Small Business Marketing Challenges resulting from COVID-19 coronavirus

The fallout of the coronavirus pandemic arrived on the doorstep of Canadian small businesses much quicker than expected, causing a significantly larger disruption than could have been predicted even a few weeks ago.

Now, businesses face new challenges to quickly piece together action plans that address marketing, communications, internal staffing and remote work policies.

In moments like these, forming a strategy and following a series of best practices can help your business navigate through the turmoil.

Read on for some helpful tips on how your business can weather the storm:

Communicate with your clients

You’ve probably received at least a handful of emails from businesses that outline their response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s a good idea to formulate your own message and send it to customers, vendors, and any other parties that might be relying on your services to help give them peace of mind that a plan is in place.

Take time to draft a message and make sure to have some others in your company read it over before you click “Send”.

Review pre-scheduled posts

It’s no longer “business as usual” on Facebook, Instagram and other social channels. Make sure to take the time to consider the messaging that you are putting out to the world.

While the social posts you scheduled a month ago may have had no ill intent, they may have a completely different tone in the context of this crisis.

For example, posts about upcoming sports events or St. Patrick’s day celebrations have certainly been affected by cancellations. As warnings about social gatherings and social distancing set in, it’s safe to assume your audience isn’t in the right mindset to hit the pub.

Guinness gave us the perfect example of a brand quickly adjusting with their optimistic ad campaign “Don’t Worry, We’ll March Together Again”, a creative campaign by Quaker City Mercantile.

Know when not to post

The temptation to attempt to capitalise off the current mood can be strong.

However, this is an incredibly fine line to balance if you choose to post jokes or memes about the virus on your business accounts — and there is risk of causing irreparable harm to your brand’s reputation.

In the same way, don’t aim to prey on fear, anxiety or strong emotions in order to earn brand mentions or sell your services.

The saying “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all” is a good reminder here. For some businesses, staying silent and offline during a crisis may be the best strategy.

If you are concerned with staying silent, take the time to carefully consider messaging. Make sure email messages and social posts are carefully reviewed by several people before posting, or are vetted by an experienced marketing team that can analyze and predict potential impact.

Focus on search engine optimization

Some industries are facing a slowdown in orders or sales as a result of uncertainty. In these cases, it may be time to put a pause on active marketing efforts, such as Pay Per Click marketing, and instead shift focus to tactics that yield long term benefits.

This is a good time to review your Search Engine Optimization campaign and see if there are ways to optimize your website, improve site performance, develop backlinks or find any low hanging fruit that can help your business climb in the organic rankings.

By shifting your focus to SEO, your business can maintain momentum even throughout the crisis.

Work on content for your website or blog

Writing new content for a website is often an afterthought. With less opportunity now for active marketing campaigns, this is also a time to revive your content development campaigns.

Schedule a call with your partners, team, or distributors to begin planning topics you may be able to tackle together for content pieces that can improve the SEO value of your website or work to build brand awareness once life returns to normal.

Whether you want to focus on rewriting your existing content or create brand new blog posts, this is a good time to shift focus to an important task that usually gets left on the backburner.

Be flexible

Odds are, if you’re feeling nervous, your clients are too. That’s why there’s never been a better time to increase empathy in your customer service practices.

If your clients are cancelling meetings last minute, avoiding coming to your office, or are battling sickness of their own, remember to lead with understanding and compassion.

Work on your own business and revive old ideas

Now is also an opportunity to reflect, review past ideas, brainstorm, research, finish old projects you’ve been meaning to get to, and begin putting together those ideas you never quite had time to fully conceptualize.

“Now is a great time to focus on marketing, branding or PR projects that have been put on the back burner and do not require the daily immediacy of social media posting.” – Kristen Ruby, AdWeek

Sometimes it feels like there’s never enough time in the day to work on our own businesses. By taking a step back to plan strategy for the upcoming months, you can hit the ground running when the crisis is over.

Remember: You’re not alone

The coronavirus has had an impact on just about every industry across the globe.

While it is difficult to predict when things might go back to some sort of normalcy, you can choose to take a strategic and practical approach to your marketing and still make the most of a difficult situation.