Marketing & Sales
The unique business climate of COVID-19 has changed the game of marketing by altering customer behaviors, requiring more communication between business and customers, and introducing opportunities for businesses to truly shine. While maintaining cash flow and safe, compliant operations are pivotal to success right now, it is also important to continue and amplify communication strategies to current and potential customers. Have you re-evaluated your marketing plan since the start of the pandemic?
As always, never hesitate to reach out to a Maine SBDC advisor for one-on-one assistance. A Maine SBDC Business Advisor can help you plan and execute a marketing strategy that works.
It can take a lot of time, effort, and money to reach customers. Many small business owners waste resources casting too wide of a net. Instead, determine what segment of individuals are going to produce most of your income and devote most of your marketing resources to reaching those individuals.
First, make sure you know who your most likely customer is. Ask yourself:
- What is their gender? Age? Are they an individual or a business? Do they shop in pairs? With families? How do they shop? Online? At lunchtime? What do they search for online? (Check out Google Trends) Do they have a job? What do they like to do for fun? Where do they go on a regular basis? Are they rich? Poor? Middle class? What do they value?
Once you know who your customer is, take some time to understand how they’ve been impacted and reacted to COVID? Ask them for feedback on how they are doing, how you can improve and determine if there are opportunities to serve them better through new products and services. Are they spending a lot of time at home? Are they homeschooling their children? Consider how the pandemic has affected them and their spending habits.
Based on this information, you can tailor and/or update your product/service offerings, marketing content, and advertising decisions in order to more successfully engage and create lasting relationships with your target customers.
Of course, the ultimate goal of any marketing effort is to drive sales. Take some time to consider and create a plan for how you will engage (and re-engage) with both new and existing customers. How will you create relationships with customers? Make sure they are aware of any changes in your business (hours, pricing, limited or additional services, etc.).
Think about your marketing goals and how they might have shifted or changed during or because of the pandemic.
Examples of marketing goals:
- Generating Awareness
…if you are a new business
…if you are seeking new customers
…if you have recently changed offerings or branding
…to communicate COVID safety procedures and policies
…to communicate hours and availability of offerings
…if your customers need to be educated before they buy
…if your product or service satisfies a new need
…if your branding is based on a platform of social responsibility
…to establish credibility
- Driving Leads and Sales
…to make it easy for customers to make a purchase
…to remind people to buy from you, not just to learn from you
- Retention/Establishing Relationships & Loyalty
…to show appreciation for those who spend the money with you
…to add a human element to your marketing messages
Consumers of all walks of life are online more now than ever. If you are not online, why not? If you are online, keeping the information updated regularly is pivotal. We understand managing a website, social media, email lists, and other online options can be overwhelming and time-consuming. If done right, such virtual tools can greatly improve your business’ reputation and sales. We’ve compiled ten digital marketing tips here.
For those with a current online presence, be sure to revisit these sites to make sure the content is up-to-date. Does your content (images and text) reflect your customers, their current situation and your updated products/services? Have you included your COVID-based safety practices to ease customer’s concerns? Are your hours accurate? Communicate, communicate, communicate. Customers are looking to you to make them feel comfortable and safe to re-engage in business activities. Make it easy for them to get the information they need.
New to digital marketing? Consider these frequently asked questions from our clients.
There is so much to do, where do I start?
One bite at a time! Start with the most effective channel you can get up and running quickly and inexpensively. For many small businesses, this is Facebook. For many Business-to-Business operations, this is LinkedIn. Be consistent with messaging and imagery. Connect channels with links to optimize SEO. Update frequently, so your online presence does not get stale, boring, or outdated.
Does my business need to be on every social media channel?
No! You should focus on the channels that will get you the best return for your industry, objectives, and customer behaviors. View the Maine SBDC Webinar recording “Becoming a Social Media Expert” to learn more.
Do I need a website?
In some industries, if your customers cannot find a website for you, they assume a lack of credibility. What is important is that if you DO invest time and money in a website, you need to ensure your website is doing something for your business.
The Internet is such a busy place, how do I stand out?
A strategy, tenacity, and patience! Check out our blog post about this topic here: Getting Noticed As a Small Fish. Create a wide variety of consistent and engaging content to spread throughout the Web. Learn more about creating content for your online channels here: Creating Quality Content That Works.
Your Maine SBDC Business Advisor can help you dig in deeper answering these questions for your business.
How do you know if your revised marketing plans are working? Don’t you want to find out it is working before you invest more time and money?
Unfortunately, defining the success of a marketing plan is not usually as simple as looking at the rise and fall of revenue or net income. It can take much time for marketing efforts to affect the bottom line, and many marketing tactics need time to achieve their goals.
Here are some tracking options to put your marketing to the test*:
- Social media followers, interactions, comments
- Website clicks, Website analytics (Google Analytics is a great tool.)
- Reviews on Google, Social media, review sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor
- Conduct surveys or interviews of existing or potential clients
- Examine financials month-over-month: How do revenue changes correlate with marketing changes
- New customer touchpoints/new leads
- How many emails did you receive from new clients?
- How many phone calls?
* Don’t try to track everything. Instead, determine which metrics make sense for your objectives. Also, be sure to acknowledge the effect of COVID on your metrics when analyzing the success of methods. (You can’t compare pre-COVID “apples” to post-COVID “oranges”.) Your Maine SBDC Business Advisor is here to help!