To Market or Not To Market?

Marketing For Small Businesses During COVID-19

At Gearworks Marketing, I do social media and digital marketing for small businesses. Right now, I see a lot of small businesses - clients and non-clients alike - asking some of the same questions.
How will we survive? Am I considered an essential business? How can I keep my employees safe?
The answers to these questions will vary a lot, and will depend a lot on your industry, what your state's isolation policy is, and so on.
However, there is one question I see small businesses asking that I can provide some insight into:

Should I Be Marketing Right Now?

Right now really seems like the end of the world as we know it (you're welcome for that earworm btw).
Especially if you own a small business.
Being a small business owner, I totally understand how you feel right now.
Even so, we have to remember that this too shall pass. may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.
As such, I do genuinely believe that businesses should keep marketing right now.
I know that this seems silly if no one can buy what you sell, or worse, you feel bad promoting yourself when everything is chaotic.
However, as a business owner, I actually think it's more important than ever for businesses to be marketing.
This seems counterintuitive, but hear me out.
As a business owner, you have a particular set of skills. Skills that your customers or clients most likely don't have.
As a professional in your industry, you probably also have insight into how your industry is handling the crisis.
Insight that your customers or clients probably don't have.
....see where I'm going with this?
Since you are an expert in your field, there's a lot you can do for your clients right now to help them understand how your industry is being affected.
And not only that, what your clients and customers should (or could) be doing as a result of that.
I know you can't give your clients and customers all the answers they want right now, but what you can do is offer them some assurance that your business is not only handling the crisis, but also has a plan for moving forward.
Use this as an opportunity to provide your clients and customers with some stability during a time of complete chaos.
And no, I don't mean information about how your staff is taking extra sanitary precautions.
While that is extremely important right now, it doesn't really help your client base as much as it could.
I know this seems a bit vague, so I'm going to break this into two categories: one for businesses can stay open right now and one for businesses that can't.


Marketing If You Can Still Serve Your Clients

The other day I had a conversation on Facebook with a woman who did the social media marketing for a car dealership in the Waukesha area.
She said that right now, a lot of people were coming in or calling in feeling even more stressed and overwhelmed than usual.
Taking your car in for servicing can be really stressful already, but add a global pandemic on top of it, and it can be even worse.
She said the stress it was causing some of their customers was absolutely heartbreaking.
In an effort to reach out to their customer base, the dealership was running ads letting people know how they were handling the crisis as an essential business.
Essentially, they were using their marketing as an opportunity to reach out to people and let them know that not only did they have a plan, but that they were also there for them and ready to work with them during this stressful time.
This is exactly what marketing should be right now if you can remain open.
Think about what you can offer your clients right now that would help them the most.
If you're a car dealership, let people know that they can call ahead and drop off a vehicle without having to come into the waiting area.
Or provide video tutorials on how to check some of your vehicle's regular maintenance needs at home (oil, fluids, etc.).
If you're a real estate agent, talk about how the market is doing in your area and how you are handling the crisis, and what changes your clients should be making to cope with buying and selling during the era of Social Distancing.
If you offer construction services, talk about things people need to know when considering a home improvement project. Consider offering no-contact free estimates for your clients and tell them how to get in touch to get one.
If you're a wedding photographer, write an article about your suggestions for couples who have had to reschedule a wedding, or who are still trying to plan a wedding for later in the year.
Use your knowledge and expertise to help people struggling right now.
This mentality goes back to a couple cornerstones of marketing.
The first is that the more people get to know, like, and trust you, the more likely they will be to work with you.
If you can provide some kind of helpful content for them right now that genuinely helps them with a problem they're having or decreases their stress levels, this helps increase the know, like, and trust factor.
Therefore, making it more likely that people will choose you and your business when the time comes.
Secondly, if you position yourself as an expert in your field, people feel more comfortable working with you.
Think about it this way. If someone has clearly demonstrated their knowledge in their industry, aren't you more likely to trust them with your business than someone who hasn't?
Use the content you create to position yourself as an expert in your field and someone people can trust to get the job done right.
And if you still can't think of what content to provide, here's another way to choose something.
Think back on all the customers and clients you've ever had.
What are some problems or questions they had that came up regularly? Do you notice any patterns with the types of questions they asked?
Create content based on that.


Marketing If You Can't Serve Your Clients At All

A lot of businesses were told that they need to shut down entirely - hair salons, spas, and any business providing a non-essential service.
If this is you, this sucks right now. There's no two ways about it.
Even so, I still think it's possible to do some great outreach marketing right now.
Here's how.
Think of the service you provide for your clients. What do you do for them?
If you can't be providing that service for them right now, can you help them makeshift a DIY?
Is there something they can be doing during this downtime that would be beneficial for them?
Basically, how can you help them get by without your services right now?
For example.
If you're a hair salon, what advice would you give your clients who can't make their appointments in the coming month?
What if you offer facials or spa services? Or a clothing store?
You see, I'm a firm believer that marketing shouldn't be about selling. At least not all the time.
I believe that marketing should be about reaching out to your customer base to serve them.
What content can you create for your clients that would help them right now?
How can you remind them that you're still here for them, that you haven't forgotten about them, and most importantly, stay in front of them and help them so when we can open our doors again, they're ready to walk back in?
Another option you have is to grow a newsletter list.
Offer tips and advice related to what you do in a free newsletter signup. Or you could offer them some kind of deal or incentive for signing up.
Now you have a list you can market to once you're back in business.
You could also offer gift cards as well - a buy one get one, 25% off gift card purchase, you name it. Get creative.
You could also partner with other businesses that share the same clientele and put together a digital booklet of gift cards or coupons.
Use this as an opportunity to not only provide value for your clients, but also expand your professional network and lift up other small businesses as well.

What Type Of Content Is Best?

This is a great question.
Video content is generally the best, and here's why.

  1. It's more personal. Right now people are feeling more isolated than ever. Being able to see and hear your voice does a lot to bridge some of that disconnect.
  2. It's the cheapest. You can get video views for pennies on social media platforms. You can reach the most people with whatever budget you have.
  3. It sets you apart. With some exceptions, small businesses hate making video ads. If you can get over that fear and create video content for your clients and customers, that sets you apart from the business owners who aren't doing that.

One thing I like to have my clients do is make a short video (2 minutes or less, ideally 30 seconds or less) that covers a really important topic that their ideal clients struggle with regularly.
Then, at the end of the video, encourage people to click through to a blog post with more content.
Cover the most salient point in a short video, and then lead people to a blog post that has more in-depth content.
If people only watch the video, they're still getting something valuable by hearing you address one of their potential concerns.
The blog post is there for people who want additional information.
At the bottom of the blog post, add a little section about you and your business and what you do and encourage people to get in touch for more information.
Most people probably won't - that's ok. Even in the best of times, marketing is still a statistics game.
Only 3% of people are actively searching to purchase what you offer. That means that 97% of people aren't, but may be in the future.
Provide helpful content that markets to the 97%, but also give the 3% an option to get in touch with you so they can purchase.

The Bottom Line

You are in business to serve a customer base.
How can you serve them right now? How can you help?
Use that to guide your marketing right now. People will remember the helpers 🙂

How I Can Help You

I've seen a lot of small businesses getting out there and putting out Facebook ads.
This is great!
...except for one small thing.
I'm seeing a lot of ads for businesses that are 100 or more miles away.
This means that they didn't set their radius properly when they put together their ad.
This is an easy fix, and something I cover in my free Facebook Ads course.
And yes, it's entirely free - you don't even have to give me an email address to access the content.
Stay safe and healthy, friends, and don't forget to wash your hands 😉


Hey there! I'm Beth. I'm the owner and main marketer behind Gearworks Marketing. A lot of small businesses don't have the time to set up and manage their own social media and digital marketing, or feel completely overwhelmed with the idea of even starting.

That's where I come in! I work with small businesses on social media and digital marketing so they don't have to. Make sure to take an opportunity to check out my free Facebook Ads Basics course on my website here, and don't hesitate to contact me with any questions! 🙂