As news starts to filter through about when and how the UK could start to come out of the current lockdown, business owners are planning on how to keep business going in the new normal. There will be a lot of things on every business owners mind, but one is how to kick start the restart. In simple terms, it’s vital that time is put into marketing, to draw in customers and build awareness of your business and its offer. This post gives a few ideas on how any small business could improve its own marketing efforts as the lockdown in Britain eases.
1. Ensure you have a strong brand
Yes, we would say this, and putting it first is no accident. However, a distinctive and differentiated brand is going to be key in a world where everyone will be shouting ‘look at me’. Taking time to understand your audience will be an important element to your success. Tailoring every part of your graphic and verbal offer to resonate with this audience will help you make a much stronger and memorable impression. If you have a well thought out consistent brand, then what is needed next are the right words. Remember though, sometimes what you want to say is not what you need to say. Put yourself in your customers shoes, what do they want to hear?
If you haven’t got an identity that is strong, what can you do?
Well the first thing is to remember consistency is king. If people know you for something, even if it is bad, keep doing it. If you don’t need to, now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. However, if your branding is non existent or inconsistent, then lockdown is the perfect time to develop an identity that can show the world that even in lockdown, business keeps going. You’ll still have some time before everyone is venturing out of their houses in great numbers, taking this time to strengthen your branding will help in the long run.
Implementing your branding is what is needed next…
2. Use relevant social media
Social media is great, but not every platform will resonate with your specific audience. Again understanding the people who make up your customer base will help dictate where you will make the strongest connection. Planning will help massively with this, use these three simple questions to help:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What would you like their response to be?
- How will you measure success?
So which social media accounts are best to use?
In very simple terms there are a great number of different social networks (if you want the very long list of social media sites have a look on this Wikipedia page. This is useful as it has numbers of registered users and Alexa page rankings included!). These all have different audiences and fulfil a different ‘need’ for their audience. They also fulfil a different need for the people and organisations posting. Here’s our quick list of the top 3 types of social media including example platforms:
- Social networks – people and businesses, connecting with people (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…)
- Media sharing networks – for sharing images, audios and videos (instagram, YouTube….)
- Discussion forums – for people and brands to share views, news and knowledge (Reddit, Quora…)
We have accounts on every single one of the above (and sadly, more), but obviously to publish content on all these would be a full time challenge. It may seem overkill, but being up to date on these networks and sharing your knowledge, helps to build social currency. Social Currency is all about reputation – much the same as brand is. Social Currency is a measure of your influence on both social networks and offline, and the degree to which your output is then shared by your target audience and others.
The chart below gives a very brief overview of some broad business areas and the social media platforms that suite them.
One thing to bare in mind across all platforms though is that ‘social media’ is very much ‘social’. People on these platforms don’t like to be blatantly ‘sold’ to. Don’t spend all your time talking about yourself, your products/services or your business. Use a simple 80:20 rule:
- 80% posts related to your business area, but not directly promoting it
- 20% can be promoting your business more specifically
3. Think different
Advertising will be one route to connect with your customers, but with social isolation of some form still in force a lot of ways will be less than ideal. Leaflets will not be something that people will appreciate, the same goes for direct mail. Email will probably be overrun by the world and his or her dog.
The best way forward will be the more creative – defined as the most economic routes that get the most traffic from an audience of the self imposed house bound. Radio would be good as would digital advertising – both can be enjoyed whilst working from home in your pj’s. For a less costly route, think large poster or topical window displays. Thinking different will get you noticed, linking that with a strong brand will get you remembered!
What you say will be even more key, what do people want to be hearing at this moment? Which will resonate more – the fact you have a sale on or that you have social distancing measures clearly in place? What ever you do, ensure that it is all geared up to your audience. When isolation measures start to be relaxed, everyone will still need a compelling reason to step outside!
4. Make sure your website is up to date
This may seem a no brainier, but your website should be fully up to date. Ideally your website should give an obvious overview of what you’ve done and are doing in terms of COVID-19. How you are making life easier for your customers. Take the time that you can’t be physically at work to do some housekeeping – read up about SEO, update your images, send out messages asking for reviews.
The rabbit hole that is your website, could end up swallowing your time. To help, why not first make a plan? Write down what you want to achieve and stick to it. Make your list a ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) list. Don’t go wild as this is only one part of the marketing mix.
5. Blogging to show your knowledge
With your website up to date, the next step would be to get blogging (or if you haven’t got a website start a blog – try Medium, WordPress or Tumblr). As we’ve said in another post, it’s possible that there will be a rise in people’s confidence of experts. With this in mind, posting unique content will benefit your brand. A well thought out article that is both interesting and informative, will help connect you with your audience. It could help position you as the ‘go to’ source for information in your feild and in turn the products associated with it. As well this it will help with your website’s Google ranking
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, talk about things you know. If you’re a garage talk about the common things that can go wrong with a car, how you can easily fix some of these things, what can save you money. If you’re a sports club talk about exercises you can do in isolation, the importance of stretching, how to eat healthily. Basically, just write about subjects that show that you are knowledgable in your chosen field. Be as helpful as possible to build respect from your audience – which in turn creates a connection.
Remember that although you are being helpful, you want these people to work with you. Remember to put CTA (calls to action – basically messages or button that pushes the viewer to do something you want them to do) messages throughout your post. These could be links to a contact form or a button saying… CALL NOW!
6. Big and bold
Make sure that if you want everyone to know something, that you say it loudly. Remember, that as we come out of strict isolation every business will be wanting to be seen. So make sure that any messages you put out there are short, simple and bold! You don’t need to write a book to put across your message, imagine each letter costs money (which actually if you’re dressing a window it probably will) and you want to keep the costs down. Take out any superfluous words and make sure your message is ‘active’, in a way you want to be creating a big ‘call to action’ that people will see and act upon.
If you’re in retail or have a venue, think about getting banners designed and printed that can be up for a short time to tell the world why they should come in. Keep front of mind that people get inundated with information all the time (according to researched in the US, people are bombarded every day with the equivalent of 34Gb of information), so keep it keen!
7. Build loyalty
You may ask yourself what is the benefit in putting money and time behind building customer loyalty. The main reason is that a loyal customer is much more likely to recommend you to their friends. Also, it’s proven that the cost of keeping a loyal customer is less than 20% of the cost of gaining a new one.
69% of consumers say choice of retailer is influenced by where they can earn customer loyalty/rewards program
A mix of online and offline loyalty schemes and gift vouchers are a simple way to build customer preference. Depending on the scheme, they can also be a great way to entice new clients to your business. Make staying loyal easier by offering some sort of ‘card’ (10 stamps for a free coffee, 10 purchases over £10 for 10% off etc). Loyalty schemes create an emotional attachment (69% of consumers say choice of retailer is influenced by where they can earn customer loyalty/rewards program), that will make customers want to come back. Also an added benefit would be to ask customers to share their new loyalty card on social media.
Another great way to keep people loyal is to surprise customers with unexpected benefits. The cafe owner that brings a free piece of cake with the coffee to someone who they know is a regular, or just gives them the coffee ‘on the house’, will garner further consumer preference. A small price to cement a long term relationship.
Customer loyalty can also be driven by creating an on-line following. Tell your story in a myriad of ways on a regular basis via a steady stream of posts, comments, articles, videos, and images. This will in turn help create an online ‘community’ of followers. Carefully crafted social media events designed to attract community created content, offering simple rewards for best submissions will also help build loyalty.
Strange as this may seem, but another way to gain loyalty is to actually being open to recommending your competition for elements that you can’t help with. Your customer will see your role more as a trusted advisor rather than a money driven salesperson. In the longterm your relationship will benefit through recommendation and repeat business.
8. Email out an update
There are in the region of 3.9 billion email users globally so it’s obvious that email delivery (either through your own email system or a free to use platform like Mailchimp) is an economic way of keeping in touch with your customers. However, it is a numbers game – the more you send out the more people will eventually read it. Don’t be disappointed with low open rates, very few people read all their emails and this is no different in lockdown. At this moment, reasonable updates could give information about what you’re doing to ensure that your customers are safe if they are visiting your premises or even how you are changing the way you work in the light of the possible easing of restrictions.
It would also be sensible to look at the current safety guidelines in use at businesses that are still open and plan how you would manage your premises and business. Having plans in place which you can share, will help position you as an organisation that can be trusted.
If you’re going to distribute promotional emails they should illustrate the value of your product/service ideally in terms of the current situation. Customer stories or testimonials shared with your subscribers is also a great way to give relevant examples of how you can help your audience.
Now it’s down to you. The above are just a few things you can do. If you’re stuck you could trawl more sites and find out other ways to help launch out of lockdown. This is a challenging time for everyone, if you can put yourself in your customers’ shoes – thinking what would be positive for them, how would you want to be reassured – then you are already getting there. Good luck!
Puur doesn’t just deliver award winning design solutions, we give advice to ensure that design, marketing and advertising are part of a successful business strategy. Our decades of experience from both sides of the design ‘fence’ gives us a better understanding of the needs of organisations, even in the current situation. We know that the work we do is a business tool, has a function and answers a need. Give us a call today to chat over how we can help.