Should you market your small business during Covid-19?
‘Should I market my small business during Covid-19?’ is one of the most common questions we receive from small business owners, marketers, general managers and entrepreneurs.
And while the answer is bespoke to each business, there are certain marketing strategies for small businesses that can break new ground and impact your bottom line.
We’ve carved out a few of the most useful marketing strategies and tactics to help your small business thrive through these challenging times.
1. Brand Review
If your business has suffered due to Covid-19, this is the perfect time to review your current brand identity and brand position. Is your branding aligned with your target market - and most importantly, is your target market likely to remain the same during and post Covid-19? For smaller businesses, a strong brand identity can support your credibility, enhance your marketing communications, make your business stand out above competitors and position you in the mind of your customer. There are plenty of well-established benefits associated with a strong brand identity, and branding doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Following the disruption of Covid-19, you may find the need to cast the net wider when it comes to your target audience. Perhaps there is room to focus on alternative industries, consumer locations (especially countries that have been less impacted by the virus), distribution channels and developments of products and services offered by your small business. If so, it’s well-worth reviewing your current brand identity in line with the direction of your business - will your brand support your marketing strategies or prevent your business from evolving and achieving growth, sales and success?
If you do decide a rebrand is required to support your small business goals, there are plenty of marketing tactics to promote your new brand identity. A new look gives you great content and the perfect excuse to reconnect with your previous customers and attract new audiences.
2. Industry Analysis
Another important area of your marketing strategy is to consider the evolution of the industry in which you operate. Has the growth of digital platforms changed the way consumers purchase products and services or has there been a major disruption in your sector? Small businesses operating in the corporate event space, for example, are likely to face this particular dilemma. It’s unlikely conferencing and events will operate as it did prior to Covid-19. While the global event industry was worth over $1.1 billion in 2018 with expectations for growth to $2.3 billion by 2026 according to Allied marketing research, the impact of the pandemic has radically altered operations in this sector.
The surge of online conferencing is likely to have permanently modified the way people and businesses come together. Major brands such as Microsoft have already confirmed digital conferencing until July 2021. With a commitment to over 12-months of online activity, the burning question then becomes, will they ever return to face-to-face events?
Event companies, production agencies, AV companies, venues, caterers and all those operating in this sector are now facing a difficult challenge; do they wait for the new version of their industry to emerge or diversify into the virtual landscape and search for new opportunities now? Companies such as The Palms Agency have shifted their focus from event content to producing brand content in order to diversify their services during this period of the unknown.
Keeping abreast of changes in your industry will help refine the strategic marketing direction for your small business moving forward. It will guide you on important areas such as, is there a need for diversification, affiliations or an improvement or change to service standards. Are there sales offers and lead generating opportunities plus general marketing tactics that should be introduced to keep your business on top?
3. Content Marketing
If you’ve paused marketing spend on areas such as PPC, digital advertising and SEO, now is a good time for smaller businesses to develop an impactful content marketing strategy. According to HubSpot’s Marketing Report, almost 70% of businesses are actively investing in content marketing in 2020. And while this figure may have changed since the spread of Covid-19, the concept hasn’t.
Businesses that focus on creating optimised, personalised, high-quality and valuable content that resonates with your customer, are more likely to reap the rewards of ROI while building brand authority - which links back to your brand identity. Creating marketing content that demonstrates who you are and the expertise you bring to your industry is a cost-effective way to raise brand awareness, drive website traffic and generate leads. Although results may not be instant, consider this small business marketing strategy to be part of a long game content tactic. Blog posts, case studies, videos, podcasts, and infographics are all important forms of online content, as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and TikTok. And don’t forget offline content including packaging, brochures, and direct mailers.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to developing a content framework, there are plenty of free tools available online. If you’re facing time constraints and require additional guidance, consider investing in a small business marketing package that includes a Content Marketing strategy.
4. Online Presence
COVID-19 has affected businesses in different ways. Merchants that soared at the start of the pandemic were suppliers of food, health and household goods - remember when toilet roll became a premium product!
Industries such as travel and hospitality are less lucky. Brands such as Virgin Australia Airlines, FlyBe (UK) and Compass Airlines (US) either collapsed, declared bankruptcy, or suspended operations. A sector that has continued to thrive and will continue to thrive, at least while businesses remain closed and people are generally avoiding public places, is online. Consumers have turned online for entertainment, shopping and communicating. Brands that have adapted to this trend are the ones who are more likely to come out on top when a new version of ‘normal’ finally arrives.
Traditional and Luxury lifestyle media such as DestinAsian are embracing the importance of moving with the technology.
This particular media outlet has gone from B2C magazine production to B2B content and is heavily utilising online platforms including social media. They introduced their first zoom round table on Friday 8 May. Panelists from Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Jakarta came together with
60 participants from around the world to discuss ‘How Luxury Hotels Are Preparing For The Post-Pandemic World.’ The feast of insights covered important topics ranging from the new normal in hospitality to cleaning standards, technology and trends.
Small businesses should continue to look at the online landscape as a new frontier for opportunity. Is there greater potential for e-commerce, subscription services, and email marketing. Perhaps your website would benefit from a facelift, add more call to actions, start a blog. Embrace social media and multimedia marketing channels such as YouTube. Utilise local marketing strategies by making sure your business is listed on Google My Business (GMB) and Bing Places for Business. Whatever industry your small business operates in, take a customer-centric approach. Build strong relationships now so that even if your customers aren’t in a position to purchase instantly, they will get to know you better and buy from you when the time comes. It’s a long game but it’s worth it.
5. Brand Purpose
If you haven’t already adopted a brand purpose, 2020 is the year to bring authentic brand purpose into your small business. The disciple isn’t just to support your small business marketing communications; brand purpose must be taken seriously. Brand purpose is your opportunity to deliver products and services in a better way, one that will drive a meaningful social impact and contribute to a better world. According to surveys, consumer actions are driven by the need for change. 96% of people believe their personal actions can make a difference in the world, and 88% want brands to help them live sustainably.
And it’s not just consumers who are craving good-business. More and more, people want to work for brands that are investing in making a difference, employees want to be part of the change. People are longing for integrity, honesty and empathy. You just have to look at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic to understand the importance these traits have become to our workplace ecosystems. Good leadership is everything. Connecting an authentic brand purpose to the heart of your small business is a way to unite your team and delight your consumers. You also don’t have to wait until post Covid-19 before focusing on a common-good goal. May businesses are pivoting wherever they can to offer genuine contribution rather than personal gain.
From producing masks and hand sanitiser to running food banks to supporting frontline workers, many businesses have recently stepped out of their comfort zone to put people first. If you’re looking for more great small business marketing strategies and brand purpose ideas, check out these other Outsourced imagination blog posts:
Building a small business marketing strategy with clear goals and objectives is integral to growing a successful brand and business. A strategy can provide a succinct roadmap with creative and exciting ways to position your small business in front of the right consumer.
If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with an agency such as Outsourced imagination, which offers a small business marketing package that covers marketing consultancy, content marketing, social media marketing and a full suite of marketing support services for small businesses. Find out more & get in-touch today >>
Stay safe, stay healthy. Thinking of you all during these times.
Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh