Only a few weeks ago, who could have predicted that “social distancing” would become the norm, and that a large percentage of the population would be under “stay-at-home” orders?
That, as we all know, is the unusual world we are living in.
But are there steps that small and mid-sized businesses can take now to best prepare for business after the coronavirus crisis?
“Yes,” according to Joe Bouch, President & CEO of 78Madison, a full-service marketing, digital, and public relations agency based in Orlando, Florida. “Whether you are the owner of a small or mid-sized business, or its director of Sales & Marketing, there are many prudent steps regarding your marketing that you can take now to prepare for better days.”
According to Bouch, these beneficial steps include:
1. Evaluating Your Marketing Assets
If you have not kept an inventory of your marketing assets to date, this is a great time to do it. This can include photos, videos, print and digital ads, blog posts, email campaigns, web, infographics, signage, printed and/or e-brochures, and presentations. Look at each with a critical eye, and then determine which pieces and images were the most effective and/or which can be repurposed for other channels or with a different Call To Action. Also, analyze your messaging, as you may have the greatest company in the world, but if your message is delivered in an uninspiring or unappealing way, or does not connect with your audience, you lose. Great creative makes your prospects look, think, and act.
2. Having a Strategic Marketing Plan
During the slow down, use this time to strategically think about ways that you can market now or very soon because when the crisis is over, you want to be top-of-mind with consumers who are ready to get on with life again. Even now, it is important to keep your brand light burning because once you turn the lights out, trying to turn them on again after being dark for an extended period could prove to be extremely challenging. Plus, if your competitors have taken a different path, you will be at a disadvantage.
3. Enhancing Your Digital Marketing
If you are not already doing so, get going with digital marketing. A short pause is understandable, but have your plan and campaign ready to go as digital media has the advantage of being faster, less expensive, and often more effective than traditional media. An email or social media campaign can connect a marketing message to your targeted audience for a fraction of the cost of a print campaign or TV ad, immediately.
4. Reviewing Your Website
Now is a great opportunity to thoroughly review your website, identify information and photos that need to be updated, and/or fix the site. Look at competitor websites to see if there is more information, imagery, or a FAQ section that should be added. Or, determine if you need a new site altogether. Take this time to get your company ready for the next stage of business.
5. Becoming Active on Social Media
If you are currently standing idle when it comes to posting on social media or blogging, now is the chance to start using these tools, particularly with tight marketing budgets.
It is also a great time to record and/or at least make plans for videos that you can post on social media later, as they are terrific for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and can be used as a basis for other content too. This could be a traditional video, or possibly consider using Zoom or Google Hangouts to conduct and record video calls of your customers and/or employees about their experiences and knowledge of your company, the industry, products, services, and culture. In the coming months, these videos can be a valuable source for your social content.
6. Digging into Your First-Party Data
Do a deep dive into your analytics and sales/lead data. What do you know about your customers? How about prospects that did not pick your company? Compare offline and online trends and determine what you could change now that you did not have time to do in the past.
7. Improving Your Online Reviews Strategy
Depending upon your type of business, this is also a good time to refine or formulate the procedure for answering online reviews. Write a few thoughtful template responses and then train a member of your team with your brand messaging so they can manage your online reviews going forward. Provide to them the tools they need to get alerts and monitor reviews. Also, teach them how to respond to negative reviews and when to escalate legitimate issues to the right person.
8. Conducting a Brand Photo and/or Video Shoot
If you can, this may be a great time to get your brand photo and/or video shoot completed, when things are not as busy. As business has likely slowed for photographers and videographers, you probably will get a good price, but you also will be helping them at a time when they may need the work.
9. Considering an Outreach Strategy
Reaching out to your customers during the COVID-19 crisis depends entirely upon your type of business, your existing relationship with customers, and the purpose of the communication. If customers are used to hearing from you regularly by email, social media, or SMS (text) messaging, do not let that relationship drop off. But be careful with the messaging and avoid crisis-related promotions. Think of how you can offer social connection, reassurance, tangible assistance, or something helpful to your audience.
10. Making Marketing a Team Effort
If you are not already doing so, make marketing a team effort. Conduct a Zoom call with people from different backgrounds and positions to brainstorm ideas. Talk and listen. Now is the time to consider implementing new operating procedures and other valuable modifications. Also, consider talking to an outside expert for a fresh viewpoint, as they may be able to bring a different perspective that will complement what you are doing, and can ultimately help you achieve bigger things.
“Rather than sit on the sidelines,” said Bouch, “and in six months wonder what happened, it is vitally important to take a proactive approach now so that a three-month crisis does not turn into a nine-month business downturn. Taking steps now can best prepare your company for the better days ahead.”