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Marketing during the pandemic

SCORE of Cape Cod

Question: Should I consider marketing my business and brand during the pandemic?

Answer: Simple answer.

Absolutely. During times of crisis when buying patterns are changing, marketing is more important than ever. If you consider marketing’s role is to position your brand in the mind of buyers so they see no suitable substitute for you in serving their needs, then marketing must be one investment you continue to make.

In order to affect positioning, you have to re-imagine how you reach your target audience and how your messaging might change. Will the same buying influences affect their decisions today as they did in the past?

Safety, social distancing, convenience may be top of mind with buyers during COVID-19 times.

But that doesn’t mean that the key influencers of the past can be ignored. Consider the following when evaluating how you invest in marketing your brand.

Reassure your customers: You need to explain how you are responding to the pandemic. Your positive messaging that reaches out to current customers on a periodic basis, using various techniques, will keep them connected.

Connectivity is key. Remember, demand hasn’t diminished during the past seven months — access has. You need to consider using both traditional and digital approaches to ensure that your message is being delivered, received and internalized. Sending out periodic emails, jumbo postcards, posting on social media and ads in local newspapers create a message delivery strategy that demonstrates your interest in serving your customer base.

In creating your message, the values that form the foundation of your brand are important, since that is why buyers were attracted to you in the first place.

Your messaging should focus on the long term, not necessarily a hard sell to “buy now,” although that is what you want them to do.

Buy now and continue to buy in the future. Support local business even though online buying may be more convenient.

Build new relationships virtually: Ask yourself, “What would a customer of mine want to see from me?” The key is open, honest, considerate communications from a variety of platforms that captures their interest and leaves new buyers with the urge to ask, “Tell me more.” When you are empathetic and thoughtful, you appear authentic, and that is what customers seek in new sources of supply. In order to accomplish this task, you might have to reimagine how you “go to market” by taking into account the experiences new customers are seeking, rather than just doing what you did yesterday, which may not work in the pandemic environment in which we are living.

Keep your brand alive: Think about these questions. Have you clearly articulated your reason for being? Can everyone on your team communicate this? Do you have a clearly defined target audience on which your brand messaging is focused. Does your internal interpretation of your brand match with the marketplace? Is your brand distinguishable from your competitors? Do you communicate your brand message across channels?

No matter the size of your business, customers have the option of buying from someone else.

Staying top of mind is key. Are your brand assets — name, logo, tagline, messaging — up to date?

Are they current with design trends that will make your message and brand stick? (Read 'Made to Stick,' by Chip and Dan Heath.) Focus on customer retention.

There is an axiom in business: It takes 5-10 times more investment to get a new customer than it takes to keep a current one. In

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their landmark book, 'The One-to-One Future,' Don Peppers and Martha Rogers guide us to remember that most marketers focus on getting new customers (market share), not keeping current ones (share of customers). If you look at the pandemic period as a “timeout”, then you need to keep yourself top of mind with current customers so when they start buying again, you are the first brand they think of to fulfil their needs. Most buyers leave their current suppliers because they feel taken for granted. Stay in touch, provide them with knowledge, connect with them in a variety of ways to reassure them you are and will be there for them in the post-COVID market.

Get creative: Now is not the time to let your brand languish in never-never land. Be social, start or join conversations, use sponsored posts and increase postings. Consider payper- click online advertising and promotions of unique offerings. Offer virtual offerings, online classes and product showcases that drive viewers to your physical or virtual front door. And build agility into your pricing strategy to drive traffic and improve margins.

Now is not the time to be timid. Being aggressively creative without looking desperate is key. Improving your online presence may mean having your website reviewed to ensure it works with mobile devices, having your site optimized (SEO) to ensure you are getting maximum exposure in buyer searches and that your content is viewed as valuable. You might foster your knowledge- leading value by participating in online discussion groups and webinars that your buyers might be attending. Don’t skip the virtual trade events that buyers are frequenting during the timeout.

Re- imagine: No one wants to hear the word “pivot,' but it is exactly what needs to be done. Now. You need to re-imagine your enterprise and seek ways to bring buyers to your door so you will be here next season. Ace Hardware takes phone orders for pickup. Becky, Ace’s store manager, never would have considered this mode of business a year ago, but she kept the doors open and cash flowing by pivoting.

Clean Slate Eatery in West Dennis, a tiny restaurant with no outdoor dining, re-imagined itself by asking what business it is in — cooking and serving quality food. Why not an on-site food truck? Why not a menu change? Tacos? Street food in West Dennis. La Tacodilla was the result, open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drive by — there is a line outside the truck. It will be so even when the weather turns colder.

David and Peter Troutman at Scargo Café in Dennis Village had an outdoor patio in the plans, but not until they had to pivot with takeout and outdoor dining did they open the desk drawer and resurrect those plans.

All it takes is understanding your customers’ needs, wants and desires, and re-imagining how you can service them. Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Source: Marketing Toolkit, ElementThree.com. For free and confidential mentoring, contact capecod.score. org, capecodscore@verizon. net, 508-775-4884. For the in-business client, ask us about our advisory team option. We go where you are!

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