Marketing a small business during the coronavirus pandemic is full of challenges. But UPS wants to help SMBs navigate the current situation through a new series of webinars, the first of which took place on Thursday.
Digital Marketing During a Pandemic
The webinar featured presentations from Kathleen Marran, UPS Vice President of Marketing, Diverse Customer Segments, and Neil Perkin, Econsultancy expert facilitator and digital transformation guru. They shared thoughts about the changing landscape for SMBs and offered tips for marketing during challenging times. Check out some of the top insights below.
Understand the Challenges Your Customers Are Facing
Before you can market during any period, you need to be able to solve a problem for your customers. During a pandemic, the problem you’re solving may change. So you have to be able to communicate that. Part of this is just understanding the current climate. It’s probably safe to say that many small business customers are hurting financially. Some may also be in a hurry to receive specific types of items. By understanding your market and staying up-to-date on news in your industry, you should be well versed on the basic challenges that might impact your strategy or talking points. However, Perkin also recommends surveying customers however possible so you can quantify how many of them are struggling in specific areas. Once you know the problems your customers are facing, you can work backward to create your marketing communication strategy.
Learn How to Communicate with New Customers
In fact, you may need to pivot all or part of your business strategy in order to stay afloat during the pandemic. For example, Marran pointed out a UPS client that previously sold pet costumes, but has recently shifted into manufacturing face masks and PPE. This is likely to be a temporary change. But they still need to shift their marketing and communication strategy toward hospitals and B2B customers, rather than focusing on the consumers they normally serve.
To effectively market to your customers, you need to create personas that describe who they are and what they might need from your business. Many companies have multiple customer personas that they interact with regularly. So break them into groups and dig into each one. Don’t just think about demographic info — include specific issues that your customers may be facing. For example, some of your customers may currently be more price conscious than others due to job loss. Or you may deal with businesses in markets that are struggling to stay relevant in the current economy.
Communicate Clearly About Any Changes
Because of the current pandemic, many businesses are having to change how they deliver products or services to customers. Whether you’re offering new products, providing alternative delivery options, or changing your hours or availability, you need to make that message clear across all of your digital channels. This makes it easier for customers to do business with you and adjusts their expectations so they’re less likely to be upset if you cannot deliver the experience they’ve had in the past.
Create Content That’s Valuable for Your Customers
During the webinar, Perkin pointed out that “Both consumers and businesses are being more considered,” with their purchases. And that’s not likely to stop fully once the pandemic has passed.
This may make it tougher for some businesses to convert sales. But it also provides more opportunities for businesses that are telling stories and building relationships in a really deliberate way. To do this, you need to create content surrounding your offerings that tells a story and really convinces customers why your business is the one to choose with their precious dollars.
Answer Specific Questions
If you want to convert more immediate sales with your content, focus on keywords surrounding questions people may be asking currently. This can get more focused traffic to your site and help you create a very short customer journey.
Optimize for Multiple Channels
Since people are spending more time online and on various digital platforms currently, you need to be able to provide a consistent message no matter how they interact with your company. Create a brand strategy and voice that translates similarly across multiple touchpoints, including your website, mobile app, social media, and content.
Create a Seamless Customer Experience
No matter how you bring people to your website or other digital channels, you need to create a simple experience so they’re more likely to convert. This can be muddled by the current pandemic, because many companies are changing to a direct-to-consumer market. This means you need to create a website and online customer experience that is easy for the average consumer to use. This often looks different than the typical experience for B2B interactions. But if you have a solid idea of who you’re marketing to right now, you should focus on creating an experience that gets them through the buying process without errors or confusion. This usually involves simple navigation and clear calls to action for popular products or services.
Capture Data From Visitors
No matter how amazing your website is, there will be some visitors who simply can’t or won’t purchase from you right away. For those customers, give them a way to stay in touch or share their information, like signing up for your free email list. You might even offer a freebie to get them to share their information. Then you can follow up and hopefully convert them into a loyal customer once they have the means to purchase.
Collect Data to Determine What’s Working
It’s difficult for small businesses to know exactly what is going to work in such an uncertain environment. But you can come up with a hypothesis and then test that hypothesis to see what works best for your business. By collecting data and using analytics about website visits, sales, or whatever metrics are most important to your business, you can then scale with the ideas that work and drop the ones that don’t. This allows you to try out new things on a small prototype level. Once you receive validation on an idea, you can dive in quickly with more resources.