There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world. Just about every area of life has been impacted and many different businesses are currently closed as the U.S. is under stay at home orders to help prevent the spread of the virus. Small businesses especially have been feeling the impact of the stay at home orders as many companies have lost business and this reduction in revenue has forced some to go out of business.
The situation created by the pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetimes and there is no consensus on how small businesses should react to stay in business. One thing is for sure, the current pandemic has changed consumer behaviors and made many traditional means of marketing at least temporarily obsolete. For small businesses to survive during the pandemic, they need to adjust their marketing approach. The worst thing a small business can do is try to wait out the storm and hope things return to normal. As of right now, no one knows when the world will return to normal or if the world will return to what was considered normal before the pandemic.
While the nature of this pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetimes (the last serious pandemic was the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918), it is not unprecedented for businesses to deal with outside factors that force them to change the way they do business. Companies should view this pandemic as an opportunity to adjust their message to their audience and change their marketing approach to connect with their audience during this pandemic. Businesses that do not adjust to the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic have a much higher risk of going out of business.
In this guide, we will discuss how small businesses can survive the COVID-19 pandemic as well as how they can adjust their marketing efforts to not just survive but thrive when the pandemic ends. It is important to not panic and take this opportunity to evaluate your marketing expenses and message and consider how they can be adjusted to better serve your audience, clients, or customers during this time.
Maintaining Financial Stability During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Financial stability is perhaps the biggest concern among small businesses in regard to this pandemic. The immediate closure and loss of revenue is a lot for small businesses to handle as most small businesses do not have enough money to cover more than a couple of months. These tips will help you preserve some financial stability while you plan your next moves:
- Remain calm: The worst thing you can do right now is panic because this leads to fear and rash decisions that may not be best for your company. Make sure you emphasize the importance of remaining calm with your employees so everyone can address the situation with a level head. Now is the time to take a step back and evaluate your operations to make rational decisions.
- Financial assistance: The federal government has initiated several programs to provide financial assistance for small businesses struggling during the pandemic. These programs include the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses make payroll, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help make up for loss of revenue. Visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury for more information.
- Form a financial plan: It is important to go over all of your expenses and decide which expenses you must continue to pay, and which ones can be put on hold. You should consider rent, payroll, utilities, and other expenses when forming a financial plan. Try to manage your expenses the best you can, cutting expenses that you deem unnecessary, and make sure your financial plan keeps your business covered for at least 3 months.
- Train your employees: No business wants to cut their staff due to financial difficulties. Try your best to manage your company’s finances before letting employees go. It is best to avoid hiring new employees and in the meantime, you can train your existing employees to improve their efficiency and productivity which will put your company in a better position to come out of the pandemic stronger.
Reassess Your Marketing Strategy
Ensuring some financial stability for your business is important, but you cannot let your company go dormant as you wait out the pandemic. As mentioned earlier, there is no telling when the pandemic will end or if the world will return to the same “normal” it was before. Now is an ideal time to analyze your current marketing strategy, as well as how you are spending your marketing dollars, and adjust your marketing strategy to better reach your audience during this crisis.
The following tips will help you adjust your marketing approach to better reach your audience during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Reassure your audience: Large businesses have the ability to inform their audience of their plan through the COVID-19 pandemic as well as how they are helping, whether by raising money or donating supplies or assistance. We understand that it is not possible for small businesses to make such grand gestures like large businesses. However, your business can put out content to assure your audience that you have a plan to make it through and continue to provide your products or services. You can also inform your audience of any actions you are taking to help during the pandemic, even if it is small actions.
- Determine a recovery point: As things slowly regain a sense of normalcy, you should decide at which point your business will pivot from reassurance to once again selling your products and services. Try to choose an objective data point as your recovery point. This will be different between businesses depending on the nature of your business. If your transactions take place mostly online, then maybe a certain level of sales will be the point in which you focus more on selling your products. If you provide products or services out of a brick and mortar location, your recovery point will be determined by local and state policies.
- Pivot your message: Once you have regained some normalcy in your sales and business operations, you need to pivot your marketing message. The pandemic has created a situation in which people are spending much of their time at home and doing their shopping online. They are also re-evaluating their own spending as many now have a reduced income. You need to consider how your products or services can play into this situation. Is your product or service a necessary expense? Is it a luxury? Can what you offer benefit your audience in the current situation? You need to adjust your message to ensure your audience that your brand is there for them and that your product or service can provide some sense of reassurance or normalcy. This will also help your audience remember your brand as we move passed the pandemic.
- Work towards your new normal: The previous steps should help you retain the trust of your audience and pivot your message to best connect with them during the pandemic. Now you need to continue working within this new normal that you have defined to continue to serve your customers and even grow during this crisis. This should allow your business to remain strong through and after the pandemic.
Increase your Digital Marketing Efforts
One unusual thing about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has essentially wiped out many traditional channels of marketing. Due to social distancing measures, print media like flyers and mailers as well as face to face networking in offices, stores, and at tradeshows and other events is at a standstill. Even TV and radio commercials are less effective now as all professional sports, a major revenue source for TV and radio ads, are on hold. Paper marketing especially has already been on the decline, but the pandemic is speeding up this decline which is likely to continue after the pandemic.
Now is the ideal time to focus your efforts on digital marketing during the pandemic. Remember, your audience is at home browsing and shopping online, checking their social media accounts, and streaming shows. This is a unique situation in which you can reach the bulk of your audience by connecting with them directly online. Having a strong online presence will keep your brand on the minds of your audience, and successfully connecting with them will form a stronger bond that will develop into brand loyalty that will last after the pandemic.
As you put together a more in-depth digital marketing strategy, remember that your audience is bored, anxious, and maybe even uncertain or scared. They need support and optimism right now from any source, including their favorite brands. Think about how the products and services you offer can bring some relief to the situation and what type of content you can create for your website and social media accounts that will also provide some comfort.
A successful digital marketing campaign should be multi-faceted to reach your audience through your website and social media and attract new customers searching your products and services. Working with a digital marketing agency will help you form a strategy that reaches your audience and effectively conveys your message.
Your digital marketing strategy should consist of the following:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): It is impossible to understate the importance of having a website and optimizing your website to appear in relevant searches. An SEO professional will ensure your website is highly optimized to drive more search traffic.
- Website content: Make sure you update your web pages and blogs to convey your new message during the pandemic and put a clear call to action on every page.
- Content marketing: Your audience is spending more time online which means they are consuming more content than before the pandemic. Creating a steady stream of content for your blog and social media profiles, as well as email newsletters and other useful content will keep your audience engaged.
- Social media: As your audience spends more time on social media, you have a golden opportunity to engage with them directly. You can reach your audience on social media by sharing blogs, special offers, and videos and pictures of your products.
Expect a New Normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on small businesses as social distancing brought on by the pandemic has led to a loss of revenue. However, it is possible for small businesses to adapt to the crisis and change their marketing approach and message to connect to their audience during this time and build brand recognition and loyalty that will last after the pandemic. There is no way to know for sure if life will return to normal as it was before the pandemic, but there is a good chance that the new normal will persist. Getting adjusted to this new normal now will put your business in the best position to not just survive the pandemic but thrive and continue to grow after the pandemic.
If you are unsure of how to form a digital marketing plan that will benefit your business during this crisis, the professionals of Proceed Innovative can help. Our SEO experts specialize in digital marketing for small businesses and can help form a layered approach that will engage your audience through several channels. We will not only ensure that your website is optimized to drive more relevant search traffic, but also help you convey your message to your audience during this crisis.
For more about our digital marketing and SEO services, contact Proceed Innovative by calling (800) 933-2402.