The impact of the coronavirus on small businesses
As a human being, I am sure that you have been affected by COVID-19 (also known as novel coronavirus) in some way.
Whether that means worrying about aging parents, changing travel plans, or stocking up on work-from-home essentials for the foreseeable future, it’s hard not to feel the stress.
As a small business owner, you may see fewer customers as people limit social interaction, change travel and leisure plans, and focus on staying healthy rather than buying products and services.
Unless you are selling toilet paper or hand sanitizer, you may be concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on your small business; your income, employees, and empty marketing funnel.
So does that mean you need to bend over and stop your marketing efforts for now? Not!
The World Health Organization has declared that the coronavirus is a global pandemic and it is a very uncertain time. However, I strongly believe in focusing on what we can do and change while finding opportunities in the midst of adversity.
Every challenge can be met with common sense, rational thinking, and even kindness. This is not the time for irrationality. I was watching a webinar the other day and someone said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere!”
I know we are living in difficult times. The virus and how the global economy is responding to the preventive measures that are being put in place is something that will go down in the history books.
But as business owners, there is one thing we still have control over, and that is the ability to be resilient and make decisions that help us get through these times in the best way possible.
In this article, I share some ways you can tackle the marketing challenge during a crisis and keep your business running.
Let’s start by looking at two of the wrong ways to approach marketing during a crisis right now:
1. Make a joke about the coronavirus. A few weeks ago, it was common to see online memes and humorous marketing campaigns being shared. In Las Vegas, the jeweler even created a campaign to sell rings!
As more and more people around the world were affected by the coronavirus, it slowed down a lot. Making the situation lightly is not only in bad taste, but it will likely alienate a good portion of your target audience.
2. Play with people’s fears. It’s one thing to use a sense of urgency to sell your product or service, but it’s another to use scare tactics.
For example, don’t scare people into buying a first aid kit with a message like “Only two left! Don’t risk your family’s health!” Rather, focus on the benefit of being proactive and prepared when stocking up on medical supplies.
Make sure the angle and tone of your marketing reflects your customer’s current concerns and pain points without capitalizing on their anxiety.
How to Effectively Market Your Small Business During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Regardless of the type of small business you have, your priority should be to communicate clearly with your customers so that they feel comfortable.
Think about what your customers need to hear from you and how you want to position your business during this crisis.
Here are 3 ways to market your business during the coronavirus crisis:
1. Assure everyone that you are protecting your health. This is especially true if you have a physical location. This may mean sharing your additional sanitary practices, placing a hand sanitizer station in front of your location, or implementing a policy where all staff wear masks and gloves.
For example, WestJet shares its additional preventive cleaning measures due to coronavirus on its website.
2. Be prepared to pivot. You must be flexible to provide the best service to your customers. That could mean that instead of canceling a conference with a client, you change it to a virtual event.
If you are planning an upcoming workshop or event, pivot with your audience in mind. You may have already been forced to cancel or postpone, but don’t assume that everyone wants the solution you are providing.
Consider options like making it a virtual version of the event or postponing your conference to a later date. Or some people may want ticket refunds.
Surveys and questionnaires can be a great way to get honest feedback from ticket holders before changing an event.
And of course, take a look at all of your contracts to make sure you’re covered before making any changes.
If you’re a service provider, create other ways to help your clients like this fitness trainer did. It offered them a way to stay in shape that didn’t involve being with a group of people in a gym.
3. Make your employees a priority too. Don’t focus all your efforts on marketing during this time. Your employees are the ones that keep your business going, so how can you take care of them?
Maybe you can give your staff the option to work 100% remotely, while COVID-19 is a concern. However, remind them that you strongly encourage them to stay home if they feel sick.
The more you reassure your employees, the better they can support your business and your customers.
What Small Business Owners Can Learn From The Coronavirus
I know this is difficult, and I hope you can endure and focus on the present and serving your clients and staff.
They are afraid and what you do or share can help alleviate those fears. Remember to be careful and intentional with what you are saying.
If your small business is adversely affected by the coronavirus, it is also a good time to reassess your business fundamentals, including how CONVID-19 is impacting your digital marketing. How will you deal with a crisis the next time it happens? Are there things you would do differently to be more prepared or avoid losses?
Like everything else in life, this is a learning experience. Stay healthy, safe, and positive.