A decrease in consumer confidence in times of emergency can lead to a drastic drop in sales for many businesses. Unfortunately, we are now in such a situation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable when the threat of recession looms because they may not have the resources to weather prolonged sales dips.
However, there are ways small business owners can prepare themselves for the hard road ahead. If you’ve been caught off guard by the COVID-19 shutdown, as most of us have, it isn’t too late to create a game plan for what may be a years-long period of economic uncertainty.
The number one priority is making sure you have access to the necessary financial resources, but you also need to ensure you have a solid marketing plan in place. If you adapt your strategies to the new reality, it will help your brand not only survive, but strengthen its place in the market. Here are five ways you can do this, even on a tight budget.
1. Be Different
This may seem easy, but too many businesses merely follow what their competitors are doing. Ask yourself what makes your business different from everyone else. What do you offer during these difficult times that others are not capable of?
By identifying what makes you unique–what you do better than the competition–you can tell a brand story that will attract new customers. People are always looking for ways to make their lives easier, and if you deliver a consistent message about how your business does that, you’ll see positive results even during tough economic times.
2. Increase Marketing Efforts
“Wait, increase?” I hear you ask. No, that isn’t a typo. It may seem counter-intuitive in a time when people are adjusting to social distancing and financial constraints, but study after study shows businesses that advertise proactively during a recession come out ahead of their competitors.
People still want what you’re selling, even if they have to wait a bit or take extra precautions to buy them. Whether your business is classified as “essential” or not, things will turn around eventually and customers will need you when that happens. If you don’t continue advertising your brand, there’s a good chance people will forget about it, or will think of a competitor first. Be ready to capture that pent-up demand.
3. Try New Marketing Channels
It’s important to explore new marketing options that you may not have considered in the past. For example, with current pandemic restrictions, more people than ever are working from home. Take advantage of this by trying out a digital marketing campaign. With so many hours being spent on social media platforms, it has become easier than ever to reach a wide online audience within a budget. The most successful marketers are flexible and adjust strategies to reach their target audience wherever that audience spends the most time.
4. Spoil Existing Customers
Your current customers are your greatest marketing asset. Let them know that you are there for them and promote what you can do to benefit them in a tough economic situation. Why not send them a branded gift bag, or offer an exclusive discount on their next order?
By reminding loyal customers you appreciate them, you encourage them to be vocal brand advocates. Don’t be shy about asking for reviews and referrals while you wait for new business to pick up. Positive word-of-mouth remains the most effective marketing channel there is–even more so during a recession.
When things get tough, it’s understandable to feel discouraged. You may be tempted to make rash decisions without considering the long-term effects, like stopping all marketing efforts until things return to normal. But that will only make a return to normalcy more difficult.
In business, it’s sometimes necessary to feel discomfort in order to implement new strategies. Maintain a positive attitude and stay focused on delivering great customer service and you will weather the storm. When there’s a lot of bad news in the world, make your brand a beacon of positivity and people will be drawn to it.