In light of the coronavirus outbreak, you might worry whether it’s appropriate to continue to promote your small business. The last thing you want is to appear insensitive or to “capitalise” on a global health emergency. But if you’re a small business, you’re also likely to be among those who feel the financial impact the most - either because you have had to close down your shop, your events have been cancelled, or you can’t offer your services in-person to your customers.
If you are wondering whether you should hold off on promotions or refrain from posting on social media, consider these points.
1) You are a person - act like it!
While some industries like home furniture and food deliveries might see an uplift, most sectors will take a hard financial hit from the current restrictions and lockdowns. Small businesses, self-employed people, and part-time workers are particularly vulnerable. In this environment, a lot of people will wish to support their local economy and independent brands more than chain stores and big brands.
Don't be afraid to promote your business or share your thoughts; we are all in this together. Large corporations won't stop communicating with their followers and you shouldn't either. You might have to adjust your messaging and tone, but as long as you keep it authentic, you'll be fine.
Claire Provoust, a Dublin-based illustrator
2) Your business still matters
"I thought, why should I talk about my products when there are much bigger/scarier things going on that we’re all facing together. However, I’ve realised that is a defeatist attitude and we all need to remain positive and try to carry on our normal lives as much as we can and stay hopeful. "
Christina Clement, owner of Butter Bar Soapery
It’s easy to feel small in the face of big problems. Why would people be interested in art, music, flowers or coaching services while they are worried about their jobs and health? Ironically, I’d say that this is the time where it’s more important than ever to get your message out. As a small business owner, you are likely passionate about whatever it is you are doing - whether it is helping people, promoting a more sustainable lifestyle, or just making beautiful things to brighten someone's day. You can show empathy and be proud of your business - they are not mutually exclusive.
When the front pages are full of distressing news, a positive story, a kind word or a piece of art might be more appreciated than you realise.
Handmade soaps from Butter Bar Soapery
3) Focus on your audience instead of yourself
Marketing is a conversation. It’s bad when you’re only focused on yourself, but when you listen you learn how to adapt to your customer's needs and keep your business (and your communication) relevant.
Right now it might mean transforming your restaurant to a green grocer, like Forest Avenue are doing this week. Or make it easier for people to order from their homes by offering a discount code like The Proper Chocolate Company (bean-to-bar chocolate), or a flat shipping fee like Ode to Earth (zero waste shop). Some companies like Clever Foods (sweet snacks) use the pandemic to finally launch their website and others like DUO (coffee and gift shop) use their highlights on Instagram to offer buyers a "virtual shopping window" while their physical store is closed.
Google Trends is a tool that provides insight into what people have on their minds. Right now queries for words like travel insurance, working from home, and food delivery are spiking worldwide, showing some of the areas where COVID-19 has an impact on people's lives.
As a small business, consider things from a human standpoint. Your customers might be worried about their jobs or mortgages. Can you post some free financial advice, offer business coaching, or use your platform to promote your fellow entrepreneurs?
With schools shut, parents need to keep their kids occupied while working from home - do you sell toys (Jiminy.ie), offer free printables (The Celtic Fairy Collection), or offer online classes (The Space Between)?
People in self-isolation might experience anxiety, loneliness and depression. Can you promote self-care packages, handmade cards, art supplies, or tasty treats? For those who are venturing outside, have your opening times changed, do you offer curbside pickup (how delightfully old-fashioned!) or home delivery?
People might be searching for information that you have. And even if you can't sell anything right now or solve all their problems, everyone could do with a little more kindness and laughter in their lives.
Eco friendly bubbles from Jiminy.ie
The point is…
Marketing is often seen as inherently bad; something you do in order to boost sales and gain followers on social media. It doesn’t have to be. It can - and ideally should - be a fun, useful, and a positive way to connect with people who care about the same things as you. On a human level.
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