The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. Everyone has been touched by it, every segment of the population, every city and state, and every business. One segment that has been hit harder than most is small business, the lifeblood of this country’s economy.
According to a study conducted by a team from the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School, Harvard University and the University of Chicago, 2 percent of U.S. small businesses have closed for good since March. That rounds out to upwards of 100,000 businesses that had been contributing to their local economy, employing local people, serving local customers. Restaurants have been the hardest hit, losing 3 percent nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association.
But if you’re a small business owner, you don’t need us to tell you that it’s tough out there right now. Foot traffic, shopping, dining out, all of that has lessened dramatically, if not disappeared. Your customers are conducting their business online more than ever before.
That’s why now is the perfect time for small businesses to focus on digital marketing. You’ll boost your online presence, meeting more customers where they’re living right now — at home, in front of their computers.
Digital marketing tactics for small business
If your customers aren’t coming through the door the way they used to, it’s time to pivot your business strategy to meet them where they live — online. Here are some digital marketing tactics you can use now to help you not just survive, but thrive in this new reality.
1. Your website
If your business mainly centered around in-person sales or service pre-COVID, you may have not spent much time on your website. Now’s the time to change that. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a hot shot web developer, but you do need two things:
- Your website must be mobile friendly, because many people conduct their lives on smartphones today.
- It also needs to be very easy for people who visit your site to take an action, such as buy the product you’re selling, or express interest in your service. One click from the home page should take them there.
Beyond that, your site needs to reflect the zeitgeist of your business, who you are, and what you believe, just like your brick-and-mortar location does.
2. Email marketing
According to a recent survey by Clutch, seven out of 10 businesses used email marketing before the pandemic hit. We’re betting that number has gone up now. Simply put, it’s a time-tested digital strategy that works. But, the strategies you used pre-COVID may not be appropriate now. It’s more crucial than ever for small businesses to walk the fine line between marketing to customers and appearing opportunistic or insensitive. Ways to do that:
Stop your automated emails
Yes, we know we just told you to ramp up your email marketing and now we’re saying stop it. But if you have pre-COVID, automated emails that go to customers who click on your site or perform some sort of transaction, stop those or check them for appropriate messaging. The last thing you want to do is come off as insensitive.
Be truly useful
Instead of selling something, give something. Your message should be useful to your customer, not merely self-serving. Coupons and big discounts are a great strategy anytime, but now, with millions of Americans unemployed, those discounts may be the only way your customers can purchase what you’re selling. Many services are offering free trials with no strings attached at this time as well. Those kinds of deep discounts during this troubled economic time go a long way toward building brand loyalty.
Focus on the tone
The tone of your emails has never mattered more than it does right now. Be positive, caring, and understanding. Avoid a hard sell at all costs.
Ask customers for their feedback
Offer a customer survey about the challenges and hardships they’re dealing with during this time, what products and services they’re getting, what they could use more of, and ways your business could help fill those needs.
3. Live online events
One way small businesses are leveraging the internet now is by creating ways to connect online with customers. Get creative! Restaurants might hold cooking classes with their star chefs, retailers could do a video chat with designers they carry. Realtors could offer myriad events, from virtual home tours to interior design or gardening classes.
4. Social media marketing
Social media is a powerful way to reach customers, but tweaking your approach is necessary at this time. Look at your bio information on your various platforms. If it still has your former “open and close” hours or other information that’s not correct right now, delete it.
Your messaging should be sensitive, informative and customer-focused. Make sure the photos and images you post are reflective of our current times — people in your photos should be socially distant and/or wearing masks, for example.
[Click here for other helpful tips for small business owners.]
At Equity Trust, we’re committed to helping small business owners thrive in this, or any, economy. Contact us today.