For many, the last week has been a whirlwind ride of shock and disbelief as Canada and many other countries have imposed restriction after restriction to stop the spread of Coronavirus. The end of times? Hardly. A really crappy time for many businesses? Absolutely. But crappy times aside, many business owners have no other options apart from pushing through. And the good news about only having one option is that it’s a really easy decision to make. In the spirit of pushing through, here are five things that you can be doing during your COVID-19 downtime to prepare your business for success when the world recovers.
Review Your Existing Marketing Platform
If you have clearly defined your brand standards, you might have been able to keep things looking and feeling consistent. But for many small businesses, a formal brand definition isn’t a luxury they’re invested in, which leaves them open to changes that alone seem minor: a slightly different colour here, a slightly different font there, a slightly different layout somewhere else. Over time, the sum of these slight differences can mount and your marketing materials from just a couple of years ago can look different enough from the collateral you developed more recently.
Consistency is so important in your marketing because it builds familiarity and trust, two key ingredients in a positive buying decision.
During your COVID-19 downtime, look at your marketing collateral and find out what slight (or prominent!) changes have snuck in while you’ve been running your business. Look at things like your business cards, website, sales proposals, sales folders and brochures, and your social media channels and make sure they all have a consistent look and feel.
Use what you discover to develop a plan for tightening up your marketing platform when business gets back to normal after COVID.
Review Your Sales Data
Who are the people most likely to buy from you and which products and services are they most likely to buy? What are the highest profit margin products and services that you sell?
Most business owners have a gut feel for these answers, but your business accounting has a more definitive answer.
If your business has a fewer number of larger value transactions (a professional services company, for example), look at your top five existing customers and find out what they have in common. Are they small businesses or larger organizations? Are they in a particular industry or segment? Who is your key contact and what is their profile? Why do they buy from you over your competitors?
If you don’t know the answer to that last question, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your customers and have a chat with them. It’ll give you a chance to let them know that you’re still active and expecting to push through COVID, and you might learn a thing or two about how effectively you’re marketing your business at the same time!
If you’re a business that has a higher volume of transactions (a coffee shop, for example), analyzing your top five customers might not be as practical. Instead, look at what products and services you sell most of and how much of your business they make up. Also, look at the profit margins for the different products and services you sell to see where you make the most profit.
Once you’ve dug into your sales data, review your marketing platform to see how aligned it is. If you’re not marketing towards your most-likely-to-convert customer or at your most profitable products or services, use your COVID downtime to create a more effective post-COVID marketing plan.
Review Your Sales Process
Most of your prospective buyers will follow a very similar process as they go through the discovery, selection and engagement process to purchase products and services from you. Good marketing helps effectively nurture prospective buyers through their buying journey.
What does your prospective buyers’ buying journey look like, and how can you nurture them so it ends at your business?
Stages along that journey might include paid search engine ads to generate traffic to your website, engaging information on your website and strong call-to-actions, a form submission with their contact information that leads to a phone call, a sales proposal, and reference calls to validate you and your company.
Your marketing materials should be developed to effectively nurture prospective buyers through their buying journey. If you’re not developing marketing materials to support part of their buying journey, you might be wasting your time.
Take some time during COVID to think about and map out what your buyer’s journey looks like, and make sure you have the right marketing materials to have their buying journey end with a purchase from your business.
Learn a New Marketing Skill
COVID has force fed a lot of businesses a big pile of uncertainty, and while we will get through it, how long it’ll take and what it’ll look like are still up in the air. This means that a lot of businesses are cutting back on non-essential purchases and spending, possibly including marketing services.
But if you find yourself in this position, don’t let it stop you from marketing altogether.
There are plenty of online resources that you could use to help dig into parts of your marketing platform that you might want to get better at.
The most ubiquitous (and free) platform is YouTube. Search pretty much any marketing topics on YouTube and you’ll find thousands of hours of content. Be careful, though: there isn’t any vetting of YouTube content, so you are likely to find both good and not-so-good content. Use the number of views and likes as a general guideline to separate the good content from the rest.
Bonus: Other Ways to Strengthen Your Business During COVID-19
Marketing isn’t the only area that you can use your COVID downtime to work on. Here are a few other areas you can tighten up during this virus-imposed downtime to strengthen your business when things start getting back to normal:
- Your Bookkeeping & Accounting: The struggle of keeping your business books up to date is very real for many small business owners and managers. Take the time to catch up on all of those unentered invoices and outstanding reconciliations. If you’re looking for a bookkeeper to help get caught or an accountant to keep your business financials current, check out Stephen Ackroyd CPA, inter-gration CPA or MAPS Bookkeeping.
- Your Corporate Documents: Likewise, updating your corporate minutes book and bylaws can seem less important when you have customers calling and products and services to deliver. Use some of your downtime to get in touch with your corporate lawyer and update your corporate documents. If you don’t have one, reach out to Michelle Mondorf at Loopstra Nixon LLP or Todd Hein at Lockyer Hein LLP.
- Your Employee Contracts: If you have employees, COVID-19 might have tested the limits of your employment contracts, especially if you have employees working from home or had to send them home altogether. Review the protections your employment contracts offer both you and your employees during COVID. If you need a hand then reach out to Waheeda Ekhlas Smith of Pak Smith Employment Lawyers.
TL;DR: Intentionally Good Marketing in a Minute
If you’re like most businesses, you’re dealing with a COVID-imposed shuttering of your business. Many business owners or managers don’t have any choice but to buckle down and weather the storm. During your COVID downtime, take time to review your existing marketing materials for consistency, review your sales data to find out who your most likely customers or most profitable products are, review your sales process and make sure your marketing support each step of the process, and take time to deepen your marketing knowledge.
And above all else, keep calm and market on!
If you’re looking for a marketing partner to help your business survive through COVID and thrive when we get through it, look no further than Sparkitects! We help business owners grow their businesses through intentionally good marketing. We start with a strategic approach to find the best ways to market your business, and with a full range of marketing services we help build an effective marketing platform for your business. Call us today and let’s get started!