Businesses are currently inundated with scary predictions about the fate of the global economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic even as restrictions are lifted and businesses begin to re-open. But with guidelines in place limiting the capacity of patrons, small businesses are left wondering what they can also leverage to continue operating to keep the lights on and cover costs.
Business owners have genuine reasons to be apprehensive about the road ahead, some of whom genuinely struggled during the previous recession. However, at Lightricks’ Boosted, and others that build tools for small business owners to boost their social media presence, we’re noticing a growing trend of SMBs successfully adapting to the current reality.
Small business owners throughout the world are giving both a much needed dose of optimism and some concrete advice on how they are shifting their focus to enhanced online offerings while navigating an unfamiliar landscape.
Some businesses are pivoting completely and altering the products and services that they offer. Others are simply changing their marketing strategies in order to empathize with their target audiences and highlight the unique value that they can bring during these unprecedented times.
We interviewed several small business owners and employees who have continued to thrive during the current pandemic, and found some common threads in terms of how they’re adapting to the new global reality. In the hopes that we can empower you to think critically and adapt your business strategy for success, here are our key takeaways on what some businesses are doing right now:
Amplifying social media usage to engage directly with customers
Top social media networks have reported an increase in usage since the COVID-19 outbreak began. With social distancing comes increased screen-time and small businesses understand that the key to staying afloat is to increase visibility across social channels.
Paula de Lao, owner of the Union Station Yoga Studio in London, pivoted her business from in-person yoga classes to virtual classes, and she’s reaping the benefits of putting more time and effort into her social media than she did before the pandemic.
“We are using Instagram more frequently now to share our online schedule, repost our students’ and teachers’ stories, and to support and connect with our community,” said de Lao.
What’s most encouraging is that they aren’t talking into thin air — her customers are engaging with her. “We’re receiving more questions, requests, and ideas from students via direct messages on Instagram given we didn’t have a phone line for a while.”
On Instagram, she keeps her current community engaged and continues to recruit new students, despite having had to quickly pivot her entire business in response to the crisis. Direct engagement with customers allows Paula to incorporate that feedback into her lessons and truly hone in on offering her audience what they are most interested in.
How you can get your business moving on social media if you haven’t already:
The pandemic has accelerated many trends, and communicating online is imperative no matter what type of business you have. As consumers increasingly flock to social platforms and online communities to maintain connections and in search of inspiration, the businesses that are able to meet them there in the moments that matter are those that will succeed.
If you’re overwhelmed, choose one social media platform to get started on. Think about where your target audience is spending their time online. Are they active on Facebook Groups or browsing Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn?
Once you’ve chosen the platform that makes the most sense for your audience, create a one-week plan and commit yourself to following through just for that one week. What you’ll find is that it’s easier than you think, and continuing on past that first week will be less stressful than you thought it would be.
Adjusting business mindset along with social media strategy
While it’s only related to social media, almost every business owner that we spoke to mentioned the necessary mindset adjustments that they’ve needed to make in order to succeed.
Paula advised her fellow business owners to try new things without worrying and obsessing too much. “Don’t be afraid to not get it perfect the first time! We’re all learning, failing, and adapting together. Your community will forgive some blips and bumps along the way.”
How to work on your own mindset:
If you’re having trouble brainstorming what to post, take a look at other businesses in your space for ideas and inspiration. Make sure that you’re balancing promotional content with just as much, if not more, timely and engaging content. No one wants to follow an account that’s only full of marketing messages. Provide support that helps existing and potential customers relate to your business in some unique way that also underscores the value you deliver.
Adapting offerings and social media content strategy to the needs and desires that consumers have right now
The pandemic and societal shifts have led small business owners everywhere to think creatively about what their products and services can do for people whose daily lives have changed dramatically. A related challenge is the need to correlate these shifts with their social media content to reflect new messaging while being sensitive to the challenges of the current crisis.
Increased time at home can inspire the need for change. Kayla Goldstein, an Interior Designer in New York City, says that while people have been spending a lot of time in their homes, she couldn’t meet them in the same way she normally would. However, she knew right away that her expertise could truly help bring increased calm and comfort to her community in NYC, one of the areas hit hardest by coronavirus.
“I’m using this opportunity to teach people how to make their home a place that imbues calm and how to create functional spaces,” said Goldstein. As far as her social media strategy, she has changed her messaging to those themes, and she’s sharing tips for doing exactly that.
Kayla has also shifted to promoting a virtual design product, her pre-designed rooms, that her customers can use to enhance their homes while they have the time and the need. “Pre-designed rooms were always on the back burner and now, due to the crisis, they are front and center in my marketing strategy.“
How you can figure out what marketing and business pivots may help you weather Covid-19:
We recommend committing yourself to an uninterrupted brainstorming session when you think about what your products and services can do for people during this time. Start by thinking about what people are going through and the ways in which their lives have changed. Some examples are: what to do when spending more time at home; coping with feelings of anxiety and stress; a need to entertain themselves and their kids; or for some, the inability to go out and do simple things.
From there, try and draw a connection between what you’ve listed and determine whether or not you need to change the way that you do business, or if you just need to change up your messaging. For example, if you’re a hair stylist and restrictions prevent you from being able to receive clients, maybe you need to pivot your offerings and go all-in on discounted gift cards that your community can purchase for their loved ones once things go back to normal.
But if, for example, you offer life coaching sessions, you can still offer your service virtually, regardless of how quickly your specific city is opening back up. You may just need to tweak your messaging and offer to help people deal with the new emotional and circumstantial reality due to the pandemic.
Taking some time to clarify what changes you need to make will ensure that you aren’t grasping at air and that you’re making the right choices in order to give your business the best shot.
While the future of the economy is still uncertain, we’re uplifted by the stories of business owners who use ingenuity, open-mindedness, and creativity to help their business adjust to the “new normal.”
Cori Widen is a Product Marketing Lead at Lightricks. She has been leading digital marketing campaigns, managing brands, and doing qualitative market research for 10 years.