“Businesses large and small with internet and social media presence have reaped the rewards of gaining more exposure during COVID-19,” said Northern AZ Social Owner and Marketing Strategist Donna Werking. “Communication with consumers has been critical, and there has been a bigger push for businesses to establish networking platforms to drive revenue and exposure. Having a direct line to your consumer is invaluable.”
Craf2m Marketing Agency Owner Cadu Medina says there are unique opportunities for small businesses to survive and thrive during the pandemic. “This is not the time to go ‘missing in action.’ Show your customers that you are alive, adjusting and improving your products and services to meet their needs.”
Marketing direction since the pandemic hit has become more specific to a company’s service line or specialties, Werking said. “Many companies have had to create new ways to drive revenue, so the marketing messaging and initiatives are more precise to target desired consumers.”
While putting products and services front and center, experts say businesses must also show empathy for consumers undergoing economic and social upheaval. “The message needs to be more thoughtful and sensitive to people’s struggles and needs,” Medina explained. “It’s important to strike the right tone. Customers want to hear how you’re navigating the crisis, but they are also sensitive to any sign that you are attempting to profit from it.”
Werking touts customized programs. “It is never a one-size-fits-all model. Large or small, the needs of each business will always vary. We can compare two similar companies who share a similar model, but their marketing programs will always be different. The No. 1 question is, ‘What sets you apart from your competitor?’ Marketing strategies are derived from goals, not necessarily the size of the business.”
Businesses without a digital marketing component to their operations, and owners forced to scale back on advertising and marketing during the pandemic, are advised by Medina and Werking that social media, a quality website and digital strategies are the most cost-effective tools to capture or regain market share and drive awareness.
“Some companies may struggle to keep up with their marketing spending if they’re having a drop in revenue,” Medina acknowledged. “But companies that have successfully transitioned to online sales are actually finding a spike in revenue, consequently, having to spend more in marketing to communicate their new or adjusted products and services, and to continue to grow.”
Before spending money on paid advertising in any business environment, Werking affirmed, companies should have a brand identity; a quality optimized website; strong social media channels; and preferably, a consumer database, including email addresses and zip codes.
“Start by reconnecting with your current customers before you expand your brand reach and lead generation efforts,” Medina recommended. “Email and social media campaigns are the most effective and efficient way to get back in the game. It is never good to be inconsistent with your marketing, but in times like this, opportunities to make your business stand out are everywhere. If your competitors are quiet, now is the time to get strategically loud and present.”
The industry spending average for companies under $5 million a year is 7-8% of gross revenue for marketing programs, Werking said. In creating a marketing plan, Medina advises calculating how much marketing spending would be needed for the next 12 months and spreading that across the year.
“The trick is to show your consumers that you have them in mind every step of the way – and do it consistently,” Medina noted. “The fact that you are marketing in these times will reinforce your commitment, resilience and leadership. In exchange, your customers will reward you with their trust, loyalty and referrals.” QCBN
By Sue Marceau, QCBN