No marketing grad was ever expecting to have to Tweet “Under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.” – Love, Lysol.

“How and What Can I Market Now,” Cheri?

I get that question a lot. Every. Single. Day. And my answer is, sometimes, “Very carefully,” and sometimes it’s “With everything you’ve got.” It’s no secret or scientific formula that small businesses who are actively marketing their businesses right now, are doing more in sales than those who aren’t.

And how are they marketing? And what are they talking about? And when is it OK to use humor? And should I support current events…And…and…andddddd often the fear of doing it incorrectly leads to inactivity. It seems that most anything you say to the public is open for both positive and negative interpretation these days so your messaging really matters. Lack of resources (money) or humans (marketing folks) also leads to this inactivity. These businesses HAVE to be aware they need help but they just can’t launch. I call these fine folks the “Wait-and-seers,” since it may not be their fault.

So, you see my dilemma, right?

Do I advise clients to “Go for it!” or be conservatively cautious? On the cautious side, the positives include: not making any gaffes on social media; not having to actively keep your marketing going; taking a pause on sales; not worrying about your brand awareness; not having to stick to an editorial calendar or marketing plan. So, yes, it’s very soothing to take this approach…and believe me, businesses of EVERY size are here right now; you’re not alone. I also want to again recognize a lack of human or financial resources can put you in this place very quickly.

Example: When son recently traveled to Virginia Beach, he booked (online) a dolphin jet ski excursion (what could go wrong). The transaction went through and he received his confirmation number…however, after driving the hour and a half, he was hugely disappointed when finding a large “CLOSED DUE TO COVID” sign on the door.

No other explanation.

So now this CLOSED DUE TO COVID business has a pile of his money and he’s definitely NOT happy.”  He did what any logical consumer would do before he handed over that $$ too;  checked all the right places, website, reviews, FB page, etc. and the business never made a peep about their adjusted hours anywhere but on their door (evidently). Definitely an example of “laid-back” marketing

So that’s one way of doing it.

Here’s another way of doing it – with an active marketing plan and strategy in mind.

I recently took on a new (restaurant) client with multiple locations and they had a TON of opportunities available to them with just a little strategy and effort. They knew they needed help to “get back out there” after being closed so long due to COVID, but no one knew who should do what or how, or when.

The first thing I suggested was a zoom discovery meeting and, like many clients, we identified that there would most likely be a lack of access to some of the major channels involved (starting with the website and FB). That’s never a good sign as it often means someone’s sister’s boyfriend’s mom or dad set things up and they’ve gone AWOL since. They can’t make the needed changes (or often don’t know how) and they can’t get us access to work on it for them. We are 50% successful right now with access to about half of the apps we need; but it will come!

Next, we did a quick marketing analysis and discovered while their website was built in WordPress (bonus) but was not up-to-date, had broken links, no SSL or active SEO. Across other channels there was misinformation, inconsistent hours/locations, limited current social media content, and no google listing. With that in hand we outlined several key action points we hoped to accomplish as a team – by the weekend. They were (for your information and in no particular order:

  1. Post new hours for dine-in and carryout – everywhere
  2. Install a COVID procedures banner or post – everywhere
  3. Correct and publish Online Ordering link – website and social
  4. Update Our Menus link – website
  5. Gain access to website (yeah, that could have been first)
  6. Examine the existing Integrations for online actions (booking, reservations, online ordering) – website, google waitlist, phone and POS system
  7. Update pay portal and obtain SSL certificate
  8. Build and verify Google My Business Page
  9. Join Local Facebook “foodie” groups and pages and post menus and daily specials
  10. Community give-back (Still working on this).

We were actually able to do a lot of this in 2 days AND their first GMB photo we posted got 500 views in 18 hours). So immediate results with fewer than 10 adjustments.

That’s marketing winning in a pandemic.

Now that I’ve (hopefully) made it clear why you NEED to be marketing during the relaunch from COVID, here’s what the best brands are talking about:

  1. Customer safety procedures around COVID (only share credible sources)
  2. Hours, menus, product availability, online ordering
  3. Customer and staff protocol and special arrangement
  4. Support for current events (at this point it’s Black Lives Matter and PRIDE month all at once) but very carefully. Messages of support and encouragement are faring best and think of the HUGE pivot these marketing pro’s had to take.
  5. No marketing grad was ever expecting to have to Tweet “Under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.” – Love, Lysol, but they did it!
  6. Photos and “inside looks” at the business
  7. Live activities like virtual classes, concerts, auctions, fundraisers
  8. Partnerships with other businesses (think wine and canvas partnering with a florist and a lavender farm for a curbside package with a scheduled FB virtual class).
  9. Service to the community (yes, it’s OK to brag on yourself; that’s what you pay people like ME to do so why not – just a little?)

Most of all, today’s messaging is about reassurances, facts and procedures, and hours/product updates are trending…and puppies…always puppies…

It’s a tough time to be a small business owner. It’s a really tough time to be a small business owner AND do your own marketing. But if you take it in chunks and work strategically with measurable objectives in mind, you will be miles ahead of the “wait-and-seers.”

 Talk about your product. Talk about your people. Talk about your feelings of concern. Show your audience, with regularity, what you’re up to and chances are better that you’ll be their go-to business when they want or need what you have.

And if you want to talk marketing, click on Contact or shoot me a question at cheri@cheribales.com