We probably don’t need to tell you that sales are down because of the pandemic (8.7% between February and March). And while it appears that consumers have started buying, things are certainly still shaky for small businesses.
So while it may seem strange to think about advertising when the market is down, statistically, the opposite is true. In fact, those who keep advertising during a downturn come out in a better position once the market improves.
The trick to doing it well during a time like this is to do it for less. Small businesses must reduce their costs for customer acquisition and increase the efficiency of their marketing.
So here are 3 simple but powerful things your business can focus on to attract customers right now at no additional cost.
- Bring More Creativity
- Up Your Social Media Game
- Create a Virtual Content Experience
1. Bring More Creativity
It sounds simple, but improving your offer is the number one way to increase sales. The pandemic has proven that to be more true than ever.
For example, curbside pickup has become ubiquitous in most cities. It minimizes direct contact with shoppers but allows businesses to remain open. Not only are the sales critical for many businesses right now, but it’s also an important way to keep in touch with your customer base so they don’t forget about you when your business is ready to go back to normal.
- But some businesses are going the extra mile. Instead of simply offering curbside pickup a local pizza place in San Diego is marketing take-home pizza kits. They include all ingredients, including the dough, to bake a few pizzas at home. Plus, they throw in a growler of local craft beer at a steep discount.
- Many others have used gift cards to help get them through tough times. Marketing gift cards can help boost sales now to help pay the bills, while shoppers can redeem them at a later date.
- Throughout New York, bars and restaurants have been selling to-go cocktails (open container laws were temporarily relaxed). Some serve the cocktail in a take-away cup, others have been selling bottles of pre-mixed cocktails, and some even market cocktail kits so that shoppers can make them at home.
There are countless examples of small businesses making creative adjustments with their marketing during the COVID pandemic. Such a propensity to adapt to a changing world is critical for running a successful business.
2. Up Your Social Media Game
If you haven’t been prioritizing your social media profile before now, I don’t think there’s been a better time to illustrate just how important it is for small businesses. There are a whole lot of bored people at home with a whole lot more time on their hands than they’re used to. For many of those people, time spent on social media will increase. With a strong social media following, businesses are able to continue to advertise to people who are staying in. Plus, it’s free! And paid advertising options are affordable.
- Some plant shops decided to create an online store using their Instagram stories, mimicking the plant shopping experience virtually. This is brilliant not only because it helps them generate sales without spending a dime, but because it keeps their followers engaged with their business even if they can’t make it to their store.
- Coffee shops are advertising their whole beans for shoppers who don’t want to to curbside pickup. Instead of buying a cup every day, shoppers can order a few pounds at a time and purchase them through social media.
- And retailers in general are finding ways to improve their online shopping experience. Whether it’s a social media store or a traditional eCommerce business, it’s important that the space is appealing, easy to navigate, and seamless to complete a purchase.
3. Create a Virtual Content Experience
Virtual content (blogging, streaming, social media, etc.) allows you to provide entertainment to people as they shop.
- The New York Metropolitan Opera is offering streamable live performances.
- Many podcasts have started accounts on Patreon for advertising-free subscriptions. Guests can even log-in to attend live shows.
- Professional sports will be spectator free for some time, but will still be broadcast into fans’ homes.
- Barbershops are offering virtual tutorials on cutting one’s own hair.
- And various professionals are now hawking their skills for a small price through online classes.
Across the board, people have gotten creative. But in each of these the key ingredient is that they’re providing something helpful for their users/customers. Analyze what your business is great at and what your customers need most. Then simple come up with something to offer them. Not only will this help drive sales without sounding too salesy or desperate, but it will also build your brand for success down the road.