Over the last few weeks, our clients have been asking us for help to avoid a downturn in their business due to coronavirus. During any crisis its important to have a communications plan to explain to customers how your business will trade through the crisis, and give existing customers reassurance that you are managing any risks that might affect them. For small businesses in New Zealand, this can be hard to navigate, but there are steps you can take with your marketing campaigns that will ensure you emerge from the crisis stronger.
What could you do?
1) Develop a clear Campaign Message
Proactively contact your existing customers and explain to them how you might make changes to keep them safe. This can include protocols around the retail space or switching from face to face meetings to video conferencing. Make it clear that you have a plan for the business to continue through the crisis including how you will manage any servicing that would normally take place face to face or how you will manage stock of products that would normally be coming out of China or other affected countries. If you anticipate a shipping delay, be clear about your response to this and see if you can divert customers to another product line whilst you try to source products locally.
2) Focus on Digital Marketing
Improve your online marketing to ensure customers can still trade with you. If you have a retail store, consider improving your ease of use of your website, run an email marketing campaign to let customers know they can shop online, and consider including shipping costs to limit barriers to trading with you. Now is a great time to ensure your key words are adjusted for search engines so that you also pick up traffic that is looking for ways to purchase from you or your customers. Hand Sanitiser received 10,000 searches per day last week – and was the most searched for product on Google. Make sure Google knows where you are!
3) Use Social Media to your advantage
Be active on Social Media Marketing so that you remain top of mind for your customers, let them know you are still trading and remind them how to engage with you. People aged 35-55 years are still avid users of Facebook and Twitter, and are busy using these tools to keep up to date on covid-19 cases, so this is your opportunity to turn those eyeballs to your messages.
4) Innovate your offer
Necessity is the mother of invention. Now is the time to consider how you can change your products or services to respond to people’s need to stay inside. If you are a restaurant can you create an UberEats offer for your customers? If you are a beauty salon, perhaps you can offer automated subscriptions to your product ranges that are sent every month. If you are in travel, can you offer local trips or tours to customers not wanting to fly overseas? Can you help people to buy your goods or services by creating an online self-select tool that makes it easy for customers to say yes? Your loyal customer base may be willing to spend money with you on an alternative product or service so now is also the time to consider what business you are truly in, and whether there are any adjacent products or services that your customers could benefit from that they would be happy to buy from you. For example, if you are selling vehicles, could you offer a service to search for customers requirements from the comfort of their homes, instead of getting them out to look at your stock? Or can you move your business into finance or insurance from your customer base?
5) Consider your Sales Promotions
In the event of a short-lived dip in sales, a specific and targeted offer can be appropriate to ensure your business survives the mortality rate. Without resorting to price discounting, there are many other levers you can use to drive increased sales through offering product or service bundles, or rewarding customers who are demonstrating loyal behaviour. Make sure your marketing goals are clear around what you hope to happen with your promotion, and once the crisis is over, the campaign should be too. Reliance on offers and discounts is a sign that your marketing strategy may need a review.
6) Laying off staff
Before you consider laying off your staff due to a downturn, now is a great time to engage staff with other proactive tasks that will help you to grow, including contacting customers for market research, or training them in other skills such as creating content. There are lots of great training courses online that staff can do at home around content marketing whilst they are self isolating, or looking after family members in the event that school closures occur further down track.