Marketing Your Service-Based Business in the Time of COVID-19

marketing during covid-19

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In the weeks since states across the U.S. have locked down due to the coronavirus known as COVID-19, I’ve been spending more time on Twitter interacting with peers as well as other small businesses. Someone posed the question the other week, “Should I even still market my business right now?” The responses were an overwhelming OMG yes … but with special considerations.

Sudden change and a new normal.

According to the Small Business Administration, in 2019, small businesses generated 44% of U.S. economic activity. Now more than ever, it’s imperative we all do what we can to help them survive.

COVID-19 has shut down the normal way a lot of people and companies do business. However, many small businesses have not closed, but are simply doing business differently. A lot of service-based businesses are in that boat right now. In order to survive in the new normal, pivoting and creative thinking can be critical. I’ve seen some wonderful examples of small business owners leading the charge, making changes, and getting the word out they are still there to serve their customers.

So in short, OMG yes you should definitely still be marketing your services right now. The trick is how you go about doing that when just about everyone is under stress of some sort.

A New “Funnel”

Anyone a little familiar with marketing has probably come across the idea of a purchase funnel (and if you want to learn even more about the purchase funnel, there’s an informative article here).

Here’s the traditional model…

purchase funnel

The purchase funnel is something marketers refer to when explaining where the customer is on the journey to actually purchasing. Customers become aware of you, they do research and start to make comparisons between you and your competition and eventually come to a conclusion to make a purchase. There are variations to this funnel, but the steps are largely the same.

But right now, the funnel looks more like this…

new purchase funnel

So how do you adjust to the new funnel? Be there for your customers.

We have to understand right now that with so many people suddenly having to change so many things about their lives, they’re under stress and their priorities have also changed. I see many businesses offering a message along the lines of, “we’re here for you”. That’s great, if it’s truthful and honest. Now is not the time to take advantage of people. Emotions and anxieties are running high all around.

So the best thing you can do as a service-based business is offer support and be there for your customers. When they work through the sudden change and get more of a handle on their stress and possible anxiety, they may realize they have an immediate need or a need they didn’t have before.

One of our clients has a dog daycare and grooming service in Las Vegas. They are open and have complied with all new safety and social distancing regulations. They’re offering curbside pick up and drop off for their grooming and dog daycare services. Any dog owner knows that their furry family member still needs to be groomed and have their nails trimmed but those were probably not “top of list” items when everything else in their life suddenly changed. Most dogs also love to be around other dogs and with people gathering in groups prohibited, there went the trips to the dog park. Being aware of a dog groomer or daycare in your area and knowing they can take care of these needs for you and your dog and take the burden off of you is huge. Our client is doing what they can to get the word out to their local audiences on social media and through word of mouth.

Last week, I saw one of our local wineries and tasting rooms pivot to start offering delivery and a special “stay at home” tasting package. Granted, many people are more apt to be drinking right about now, but that was a great example of creatively solving customer anxiety about going out and offering a way to make things slightly more enjoyable while stuck at home.

A couple weeks ago we helped a local, family farm client of ours get an online order form up and running to offer weekly fresh produce boxes to anyone who did not want to go out to the farmer’s market or who simply wanted to not worry about being able get fresh produce. They designated a few pick up locations around the area and allowed customers to choose which location and time they would pick up at. The boxes have been a huge hit for them and I’m glad we were able to make this a reality for them.

I also see many service-based businesses offering special discounts, payment plans, and even freebies right now in an effort to help lighten the load for their customers while still staying in business themselves.

Many years ago, I had the realization that my small agency wasn’t just selling custom websites, or website maintenance, or graphic design services. What we were selling, was peace of mind. I’m gratefully ahead of the curve in the current situation. Your job as a service-provider is to find what your value is – what are you really selling to your customers and is that something that can genuinely help them? With any marketing you do right now, ask that question first. Really take into consideration how your customers may be currently feeling, what they’re going through, and how what you do might help them. This is solid marketing advice even when there isn’t a pandemic going on and will serve you long after it’s over. If there is no current way to serve them, listen to them and simply be there if they need you.

At the end of the day we’re all human and we are all one.

Go forth and share ....
Sherry Holub

Author

Sherry Holub

I'm a creative problem-solver driven by the desire to see small businesses improve their image and succeed. I've got over 20 years experience and have worked with clients as large as Nike and as small as a local sole-proprietor. I've been an advocate for education, a member of prestigious design organizations, won awards, and been invited to judge design competitions. Over the years, I have also written blogs and articles for a number of online sites and print publications. I have a heavy background in art, photography, graphic design and thinking outside the box.

When not working, you'll find me getting outdoors, practicing Qi Gong, snowboarding, camping, collecting rocks, and driving around in a sweet 1970 Camaro.

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