Portrait of worried young woman feeling stressed and desperate asking for help with digital marketing for small businesses.

Business owners must face social and economic crisis differently than they do in their personal lives. Often, when the economy takes a hit, businesses, fearful of declining revenue, cut or stop their marketing spending. However, as a popular adage says, “When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise.” Several studies over the last century point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a weaker economy. Those advertisers that continued or grew their ad spending during a recession increased sales and market share during and afterward.

Nonetheless, a knee jerk reaction during difficult times is often to draw back and inward instead of maintaining and promoting outwardly. Use the fact that other businesses will cut marketing in a crisis as an opportunity to capitalize on the demand. If you advertise and promote your business when everyone stops marketing, your messages are more likely to be noticed due to less competition. And your business is more likely to be remembered when everyone starts advertising again.

We’ll discuss 5 ways to enhance your digital marketing in a crisis.

Communicate Clearly and More Often – Video, Email Marketing, Social Posts, Blogging

During a crisis, businesses can project to consumers the image of stability during challenging times. The ability to control the conversation and guide subsequent actions is more important than during business as usual. Consumers look to their favorite brands as they do social leaders. This means you can dictate the tone around marketing in a crisis for your business. Use the time gained from in-person customer interactions to improve online engagement. Divert from regularly scheduled promotional posts and create a multi-layer approach to remain sensitive yet relevant.

  1. Communicate clearly about how the crisis is affecting your business procedures. Share about adjustments or improvements that were implemented. Create a dedicated location to house this information and future updates. A blog post that is regularly updated and linked on your homepage is an easy option. Ensure any updates to policies are added to printed policy documents and on your website. Promote the blog posts in social media posts and through email campaigns to get your message in front of more customers.
  2. Create an engaged community online that enjoys getting your messages and looks forward to them. Transparency about the crisis is essential, yet customers are continually faced with these dire and difficult messages already. Offer them a mental break from it all. How about a video series that highlights each room in your inn? Or, a social campaign around creating and sharing recipes with your followers. Plan a schedule for these posts and inform your followers so that the anticipation helps to generate excitement. Get them wanting to return to your website or social feed next week to see what fun is happening.
  3. Continue to promote your services and products. Communication about how the crisis affects your business and interactive social posts makes your brand seem more sensitive and relatable. Adding a layer of self-promotion to your communication will then be better received. Highlight your strategic advantages with a less direct call to action. Do you have panoramic views? Share a high-quality photo with info on what guests love most about the location. Do you have a lower priced service that usually gets overlooked? Utilize that lower price as an opening price point for customers to still enjoy your brand during difficult times. This not only promotes your brand but positions it as caring about the consumers’ budget.

Grow Online Income – Online Gift Cards, Online Shopping, Online Food Ordering, Video Consulting

Customer trends shift to online during economic, social, or health crisis. Therefore, the way you plan marketing in a crisis also has to shift. Retail therapy and planning trips for mental health grow in importance as consumers need more positive things to look forward to. They may be going out less, but they are still looking for ways to connect. Providing those avenues is key to being successful during a crisis.

Can you translate your services online? If you offer consulting services, you can begin doing video consultations. Cooking, yoga, and other fitness services are also easily translated to video. If you typically provide dine-in food service, can you cater to take-out now? Many platforms offer integrated online menus and ordering. Gift cards that can be purchased online offer real-time revenue and are easily integrated through platforms like Square, Gift Up, and Kabbage. Customers looking for gifts or who want to support your business in challenging times look for gift cards. Do you have an on-site gift shop or sell some of the products from your services? An online store through Shopify that is integrated with your website can grow a part of your business that is usually just an up-sell. Consider these options as an evolution of your current business model. You just have more time during the crisis to dedicate to setting them up!

Create Innovative Offerings – Multi-Use Spaces, Change Pricing Strategy

Businesses have standard operating procedures that assist in having successful days. Their pricing strategy is often fine-tuned and correlated to specific events. Nonetheless, a crisis is not regular proceedings and opens the door for innovation in place of complacency. Ideas that you once considered unnecessary or incongruent with your brand may need to be revisited when marketing in a crisis.

Are you an all-inclusive property? How about starting a day-use program for customers to enjoy your pool, private beach, or hiking trails? Maybe, you typically have a minimum night or minimum purchase requirement. That may have to change and can open the door to supplemental revenue that you once denounced. Do you typically offer a buffet or self-serve dining? You may want to provide breakfast and lunch baskets. Encourage picnics outdoors to focus on the positive aspect of your new change. Can your dining area double as a conference room? During economic recessions, businesses look for more affordable corporate retreats. Use these innovative services and products to promote new strategic advantages over your competition. Once you have the idea, you can build a cohesive marketing campaign around it that includes email marketing, social media, blogging, and ads.

Rebuild Trust – Social Media Influencers, User Generated Content

During an economic crisis, customers tend to lose trust in the entire system. Their world has shifted in a way that impacts multiple aspects of their lives. This breeds insecurity in the forces that maintain structure in society and, therefore, the future. As a business, you have to consider yourself in the branding phase again. You have to rebuild the trust that was lost in the system so that customers can trust spending their money and time with you. Here are some ways to reinforce confidence in your brand beyond communicating transparently. Customers are already expecting that. Give them even more reason to believe your messages. And, to do that, you need more than just your brand sharing those messages. Overly branded content gets lost in the never-ending stream of marketing. In a crisis, it is easy to compartmentalize overly branded content with other cookie-cutter news that consumers are trying to avoid. To break through that barrier, you will need authentic and voluntary help from others.

  1. Influencer marketing is a collaboration between a brand and a social media influencer who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a targeted audience, and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations. The right influencer can build trust in your business and drive engagement. They create original, engaging content. They typically do not follow a template advertising style provided by your brand. Therefore, they are more relatable and genuine while still promoting your brand. You may be more familiar with large scale influencers who charge high prices and have millions of followers. However, the rise of micro-influencers is particularly important to smaller businesses with niche markets. It’s a rejection of the ‘bigger is better’ mentality and allows for content with more integrity, as well as more focus for both the creator and consumer. There are various influencer platforms to connect brands and multiple ways to find bloggers, photographers, and other influencers who match your brand personality.
  1. Any text, videos, images, reviews, etc.—created by people, rather than brands, is user-generated content. These people are motivated to share because they had a good experience, not because they were paid. Small businesses struggle with having enough content for effectively building their online presence, especially during a crisis where typical customer trends have changed. User-generated content can solve this problem by building trust while saving you time and money. Sharing the content that your happy customers have posted makes them feel appreciated and essential to the brand. This sends an important message to future customers. Decide on what type of user-generated content you want to share then tell your audience how you want to receive that content. Be clear and specific about what types of content you’re looking for and the values your brand represents. Your loyal customers are great advocates and even better with the right guidance. Find best practices for user-generated content in our article, Leverage Happy Guests Online.

“People buy from people they know and trust.”

Remarketing Advertising

When marketing in a crisis, it is crucial to attract past customers, previous inquiries, and previous website visitors as much as possible. Because, at some point, they were interested in your business. Building that trust to make a conversion is that much easier and more likely. However, stalking previous customers in the real world is not a great idea. That’s where remarketing online comes in. Remarketing is a way to connect with people who previously interacted with your website or mobile app. It allows you to strategically position ads in front of these audiences as they browse Google or its partner websites. Remarketing campaigns retarget advertisements based on cookies and tag codes added to your website. The software tracks visitors across platforms to serve your ads and remind them about your brand. If pay-per-click Google Ads are already a part of your marketing budget, do you know if you are using remarketing tools? If you don’t know, are you working with a marketing company that does?

Marketing in a crisis can be overwhelming for small business owners. They are faced with new financial and operating challenges, yet they are expected to provide service and product solutions to problems their customers face. Having a marketing agency that you can count on for marketing solutions in a crisis is important. Not sure where to take your marketing next? Contact us for a marketing review and consultation!