Ok, real talk: if you’re a small business right now, COVID-19 is especially exhausting.
Everyone’s talking about offering free tutorials and video meetups and content marketing you need to be doing NOW and… woah.
Let’s stop for a second.
As a marketing and communications consultant, here’s one thing I know for sure: these panic content marketing strategies? They’re too much. They’re cognitive clutter. And, most importantly of all, they’re potentially detrimental to your business.
Now, don’t get me wrong: brand empathy has, arguably, never mattered more. We need to care about our customers more than ever. Nobody wants to come across as a crisis capitalist, right?
But if you’re a small business who’s worried about paying the bills, it’s ok to give people opportunities to actually pay for your skills, too. You don’t need to invest all of your time in creating free content. Trust me.
Instead, you need to focus on offering your services and products in ways that actually, genuinely *help* people.
As BBH Labs put it: sell to help, not to move product. Amen.
How can you offer your services and products in ways that actually, genuinely help?
Disclaimer: Some people are suddenly losing their income and they can absolutely do with free help right now. Believe me, I get it. But there are also many people who can and will still pay. Trust me. Amazon and Walmart are still happily taking their money. Start thinking of more creative ways to let them pay you, too.
The question is less about how to transform your content strategy right now and more about how you can adapt to help people and be paid for your services too. Boom.
You, as a small business, have the power to help both the public and your business through this crisis. Channel your fear into fuel for creativity and ask yourself:
- Is my current marketing tonally appropriate or is it crass?
- Is my marketing on the side of my customers, playing into their new needs, or am I still merely selling? Remember: there is no business as usual.
- What is the primary problem my company solves, and then, based on what is happening today, what additional problems can I solve for someone?
Social distancing is already proving to be painful, lonely, boring and unproductive. How can you and your business help turn this into a time for growth, entertainment, education, connectivity and wellbeing?
Update your marketing strategy to reflect your customer’s current media consumption (aka a lot more scrolling). How can your business be the most refreshing they see while scrolling today?
Here are some key COVID-19 customer needs and mindsets to inspire you, courtesy of BBH Labs:
If you’re in the wellbeing space, team up with other businesses and create a hamper that people can gift their friends from afar.
If you’re a coach running Zoom meetups or happy hours, reach out to alcohol or coffee brands and invite them to sponsor you. That’s a sitting audience you’ve got right there, hello, you should capitalise on it wherever you can.
If you’re a content writer, reach out to new thought leaders and offer to ghostwrite them an opinion piece about these unprecedented times (as Nicolas Cole brilliantly suggested). If you’re a graphic designer, marketer, content writer, FiverrPro is a scheme that will pay you market rate fees for your skills.
Speaking of graphic design, a lot of businesses will be using this time to reflect on their long-term strategy: a part of that strategy is branding. Use your social media channels to advertise you’re doing a flash sale on the logo and brand design. The same goes for marketers. Start packaging your skills in clear, off-the-shelf ways: a one-hour marketing coaching call, a day rate of a full brand audit, a weekly rate for a content strategy. You get the idea.
If you’re a videographer or editor, reach out to businesses about how they can supercharge their video content (from afar) and offer them a fee per video cost to do so for easy budgeting.
If you’re a business owner or exec with experience, you have lessons and guidance to share, particularly in an economic downturn when more people will start businesses. Offer a flash sale on your time: 1:1 coaching. Equally, online learning is seeing a surge in interest lately. Platforms like Teachable and Jolt will pay you, as an instructor, for your skills.
You can help people and make money too. It’s not a dirty thing. It’s not inappropriate timing. We’re the economy, after all. Us. Normal people. Not the big corporates. Us.
We need to sell things so we have money to buy things, and then other people have money to buy from someone else.
Start marketing for your customers, because you can add genuine value to their lives. Start marketing for your suppliers and their businesses. Start marketing for yourself.
Let’s keep going and, in the process, give permission to each other to keep going. I see you, I hear you, I admire you.
As businesses, brand empathy is essential, yes. But don’t forget that we, as customers, have a lot of empathy too.
Oh, and remember this isn’t going to be forever. What’s your post-Coronavirus plan for when it ends? How are you going to celebrate and re-engage with your customers in a fun and creative way? Based on previous economic shocks, it will pay to have a plan for both resilience and recovery.
Let’s not forget to start planning for that. Let’s make the right kind of lemonade.
Bianca Bass helps top tech executives, best-selling authors, politicians, and startups tell their stories in a more compelling way. She’s spoken on panels at Google, been featured in Forbes, and also held positions at some of the biggest names in tech and e-commerce including TripAdvisor, Selfridges and John Lewis.