COVID-19 has hit small and medium businesses exceptionally hard. Early in the crisis, specialist SME bank Aldermore reported that the virus had led to an average 34% loss in monthly business revenue for UK SMEs, while one in four businesses had seen a decrease of more than 70% of their income. Sadly, things have not got any better, and although some light is at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccine roll-outs, the uncertainty is poised to stretch well into 2021. For businesses to get through the pandemic they will need to take a shrewd approach to their operations, and a strong marketing strategy will be a vital element in maintaining and even strengthening relationships with audiences. While the crisis presents some severe challenges, there are also opportunities to embrace, allowing you to protect your business while building a platform for success in the post-virus world. Here are 5 ways you can market your business during COVID-19.
Look after your customers
It may be a given, but the cornerstone on which SMEs operate is customer relationships – without them your business wouldn’t be where it is now. It is easy to assume that your clients or customers will have more pressing concerns on their mind and look to reduce or cease communication with them, but this should be avoided at all costs. Everyone is living with confusion and uncertainty, and if you stop talking to your audience, they may assume you are struggling. This is true of both existing and new customers and you risk losing a large portion of them to competitors. It will be exceptionally hard to win them back after the virus abates. You don’t need to go in with a sales pitch either, just check in, ask them how they are doing and reassure them that you are moving forward through the crisis and are here for them. Seek to reaffirm you are here for the long term and be sensitive and empathetic – avoid the hard sell. Look to the future and see the crisis as an opportunity to learn more about your customers, this will help you target your future marketing campaigns more successfully. Speak to your customers regularly over the phone or use video-conferencing apps such as Zoom or Teams. Refresh your website regularly with new information and send email updates to your client base. Still posting regularly on social media is a great idea too. Keep a calm and measured tone and remain positive at all times.
If your bread and butter is usually bricks and mortar custom, think about how you can adapt, optimise and serve them online. With consumers likely to remain at home and concerned about heading into your store for some time to come, it is going to be difficult to rely on that traditional income stream any longer. The crisis has forced people to spend more time online than ever before – and as your customer base is there, that’s where you should be too. Websites have long been the primary shop window for many businesses – make sure yours sings to stand out from the competition. You don’t have to break the bank to build a website, you can do it yourself using a website builder or if you prefer the help of a professional to help you build a new website or redesign your current one, there are many individuals and companies that offer web development, build and design at cost effective prices.
If you already have a shoppable website, use this time to review it, make sure everything works, all the information is up to date and look at how you can optimise the landing pages on your site to open up new revenue streams. Its also worth spending some time focusing on your SEO to boost your presence on search engines.
We live in a time of lightning-fast change, with people having to adapt to new situations posed by COVID-19 equally quickly. Many old ways of thinking are going into the dustbin of history and it is a time when new things are being tried and new models put into place. Whether it’s an individual getting fit or learning a language during lockdown, or a restaurant pivoting to takeaway and delivery because they can’t open, people are taking a creative approach to events more than ever before. It’s time for you to be creative and find new strategies to connect with your audience in new, relevant ways too. Loyalty schemes, contactless and free home delivery, gift offers, virtual events/webinars, local charity work with rewards for customers who donate, free shipping and returns, crowdfunding – the list is endless. And while it can be tempting to cut costs by reducing your marketing spend, avoid this if possible – just look for the new niches and opportunities that have and will continue to emerge through the pandemic and pivot your thinking and spending in those directions. Remember history shows that businesses taking a progressive, long-term approach to their spending during lean times tend to do better than those that make cuts when better times eventually arrive.
Enhance your online presence
With more people going online than ever due to COVID-19, promoting your products and services with a strong digital marketing strategy is a must. If you get this right you will make your business more accessible to your audience, boost your brand awareness, keep hold of your existing customers and attract all-important new ones. Getting the highest possible position on search engine pages should be a priority, so look at improving your SEO to utilise the best keywords to get your business on the first page and keep it there . Once your search engine page ranking drops it can be very difficult to get it back – so this is an ongoing job. Make sure your website is optimised to work as well on smartphones and tablets as well as laptops. Get the look of your site right, ensuring it is always focused on the user experience; you want to attract people, get them on your site for as long as possible and make sure they keep coming back. Content is also critical – you need to use well-written, pithy pieces and update and add new, relevant material on a regular basis. Never stop creating it. Finally, keep working on your digital marketing, do not neglect it and you will get good results.
Get the best out of social media
Social media was already a huge part of our lives before the pandemic, it is now bigger than ever as more people use it due to heavy restrictions on meeting up with our friends, family and colleagues in person. It is an excellent tool for marketing, sales and customer service; a marvellous way to connect immediately with your audience and get them engaged with your brand. Be it updates about how you are dealing with COVID, changes to services or opening hours, new offers, the great work you are doing in your local community or simply news (good and bad) about your organisation, social media offers an opportunity to constantly stream informative and helpful content. Keep your posts concise, transparent and on point – and make use of video content too, a great way of promoting your business and you don’t need Hollywood-level production either. A personal video filmed on your smartphone can really impart the human side of your business and get great engagement. Get your messaging right and you have a powerful ally in social media, be it Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter or the many other platforms available.