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  • Writer's pictureClaire Elbrow

Interacting differently: Agile marketing for changing times.

Small businesses who do not embrace some level of change during the coronavirus pandemic, or indeed any other times of crisis, are going to struggle or die. Hard fact, but true.

We all need to interact with our customers and prospective customers in new ways whether we run a B2B or B2C business.

The reasons are apparent in some case. Social distancing will drive less footfall to businesses and retailers, thus interrupting opportunities to meet, network and shop. As a result, we are going to have to make changes to the way we communicate and potentially change our messages from ‘shop with us’ or ‘visit us’ to ‘how can we help?’

Simple changes you can make as we start to work from home or self-isolate are:

  • Update your opening hours online – on your website, social media pages such as Facebook and on Google My Business.

  • Use banners on your website to give the latest details about your business opening hours and ways to contact you.

  • Forward your phones – investigate a phone answering service or find out how you can forward to team members.

  • Make sure you have videoconferencing in place, and your employees and customers know how to use it. Options include those from Google via Hangouts, Microsoft, Zoom, SKYPE or GoToMeet.

  • Add live chat to your website to make it easier for people to communicate with you. Check out your website to see what apps you can add.

  • Add any changes your customers can expect to see coming up in your blogs and email newsletters.

  • Make sure your contact details are precise everywhere you advertise!

  • Make sure your clients have their account manager contact details

Changing your methods of marketing are going to depend on how you choose to meet your objectives. Last week a group of us marketing freelancers had a bit of a brain dump to see how we felt we could help our clients. Here’s what we came up with.

Audiences remain key. If you have mixed target audiences, think about what you can do to help each group. Define what sort of support you think they may need. This can be anything from signposting to changing your delivery method.

Bundling is a great idea. Can you bundle your services or products into tiered packages for each section of your audiences or if you offer any particular services can you develop any set template bundles? An obvious example is with a business offering HR services. Can you establish any sets of templates for your clients to use with their staff? These could include home working policies, lone working, how to deal with increased expenses such as upgraded broadband or practicalities such as gaining access to shared files.

If you offer services around finances or accounting, you could develop a package including things such as signposting, templates for letters if clients get into difficulties, advice and contact lines to your primary contacts if the business owner just needs to talk, advice on managing sick pay and what to do if they really do feel they will not survive.

Retail businesses

If you are running a retail business, customers are becoming increasingly concerned about the shared handling of cash. Make sure you add mobile payment and customer-facing card readers to your tools.

If you are not online already, now is the time! Investigate quick and straightforward sites like Shopify, Squarespace, EKMcommerce or Wixstores and get online fast! If this sounds daunting, use a freelance expert to help you on your way. You will probably find that more online ordering takes place and at all times of the day as people are cooped up in their homes.

Drive-through and drive-by ordering and pickup are already in place in many areas, particularly with small and town centre retailers who are supplying their local clients. It helps maintain social distance but could be a real opportunity for you if you go with it, and possibly link up with other local suppliers to offer a full service to your customers.

Make sure your website offers some text space on your order from to accommodate special requests for items so they can be delivered or shipped to follow isolation protocols.

Do you have some contingency plans in place which spell out exactly what will happen if goods do not arrive in time or if events are cancelled? Make sure your T&Cs are up-to-date.

Online marketing

Although it is tempting to start cutting some of your marketing activity, you should really be looking to re-allocate your time and spend.

Already more and more is being done online as people are at home and have time. They are looking for content, and many are looking to upskill. Can you take more online? What can you share which can be done via video, podcast or written content?

Increasing your blog posts and information emails will help you keep in touch with your clients and prospects but remember it should be informational and educational rather than hard sell! Smaller, more regular emails will help you stay in front of your customers but expect your returns to be a bit lower as everyone else does the same and inboxes become flooded. Quality of content will be crucial to success here.

Why not team up with your contacts and cross-share blogs or commission some guest blogs, or link up with a trusted supplier who shares your ethos and ask them to add to your content pot

Be aware - some marketing channels are going to be less useful.

Networking and events are pretty obvious ones – unless you can move them online. If you have a local network, why not hook up for a Friday Zoom chat to offer a bit of support and advice or share some interesting finds like upskilling courses.

PR will be less effective as your news will be overwhelmed by the story of the virus. No one is going to be paying attention to new product launches, special offers or big announcements right now. However, you can change direction and look at offering an opinion to news stories or journalists’ requests – just be careful which opinions you share!

Online advertising and direct mail are likely to become expensive as businesses move to rely on them more to sell goods or services. Keep an eye on your Google and Facebook advertising costs.

Now is not really the time to invest in captial spends such as a new website, but it is time to invest in your SEO, content and social media content marketing.

However, it is not all doom and gloom – new opportunities will appear.


Can you collaborate with other businesses? Can you develop a bundled service with them? Could you develop a new marketing campaign to help both of you and to reach both of your audiences?

Engaging content

If we all become home-bound, we are going to need things to do. What can you do to reach these customers with your content? For instance, if you own a shop selling foodstuffs, can you offer web-based cooking lessons or develop a series of recipes to share?

If you run a business aimed at children, can you offer a series of things to do for them whilst off school? If you offer Airbnb services, you will likely see bookings drop but can you keep your profile up by offering content to websites or journalists about your local area, how you started or run your business, the logistics of your business. Can you use Instagram to keep up a visual record of your area and its unique facets?

Who can you support?

Empathy and showing the human side of your brand is essential. Perhaps showcase what you do on social media. Think about what you can do in your local environment to help other local businesses.

Securing loyalty

You will have loyal customers. What can you do to support them? If they need time to pay, can you help them? Can you extend cancellation policies? Can you offer specific discounts?

Don’t panic – adjust

Having traded through a recession, a crisis is not a time to panic. It’s time to get organised!

- Review your marketing activities and kill off those you think will not be effective over this period

- Change your message to offering support and help

- Keep returning to your ideal customer profile and keep talking to them, and keep thinking about how you can connect with them better.

If you need support, please do get in touch. I am offering an hour's free consultancy to run through ideas with you and help you on your way to getting a crisis-proof plan in place.

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