We’re living through uncertain and unprecedented times right now. Small businesses in particular are feeling the effects of that uncertainty. Proprietors who pour their hearts and souls into their coffee shops, breweries, and other local ventures have had to limit business operations or even close their doors.
As small business owners try to navigate what is, for now, the new normal, there seem to be many more questions than answers. Shifting regulations, coronavirus news updates, and no definitive end date to stay-at-home orders are creating an immense amount of confusion.
The main objective of marketing your small business right now should be to decide what you can do and what you’re able to do–and then make sure all of your customers know what that is. Don’t stand still, even if your business is currently closed or operating at a lower capacity. Ensure everyone who knows about you or who might look for you can find your company and quickly glean all the information needed to interact with you.
At Grey Fox, we’re passionate about helping small businesses stand out. We’ve put together a few tips to keep your marketing strategy on track during these tumultuous times. Feel free to try out whichever options speak to you and are realistic for your own business.
Keep Your Website Up to Date
First and foremost, anyone searching for a business online now expects to see a COVID-19 or coronavirus update front and center on your home page. No matter how you’re operating right now, or even if you’ve been forced to shutter temporarily, make sure people visiting your website know what’s going on with you. If you’re open, make sure to highlight the ways in which you’re working to keep your staff and your customers safe and socially distanced. And if you’ve adjusted your hours, make sure that your website reflects those changes.
Now is also the perfect time to create content. If you’ve let your blog fall by the wayside during busier times, this is an excellent opportunity to revive it. Highlight members of your staff in a meet the barista feature. Or do a deep dive on your product. If you’re a brewery and your taproom has been closed, create an ultimate guide to each of your favorite brews. Explain everything your loyal customers might want to know about Belgian Ales and how they differ from a Pilsner, for example, or create a fun ranking of your favorites.
Social Media Now More Than Ever
So many people who used to get in their cars every day or hop on the bus are now at home. Even those working from their home office or the kitchen table are skipping the commute, maybe sleeping in a little and scrolling through Instagram a little later. People are glued to their devices, and you should make sure there is something to see across your social media platforms. Carry on with your established tone, and interact with customers the way you always have—so long as your voice doesn’t read as insensitive in light of current conditions.
All relevant information about the way your business operates right now should also be easy to find on all your social media channels: changes in hours, social distancing measures, and curbside pickup procedures.
Now is a great time to create goodwill with existing customers and new visitors to your website, facebook page, or twitter feed. Your customers miss you—they miss their morning latte or a casual happy hour with friends. Let them know you miss them, too.
Stay in Touch
One of the simple rules of business is that it’s easier, less labor-intensive, and more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Your business needs to grow, of course, and marketing aims to create new customers. In the meantime, and in these unprecedented times, you want to make sure not to lose touch with your existing customers base.
Everyone has gotten an email recently talking about COVID-19 from any business that has ever gotten a hold of their email address. Some people will find these messages irrelevant, possibly, but as long as they’re thoughtful and timely, no one will be offended or bothered.
Send an email update to your customers. This is one more way to create awareness about reduced or altered business hours or temporary closure. Take this as an opportunity to say hello and that you hope to see them again when it’s safe for them to visit.
Keep Yourself on the Map and in Search Results
If you’ve had to close or alter your hours or operating procedures, make sure to update your Google My Business profile. This will ensure that you don’t miss people who come searching for a coffee they didn’t have to make themselves or a growler of your beer to enjoy on their patio at home.
It’s worth directing some of your limited budget search engine optimization efforts to make sure you don’t lose whatever spot you’ve achieved in search engine results pages. If your staff right now consists of just you and your budget is entirely on hold, simply do the best you can—if that’s a regular, informative blog post, great! If it’s site maintenance to keep things up to date, that’s also awesome.
Right now might seem like the wrong moment for deals and discounts, but keep in mind that people are currently spending huge amounts of time online, and many are eager to support their local businesses from the comfort of their own home. You might garner some attention and goodwill if you can offer an incentive right now. Now is a good time to tout that your previous deals are still valid. If you offered takeaway growlers at a discount with an empty or espresso drinks were $1 off after 4 pm, make sure your customers know that those deals are still on. Market curbside pickup if you’re able, and make sure you mention it’s free. If you’re doing any discount or recognition for healthcare and essential workers, put that information on your social media accounts and your webpage, as well.
Prepare for the Future
It might seem impossible to imagine the end of this situation amid the current fog. Indeed, the exact end date of our current socially-distanced society is a moving target. But you can always start preparing now for the gradual reopening of things. Eventually, people will be able to safely leave their houses. Customers will once again stop in for a morning tea or to work at your tables. They’ll grab a beer and a bite after work. Your regulars will be back. You’ll want to be there.
Use this time to streamline communication processes and social media procedures. Eliminate any unnecessary tasks. Keep in touch with your loyal customers and make yourself visible to people who might look for you. And don’t hesitate to give us a call—the Grey Fox team is always happy to chat about small business marketing and figure out how we can help. After all, we’re all in this together.