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Should I promote my “non-essential” business during the Coronavirus outbreak?

Mar
18

Written by Rose Souders

Editor’s note: This blog has been updated in July 12, 2020.

The Coronavirus is (still) here, and it’s (still) affecting businesses and how they’re being marketed. We’ve received many calls from friends concerned about their business and asking what to do to stay afloat. Let’s face it; small businesses are hit the hardest in times like this. In an effort to band together and help our friends thrive in this confusing time, we’re answering the two most common questions we’ve been asked. We’ll continue to add to this as questions come in.

Should I promote my “non-essential” business during the Coronavirus outbreak?

Yes. However, there are some things you should actually take the time to consider before you do. First thing’s first; it’s not business as usual. Yes, we all have to pay our bills and yes, most businesses are worried about how to hang on during this time. That being said, you need to be sensitive to the situation, think about your customers (and potential customers) first, and then determine a way that your business can adapt to their needs in a way that still works.

I want you to take 20 minutes to sit down away from your regular to-do list and write down the following:

  • How can you provide value to your customers? Real value to help them. Build trust.
  • What do your customers need right now that you can offer them? Think creatively.
  • How can you use technology to offer your services or products in a way that you weren’t doing before? Use video recordings, Voxer audio, etc.

In absolutely no way should you exploit the situation. Remember that people are scared and also trying to adapt to a new normal. They’re also spending a lot of time looking for answers, trying to find solutions for their new way of life, products that can be delivered to their home, and entertainment for when they’re not working.

As a marketer or business owner, it is smart to make sure that your brand is visible and has a clear offering that actually provides value and relief to the customers looking for it. If you’re feeling weird or guilty about it, I give you permission to market yourself.

Now it’s time to get down to the real work.

How do you promote your business during the Coronavirus outbreak? 

I feel like I have to repeat this, but the golden rule is: Don’t be a jerk. See above for not exploiting the situation. People don’t want to buy from someone who’s a jerk now when they’re desperate and they certainly won’t want to buy from you later when things start getting better if you’ve been a jerk.

If you can find a way to support your customers right now, whether that be through new services, products they need, or entertainment, then do it. Adapt.

It’s time to double down on your marketing.

Be sensitive. Provide value. Spend your time this week (not later) planning out the following to outline your marketing strategy:

  • What does your marketing funnel look like? Think about how people first see you and their step by step journey to buy your product or service.
  • What content do you need to create to reach people at every stage of that funnel? Make sure that content has a purpose and also the potential to move your audience into the next stage of the funnel.
  • Create a realistic to-do list to get that content done and give yourself a deadline.
  • Track your results and fine-tune as you go along. Since this is new, you might not be able to get the results you’re looking for right away. Don’t give up. Fine-tune and try again. Ask for help if you need it. We’re always up for questions.

Focus on your visibility and be highly accessible.

Make sure that if people need you or are thinking that they’ll need you in the future, they can find you. Be highly visible. People are at home planning, searching the internet, etc.

On top of this, make sure your services and products are easy to access or buy. Don’t make it difficult for people to give you money or to get in touch with you. If your website is slow, figure out a way to speed it up. If you don’t know how, we have some friends that can help with that. Just ask. If you’re a service-based company, remind people how to book you and what you offer. With all of the content marketing, sometimes it can be unclear about what we actually offer. Don’t be ashamed to point out what you might think is obvious. Also, test your communication lines. Make sure your contact forms work on your site, check your emails regularly, and answer the phone calls that come in. It’s no longer a “get back to someone within 24 hours” rule. Get back to them within 2 hours max, at least to let them know that you got their message and when you expect to get back to them.

Consider running paid ads.

Hear me out. At Potluck, we monitor our paid ads daily. Since March 16, 2020, we’ve been seeing a huge decrease in the cost of our paid ad conversions. This is still true as of July 12, 2020. The cost has increased since March, but for most clients, still much lower than usual. Why? Well, many people still have their ads off or have decreased their spending, which means less competition, which means cheaper ads.

If your ads are not sensitive to the current situation (remember, it’s not business as usual), then do turn them off. Get to work rethinking how paid ads could play into your new adapted version of your service or offering. Remember, always provide value, brainstorm your audiences for people who actually want/need your service, and then carefully craft your message.

Showcase your safety protocols – newly added section!

With months of shelter in place and social distancing under our belt, we’re starting to see many people get more comfortable with going out into the world, armed with masks, hand sanitizer, and anxiety (just me?). It’s only natural for a concerned citizen that’s been holed up for months to feel nervous about going to get a beer from an outdoor bar or shopping in person instead of online. Not everyone is following the recommended (or even required) safety protocols, so it’s incredibly important as a business that you showcase how you’re taking safety seriously. If you’re not communicating with your customers, then you’re leaving it up to them to fill in the blank. It’s an uncomfortable guessing game.

Here are some ideas for how to showcase what you’re doing to keep your customers safe:

  • Try Live Video – don’t just publish staged photos of an employee spraying down a table or cart. This feels orchestrated and really doesn’t provide much relief. Instead, try doing a weekly Facebook or Instagram live that shows what it’s really like, unedited, at your businesses. This unedited video shows your customers that you’re transparent and consistent. I recommend keeping this video to at least 5 minutes and focus on something that shows the behind the scenes of your business, while still in the background showing the safety protocols in action. For example, you could show the bar making cocktails, but the background view is your outdoor tables being cleaned, customers properly using masks, etc. Remember, this is a real unedited video so it’s up to you to maintain the safety protocols, which I hope you would be doing anyway. Pro-tip: don’t forget to use a tripod. Also, ideally, for this type of video, you’d have no or very little talking. The purpose is to show the experience one would have going to your business, not to be your stage.
  • Record a video that sums up the safety protocols and experience visiting your business – Again, rather than just a photo of a spray bottle or hand sanitizer bottle on a counter, take the time to brush up your video editing skills and record a montage of your safety protocols and what someone can expect when visiting. The Mall of America recorded a fantastic video like this and I highly recommend watching it and even following its structure. You can watch it here.
  • Upload an Instagram carousel post or Instagram stories sequence that lists the protocols – You could list the protocol in text on the photos (keep it simple), then record a short video or GIF of someone implementing that protocol. This is one step up from the “take a photo of a spray bottle and post it” scenario.
  • Created a pinned post on your Facebook page that lists what a customer can expect when visiting – this is a really good way to make sure your protocols are front and center. I recommend adding a note about when the post was last updated in the text so that people know the information is still relevant. Something like, “Update: July 12, 2020” would be just fine. It’s best to keep it updated every day. Also, don’t be afraid to add this front and center on the home page of your website as well. Remember, people want to know right away if visiting your fits in with their own personal safety plans. Be transparent and quickly deliver that information.
  • Reach out to your customers directly – don’t be afraid to contact customers. If you have customers that have upcoming appointments, send them an email in advance with what to expect when visiting and your business. Try giving them a call on top of that to make sure that they say it and feel comfortable. Aside from email marketing and phone calls, another way you could tackle this is through paid ads to a current customer list. You can also send physical mailers with your safety protocols + an offer for people who visit either in person or online.

In summary.

Things are weird right now. Like most people, you’re worried about staying afloat while still trying to respect your customers and the situation. If you’re coming from a place of wanting to genuinely help your customers and you’re providing value, while being sensitive to the situation, then your customers will see that. Those that have the means and desire to buy your products and service will. You’ll stand out.

Remember, if you’re going to promote your business during the Coronavirus:

  • Don’t be a jerk.
  • Double down on your marketing strategy. Put in the time and get to work.
  • Make a to-do list and stick to it.
  • Stay visible and keep your products and services accessible.
  • Consider tasteful paid ads to support your marketing strategy.
  • Showcase your safety protocols.
  • Ask for help if you need it.

If you run into any questions or snags, please reach out to the Potluck Consulting team. We have answers. We’re here to help. Please ask for it whether just a quick question on Instagram or if you need an experienced marketing team to assist you during this change in the environment.

Giving you a virtual hug (6 feet!) from my home to yours. Stay in touch, my friend.

If you’re looking for more resources, try this shortlist of relevant blogs for assistance + subscribe to our newsletter to get our weekly emails. Click the purple “Newsletter” tab at the bottom of your screen.

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