As part of our recent efforts to support small businesses, we’ve noticed many business owners are asking the same questions, regardless of industry. “How do I communicate my situation to my customers?” “My doors are closed, is there a way to continue to grow my business?” “My clients aren’t paying me, what do I do?”
A crisis management strategy and marketing plan is crucial to help businesses during this time. We thought we’d share some of our key advice .
Get personal and communicate your situation to stakeholders
Many of the business owners we’ve spoken to are looking for a way to communicate with their clients. Their phones are ringing a good portion of the day from client calls asking the same questions over and over.
We advise company owners to write a personal letter to current clients. As we mentioned above, everyone understands what you are going through. Admitting your business has been affected (and even suffering) is nothing to be ashamed of. It humanizes your small business and can actually trigger emotional ties to your brand.
Have you adjusted your hours of operation? Are you now operating remotely or closed until further notice? Offering a new payment method? Do your vendors need to know about production limitations? Explain the company’s current situation and any operational changes. It’s also important to include that you will keep them updated through x, y, z (we’ll get to those in a minute).
Send it to your current clients using a free e-newsletter service, such as Mailchimp. You can easily upload your current client list. These programs also offer the option to segment your customer lists by category. If you need to let your vendors know about production limitations, this feature is very useful. Select your list, insert your logo, and paste your letter. A nice touch is saving a photo of your signature and including it at the bottom.
We also suggest posting this information to your website’s homepage, and even the front door of your shop.
Cash isn’t king right now
Although we’re not banking experts, we do specialize in communicating the latest financial technologies.
Basically, cash is trash. In a COVID-19 world, taking payments digitally puts everyone at less of a health risk, and offers a solution for you to get paid on time. These Fintech services, such as Paypal and Square, also have lower processing fees, which will save your company money. To hell with the 3% fee for credit cards – consider it the cost of doing business and getting faster cash flow.
Create compelling and useful content
Think of this time as a prime opportunity to focus on building your brand and becoming a thought leader in your industry. Creating content is the best way to stay on top of your clients’ minds and get in front of new customers, even if you’re closed.
If you have a blog on your website, write an informational story about topics you foresee customers inquiring about. For example, an insurance agent knew the new stimulus package was going to spark clients to ask if their various business plans are covered. The answers are long and complicated. We suggested to write it up and post it to the company’s blog.
Remember those e-newsletter updates you promised? It should include your latest blog post. This is your chance to send answers to your customers’ questions, before they even ask. The key is to be proactive. Not only will it allow you to accelerate your brand’s thought leadership position within your industry, but it will also save time. You will not need to write the same long email response to every inquiry you know will be coming your way. Simply send them the blog link and let them know you’re there to answer any questions.
If you haven’t noticed, social media is blowing up right now. Statista reports social media usage has increased 32% in the US. Even if your company hasn’t been very active on social media in the past, now is the time to get in the conversation.
Without social media, everything we’re enduring could be much worse. Amid the anxiety we may be feeling from the news pouring in on a daily basis, social media is being seen by many as a refuge. Take part in the positive side, even if it means offering your secrets for free. It is a way your company can lead a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign. If you own a salon, create videos teaching others how to cover up their roots at home. Post the video to your blog. Post the content from your blog on social media.
An underutilized, but extremely powerful, social media tool is going LIVE. If you are a personal trainer, promote and execute a LIVE workout class a couple times a week. We always suggest picking the same day/time if your schedule permits. In that instance, you are now positioning yourself, and your brand, to become a part of a quarantined audience’s routine. Potential customers will now think, “I need to stop binge-watching Tiger King right now because it’s Tuesday, and my Pilates class on Instagram begins in 10 minutes.”
Save and upload your LIVE videos to your blog. Include the video link you posted to your blog in your future e-newsletters to clients.
Recycle your work
When it comes to small business marketing, everything is a cycle. If possible, your website is now your shop’s virtual front door. Any content you create should be posted on your website’s blog. Share the links from your blog in your e-newsletters and on social media (unless you went LIVE). Recycle your work to stay on top of your clients’ minds. When executed frequently and correctly, it will also allow you to gain outside attention and acquire new clients.