COVID-19 isn’t just a public health crisis– it has left us with an economic catastrophe for millions of people. For example, for small business owners, revenue is down 20 percent since January 2020. And to make things more concerning, no one is exactly sure when the economy may rebound.
As a result, businesses are exploring ways to cut costs so that they can stay in operation. One such expense that they may want to trim is marketing. However, eliminating your marketing budget is counter-productive. Instead, you need to brainstorm cost-effective and unique marketing strategies to keep the cash flowing in.
1. Audit and analyze past performance.
Again, when the economy is a little shaky, you may be tempted to scale back on marketing costs. After all, this isn’t a necessary expense, right? However, that’s not suggested as marketing not only helps you sell your products or services, it also improves your reputation and builds loyalty.
In short, don’t completely cut your marketing budget. Rather, be more strategic so that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. And, a simple way to achieve that would be by reviewing past data and analytics for future marketing plans.
Using performance data from platforms like Google Analytics, SAS, Kissmetrics, or Tableau will assist you in making smarter business decisions. In turn, this will reduce costs, increase costs, be aware of trends, and improve any weaknesses. As for your marketing efforts, looking at past data lets you know the content and channels that your audience engages with most so that’s where your focus will be going forward.
2. Take a grassroots approach.
“Grassroots marketing is a strategy where brands create content that’s highly targeted to a niche or specific audience,” explains Rebecca Riserbato for HubSpot. “The goal is to reach a target audience with content that inspires them to amplify and share your message. It’s like word of mouth marketing x10.”
Moreover, it’s remarkably cost-efficient “since you’re building a campaign that’s targeted at a smaller, specific audience,” adds Riserbato. As a result, these campaigns are usually more viable. And, it also enables direct interaction with your audience, which can inspire them to take action.
Want to launch a successful grassroots marketing campaign? Of course you do! But, in order to achieve that, make sure that you do the following:
- Get to know your audience so that you create content that motivates them.
- Get creative and inspire action by starting a movement or trend — remember the ice bucket challenge”
- Focus on storytelling. Preferably, content that plays the emotions card.
- Start hyperlocal by backing a cause in your community or developing content that is directed to your direct audience.
- Use reviews to your advantage, such as building your rep on review sites.
- Create visual content that can be easily shared, like YouTube videos or webinars. In fact, 54% of consumers want more video content from a brand or business they support
3. Keep the cash flowing in.
Remember, cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Without that continual influx of money coming in, then your businesses won’t have enough cash to meet your expenses. As such, you need to implement strategies to keep the cash flowing in.
“Before you can implement a sound strategy for fixing your cash flow crisis, you have to understand what’s happening at a foundational level,” suggests Serenity Gibbons in a previous Due article. “In other words, what’s causing the problem?”
“While there are hundreds of possible causes, almost every cash flow issue can be tied to” sales issues, inflated expenses, or poor collection efforts. While negotiating with creditors, using electronic payments, and trimming unnecessary expenses are a start, marketing can also be used to improve your cash flow problems.
“If all of your company’s vitals seem to be fine, then you probably just need a quick infusion of cash in order to help your business sustain what appears to be a temporary rough patch,” adds Serenity. “The simplest and most efficient way to do this – at least for companies that sell physical products and have healthy margins – is to run a flash sale.”
“A well-executed flash sale allows you to create a quick surge in revenue,” she states. “The profit margin will obviously be lower, but that’s secondary at this point. You need cash more than you need robust margins.”
Another reason why a sale works, which should be blessed on social marketing and email, is to let your customers know that you reopen.
4. Bolster your virtual selling skills.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, “companies have shifted their sales processes into the virtual realm,” notes Nicole Fallon for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. However, “just because you’re pitching over a Zoom call doesn’t mean it’s any less professional.”
“Treat your virtual sales calls like in-person meetings and prioritize first impressions,” recommends Fallon. “Dress professionally, optimize your background and home office environment, and make sure your audio and video are clear for seamless communication.”
Also, “when selling virtually, it helps to provide value upfront,” Fallon adds. “Be proactive and offer relevant, useful resources like tools, guides, and workbooks to your prospects. It’s a simple and effective way to “keep you top of mind for your target customers.”
You may also want to plan and host “virtual events that are relevant to your target customers’ needs.” It’s “a great way to provide value while reaching people in the comfort of their homes,” states Fallon. “Of course, because these events are becoming commonplace, you’ll need to find ways to make your webinar stand out from the crowd.”
For example, you could generate “an interactive experience and, if budget allows, provide incentives such as giveaways and expert speakers to entice people to join.” Just make sure to conclude the “event with a clear call to action that will leave your audience feeling connected to your brand and willing to continue a relationship with you.
Even though fully vaccinated, we are able to hold a few in-person meetings now — it is still important to wear masks and be aware of your clients “covid-risk-level.” Continue to offer virtual meetings
5. Segment your marketing.
“Realize that everyone gets affected by the economy in different ways,” Choncé Maddox explains in another Due piece. “This is why it’s wise to gauge where your customers and clients are at and segment your marketing. Don’t just assume that some people have or haven’t been affected by an economic downturn.” Instead, Choncé advises that you survey your audience so that you can “segment your marketing so you’re appealing to the right people at the right time.”
“This may seem like a little too much extra work, but it’s worth it,” says Choncé. “Depending on your email service provider, segmenting your email list may be pretty simple to do. You can segment your other marketing tactics by gearing it toward a specific audience and narrow things down as you go.”
6. Focus on your core competencies.
“Small business owners often simplify the concept of ‘diversification,’ translating it to simply “different,” explains Susan Ward over at the Balance.
“Simply adding other products or services to your offerings isn’t diversification,” adds Ward. “At best, it’s a waste of time and money. Even worse? This “can damage your core business by taking your time and your money away from what you do best, damaging your brand and reputation.”
“Drop the extras and focus on what you do best that’s most profitable,” recommends Ward. Whether if that’s delivering top-notch customer support or a superior product or service then your competitors, you’ll be able to retain your existing customers. And, if you weren’t aware, it costs five times more to attract new customers.
A tried and true marketing technique is to assemble Avengers-style with other businesses in order to cross-promote your businesses. You may also be able to expand your customer-base too by reaching new people. You may have to collaborate for some time, even though we are coming out of the worst part of the COVID issues now.
Note how we are seeing complimentary services like the partnership between Spotify and Uber. Ideally, you would want to team up with synergistic or non-competitive businesses. Although, sometimes you can work with your competitors, such as craft breweries coming together and releasing a beer called Friends Giving to fight food insecurity.
8. Show that your community that you care.
Just like you and your business, your audience may be struggling right now. To help reduce their anxiety, while also showing genuine concern for them, give back during trying times by:
- Adapting your services, such as stores offering exclusive senior-shopping hours during continued COVID-19 issues. Even fully vaccinated — many issues continue.
- Donating your time and services.
- Supporting essential workers. For instance, if you run a restaurant, you could provide free meals.
- Lifting your paywall temporarily for your online and SaaS products.
- Helping with kids. Scholastic, for example, launched a Learn at Home website, while Jersey Mike’s provided free lunch to students in Glastonbury, Connecticut during school closures. Even though schools have opened up — there will still be ways to help with educational efforts.
- You and your team could share your expertise, even your hobbies, through online classes or streaming live events.
However, make sure that you’re realistic about how much time and money you can give back. If you spread yourself too thin, you may end up depleting yourself.