It’s been a rough 2020 for small businesses. There was a lot of optimism in the air when everyone thought the summer heat would crush the Covid-19 curve. It has in some states, but other states aren’t so lucky. And models are showing there will be virus peaks and waves over the next year, and perhaps longer.
“What you don’t want to do now is come to a grinding halt with your digital marketing efforts,” says Matt Bowman, president of Thrive Internet Marketing. “That would be a mistake and a complete waste of time and resources you’ve already poured into your business to gain traction in a crowded online marketplace.”
If you weren’t convinced early on when the virus first hit that rethinking online marketing is a priority for your small business, you’re probably convinced now. But what exactly does that mean? How can a small business implement new digital marketing ideas when you had a business plan in place that worked? It boils down to Marketing 101 basics: the ability to adapt and be creative. You have to look at your platform and services and then evaluate what’s happening with your clients. Then come up with some ways you can connect with new and existing customers.
Come up with a Small Business, Marketing 101 Playbook
Google published a Covid playbook for small businesses, called “Navigating the Road Ahead.” They point out a few useful insights about recent web searches. They noted a sharp increase in in exercise-related searches and delivery service searches jumped too. Anyone can use a tool like Google Trends to see online search spikes and use that information to promote their services. Specifically, the platform can help you advertise your services more effectively. “Perhaps there is more than one term you could potentially use for a product category and you aren’t’ sure which one to go with,” says ecommerce specialists, Venture Stream. Trends not only lets you compare terms, but you can filter searches by your industry. So you can find out for sure which terms actual customers search for.
Invest in New Digital Tools
There are probably a few tools that you never thought of using in the past, but right now, they can help you stay connected with existing customers and find new ones nearby. As we mentioned above, Google Trends found that searches for businesses that deliver have spiked. And since not all small businesses can afford to pay a delivery employee, the next best thing is to offer a curbside pickup service.
Point of Sale Apps
Certain types of digital tools can help your business accommodate customers’ new needs, like a point of sale app for managing online transactions. Coffee shops and roasteries, restaurants, casual service providers and mom and pop retail stores are using these platforms so that customers can shop from home and have their items delivered or waiting and ready to go for the customer to pick up via curbside.
Rethink Your Marketing 101 Strategy
Since more and more consumers are continuing to stay home, small businesses have to find ways to encourage them to spend more in other ways. For example, in the old days, anyone could swing by a coffee shop and pick up a single latte to go. But not many people are going out for coffee right now, much less swinging by a coffee shop for a single cup of java. What Radio Coffee & Beer in Austin, Texas came up with is a partnership of sorts with two food partners, Veracruz and Dee Dee food trucks. Now, instead of customers purchasing a single cappuccino to go, they can access each businesses’ menu from Radio’s homepage and place orders for coffee, lunch, and dessert all in one visit. Customers can also schedule their food and coffee order pickup for any time of the day.
This new business model seems to be working out very well for Dee Dee Thai food truck. They’re only doing online orders and contactless pickup right now, but they report, “time slots start filling up several hours before we open.”
Accommodate Customers’ Needs
You’ve heard of curbside pickup, right? But what about curbside drop-off? It’s a pretty new concept that businesses like veterinarians and pet groomers have recently implemented.
Love Pet Hospital in South Austin have new Covid-19 procedures that aim to keep staff and clients safe. The biggest adjustment is that for non-emergency appointments, clients can schedule a real-time chat with their vet. It’s surprising it took a contagious virus for vets to start offering virtual appointments, especially when someone just needs instructions on how to clip their chihuahua’s nails.
But like other vet clinics, Love implemented several new safety procedures to keep everyone safe. To limit crowding inside the clinic, visitors are required to wait outside. Even when picking up a prescription, clients are asked to stay in their car and text when they arrive. A vet tech then brings the pet meds to the customer.
Update Your Social Media Strategy
Here’s another marketing 101 rule for the times. Small businesses must be on social media! Which platform? All of them! Long before Corona-19, more than 80 percent of consumers discovered products and services on social media,” according to Multichannel Merchant. These days, people are spending more time at home and more time online. So that number is definitely expected to spike. If customers are looking for services and your small business is not easy to find, you can be sure people won’t find it. Here’s a short guide for understanding different social media platforms and how best to use each one.
Facebook demographics: More than 2 billion users, including men and women 18 to 65 years old.
Why you should use Facebook to promote your small business: For one thing, there are too many potential customers on Facebook for any business to ignore. Unlike more niche social media sites, Facebook is versatile and affordable for advertisers. The platform is also very good at helping businesses target customers. When people like your business and rate it or engage with you, it’s very influential to their personal social media networks. And lastly, your competition is likely on Facebook, which means you should be too.
Here is an infographic showing how often users on different social media sites visit each platform.
Twitter demographics: 152 million daily active users that range in age from 18 to 49. Eighty percent of users are affluent.
Why you should use Twitter to promote your small business: Twitter is useful for helping small businesses increase brand awareness. You can connect with existing customers here, but more importantly, you can find lots of new customers too. To gain followers, it helps to post news and updates regularly and place targeted ads based on your customer demographics. Nearly 50 percent of users that visit a Twitter profile also visit the linked website. Twitter can also help you identify problems and fix them. According to Statusbrew.com, “It’s a goldmine of customer insight.” When followers reach out, businesses can respond quickly and directly, which helps improve customer service.
If you don’t think you can capture older customers on social media platforms, think again. Nearly 50 percent of Boomers—that means adults in their mid-50s to mid-70s—are on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Instagram demographics: 4.2 million users who range in age from 18 to 34. Every month, 130 million accounts tap on a shopping post to learn more about products.
Why you should use Instagram to promote your small business: Instagram is a great branding tool, especially for more creative businesses. The platform is designed to help small businesses find and engage with customers, get feedback, and gain insights about current trends and pain points. Buildfire.com suggests that businesses identify similar accounts and follow their followers. For example, if you run a clothing boutique, you want to follow people who follow other niche fashion brands. The same goes for a more traditional business, like coworking spaces. Follow the people who follow your competitors because they’re likely interested in your business too. Small businesses can track impressions and follower demographics and use that info to create targeted ad campaigns. Also, hashtags and location tags help users find products and services in their area
Local Promotion Platforms
Local promotion platforms like Plazaly are great tools for small businesses because they deliver your message directly to customers in areas you’re targeting. For small businesses that don’t have a lot of success on social media platforms, like cleaning services, tax and accounting professionals, realtors, and all types of medical providers, from chiropractors to orthodontists, local promotion platforms use search-engine optimized content by professional writers to craft messages that clients and patients are searching for. These are search results that will not come up on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
If you’re interested in promoting your small business to new customers where you live, Plazaly can help. Check out How it Works!