For many small businesses the current coronavirus health crisis is a difficult time. Business owners are facing an uncertain future, trying to hold on to the business with the children at home. Some people fall within the scope of the government business support package, others do not. The podcast was intended to be upbeat and positive about business marketing and hadn’t anticipated such significant changes.
However, out of adversity comes opportunity. This episode covers some of the things I have observed, watching the small business community responding hour by hour to the situation.
Businesses going online
I want to pay tribute to those businesses who completely changed their business model in a very few days. Businesses which rely on face to face interaction, such as yoga studios, music teachers and children’s sports classes have taken their entire offer and put it online. Eden Yoga Studios in Lichfield took less than 5 days to set up their classes on line, putting in place streaming and online payment systems. Businesses are using the technology available and making huge changes to their business model in record time and it’s really impressive.
There has been a huge emphasis on providing helpful content to customers. This includes big organisations like the BBC and RSC, putting out archive content. It also includes small coaching and training businesses who have free content that they can helpfully share it for their audience, answering questions and providing advice. This is very much a content marketing approach, and isn’t necessarily a commercial move. It does however build the “know like and trust” approach which means that you are top of mind when potential customers are ready to buy.
I’m also seeing some great work to develop communities which serve customers and potential customers. This isn’t a commercial response but this is about serving customers and providing reassurance. Again, coaches are doing really well at this, but I’m also seeing some great examples of businesses creating communities to have fun. Three Chords and The Vine is a wine tasting business which can’t be running live wine tastings right now but are using Facebook Live. You open a bottle of wine, they open a bottle of wine and they talk about the wine. This is about fun and positivity and showing their expertise in a gentle way, creating a community that bonds around wine.
Let’s talk about selling
Are we allowed to carry on selling at a difficult time? I think we are. It’s not about gratuitously making money out of a difficult situation but a lot of small businesses need to earn money to pay their bills. The world needs to continue and many small businesses are still proving very relevant services or products. It is about how you sell and being appropriate in what you say. Finding other ways for customers to connect with you. It’s about showing up where the customer is, in a way the customer feels comfortable.
More than ever it is about being prepared to move quickly, we need to be able to react very quickly. But as small business owners this is something we can do better than our bigger competitors. We can jump on social media, email our customers, put a message on our website very quickly if we need to. Right now it’s about staying agile and flexible, taking your business online if that works for you and being relentlessly helpful for your community – in a serious way and a fun way.
What marketing can I do right now?
Some of the practical things you can be looking at if you have a quiet patch in your business:
- Gathering testimonials – ask for reviews from existing and former customers
- Customer research – create a survey or connect with individual customers and get feedback
- Grow your mailing list – can you develop free resources that people can download in return for an email address
- Setting up processes – for example can you put in place the email nurture sequences you’ve been thinking about
- Developing your website – plan the structure, write the content, find your designer
- Review your products or services
We will need to be prepared to move to the front foot at short notice. Now is the time to get plans in place. It’s time to keep our nerve and take positive action so we feel better as business owners and are ready to go the moment we can get moving again.
This episode of the Marketing Room podcast was recorded on 20 March 2020.