We are all living in unprecedented times – and 2020 will, for sure, stay in our memories for the decades to come. Hopefully, we will remember this year only as a short temporary state of emergency. Still, at this point, unfortunately, no one can be sure when life will return fully into normality.
2020 so far, has been especially challenging for freelancers and small business owners. While the most extreme case is that businesses in specific industries had to shut down temporarily completely, most companies are feeling the impact of the current virus to a smaller or more substantial extent.
Within a matter of days, most people had to get used to the idea to completely stopping their physical lives – stop seeing friends and family, stop going to restaurants, stop travelling, stop going shopping for anything that is not essential – stop going outside really except the weekly grocery shopping. And within the same matter of days, we were forced to re-think our businesses and come up with new strategies on how to make them survive these challenging times!
To help you survive the economic slow-down and the overall pessimistic sentiments, I have summarized 5 Marketing strategies that can help you check if you have taken the right measures to stay relevant to your customers in the coming months.
#1) GIVE WITHOUT ASKING
Since the beginning of the outbreak, I am witnessing on a daily basis how companies fall into one of the two categories 1. Do nothing and continue business as usual or 2. Stop doing business as usual and try to see how they can help ease the problematic on-going situation in any form or manner. The first category continues sending out the (sometimes insensitive) emails to their email lists, and while they might offer a ‘special discount’ to their customers, the intention of continuing to sell in the coming weeks and months is their utmost objective. The second group on the other hand, pretty much makes sure that their customer is king or queen – and they make sure that their profitability takes a backseat for the moment being, while they focus all their efforts on how they can help society survive these difficult times: they offer free services, stop charging their subscription fees, refund fees paid for flights or accommodations that were previously booked, or they donate and provide services and products to the ones in need. I have personally experienced numerous companies helping me as their valued customer get refunds, stop paying subscriptions temporarily, and enjoy free services. And while it is true that they will be missing out on these profits, I can assure you that these are the companies that I will use or book again the next time I need their product or service, and most likely the one after and after. Treating me as a highly valued customer makes me connect emotionally to these companies, and not only will I be loyal to them for the coming months and years, but I will be most likely recommending them off and online! Which will result in future profits from myself and anyone I recommend them to. So think about the long term, and don’t ask yourself how can I make as much profit during this crisis as possible, but how can I use my business to gain loyal customers.
I am convinced that any company can help in one way or another, even if it’s only in the form of creating free content – so stop thinking about making money today and start investing in your long term relationship with your customers. This does not mean of course that you should give all your products and services for free, but offering a limited amount of free products and services provides a fantastic opportunity to make people try your business and become loyal customers in the future. Trust me, if you allow people to try something for free which they valued – they will feel in dept and pay it back to you in one form or another in the future.
#2) MOVE ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN ONLINE, THE EARLIER, THE BETTER
While I am perfectly aware that there are businesses that cannot be moved entirely online (think of a hairdresser, for example), many small companies can come up with strategies that enable them to continue selling at least part of their services or products online. If I think of it – even the mentioned hairdresser could give online tutorials for a small fee how to have someone cut your hair at home in a professional way, or he could offer a video conference and instruct the person how to do it! It is not the same, of course, as the real service, but now is the time for small business owners to try out new ideas for products and services online.
This outbreak will results in a long term increase of online service and products in EVERY industry, so the earlier you enter and become the go-to address in your industry, the easier it will be for you to gain new customers in the long run. So brainstorm new ideas, be bold, and don’t be afraid to try new things. The worst that can happen is that it does not work.
#3) UPDATE YOUR CURRENT ONLINE PRESENCE
As these are unprecedented times, in most cases, we cannot look at how we have solved issues in the past in such a situation. For that matter – many of our contracts don’t even have a clause what happens if there is a global virus outbreak when we have to stop business temporarily. And as it is easy to forget the small – yet profoundly essential – details, make sure that you inform and update your customers about what you offer and what you cannot offer during these times. So don’t forget to modify your business hours if you have a physical location, give an update about your services on your website, and make sure to get the information about a reduced customer service during the outbreak.
Also, double-check your copy on all your marketing materials, and make sure not to mention any words that could be misunderstood or negatively received during these times, such as ‘infectious headlines,’ ‘make it go viral,’ ‘killer offer’ or ‘how to create a contagious content.’
Also, make sure not to capitalize on the current situation using words like ‘offer,’ ‘profit,’ ‘make the most,’ ‘gain,’ ‘advantage’ or ‘opportunity’ – but use helpful words such as ‘navigate,’ ‘cope,’ ‘help,’ ‘assist,’ ‘contribute,’ ‘cope’ or ‘respond’ instead. Another important aspect is to tone done all your ‘buy now,’ ‘call now,’ and ‘reserve your spot before it’s too late’ offerings – and give people more time to make decisions in these uncertain times.
#4) CONTENT IS KEY
In a moment when emotions are running high, it is more important than ever to connect with your customers. This is why ‘giving without asking’ was my first and most crucial point in this BLOG, as that is the simplest and easiest way to show them that you genuinely care.
If you, for whatever reason, cannot give without asking, the best you can do is to try to connect with your customers through quality content – where your customers feel helped, supported, and understood.
So stop bragging about what your company has to offer, why it is so much better, faster, cooler, and cheaper than all your competitors out there and why you started it in the first place! While I firmly believe that you should do none of the above even in ‘normal times,’ now more than ever, you need to make sure to forget about yourself for a bit and focus on your customers. Write posts on social media that your customers can relate to – what emotions they are going through, talk about their difficulties concerning your business and help them with related ideas, tips, and trials of your services to help them overcome these issues.
#5) MODIFY YOUR SERVICE OR PRODUCT RANGE
Change always brings new ideas and new solutions. Just looking at my own business (Brand strategy and marketing consulting) – I realized that I have to significantly modify my business offerings and adapt it to the COVID-19 outbreak. While before, I was focusing on helping entrepreneurs create or re-create a brand to make their business successful, now I need to focus on helping entrepreneurs to move their business online and make sure their branding will be relevant and robust enough to stand out in the online world.
So this is a great time to re-evaluate and analyze what you have been doing so far in your business, what worked, what didn’t, and find new ways of creating a new service or product rage for the future – that will work off- and online ideally. I am aware that this will take some time and effort. Still, unprecedented times bring unprecedented solutions, and today is a better time to start than tomorrow. So spend some time to look inside your business and get ready to create.
I wish all of you fellow business owners to stay safe and, most importantly, healthy during these crazy times, and to find the energy and positivity to weather this challenging storm. I haven’t fully decided yet if the saying “We will come out of this stronger.” will truly apply to the current situation, but being the eternal optimist and seeing how society as a whole has reacted to this virus so far – offering support and numerous services for free online, collaborating on charitable causes, continuously encouraging each other, supporting the sanitary personnel by clapping night after night after night – gives me incredible hope to believe that it will.