Almost every single business in Canada has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols. Small businesses especially have been feeling the changes and many are wondering what they can do to hang on as our country gets through this crisis. Many entrepreneurs and business owners are worried about whether or not they’ll make it through COVID-19 as they quickly pivot their strategies to adapt to this new normal.
While the economy may feel uncertain, there are things you can do as a business when it comes to marketing and sales to change your strategy, to reach your customers, and sell your products and services during this time. By adapting your marketing strategy, you can reach your customers in meaningful and new ways.
Here are some marketing, sales, and social media strategies to adapt for the COVID-19 economy.
Adapt how you work
If you’re wondering where to start adapting your marketing strategy, here are three things every company (big or small) should be doing right now to continue to reach their audience and remain productive during COVID-19.
- Stay relevant to your audience
It’s time to shift from business-as-usual marketing messaging to messages that will help ease the minds of your customers and audience. Everyone is feeling worried, panicked, and uncertain. The last thing they’re thinking about is what sale is coming out next, or what service they need – life looks very different and uncertain these days.
Change your messaging to focus on how your business is doing its part, or here to help during this time. Your audience wants to know how you’re going to help them get through this time and how you’re going to be there to support them. Whether that is how they can order from you, what you’re doing to keep them safe when interacting with your company or thought leadership content that can help them manage their finances or day-to-day life. Focus on the right content for your audience.
- Work on back burner projects
If you’re a business that’s slowed down due to the new way of engaging, then this is the time to dig out the projects you’ve been meaning to work on. This could include writing a book, updating your brand messaging, creating and publishing a new website, or designing a new offer. Don’t let this time go to waste. Use the downtime for something productive that will allow you to hit the ground running once things change again.
- Focus on online platforms
Since in-person interactions are off-limits for the time being, it’s important to invest in PR and marketing strategies that can help you reach potential customers online. Create webinars people can log into from their home, do a live Facebook or Instagram event that will engage your audience, and produce other video content that will allow you to connect with your audience. The great thing about all this content is that you can use it when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted for your ongoing marketing strategy. And by then, you will be used to being in front of the camera.
Adapt your online sales
Yes, you can boost your online sales during COVID-19. With everyone inside, people are online shopping and craving connection to their favorite brands or businesses. This means you can focus on your online store and digital marketing to compensate for reduced foot traffic.
- Reach out to your high-value customers
Since roughly 20% of your customers contribute 80% of your revenue, consider prioritizing your high-value customers to ensure their lifetime loyalty. Apps like Endear act as a customer relationship management system and a messaging platform, all in one. Reach out to your high-value customers and let them know you’re thinking of them and you’re here to support them, and how they can still do business with you.
- Adapt your marketing messaging
Brands need to be sensitive to consumers’ needs during this time, which means a lot of companies are rethinking their marketing and advertising strategy for the time being. Don’t be afraid to pause certain campaigns or change the messaging on your ads to better speak to the realities of COVID-19. Life isn’t the way it was, so it’s important to adapt now.
- Offer free shipping or local pickup and delivery
Shipping costs are a barrier for online shoppers, so if you can, offer free shipping. With everyone shopping mostly online, shipping costs might make or break your sale if another competitor is offering free shipping. If free shipping is not feasible for your company, offer “curbside pickup” where customers can order and pay, then pullup to have an employee drop the product into their trunk.
- Extend your return and exchange policy
With stores being closed, customers may feel weary buying products if they’re unsure they can return or exchange them later. Remove this barrier and extend your return policy to way in advance. It’s a small thing you can do to empathize with your customers and reassure them.
- Build a pre-order strategy
If you’re a small business that can’t have a ton of stock on hand, or aren’t used to handling the volume of online orders, then try pre-orders. Outright ask customers to pre-order popular products, either by paying a deposit or the full amount. This way, you can know that you’re covered as you get the products in stock.
- Promote gift cards and consider special offers
If you can’t adapt to selling your products or services online through curbside pickup or sales because you’re in a service-based business or whatever it may be, then try offering gift card promotions. Try a gift card promotion, where if customers purchase one, you throw in extra services or a small gift when you’ve opened again.
- Discount underperforming stock
Non-essential retail will likely see a decline in demand, so businesses in this category are vulnerable to oversupply. Retailers’ main goal in the short term (4-6 weeks) is to make sure they aren’t sitting on cash held up in inventory or deadstock. Even well-run companies can have 20-30% of inventory as deadstock, so now is the time to address it. Consider running a contest online.
Adapt your digital marketing strategy
It’s no question – for many, many Canadian businesses, money is tight right now. That’s why it’s important to spend your dollars in the smartest way you can when it comes to digital marketing.
- Revisit your paid marketing strategy
Digital marketing is an important marketing strategy for all businesses, but when cash flow is tight, you should focus only on the areas that give you the biggest return on investment. Peek at where you’re getting the highest return and shift your budget there while you pull back your budget in other places.
- Use retargeting ads to reach your customers
Facebook advertising can help you reach new customers through the custom audiences that you create, which consist of your past customers or social media fans—people who already know and love your business. You can upload a customer list to Facebook’s Ads Manager and use the platform to engage with your most loyal customers, highlighting gift cards, and pre-orders.
- Show up for international shoppers with Google Smart Shopping campaigns
Since you have moved things online, why not consider widen your customer net? The Google Shopping app makes it easier for online shoppers to find your brand across YouTube, Google Search, and Gmail. Google Shopping is relatively simple to set up. You can sync products to the Google Merchant Center, set a budget, then let Google optimize the campaign, so products show up when people search for them across Google’s network.
- Optimize your digital spaces
Take the extra time you may have on your hands and make sure your blog and website are fully optimized. Refine your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and B2B (Business to Business) marketing strategy to make sure you’re visible. This means updating old information and doing an audit to take note of what was not working, and what you can change to optimize your website moving forward.
Adapt your social media strategy
Many businesses are wondering if they should stay on social media, even if they’re not open for business. While every business should decide if pausing their social media efforts is right for them, we encourage you to keep on posting! With everyone inside (and scrolling on their phones), it’s a unique opportunity to reach your audience and build your brand in a humanized way.
- Review your social media goals
Make sure your social media goals line up to the needs of your audience and customers during this time. It may mean more general content, rather than pushing sales or your brand promotions. Make sure your social plan is adapted to COVID-19 needs.
- Pause and review your scheduled posts
Take some time to pause all your upcoming posts and review what you have scheduled. Is it still appropriate? Is it timely? Can it be better? Are you being helpful or providing useful information? Are you approaching business from a place of service? You do not have to delete your content completely, as you will be able to use it after the crisis.
- Continue to post a mixture of the 3 Es
Content should still be a mix of Entertain, Educate, and Engage! The strategy is still the same, even if your planned content looks different.
- Promote your business – tactfully
Once you have been communicating in a genuine way and connecting with your audience in an empathetic, understanding, and new way, then you can sell or promote. Customers are still shopping! But, they want to shop with businesses that are partnering with them during the crisis, not businesses that are pushy and only in it for the money.
- Don’t jump on the #hashtag bandwagon
Think before you hashtag. If you are posting a promotional post, please to not add any hashtags to do with COVID-19. If you decide to post content that is educational around COVID-19, then it is okay to use the hashtags. You do not want to be looked at like you are capitalizing off a crisis. And please, please, please do not post information that you have not fact checked first. #embarrassing
- Create a statement and reinforce stability
With everyone wondering what this crisis means for them, it’s important to reinforce to your customers that you’re here for them. Communicate in a clear way all the information with how to reach you, how to do business with you, and how they can contact you. Write a blog on your website stating your situation of modified services or processes, etc. then make sure this post is visible and upfront on all your social media channels daily.
- Support other local businesses
It’s a time to band together, and while we should always be connecting with fellow business owners, now is a great time to create a strong network of line-minded people. Share their posts on Instagram and Facebook, comment and like posts, and review them or tag their business on your post. You could even work together for a promotion or contest. Customers love seeing local businesses coming together.
- Take your business online
Bring people together online through virtual meetups, use online services like Calendly to book appointments, use Instagram and Facebook live for updates so your customers can see the face behind the business, and use Eventbrite for RSVPs (even free events).
The future doesn’t have to feel scary
Yes, the future is uncertain, but it doesn’t have to be so scary if you adapt your business and marketing strategy. While a lot has changed, there’s been some positive changes like increased online connectivity to one another. COVID-19 has forced us to all think differently and to quickly make changes to adjust to our new normal. With some strategic thinking and smart choices, businesses can learn new things during this time and come out stronger for it.