As small businesses across the country advance along their reopening journeys, owners are hyper-focused on getting customers back through their doors, dividing their attention between marketing to repeat patrons and appealing to prospects. But with so many other areas of business for them to focus on to get their spaces fully functional—from managing daily operations, to ensuring their businesses are following updated safety and sanitation protocols—owners need a marketing strategy that’s as efficient as it is informative.

Given everything else owners are working on to get their businesses back on their feet, developing a marketing strategy may sound like a big undertaking, but it’s an essential step for small businesses in particular—and one that can set them up for a future of success. Here are the best marketing practices small business owners should be following to strengthen their businesses amidst COVID-19, while establishing a repertoire of relationship-building tools they can use to also drive future success.

Digitize Your Marketing Methods

If they haven’t already, now is the time for small business owners to go digital with their marketing efforts. Since populations across the country are largely still homebound, the best way to reach them is—and will continue to be for some time—through a computer or phone screen. Especially with persisting concerns over the spread of COVID-19, customers don’t want flyers or creative mailers; they want emails and social media updates that grab their attention and propel them to act. Beyond moving their messaging to online platforms, owners can also adopt digital tools that launch these communications automatically, saving themselves precious time to dedicate towards other tasks.

To create a digital footprint that makes an impact on audiences, owners need to update more than just their company websites. Considering 90% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, having a sizable digital presence is critical for brands that want to shine against their competition even in the best of circumstances. To this end, owners should set up a Google Business Account and update it with their current addresses, hours and phone numbers. Creating this account legitimizes companies to the search engine and increases their odds of being discovered by potential customers.

Owners can also try tactics as nuanced as sponsored and targeted digital ads, siloing audiences by age or location; or as familiar as revamping their social media channels. Regular posting to social media can push businesses to be top of mind for previous customers, as well as get in front of new ones. Regardless of which avenue owners choose to market on though, the brand that will attract customers will be the one with consistent, captivating messaging across channels, as this helps them define a memorable company persona.

Mind Your Business

Reputation management is an essential component of running a small business, for whom word of mouth is often one of the most influential factors in drumming up new customers. To further owners’ efforts at strengthening their companies’ digital presences, staff should regularly encourage patrons to leave online reviews to boost the chances of getting the brand’s name in front of prospects.

Additionally, owners should be aware of the conversations happening that concern their companies, reading—and, when necessary, responding to—even the not-so-nice reviews left online. By doing this, they can correct any negative experiences and potentially save those customer relationships, in addition to their reputation. Likewise, owners can also accentuate the positive, incorporating glowing reviews into marketing campaigns to convince audiences of their skill and thoughtful service. For help staying ahead of the chatter, owners can deploy digital platforms to monitor mentions of their companies on the internet so that they never miss an opportunity to learn the public’s perception of them. Additionally, the more dynamic digital tools can even automatically prompt happy customers to leave a review after they visit the business—thus saving owners and employees time, while ensuring the business’ online reputation flourishes.

Incentivize and Action Customer Loyalty

Now is an opportune time for small businesses to launch and promote customer loyalty programs to encourage revenue-driving repeat business. When defining the terms of the program, owners should tailor it to serve their unique business goals and client preferences. When done strategically, loyalty programs won’t just cost companies product—they’ll incentivize customers to become more engaged with the brand, turning even the best clients into even better ones.

It may also be the case that, despite a business’ best efforts, some customers are just not ready to return to brick-and-mortar storefronts. In these instances, owners should push e-gift card sales or discounts on future service packages to secure immediate revenue while simultaneously locking in future visits.

Given the mayhem coloring today’s small business landscape, owners need to be strategic in their marketing approaches, making the most of the digital resources at their disposal in order to connect with modern customer bases while maximizing their own time. Devising a robust marketing program today not only has the power to pull small businesses out of COVID-19-caused slumps, but also establish a communication protocol that can drive profitability for years to come.

Steve Martin is the CMO of DaySmart Software – a technology company that specializes in the design, development and support of simple, powerful, scheduling and resource management solutions for those in the salon, spa, pet and tattoo industries. Today DaySmart offers industry-specific business management software platforms – Salon Iris, 123Pet, InkBook and Orchid – that are leveraged by hundreds of thousands of global users each day.

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