Rebuilding your business after forced closure mandates and lockdowns is exciting for many reasons. You get to bring your staff back to work, you’re able to once again serve your customers, and you get to start fresh with a new marketing plan.
However, you’re most likely aware that rebuilding in a post-coronavirus world is going to take a bit of adapting and ingenuity. One of the most important factors you’ll need to rethink is how to create that new marketing plan to promote your business.
In this article we’ll go over marketing basics to remember, how to incorporate new tactics into your strategy, and how to leverage your existing customer base and fellow local business owners to grow, adapt, and succeed.
Table of contents
Remember the basics
You may be rebuilding the same business, but the logistics might look different now. Follow this rebuilding checklist as part of your marketing plan to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases when it comes to information your customers need to know.
Update your Google Business Profile
Do you have a Google Business Profile? Is it currently accurate? According to a recent survey, 77% of consumers said they use Google Maps to search for nearby businesses. If your customers are seeing the wrong information, you could be missing out on quite a bit of traffic.
Any imperative information that has changed in the real world—including phone number, address, and operating hours—should be changed on your profile. Use the merchant description field to highlight changes you feel your customers need to know.
If an update is particularly important, such as new social distancing guidelines and safety protocols you’ve added to your business, you can build a Google Post. The post will show up in the Knowledge Panel, which is the information box that appears on Google when you search for something.
Speaking of safety guidelines, make sure your customers know what to expect when they walk in the door. Along with the Google Post, distribute your new policies on all of your online entities, and post the information physically in a highly visible area of your establishment. This will also assure consumers that you and your staff are conducting a safe operation.
Update your online presence
You likely have more than one area online where customers can find your information. Make sure they are all updated. Places to check include, but are not limited to:
- Your business’s website
- Social media platforms
- Delivery/e-commerce platforms
When editing your information, make sure to call out the date of the last edit. Many consumers are aware that business details are changing pretty rapidly, and you don’t want anyone to be confused about whether or not the information they see is accurate.
Make edits to your services
If you run a restaurant, does your menu look the same as it did before you shut down? Do you have any new services or products that you now offer? Did you get rid of anything that you used to offer?
Take a look at your menus or lists of goods and services and make sure they’re up to date. Then, as with your updated logistical information, replace the old offerings online with the new, revamped versions.
Contact your customers
Utilize your existing customer base to get the word out that you are open and ready for business. Do you have an email list? Do you have a backlog of service appointments waiting to be made? Let everyone know you’re back in action and make them aware of any operational changes.
Aside from messages sent to your existing customers, make it known on your Yelp, NextDoor, social media pages, and website that you are now open. This will not only serve as an added reminder to your existing base, but could also help you gain new consumers as they search online to see which businesses are operating.
Create marketing plan for new revenue streams
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the coronavirus pandemic is witnessing the creativity small businesses have implemented into their models to stay afloat during forced shutdowns and social distancing.
Think about what has been working for you, whether it’s virtual classes online, drive-in and socially distant events, food delivery, or any other adaptations you’ve made to increase your revenue during this time. How has the public reacted to these new streams of business? Are they worth implementing into your day-to-day operations?
The fact is that even though forced closures are slowly decreasing, consumers are now somewhat used to their new way of living and will still be cautious about gathering in public. Consider making your clever adaptations a permanent solution rather than a temporary stopgap.
Another plus to these new revenue streams is that many of them are virtual and online. This means your potential customer base can expand beyond your local community and into the national—and possibly international—market. Lean into that idea and up your game when it comes to your digital advertising and online presence.
Here are a few ways you can get started advertising for a larger audience:
- Increase website visibility by utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics that will bring more traffic to your site.
- Join online forums and communities on social media sites to increase visibility to your pages.
- Place ads for your business in email newsletters that reach the same kind of audience you’re aiming to target.
- Purchase a direct mail list.
- Get a toll-free phone number that attracts people outside of your area code. Take it a step further by creating a customized number (maybe one that includes an acronym) that’s associated with your business so it’s easy to remember.
- Create an app—there are many easy services you can use to get started. Take a look at this list of the top mobile app developers for small businesses.
Connect with your customers
Even though you might not see your loyal customer base as much as you used to in our new world, they’re still going to be your biggest allies when it comes to rebuilding your business. It’s very important to continue to stay connected with them and let them know about the exciting changes you’ve made to your business.
Remember that email list? Use it—and not just for a one-time “we’re open” email. In fact, you should be emailing your customers before you officially reopen to help build up the buzz around your big day.
Your social media pages are also a great tool for staying connected and building that buzz. The goal is to make everyone just as excited as you are for your grand reopening, whatever that may look like. Post videos of you and your team getting the store/restaurant ready, remind everyone about the gift cards they bought, and let them know how they can safely use them.
Do you have a loyalty reward program? Now might be the perfect time to take it online if you haven’t done so already. Your e-commerce strategy is more important than ever, and if customers know they can earn points by shopping from their couch, they might rack up a bigger virtual shopping cart than normal.
Whatever you decide to communicate to your customers, consistency is key to staying relevant. The best way to keep up with the onslaught of new customer-facing messages is to utilize a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Take a look at these CRM options for small businesses and choose the one that best suits your needs.
Lean on your community
While the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an onslaught of “we’re all in this together” campaigns that may make you roll your eyes at this point, the message is true. The more you rely on the members of your community (including business owners, consumers, and local media), the more everyone wins.
Show off your good deeds
Have you used this time to help tackle some of the challenges in your community during this time? Let everyone know. Connect with your local PR agencies, news stations, and other local influencers to showcase the work you’ve put into helping others.
It may feel a little self-serving to do so, but the truth is that consumers are more likely to bring their business to establishments with a generous, socially responsible reputation.
Participate in local groups
Join a local business association or attend local government meetings. You’ll not only raise awareness about your business, but also connect with other owners experiencing similar challenges. There’s a good chance your neighbors will be willing to craft a joint marketing plan from which everyone can benefit.
Speaking of joint marketing campaigns, take it a step further and hold a joint event. Do you have an area of town filled with businesses rebuilding at the same time? Host a grand reopening “drive-in” where customers can partake in different curbside services and goods from establishment to establishment.
Are businesses in your area more spread apart? Add a reopening “scavenger hunt” to your marketing plan. Give customers a punch card that they can use at each curbside location/event and later turn in for a prize.
Another easy option for teaming up with other businesses is to do some sort of product swap. Create subscription boxes filled with goods from each of your stores, or craft a collaborative “happy hour kit.” Coming up with creative ways to join together will bring more business to everyone involved.
Get creative with local advertising
Many residents in your area more than likely have an entire new routine to their lives thanks to COVID-19. Think about where people cannot go—such as gyms, pools, etc.—and avoid any physical advertising in those areas. Instead, consider upping your game when it comes to advertising in areas that you know are consistently frequented. This could include grocery stores and parks.
Do you currently pay for radio advertising? There are less people on the road these days. Connect with the radio station and learn more about listener traffic, and make adjustments to your marketing plan.
Rebuilding your business is an exciting time—and also a scary one. Take the time to rethink your marketing plan and adapt. Your business could grow exponentially.