Category Archives: small business marketing planning

small business owner stressed about crisis marketing

6 Small Business Marketing Tips for Difficult Times

The only certainty in this world is uncertainty, which is why we’ve put together these small business marketing tips that can help owners and staff connect with clients during difficult times. Unfortunately, small businesses and their customers are all too familiar with illnesses, natural disasters, recessions, and other times of uncertainty. While businesses can’t avoid the storm, they can use some best-use marketing practices and lessons to not only weather the storm—but even thrive.

DON’T ignore the source of customers’ anxiety.

The best businesses relate to their customers online the same way they do in-person. Businesses don’t exist in a bubble, and they shouldn’t act like it. Every communication should sound human, including during difficult times. This is a time to recognize their source of anxiety and empathize with customers with social media posts and messages and website messaging. When the next step is not clear, it’s okay for businesses to acknowledge the problem, admit they are in the midst of planning and working on future updates.

As a local business, this is also a chance to be part of the community and share helpful information. Customers appreciate businesses that are there during the good and bad times, sharing resources for assistance and brightening their day.

DO adapt business (and business communications) to customer needs.

Businesses that weather the storm are flexible enough to adapt to the worst situations. In many cases, these situations are not business as normal; savvy business owners and employees are flexible enough to adapt their business practices to meet customer needs. If customers can’t come to them, they make their products available in other ways. When customers’ needs change, businesses recognize this and are flexible enough to alter their business model or hours of operation.

DON’T forget to tell customers about business changes.

A business’ communications about those changes are an integral part of weathering the proverbial storm. If a business has decided to alter their standard operating plan, they need to promptly and succinctly communicate their plans. When a small business is limiting their hours, they need to decide how to tell their customers—and post the information right away. If the business is taking orders over the phone or through a website, the business needs to promptly inform customers of the phone number or website link.

In an incredibly technological world, the communication plan should include emails, social media posts, and website messages. When there is limited internet access, businesses can use word-of-mouth marketing tactics to reach customers.  

DON’T miss a customer message.

An uncertain time can be very chaotic, but customers still reach out to businesses via social media and email. Even during difficult times, businesses need to designate a trained staff member to respond promptly to messages and comments. If the comment is public and involves personal information, the staff member should ask the customer to send a private message so the business can resolve the matter without disclosing personal information.  

DO take the time to plan for the future.

Even during a crisis, small businesses should plan for the future. Even in a changing climate, businesses should anticipate different scenarios and craft responses for each situation. When a message is communicated to customers, all staff members at the small business should be informed of the content and given messaging for future inquiries.

While a crisis can be very difficult, it is also a time for evaluation. This is a time for businesses to look for gaps in their present marketing, craft a plan to address any issues, and make a plan for any future crises. Businesses can take steps to supplement marketing staffing, improve the speed of responses, and resolve website traffic issues.

DON’T stop communicating.

It’s common for businesses to feel like the crisis is over and their work is done. This stance couldn’t be any more wrong. Small businesses benefit from regular and relevant communications, during and after a difficult time. When the storm is over, this is the time for businesses to make and follow a marketing plan that reaches new local customers and guides a business through the easy and difficult times.

marketing plan meeting

10 Questions that Yield the Perfect Small Business Marketing Plan

This post is not about social media or local SEO (though both marketing tactics should be on every local business’ radar); instead, this practical post is for small businesses looking to draft (and use) a marketing plan that gets results.

While drafting a marketing plan adds another item to the year-end task list, the process is definitely worth the effort. A small business marketing plan provides the direction that ensures that every marketing tactic and investment is strategic; it allows businesses to strategically choose the right marketing tactics and get the most from investments of time and money.

A marketing plan ensures that the marketing process is more methodical, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be incredibly practical as well. The plan doesn’t have to be full of technical marketing jargon, but it should include some vital information that stems from asking several strategic marketing plan questions.

What is the current state of the industry? What are the unique strengths of the business?

This section of a small business marketing plan doesn’t have to be long, but should detail the environment of the business’ industry. This section should also include information about competitors, and what sets the small business apart.

Put simply, the latter should answer the question “what makes customers want to buy from the business?” The answer may be excellent customer service, a unique form of service delivery, or a product advantage. Whatever the answer, this information can be used to create marketing messages that detail why customers should buy from the business.

What current marketing tactics are being used? What marketing has worked in the past?

The marketing plan should detail past marketing tactics (i.e. social media, content marketing, etc.) and the success (or not) of past marketing campaigns. In addition to detailing the past, this part of the marketing plan should also include future marketing tactics and ideas to be included in a marketing calendar.

Who is the business’ target audience? Who is the ideal customer?

This is one of the most important marketing plan questions, and, unfortunately, one that not many small businesses address. The marketing plan should specifically detail who the business is targeting. Instead of the generic “everyone,” this section of the small business marketing plan should provide demographic information (and location specifics, if the business is local) of the target audience.

What new products or services are we introducing?

A small business marketing plan should provide direction for a marketing calendar; a list of new products and services (with projected roll out dates) guides decisions about future marketing tactics and ideas.

What are the future goals? How are those goals evaluated?

Future goals are an essential part of a small business marketing plan. This section should also detail how the goals are evaluated and when they are evaluated. When setting goals, it is important for small business owners to be realistic and to realize that quality matters more than quantity. As tempting as it is to set goals like, “gain 10,000 new followers on social media,” it is important to realize that the amount of social media engagement contributes far more customer loyalty and future sales.

What staffing and budget is available for marketing?

Just as with marketing goals, this portion of the small business marketing plan should be an honest assessment of the staffing time and expertise available for reaching goals. If this assessment proves that there is a gap in available staffing (or expertise), certain tasks should be outsourced to a marketing team of specialists with experience and a track record of results.

In addition to staffing, this area should also set a budget for marketing. Though some marketing tactics may be (technically) free, it should be recognized that results are gained by regular and relevant efforts (which cost money).

The answers to each of these questions should be documented so progress is regularly tracked and results are easily evaluated. A custom-drafted marketing plan can also be drafted by a professional marketing team with marketing tactics specifically chosen for the small business (and fitting within the marketing budget).