How to Market During Troubling Times

young man with his head in his hands

Building a business is challenging enough when the economy is strong. But we’re currently in the throes of a pandemic and on the brink of a recession and this is something none of us have ever seen before.

Small business owners don’t know if they’ll be able to survive the next few months. So what can you do when you can’t open your retail business or restaurant or office where you meet with customers face-to-face?

This is a time to be super proactive. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to turn around is not an option. Rather, use this forced quarantine as a time to get creative with your marketing.

Here are eight easy-to-implement tips designed to stay in touch with customers so you don’t lose them.

  1.  Market consistently. You want to maintain visibility. It’s important to keep your name out in the marketplace – even if it’s only virtual. Never give your customers a chance to forget about you.
  2.  Focus on your customers’ needs. Some of them are obvious now – food, shelter, business support, and the personal services we can no longer get (anyone need a haircut?). But never assume. Ask your customers what they need and how you can help. Let them know you’re still there for them.
  3. Make customer care a priority. A positive customer experience may be the difference between keeping a customer or losing her to a competitor. Vow to make every customer experience a positive one.
  4. Keep your marketing message consistent. Don’t keep changing who you are. Not only does that muddy your brand, but it confuses your customers.
  5. Don’t ignore what’s going on and pretend it’s business as usual. Nothing is as usual right now. Acknowledge that. If you’re a brick & mortar shop and can offer e-commerce, do it. Some sales are better than no sales. If you can’t sell online, what CAN you do? Could you offer online seminars or webinars? What about coaching? Get creative about alternative ways to bring in money.
  6. Find a WOW” about your business. If you can’t find one, create one. It’s the reason customers talk about your shop or your services. One-of-a-kind products. Custom designs. Styles that are always a few steps ahead of the current trends. Consistently outstanding customer service. What makes your company special?
  7. Read Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. It’s a great book that explains what triggers peoples’ “need that” button.
  8. Don’t get discouraged. Well, try not to. Our economy is cyclical. The stock market always comes back. Yes, even from devastating losses like we’re seeing now.

Hopefully, your business will come back as well. But in the current economy, you need to hustle to make that happen.

If we can help, let us know. In the meantime, stay safe.

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Marketing Morsel: How clear is your brand voice?

Are you satisfied with your brand voice?

Not sure? Ask yourself these 5 questions:is your brand voice clear?

  1. Does your brand voice accurately reflect your business?
  2. Does the personality of your business come through clearly in your marketing?
  3. Does your marketing message define what’s unique about your business?
  4. Can potential customers tell exactly what you do from your website home page?
  5. Are you proud of the way your brand voice presents (and represents) your company?

If you answered no to any of the above, it’s time to buff up your brand voice. Because a compelling brand voice can be the difference between being memorable or mediocre.

 

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How to stay relevant in a quickly changing market.

Keeping up in the business world is becoming more and more challenging. Because the very nature of the internet nurtures change. There’s always something newer, faster, cooler, brighter.

On the flip side, if you don’t like the way your product or service looks next to the competition, you can revamp your digital marketing quickly. Often in a day.

Falling behind in market share?

Change your marketing message in a snap. No need to wait months to get feedback. Results start showing up immediately.

Hand flips wooden cubes to change the word "change" to "chance"
Are you willing to change to stay relevant?

Not convinced? See what some savvy retailers have done to refresh their marketing and revamp their messaging.

A Cappella Books
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled this small independent Atlanta bookstore that watched sales drop for ten years. Faced with huge competition from Amazon, the owner figured he’d have to close.

But then he came up with an idea. Focus less on selling  books — where he couldn’t compete with Amazon’s prices — and more on appealing to customers who loved independent bookstores and would support a local business.

He started hosting author events — book signings and readings, then added events at other venues. What do you know? Business started to turn around. Because his customers were more interested in the bookstore experience and supporting a local business than saving a few dollars.

Think this is an isolated example? Hardly. According to a CBS segment titled “Independent bookstores thrive” that aired on April 23, 2018, “Between 2009 and 2015, more than 570 independent bookstores opened in the U.S., bringing the total to more than 2,200; that’s about a 35 percent jump after more than a decade of decline.”

What’s driving this small market segment’s success? Shop Local campaigns, selections curated for the community and lots of events. It’s about book-related experiences rather than buying as cheaply as possible. And it’s really a small business success story.

Booksellers aren’t the only retailers thriving despite the growth of e-commerce.

Ever hear of Warby Parker?

Established as a hip online-only retailer selling stylish glasses at affordable prices, Warby Parker’s marketing message focused on their mission to give back — “Buy a pair, give a pair” was what they thought would appeal to their customers. But in reality, their customers didn’t pay much attention to the mission statement. Instead, they were drawn in by the cool styles and the ease of buying glasses online.

So Warby focused less on its mission and more on the Warby Parker cool factor and the ease of purchasing. Next, they opened a few brick & mortar locations where they honed the shopping experience even more. Tiny shops that looked like cozy little libraries. Each eyeglass frame shown in three different sizes to fit various face shapes. Super friendly and helpful personal service. And fresh designs rotating in on a regular basis so there’s always something new to see. And buy.

Today, Warby Parker has retail shops around the country (including 5 in Illinois) as well as in Canada and British Columbia. And the shops (at least the ones I’ve seen in Chicago) are always busy.

How do you say pivot?

Would you be surprised to learn that some of today’s biggest brands started out selling products or services that evolved into something different –which is where they are today?

If you said YouTube, Slack, Yelp, Shopify and Groupon, you’d be right.  Jayson DeMers writes about these companies and their reinventions in his Entrepreneur article titled “5 Big Brands That Had Massively Successful Pivots.”  If you’re fascinated by success stories (like I am), you’ll enjoy this article.

Smart business owners know that being nimble is critical in a competitive marketplace. And fortunately, it’s far easier for a small business to pivot than a large company with multiple layers of approval.

So if something’s not working, do your research to see where the problem lies. If it’s a product that’s no longer relevant to your key market, don’t scrap the product. Find a different market. If there’s still a market for your product or service, do whatever it takes to become relevant again.

And if you’ve had to pivot for your small business to stay relevant, we’d love to hear about it.

 

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How mindful is your marketing?

Aware. Engaged. In the moment. All words and phrases affiliated with mindfulness. It’s all about a sense of “now”. No distracting thoughts about the future or the past. Just here and now and present and in the moment.

mindfulness can make your marketing more effective

Since mindfulness is good for the soul (thank you, HuffPo), we figured it must be good for other things as well. Like marketing.

A stretch, perhaps? Not if you think of it in terms of benefits — in this case, success.

If you were to apply the same techniques to marketing that you do to mindfulness, here’s what you might expect:

  • Improved focus.
    In this case, getting right to the point of what you want your marketing to accomplish. Honing in on the benefits your service provides, the problems your product fixes, the positive results of working with your company.
  • Less stress.
    We all know people who seem to live in a constant state of stress. They complain a lot, probably have high blood pressure and never dial down and relax. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound appealing. When your mind is racing, it’s hard to think clearly. Using mindfulness can help you slow down, allowing you to be more creative and making you more receptive to new ideas. New ideas can drive your marketing in fresh, distinctive ways.
  • Clarity of message.
    The clearer you are about what makes your product or service unique, the clearer your marketing message. We’re all overprogrammed and far too busy. The simplest messages have the best chance of breaking through the clutter. It’s the old KISS adage: Keep it simple, Stupid.
  • The beauty of balance.
    Mindfulness helps you get in touch with you feelings, your mind and your body. Why not apply it to making sure your business is healthy? Sort of a checks and balance tune-up. Doing an assessment of how your business is performing should be done regularly, long before the balance sheet looks bad. If the numbers aren’t where you need them to be, use the results of your assessment to create and drive new marketing messages.
  • Thoughtful decision making.
    At one time or another, we all make bad decisions. The more mindful we are, the less chance there is of this happening. When we slow down enough to look at all sides of an argument, we make better choices.
  • Learning to nurture.
    Mindfulness teaches us to find inner peace. Taking the time to think about what’s important in our lives is a nurturing first step. Incorporating that into our lives takes work. The same is true for your business. A successful business requires nurturing if it is to stay successful. Staying on top of the competition. Responding to your audience and your clients in a timely fashion. Keeping up-to-date on the technology that drives or supports your business. Hiring the best employees you can find, then keeping them happy.
  • Gratitude.
    If you’re a business owner who’s doing well, that’s certainly something to be grateful for. Share that gratitude. Let customers know you appreciate their business. Tell them – in correspondence, on social media, in content development, in every touch point with your company.

Be mindful about customer relationships and they’ll continue to do business with you. After all, who doesn’t like doing business with people we trust and like?

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How to craft engaging web content.

So you’ve got a brand new website, and it looks great. Well designed. Smart use of color. Smarter use of white space. Reasonably easy navigation. A business owner’s dream website.

But there’s one problem. Your website simply isn’t engaging.

It looks good, loads fast and seems to work well. But the copy is bland. Nah, it’s boring. It’s not written to entice the viewer but simply to provide information. So visitors to your site just don’t buy in to what you’re selling. They don’t sign up for your newsletter or your blog. They don’t opt for your special offer. They just leave. And they certainly don’t share your site on social media!

How good is that website now? Not very. If you think that site could be yours, it might be time to rethink your web strategy.

content marketing
Anyone reading your copy? Image courtesy of kaboompics.com.

Think strategically. What do you want your copy to accomplish?

Here are six easy tips to get you started:

  1. Think about the problem your products or services solve. Are you telling visitors to your site how you can help them? Don’t make them guess.
  2. Have you defined your target audience? The way you “speak” to Millennials is not the way you should “speak” to Boomers. Your copy style is important.
  3. Never  “assume”. If you want visitors to your site to do something, tell them. Sign up. Click here. Order now. Call now. Tell your friends. Short little sentences. Easy to write.
  4.  Make it easy for visitors to absorb your content. Is your product one that can be marketed with humor? Create a short clever video or hire an illustrator to create original cartoons to get your point across.
  5. Be relevant. Do you offer services for a serious issue…..for example, one that’s health-related? Easy-to-understand charts, infographics, copy with clear steps or bullet points and explainer videos are smart ways to share important information.
  6. Make it easy for visitors to share your content. If you’ve succeeded in bullet points 4 and 5, this should be a piece of cake. People share what they think others in their world will like. Content that’s interesting, amusing, informative, exciting,  compelling.But don’t forget to tell your visitors to share your content. Share icons are important but saying “be sure to share this with your friends” is just smart.

Your website may rank high but if visitors aren’t engaged once they land there, you’ve got a lousy site. Make sure your content is clear, well-written and speaks to your audience in language they understand and relate to.

If you can’t do it yourself, hire a professional copywriter. It’s well worth the investment.

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