A few months ago, who could have expected the current situation? We’re living through a global pandemic.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been infected with this novel coronavirus. Tens of thousands have died. And it’s not going to stop soon.
Even if you haven’t caught COVID-19, you’ve almost certainly been affected by it in one way or another. This is especially true if you’re running or part of a small business.
Small businesses have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus and the resulting quarantines and lockdowns. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about that, but there is good news despite all of this doom and gloom.
There are still ways for your business to survive—if not thrive—in the midst of this crisis.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at COVID-19, how it’s affecting small businesses and what you can do to make the most of this difficult situation. Sound like a plan? Let’s get started.
The Far-Reaching Effects of COVID-19
Right now, the economy is in free-fall. Millions of people have already lost their jobs—many of whom were employees of small businesses.
If your business was dependent on foot traffic, you’ve probably had to make tough decisions already. Times are hard, and if you don’t find ways to adapt, things will only get harder in the coming weeks and months.
Even if we manage to get on top of things soon and life gets back to normal, there’s still a good chance that we’ll be in a recession. People are already handling their money more carefully, so the effects of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time.
Whether your business has felt those effects yet or not, it will. The question is, how will you respond?
I can’t pretend to have all of the answers. I’m trying to figure out the right way to handle all of this for my own business.
However, there is one thing I do know. While much of this situation is out of our control, there are many things that we can control. COVID-19 will affect us all, but how it affects us will largely depend on the decisions we make in the coming months.
Marketing in the Middle of a Pandemic
A lot has changed over the past few months. Let’s be honest, a lot has changed over the past few weeks.
This is a dynamic, evolving situation. Professional recommendations and governmental mandates are constantly being tweaked. As a result, it’s hard to know exactly what the future holds.
Will this be over in a few weeks…or a few months? What product will be hard to get next? How will all of this affect the cost of goods?
With everything in motion, it’s a bad time to leave your marketing campaigns on autopilot. I know, that’s hard when you’re running a small business, but right now, things are too volatile to leave to chance.
Every decision you make right now—especially from a marketing perspective—needs to be well-thought out and deliberate. Your customers aren’t thinking about the same things they were a few months ago. They’ve changed, so your marketing needs to change too.
Adjusting Your Marketing Strategy
It’s not all bad news, though. Every challenge brings new opportunities—if you’re wise enough to find and take advantage of them.
Sure, your audience’s needs, concerns, fears and goals might have changed, but they’re also spending a lot more time online. They’re more accessible than ever—all you have to do is figure out how to reach them in a compelling and effective way.
This is where you get to shine. Unlike the big companies, where change is bogged down by red tape, you have the ability to pivot quickly. Hit the entrepreneurial switch in your brain and start looking for opportunities. When you see one, go after it! It’s a new world out there, and businesses that adapt quickly will leave their slow-moving competitors in the dust.
At this point, it’s time to go back to square one. Don’t assume that you know your customers right now. Approach this situation like a whole new marketing channel: figure out what you can sell, who you can sell it to and what their current needs and problems are.
Then, build out your marketing strategy around this “new” customer base. Like any marketing strategy, you may need to make tweaks to get things dialed in, but good marketing works—even in the middle of a pandemic.
Mistakes to Avoid
All that being said, there are some mistakes you’ll want to avoid as you revamp your business and marketing strategy. While it might be tempting to try and use COVID-19 as a marketing gimmick, be very careful about how you use this pandemic in your campaigns.
COVID-19 isn’t a bandwagon you can jump onto. People are dying. Others are losing their jobs and their portfolios. If you cheapen that as part of a marketing tactic, it will blow up in your face.
Does that mean you can’t take advantage of the situation COVID-19 has created? Not at all. Just make sure that you are thoughtful, tactful and respectful in your marketing.
For example, with all the toilet paper hoarding going on, one local jewelry business decided to use the shortage in their marketing:
Yes, this “sale” is poking fun at the COVID-19 situation. But notice, it’s not poking fun at COVID-19. Instead, it’s a joke about how valuable toilet paper has become in recent weeks.
As a result, this “promotion” went viral. Countless people shared and laughed at the idea that toilet paper is more valuable than diamonds right now…because it’s kind of true.
This sort of promotion works and it’s a great example of how to adapt your marketing to the current situation. For example, if you run a chalk paint business, you might take advantage of the fact that people are home with extra time on their hands. You could run an ad saying something like, “Stuck at home? Guess it’s finally time to repaint that furniture! Order online and we’ll drop your supplies off today!”
Again, this sort of approach takes advantage of a problem COVID-19 has caused—not COVID-19 itself. In fact, neither of these marketing approaches even mentioned COVID-19. That’s because the pain point they’re solving has nothing to do with the Coronavirus.
Like all good marketing, these tactics are focused on their target audience and their needs. Those needs just happen to be connected to COVID-19.
Smart marketers don’t try to hop on the pandemic bandwagon to earn cheap clicks. Instead, they figure out what their target audience needs and wants and then market to those needs and wants.
Upping Your Game
If your business was struggling before the pandemic, COVID-19 might be the final straw. But for most companies, there are ways to get through the next few weeks or months.
You may need to try new marketing tactics. You may have to expand into new channels, like Facebook or Google Ads. You may have to put things on hold for a while, hunker down and wait things out.
However, all of this can actually be great for your business.
Learning how to use a new marketing channel can take time. Revising your current strategy isn’t a walk in the park. Optimizing your campaigns is a lot of work.
When you’re part of a small business, there’s a lot to take care of. It can be hard to get to those time-intensive or learning-intensive projects that you know will make a big difference to your company.
Well, guess what? Your customers may not be the only ones stuck at home trying to figure out what to do with all of their free time.
If COVID-19 has cut down your workload, you have a rare opportunity to dig in and take your marketing game to the next level.
Here are just a few suggestions:
- Overhaul your paid search campaigns
- Review your organic social media performance
- Revise your paid social strategy
- Put together your holiday marketing plan
- Update your website
- Set up remarketing campaigns
- Create a social media calendar
- Write a video ad script
- Call up your customers and build out buyer personas
- Use your web analytics data to improve your campaigns
- Have someone (or some agency) audit your ad accounts
Even if you have to put things on hold for a little while, if you use this time to get ahead, you’ll emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. Your business will be set up for success and you’ll hit the ground running.
COVID-19 is a big deal. I get that. It’s affecting my business and I’m sure it’s affecting yours. We can’t change that fact.
However, there’s always a silver lining.
Maybe you’ll come up with a brilliant way to pivot your business and make even more money during this pandemic. Maybe you’ll be forced to rethink your marketing and make discoveries that help you for years to come. Maybe you’ll simply have time to take care of those time-intensive but critically important projects you’ve been meaning to get to for years.
In the end, how you respond to this challenging situation will have a huge impact on whether or not you can successfully navigate the coming months and years. Will you sit on your hands and worry? Or will you get out there, take control and thrive? It’s up to you.