Small business owners are no strangers to innovating and adapting. I’m sure you can think of a time (or two, or five!) where you had to take a step back, reassess your strategy, and pivot.

 

The difference this time is that we have to pivot because of an unprecedented, uncertain event: COVID-19. These are strange times when small business owners may be shuttering physical locations, having to lay off staff, and struggling with lagging online sales.

 

To complicate matters, marketers have to be sensitive to the emotional rollercoaster ride that everyone is on. People don’t want to be pandered to or bombarded with aggressive sales techniques.

 

That’s why we’re sharing 4 ways to pivot your small business marketing strategy:

 

Update Your Information

There’s more to communicating with your customers than posting a message on your front door and/or website telling them you’re keeping their health and safety in mind during COVID-19. Of course, that’s important—share how you’ve enhanced cleaning protocols, are keeping employees safe, and practicing social distancing, for example.

 

But you also need to update your Google My Business listing. When your business comes up in a Google search, so does information like your address and website, hours of operation, and so on. According to a study by BrightLocal, a typical business receives 59 actions from their Google My Business listing each month. And many customers are going to use Google to find out what changes you’ve made because of COVID-19. Your customers and potential customers are counting on you for the latest information about your small business. If you’re closing your company temporarily, changing the hours you’re open, or offering curbside pickup, let people know.

 

If you don’t have a Google My Business listing, getting one is an important first step! Fill out your profile with as much detail as possible, whether you’re offering delivery or have reduced the hours you’re open to lower the COVID-19 risk. You may not see the changes you make to your Google My Business listing right away, but that’s only because Google may review everything before publishing. Aside from Google My Business, check your social media accounts as well and ensure up-to-date information is found by your social followers too.

 

Support Your Community

We get it: You have a small business to run, and you rely on income from it to be successful. This isn’t about giving away stuff for free or letting your business suffer in order to benefit the community. But during this time, people need your support more than ever. Is there a way you could help your customers with free shipping, or put together low-cost product or service bundles? Some small businesses are hosting virtual wine nights or coffee hours to bring together customers and employees, provide networking opportunities, and keep the community feeling connected. Would this make sense for your business?

This all relates to what we mentioned earlier in the article: Your customers don’t want to feel like they’re being sold at, or that you’re using COVID-19 as a golden opportunity to increase sales. Even if your small business is doing better than ever during the pandemic, be humble and kind to the community who supports you. (Also, people are going to remember the small businesses that went above and beyond during COVID-19).

 

Be Flexible to Be Successful

No matter what business you’re in, it’s possible to pivot your marketing strategy to better serve your customers. For example:

  • If you’ve had to cancel or postpone an event, you could create a virtual webinar or networking event using a video conferencing tool like Zoom or even Houseparty. Just check all event contracts first, and keep in mind not everyone may want to transfer from the real world to the virtual world. Get honest feedback from your ticket holders using polls and questionnaires and offer people the option of a refund or credit if they don’t want to attend your online event.
  • If you rely on physical interactions with customers to sell your product or service, think of ways you can still offer them in a safe way. Can you provide your customers with private shopping opportunities, or come to their homes and do services at a safe social distance?
  • Is there an opportunity to create something brand new of value to your customers? Maybe the service you offer is travel-based and not relevant right now, or you’ve found a high demand for a niche product you’ve never offered. This might be the perfect time to dream up something different and venture in a new direction.
 

Help Your Employees Adjust

According to recent stats, nearly 17 million people filed initial claims for unemployment insurance over the past three weeks. This suggests the unemployment rate is already above 15%—far above what it was at the height of the Great Recession.

Many small businesses have had to make difficult decisions and lay off staff. Even if you haven’t, how can you keep your team engaged and optimistic about the future, especially if everyone is working remotely? Here are three ideas:

  • Be understanding of your employees’ family responsibilities. Consider being more flexible around working hours or personal days, for example. People may have kids at home now or need to drop off groceries for elderly family members during the day. Clearly communicate your workplace policies to employees, so they know your expectations and around things like parental leave, vacation days, and sick days.
  • Use this time to empower employees with new training opportunities. Whether it’s a certification or a virtual conference, let your employees know you’re supportive of them learning a new skill. Not only does this add to your employee’s skill set, it also benefits your small business. 
  • Empower your employees with remote tools. From online communication tools like Slack to collaborative tools like G Suite, ensure your employees are set up for success. Remember that not everyone may be tech-savvy or learn these tools at the same pace. Consider holding online training sessions for new tech or have a dedicated IT support person your staff can reach out to. The more seamless you make working remotely, the more productive your employees will be.
 

I know that this is a scary time for all small business owners, who face unique challenges in the face of COVID-19. But you’ve pivoted before and will again, so stay positive, adapt as best you can, and stay connected to your community.

 

By pivoting your marketing strategy now, you can emerge from this experience stronger than ever.  For more guidance on how to pivot and market your business during COVID-19 and beyond, visit eVision Media.