June 17, 2020
Managing Director - Sub-Saharan Africa, Google
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
The coronavirus has impacted countless businesses across the globe, but small businesses have undoubtedly been hit the hardest. Many are operating at a lower capacity while some have even shut down completely, causing brands to struggle with connecting with their customers and maintaining their relevance.
Jeanette Mulvey, content director at CO—, spoke with business owners and experts about staying on your audience’s radar during the pandemic. The panelists shared four ways to re-engage customers during the pandemic.
Businesses Must Adapt and Innovate, Then Communicate With and Instill Confidence in Their Consumers
The pandemic has deemed many products and services “unessential” right now, and many business owners are pivoting their offerings to appeal to today’s consumers. Dave Smith, partner, president and CFO of Penna Powers, said the first thing businesses should do at this time is find ways to adapt and innovate. For example, restaurants can offer curbside pickup or delivery options to continue operating.
Second, businesses should ensure they’re effectively communicating with their audience, Smith added.
“We need to let our customers know we're open and we're operating and we're taking all necessary precautions, and let them know that there's still an opportunity for them to patronize our business,” he said.
The third course of action for businesses is to instill confidence in their consumers, ensuring what the business is communicating (e.g. that they’re taking the proper safety precautions) is in alignment with what they are actually doing.
Molly Mazzolini, partner and director of brand integration at Infinite Scale, added that business owners should refine their brand copy and their messaging to reflect what is happening now.
“Be sure to address and point out that we are in a new normal, and it's different for everyone,” she said. “Let your clients know that it is easy to come and see you as a business.”
Mazzolini reminded businesses to also update their hours and broadcast them across all channels, so customers don’t have to guess whether you’re open.
Small Businesses Must Continue to Deliver on Their Brand’s Promises
While many businesses are shifting their focus to stay relevant during the pandemic, they shouldn’t lose sight of their brand. As Dr. Talaya Waller, founder of Waller & Company, stated: “If the business is what you do, the brand is what people think you do,” and both are equally essential.
“The most important aspects of building a brand as a small business is to continue to deliver on your brand,” said Waller. “A lot of businesses think … ‘While we're not operating or while we're not in full operations, we cannot continue to do the same thing.’ But customers are still depending on you to deliver on that promise.”
Waller added that it takes multiple reiterations and impressions to really establish a brand, so businesses should commit to their messaging — no matter how repetitive it might sound.
Small Businesses Should Implement Low-Cost Marketing Efforts
As many businesses are struggling to stay relevant, marketing is more important now than ever before. Marcus Jones, founder and president of Miss Essie’s Southern BBQ, recommended businesses implement low-cost marketing strategies, like asking loyal customers to leave positive reviews and connecting with their audience on social media.
Powers agreed, stating that word-of-mouth is still the strongest marketing channel. She added that brands should focus on providing an experience worth bragging to their friends about — even from a distance. For example, if you’re delivering food to a customer, add a special free treat on the side; or if you’re shipping a product to a customer’s home, include a personalized note.
“As time goes on, those people will remember you, and they will be loyal to your brand,” Jones said.