3 Reasons Now is Not the Time to Furlough Your Marketing

The idea behind this article’s title may seem counterintuitive as small business owners face drastically limited budgets, furloughs and layoffs, and an uncertain future. But the reality is, putting your marketing on hold right now triggers the risk of your business fading into the quarantine dust, forfeiting your competitive advantage. Below are reasons now is not the time to furlough your marketing, along with some suggestions on what you can do about it.

1.       Stay Relevant or Fade into the Dust. Your doors may be shuttered but your business shouldn’t disappear into the depths of the quarantine. While some are binge-watching Netflix and the over thirty club has discovered TikTok, people are also using this time for online learning, earning certifications, virtual networking, and researching. In fact, within the first 30 days of the quarantine, HubSpot, a respected CRM software company, reported a 40% increase in organic traffic to their marketing blog and more than doubled the number of visitors to their online Academy.

But you’re not a large international company like them, right?

Great! You have an advantage over the big kahunas out there. As a small business, you have the opportunity to develop and nurture a deeper connection with your customers and employees. Whether you’re completely shut down or you’ve found a way to stay in business, this is all the more reason for you to continue your communication with them. If not, you risk losing the connection you’ve already worked hard to develop, while also risking the possibility of losing your revenue to the competition. Think about it this way – as we emerge from quarantine, will your product or service brand come to mind first, or will it be the one who has remained connected with customers? Here are three suggestions to help you stay relevant:

·       Communicate with customers (and employees) – Are your customers signed up for email updates? Are they following you on social media? Perfect. Reach out to ask how they’re doing. Offer them help if you feel comfortable doing so. Provide updates about new or modified services and how that can support your customers or simply send links to new posts on your blog or social media platforms (more on this in next bullet point). As for your employees, both current and furloughed, they need to see that you care – that you are here for them in the ways you can be. Let them see the genuine appreciation you feel for their loyalty and support. This can be done through emails, handwritten cards and phone calls.

A note of caution: Make sure your message never sounds like a sales pitch. This is a sure-fire way to lose credibility as it relates to showing your customers you genuinely care.

·       Social media for visibility – Visibility isn’t really about you. Let’s be honest, when it comes to marketing, people are naturally interested in themselves. They want to know what your company or product can do for them. Developing a connection further encourages them to choose to work with or purchase from you, especially now. So, the way to remain visible is to provide value to your audience in order to attract them to your brand. Help lift their spirits by offering a daily/weekly dose of humor. Provide links to informative blog posts or articles you’ve found and, more importantly, any that you’ve written.

Do you own a salon? Have your stylists take turns posting simple hair tutorials, hair tips or reviews of their favorite products. Bakery owner? Post favorite recipes to try during the quarantine and invite your audience to post pictures of their attempts. Offer simple baking tips or ask your audience to share their favorite baking memory or recipe. Or maybe you’re a personal trainer or gym owner? Offer weekly 30 – minute virtual workouts or daily/weekly exercise tips and demonstrations on proper form.

Yeah, but there are so many social media platforms out there!

True, but you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to be on all of them. Research has found that specific target markets tend to gravitate towards particular platforms. You can Google which platforms might work best for reaching your audience or connect with a marketing consultant to help you navigate through the social media jungle.

·       Update your Website and Marketing Materials – I cannot stress this enough. Your website and marketing materials are basically the face of your company. They begin to tell the story of what you do, why you do it, and why they should consider choosing your service or product. Think about it like an information desk where the attendant has little or no information to give you, or worse, there’s no attendant. Frustrating, right? Think you’ll ever go back there again? I hope not. But this is what happens with many websites (or lack thereof) and marketing materials, especially in the small business sector. They’re critical to developing a connection between your business and your customers.

2.       Time Is of The Essence. Like it or not, times are changing and your company is likely shifting to meet some of those changes. So it’s important to adjust your marketing along with it. Many small business owners have a little more time on their hands right now, so, capitalize on that time by reviewing your logo, website, marketing materials and overall branding to make sure they are professional, consistent and connecting with your customers. This may mean giving them an overhaul or simply updating specific content and offerings. Regardless, it’s likely you’ll no longer have that time or opportunity available once the quarantine gate is fully lifted. As you review, here are a few questions you can ask yourself (this is not a comprehensive list):

·       When were they last updated? Typically, it’s recommended every three years.

·       Are you using the same colors (typically no more than 3) throughout your materials?

·       Are your fonts (no more than 3) being used consistently? A common recommendation is to have one primary font and one secondary or accent font.

·       Do they provide the most current info about your business, including any updates/changes due to the quarantine or post-quarantine guidelines?

·       Are you providing your customers educational information? Is all your content written clearly and in the same “voice?”

3.       Set Your Business Up for Success. It’s uncomfortable to think that we will not be going back to business as usual. Instead, a new norm will become reality as we see businesses slowly reopening. New rules of engagement for doing business will settle in. People will be calling for a sense of security and familiarity to the previous way of doing things. So, small business owners will need to work now to make sure their brand is clear and consistent throughout their materials, content, storefront and approach. Your brand needs to show customers that you are still here and they can rely on you for the product or service you provide. Inform them of any innovations or adjustments you’ve made and how those will benefit them. Your brand story and passion should shine through each material, each engagement – earning their trust and encouraging connection with them.

These reviews and updates don’t have to be costly. Many of us small businesses owners aren’t quite ready for agency resources yet, even pre-quarantine. The suggestions listed above can be done yourself with the input of your business partner, team members, maybe even a marketer in your network. Naturally, as a marketing consultant (and those in the same field of work would agree) who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in this arena, I would be remiss not to advise small business owners to work with a consultant – someone who has the expertise and inside track of the ins and outs of showcasing your company brand through your marketing. Either way, now is the time to give your brand a reboot so your business stays relevant and connects with your customers.