As a small local business ourselves, we're experiencing the hardships we all face during the current coronavirus crisis firsthand. However, we're lucky to have a team of marketing and advertising professionals who have dedicated themselves to finding ways to come out successfully on the other end of these trying times. Over the last few months, we've taken some chances, made changes and learned a number of valuable marketing tips that are producing impressive results for our own business and for our advertising clients. From our experience, we're sharing our top six marketing strategies we've discovered during the pandemic to set ourselves, and you, up for a successful future during and post-COVID.
#1 Focus on your strengths to create value
Customers frequent your business because of something unique you offer, or in marketing speak, your value proposition. Getting clear on what has made you successful thus far and what will continue to drive success is vital to creating effective marketing campaigns and driving traffic to your store/website. Keep in mind, your value proposition may be different now than before coronavirus. Focus on how your business can help locals now when deciding how to communicate your marketing messages.
#2 Show authenticity to build connections
Authenticity and transparency are always important pieces of your marketing strategy and positioning. With nearly everyone facing hardships, it's more important than ever to build personal relationships with your customers. Coming up with an effective marketing message that is also sensitive to our current reality will help bridge the gap between you as a business and you as a part of your local communities who can empathize and relate to what your customers are facing. It's appropriate and powerful to tell your customers how the pandemic is affecting your business and how they can help.
#3 Err on the side of over communicating
With frequent changes for local businesses in response to the coronavirus, many locals are confused about who's open and what they're offering. Relying on your website alone to communicate your current operations is not enough. If you're open, this is a pivotal time to tell not only your current customers, but your future customers who may not be aware of your business what services/products you're offering, your hours of operation, etc. Many other businesses may not be open, and this is your shining moment to step in. Customers will also want to know the safety protocols you're taking to keep them and your employees healthy. If you aren't open, it is imperative that you continue communicating with locals to stay top-of-mind. Sending out regular marketing messages through email campaigns, newsletters, online ads and social media will set you up for success when the opportunity to open arises.
#4 Look beyond the status quo for new revenue opportunities
If your core product/service is not bringing in the normal amount of revenue or has stopped growing, don't settle. Your customers are stuck at home, going through financial struggles and are concerned for their and their loved ones' health. Is there value your business can bring during this time? For us, we recognized that local restaurants were struggling financially, but we also wanted to give them a way to reach their audiences. We came up with the idea to offer restaurants advertising in exchange for part cash and part gift cards. We are now turning around and selling the cards to our subscribing members at a discount. This preserves cash for the restaurant, gets us the revenue we need to publish their advertising and gives more value to our members. We're also offering small businesses matching grant loans from $250 to $2,500/month for advertising.
#5 Utilize your audience to build word-of-mouth
Your most loyal customers are one of your biggest assets. However, building an engaged customer base doesn't happen by accident. It takes strategic messaging, enough of it, and a great customer experience to ensure those who have frequented your business come back. Once you've cultivated this relationship, you can inspire your loyal customers to become your brand advocates through referral campaigns so they tell their friends and families about your business.
#6 Become top-of-mind with integrated, cross-channel marketing campaigns
The best way to stay top-of-mind with your current customers and get in front of new ones is to be everywhere all at once. Each channel will have different demographics but you may also find some overlap. To reach the greatest number of locals interested in your business, it is important to diversify. To become top-of-mind you want viewers to see your message multiple times. For example, advertising in our print publications will help you get into the homes of thousands of locals in an older demographic, where the average age is around 50. Want to reach a slightly younger and broader audience who still look to us as their trusted source of local news? Advertise on our community websites (Palo Alto Online, Almanac News, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly, DanvilleSanRamon.com) or their Express newsletter(s). Reach the largest group of food-obsessed readers on the Peninsula in the Peninsula Foodist newsletter or local millennials interested in lifestyle and entertainment in the 6-5-0 area code in The Six Fifty newsletter.
This is a challenge we can overcome together
We face potential hardships, but by sharing our strengths and working together, we have the best chance of coming out on top. As always, please reach out to us if you have any other questions about communicating with locals!