What will our businesses look like in the aftermath of COVID-19? No one is quite sure since there’s no real end date to the virus in sight. One thing we do know is the importance marketing will play in attracting customers back to our stores, restaurants, shops and offices.
For many small businesses getting customers to their physical locations may be a challenge for a while. That’s why it’s vital to have a robust e-commerce site that attracts customers and clients, so they can do business with you from the comfort of their homes. But, even more important, business owners need a solid marketing strategy—one that will carry them through the current crisis and post-pandemic.
To get some insight I talked to the founders of A&E, a digital agency with a large portfolio of Fortune 500 company clients, including J&J, P&G, Netflix, VF Corp, and Wells Fargo. The founders—a powerful sister duo—Amra Beganovich and Elma Beganovich, are mega-social-influencers with over 2.2 million followers.
How do you think post-pandemic marketing will differ from “before”?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: Post-pandemic marketing will continue to increase spending on digital channels, such as social media (Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc.) because consumers have become educated in online shopping. It’s [usually] more expensive for companies to break consumer habits, but the pandemic broke the habit of going to brick-and-mortar stores and steered consumers towards e-commerce and app shopping.
Moreover, social media continues to evolve and produce tools for retailers so they’re able to direct and track traffic coming from different channels, whether it’s from influencer marketing or direct marketing through the brand’s own platforms. For example, companies are now able to use swipe up links on Instagram’s InstaStories—whether on the brand’s owned social channels or through influencers—to understand where their traffic is coming from and increase the overall visibility of their brand online.
The technologies will continue to evolve that will decrease the cost of digital marketing, making it a very lucrative form of marketing for businesses of all sizes and at all stages.
Social media is key, you can certainly attest to that. Which platforms are the best for small businesses to reach customers?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: It depends on which target group or groups the small business is trying to reach. For example, if the target group is Gen Z, it’s best to turn to TikTok. If the target group is Gen Y (millennials), it’s best to turn to Instagram and YouTube. Also, Gen Z is present on Instagram and YouTube, so it’s important to analyze data of each platform before diving in to market. Lastly, it is important to analyze available formats and understand what best works for your industry. For example, on one hand, videos lend themselves beautifully for makeup or cooking tutorials. On the other hand, the Instagram feed is a very powerful medium for visually-oriented industries such as the fashion industry.
How can small business leverage Instagram Live & Facebook Live to boost customer spending?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: Small businesses can leverage Instagram Live and Facebook Live to boost customer spending in a few ways. First, small businesses can partner with influencers and invite guests relevant to their industries to provide valuable information, e.g., healthy recipes to boost your immune system during the pandemic, to their customers.
Second, small businesses can hold their own live sessions where they tell their customers (including ex-customers and potential customers) what is new in their stores and how to buy during the pandemic, e.g., curbside pickup or seeing the items “in person” through FaceTime. Use Instagram Live and Facebook Live to talk to your customers and tell them how you are adapting to the new normal—how you are making their lives easier and more enjoyable.
How do you get started on these social mediums?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: The first step on your social media journey is to do research, do your homework! J Research where your target audience is “hanging out” so to speak virtually?
Also, if you are going to hire help, do not hire interns or entry level [employees to do this job]; social media has grown a lot more advanced and its use of analytical tools is on the rise. There needs to be a person who will advise you about what strategy to set that makes sense for your target demographic and industry.
The second step would be to understand what content to produce that your audience can binge so to speak. Content is still king on social media, and each brand needs to plan it carefully because that content is what gets the customers through the virtual door. Stores were once representations of what the company stood for, but now it’s become the company’s Instagram feed—this is how potential customers judge your brand!
Finally, once the brand starts posting, start measuring the analytics—what is working and what is not? What needs improvement? All these steps can be done in a cost-effective manner; they just need a lot of strategizing and planning before diving in.
What kind of budget do you need to get started on these mediums to be effective?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: We would advise small businesses to have a budget equivalent to a senior-level marketer’s salary, e.g., $120,000. This is why it is often cost effective to hire an agency—a small business gets a whole team of experienced staff for the price of one employee. As a last resort, if the small business is really in a budget crunch, hire a senior-level marketer part-time. This person will still be more cost-effective and will provide long-term solutions and anticipate future problems.
How do you measure ROI on social platforms?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: There are many ways to measure ROI on social media. Some of the main key performance indicators (KPIs) we use for our clients: follower growth, website traffic from customized links, promo codes for sales, subscribers for newsletters, customers filling out forms to receive sample products (e.g., skincare), or foot traffic to physical stores.
Decide with your agency or marketing person on the ways it makes the most sense for your brand’s goals to measure ROI and what KPIs you will use to track performance. Also, bear in mind, one KPI is not set in stone and that the brand can switch from one to another to see what works best for your particular brand’s positioning in the market.
Anything else to add?
Amra & Elma Beganovich: It’s important to discuss the common pitfalls, which again [goes] back to working with an agency or a senior-level marketing person, in order not to make those elementary mistakes. One of the common pitfalls we see with influencer marketing is that small businesses will try influencer marketing for one to three months and make a swift conclusion that it does not work.
It’s important to keep the consumer decision journey in mind—the consumer needs to see your product at least seven times before making a decision to purchase. Hence, allow some time and all your campaigns to sink in before pulling the plug. Spread out your budget rather than jumping the gun and going in too quickly. Pick influencers as brand advocates who share values with your brand and are there for a long-term partnership.
It’s important to closely monitor your industry and pick the right influencer partnerships in order to see sustainable results. Many small businesses made, such as Revolve, Cluse and Tarte, themselves into a household industry name through smart influencer marketing strategies.