, you can still invest in “soft” marketing to keep your audience engaged and involved. Two of the best ways to accomplish this task are social media marketing and email marketing.
You might be sick of hearing me go on about email marketing, but it still has a very high ROI and it’s a great way to stay in touch without being overbearing.
The same is true of social media marketing. Your organic posts offer an opportunity to spark conversation, find out what your followers are thinking, and remind them of your value. Promoted posts can do the same thing.
Be Sensitive to the Times and Avoid Missteps
One of the trickiest things about marketing during a crisis is striking the right balance between sensitivity and business concerns. Any business that is seen as trying to take advantage of people is likely to suffer unpleasant consequences.
The first thing to do is to avoid any marketing that appears to be taking the present situation lightly or being dismissive of the very real pain and fear people are feeling. Empathy is the word of the day and businesses that demonstrate are will be rewarded by their customers.
The second thing is to keep your focus on your customers and not on your financial worries. There’s nothing wrong with being worried about the survival of your business, but if it seems like the only thing you’re worried about, you may end up alienating the people you want to attract.
None of us knows what next week or next month will bring. It may be that a marketing campaign that works today will be twice as effective in a week, or that it won’t deliver any results and you need to revamp.
I realize that might not be reassuring, but I truly believe that with the right mindset, it can be a good thing. Check your analytics regularly. If you can afford it, do some A/B testing to refine your campaigns. Change things as needed – and be prepared to change them again if you must.
Marketing your business is still a must during the pandemic, but you’ll need to think on your feet and do everything you can to serve your audience. If you can do that, then your business will come through the crisis.