I’m sure there’s no doubt in your mind that business will look different after the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve heard the predictions. A good portion of our workforce will continue to work remotely. The handshake will be replaced by a gesture less likely to spread germs. And so many others.

Marketing is no exception. How small business owners market their companies will be different when the crisis settles down. Make sure your small business is in step with the changes. 

No one can predict with absolute certainty what the new rules of marketing engagement will be. Or even which new consumer behaviors will be permanent. 

However, here’s a look at what you most likely need to focus on. Invest in the newly evolved marketing practices to ensure your brand reaches its full potential when we enter our new normal. 

Win Back Lost Customers

Plan on winning back customers you lost during the lockdown. Set a goal, but don’t expect to win all lapsed customers back. Be sure to use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Attract entirely new customers; they’re the lifeblood of every business. Keep in mind new customers require evidence you can deliver on your claims. There are four specific types of evidence you can use in winning over new customers. We call them “Reasons to Believe.” Don’t use all of them at once. Pick the one most likely to give your brand impact.

  1. Data – Facts about your business can be convincing to new customers as they get to know your brand. What facts or figures about your business can you include in your marketing message? For example, Dutchland Plastics, a manufacturer in Sheboygan, WI, is one of the top 5 manufacturers of custom rotational molded plastic products in North America. That demonstrates to prospective customers that they’re competent by underscoring their accomplishments. You don’t get to the top 5 of anything without being very good.
  2. Before and After – Visuals are super powerful marketing tools. And showing potential customers before and after photographs can be very convincing. Help them visualize what they’re life will look like after using your product or service. Weight loss plans are an obvious example. However, this proof strategy works well for re-modeling, construction, contractor, and clothing brands.
  3. Guarantee – Offering customers a guarantee reduces the risk they take when trying a new brand like yours. Face it, switching brands can be risky for consumers. It’s easier for them to choose you if you offer a money-back guarantee or generous warranty covering some aspect of the transaction or product. 
  4. Special – Consider how powerful an endorsement, patent, or unique process can be. They help a new customer appreciate how your product delivers the benefits it claims. I’m willing to try a patented product over an unpatented product because there’s something unique about it, which suggests that it provides superior performance. Or if the most trusted person in the industry endorses a product, there’s reassurance that it will exceed expectations.

Let’s talk for a minute about testimonials, which are a close cousin to endorsements. Testimonials are an excellent example of earned media. Earned media is what customers, shoppers, or members of the press do when they share your content or talk about your brand online. It includes Google Reviews, Facebook Recommendations, etc. 

Earned media is critical to successful digital marketing because the Internet is a well-established resource for consumers to learn about brands.  Just about all consumers go online to talk and learn about brands. And it’s not enough to have a great website. I encourage business owners to ask satisfied customers to review their products or services regularly. Help new customers get comfortable doing business with you and help your most passionate customers feel connected to your brand.

Because conditions change rapidly during the pandemic, consumers pay closer attention to the news on a more frequent basis. That means they’re reading more news online than ever before. Some consumers look to social media to stay informed; others turn to traditional news sources.  

Put your product or service in front of them with online banner ads, social ads, etc. This is a win-win. Local newspapers like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Racine Journal Times are eager to attract paid advertisers. Facebook ads are very targetable, so advertisers can reach potential new customers economically.

New Ways to do Business

Develop new, innovative ways to conduct business and deliver your product or service that doesn’t require direct personal contact. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here; there are numerous success stories that you can adapt to your business. 

My colleague, Amanda Dalnodar, Founder and CEO, Brew City Marketing, had this to say: “A lot of small businesses are looking for ways to meet with their consumers online before going into homes and businesses for estimates and quotes. Another example is the many yoga teachers that are finding ways to teach classes virtually to people all over the world instead of just a class of 10 in their local community.” 

Take a close look at how customers pay for your product or service. You may have an outstanding product, but if consumers are skeptical about payment methods that may compromise their safety, they’ll go elsewhere. According to Janet Balis, “Health and safety concerns are driving more customers toward frictionless payment systems, such as using mobile phones to pay at check-out without touching a surface or stylus.”*

Small businesses can adapt to big business marketing ideas. For Example, American Express is cross-promoting with an app called Calm. Together Amex and Calm are promoting wellness at a time when consumer stress levels are high.

A COVID-19 POLICY IS MANDATORY

Having a clear COVID policy for the public and internally is now a mandatory standard. Make sure yours is written and published according to current best practices. The CDC offers a simple-to-use reference guide for small business owners on handling internal communication with employees. Business owners are also encouraged to monitor the rapidly evolving COVID-19 rules, restrictions, orders, timelines, and guidance that affect how and when they can reopen to employees and customers. 

At Med Spa MKE, their clients are eager to get back to a normal lifestyle. Consequently, their business has picked up lately and it’s busier than ever before. However, a few clients have expressed concern about sanitation and feeling guilty for coming in because they live with an at-risk person, etc.  

The spa owners report that they have a protocol in place and that it’s a work-in-progress. They review it every month to get ready for the fall season. Here’s the current protocol for their clients:

  • If you have a fever or are under the weather, reschedule your visit.
  • Only those receiving services should enter the waiting area. Friends and family will be asked to wait outside. 
  • The floor near the reception area is marked to allow 6″ of the distance between you and the receptionist. 
  • All surfaces and handled objects are sanitized. 
  • Reception areas are sanitized after every client interaction. 
  • Hands are sanitized before and after every client interaction. 
  • Gloves are worn with every service. 
  • You are not required to wear a mask; however, you can if your treatment allows for it.

CONCLUSION

Great marketing has always had a dose of empathy. That’s because the best marketing campaigns recognize and solve real consumer pain points. 

These are daunting times for consumers. Maintaining their safety and health is top of mind for consumers. And balancing a budget is challenging. Unemployment and uncertainty are high. Therefore, spending discretionary income will be curtailed. Marketers need to be sensitive to these concerns.

 

*Janet Balis, Harvard Business Review, “Brand Marketing Through the Coronavirus Crisis”.