9 Small Business Marketing Experts Share Their Top Tips for Local Businesses Affected by Health Crisis

Businesses worldwide have been hit with physical and economical challenges amid the current coronavirus outbreak. Some parts of our nation are in total lockdown asking citizens to stay home travel only for essentials. Other parts of the country are in semi-lockdown with restaurants & breweries being forced to offer take-out and delivery only.

What do you do to survive or thrive in this situation when your customers and clients are asked by their government and peers to minimize contact with as many people as possible?

Rather than simply tell you ourselves, we felt like the best thing to do would be to ask people who are on the front lines with dozens (or hundreds) of local small businesses who are feeling the squeeze.

We asked our experts the following question:

What’s the Best Piece of Advice You Could Offer a Local Small Business Owner That Would Help Them Survive or Thrive?

We received a large variety of answers covering everything from mindset to industry, to individual tactics and overarching strategies. There’s a little bit of something for everyone here.

Here are the answers we got:

In a time of crisis or down economy, you must shift your value proposition to reflect your heart


Josh Beechraft, Owner
Josh B Magic

All business is built on the foundation of service to a customer, community or cause. No matter what, people will only give money when the clear and present value is greater than the value of the money.

Sure there are some bills and such that are forced, but in the spirit of real business, value is paramount. In a time of crisis or down economy, you must shift your value proposition to reflect your heart.

This is hard for some businesses to do as there seems to be no obvious and direct line of payoff, but when you can’t make a sale, you must make a brand.

People connect to brands, and in strife, they connect the most to a brand that really connects with the level of sympathy people respect in the market. The heart is the way, it is not only the right thing to do, but it is the best impact you can have… if you document it. Here is what I mean.

First, you must seek to help the community, in this pandemic crisis, you might seek to serve with delivery, pickup or safe exchange type services.

But even more, you might look to provide food and other resources to those who are deeply affected financially. When you are putting these plans in action, you must have someone with a camera to video the process and tell the story about what you are doing and most importantly the impact you are having.

The point is to be a hero, people remember heroes, and if your brand stands out as the one who is solving problems everyone else is just falling prey to, your brand will grow and so will your business.

You might not get paid today, but you will gain attention, goodwill and inspire others to follow suit. Be the change and your business will survive must differently than many others. The real secret here is this is what you should be doing all the time, this is the perfect time to create this new habit and let it drive your business to new heights over the coming years.

You can connect further with Josh on his website at JoshBMagic.com.

Focus on the things you can control, and don’t worry so much about the things that you can’t control.


Avram Gonzales, Owner
Digital Harvest
Est. 2016

What small businesses are dealing with right now is going to vary wildly from industry to industry.

For that reason, I think my best advice would be to focus on the things you can control, and don’t worry so much about the things that you can’t control.

When I started this week I couldn’t focus and was worried about the possibility for a full shut-down and what that would mean for many of my clients (and a million other things).

I spent a lot of time processing and putting time, effort, and energy into things that don’t matter even two days later.

Remember, this is a temporary situation. We really can’t do anything but work with what we have. There’s a lot of opportunities for businesses to capitalize on their creativity and ability to innovate.

For others who are forced to temporarily shut down, this is an opportunity to take care of things that have been on the to-do list for months but just haven’t been afforded the time.

You can connect further with Avram and his company at DigitalHarvest.io.

Keep your customers in the loops by updating your information on Google My Business, Yelp, and your website.


Jeremiah Bennett, Owner
Sky Tide Digital
Est. 2013

Small Business Restaurant Survival Tips: I have a couple of tips here.

If you’re a sit-down restaurant, in most parts of the country you’re being forced to convert to pick-up/delivery only. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to prepare.

Another thing small restaurants should do right now is promoting gift cards to existing customers. Try to get some extra revenue that way in order to bolster cash flow for the short-term. You’ll be surprised by the support you will receive. We are pushing this idea hard.

For other small businesses:

Make sure to reach out to your existing customers and update them if your hours of operation have been affected by the shutdowns. This means updating your information on Google My Business, Yelp, and your website to keep customers in the loop.

While many businesses may see this time as a reason to contract we recommend the opposite. Start working on fresh marketing plans during the downtime. Create some video promotions you might have been putting off. Write some fresh content for your website and get ads ready to launch as soon as the worst is behind us.

Funding Options:

SBA is offering loans to those who are impacted by this. Businesses forced to shut down should qualify pretty easily. Also, check with local banks. Many are offering loans, similar to Payroll Loans, to help float places for 1-2 months of operation. IRS is providing options as well. You can try to early calculate your credits and refunds and then ask for an advance on them.
More will come on these topics as the bill gets signed by Trump (already passed Senate and House). There will be additional phases and bills coming very quickly. Watch each daily presser for details from the Treasury.

Some areas are allowing or encouraging a 50% staff/hours cut instead of a full closure. See if that is an option for you. It hurts for our employees, but having a job in a month or 2 when this recovers is a better option than bankruptcy or permanent dismissal.

People want to help. We are seeing it all over. Look around locally, talk to folk, ask around, you’ll find more local options than I can cover.

We are all in this together. Best of luck and my heart goes out to all you.

You can connect further with Jeremiah and his company at SkyTideDigital.com.

Is there a model of business you can temporarily pivot to in order to generate revenue?


John Victoria, Owner
Polianna
Est. 2016

First thing I would recommend is to understand your financials, and how long you have to run your operations.

How much are the recurring on-going costs for your business? Can you reach out and try to negotiate any payments during this time? Are there any current costs you can put on pause or completely cut at this time? Then based on your current savings, how much longer can your business go with your current spend? Are there currently any financing options available to you through your banks to supplement your costs during this time?

With an understanding of your current runway, the next thing to figure out is if and how you can pivot your business in a way that can continue to generate revenue if you can no longer do business as you normally do. Is there a model of business you can temporarily pivot to in order to generate revenue? Are there ways to serve your customers that you might not be used to, but could pull together a strategy to continue to serve them? What are other people in your industry doing that could be a reasonable idea to test out?

One unique example I heard of in the past week is a fine-dining restaurant in Seattle named Canlis who pivoted from fine dining to a completely new business model…a pop-bagel shop in the mornings, and an at-home dinner delivery service in the evenings. They’ve quickly adapted to the business changes so that their team can continue to work in a safer environment while allowing them to feed so many more people.

The answer for you might not come immediately to mind, but I have faith that we will each find a solution. Drastic times like these may require a radical idea to implement. With boldness and courage, let’s put together a strategy and take our next steps. We’ll get through this together.

You can connect further with John and his company at Polianna.net.

How are you proactively ensuring the safety of your employees, guests, customers or clients?”


Matthew Roda, Co-Owner
Roda Marketing
Est. 2010

Many people think marketing is all about selling, but marketing is really all about communicating.

Now is the perfect time to use your website and your social media channels to give timely updates (are you open or closed?) and share important information (how are you proactively ensuring the safety of your employees and guests/customers/clients?).

Use this time to build trust and extend goodwill to your community, so when things return to normal, you remain in a position to succeed.

You can connect further with Matthew at his website RodaMarketing.com.

Work on your marketing. Work on your website.  Shoot the video footage or images that you have been putting off for 6 months.


Max Juhasz, Owner
Rebel Base SEO
Est. 2017

After jumping on the phone with quite a few of my clients this week, it is pretty amazing to hear the responses.  A few needed to be talked off the ledge, but my most successful clients had a plan in place; just in case. 

One actually fired their hourly employees and hired them on as 1099 independent contractors so they can claim unemployment during the slow down…

The normal store employees became independent delivery drivers for her store since foot traffic is almost nothing. Another client plans on taking this time to write content and revise their social media marketing strategy for their business.

Work on your marketing. Work on your website.  Shoot the video footage or images that you have been putting off for 6 months because you have been “too busy.” Get out of your comfort zone (but stay within your social distance zone). If the difference between keeping your business going and shutting down was as simple as shifting your focus; would you do it?

I highly recommend spending your time wisely.  Turn off the news, and focus on your family and your business.   If you have been putting off working on your website, or marketing materials… now is a great time to do it.   Think smart – how can you grow your brand AND stay connected with your customer base? 

Regardless of what is going on, people will still have wants and needs.  How can you help? What can you or your business do that will help satisfy a need?

Famous musicians have been doing live requests on social media, and people are loving it!  Why not do something similar?   You may not know how to sing, but you can still connect with people, offer advice, offer services, etc, etc.

I know it’s hard to not get sucked down the paranoia rabbit hole, but you can replace the money.  You cannot replace the time.

John F Kennedy once said: “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis. ‘ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

There is an opportunity here if you can overcome your fear. I feel like this is an opportunity for everyone to get out of the normal routine and do something that will help.  Help the community. Help local businesses. Help set something in motion that will continue to produce results for years.

You can connect further with Max and his company at RebelBaseSEO.com.

This could be a great time to build the systems you need to be able to serve at a bigger scale after this has calmed down.


Vincent Dohna, Owner
Suchhafen
Est. 2017

Look at what’s in demand and how you can align with those vectors. A gym?

Create Home Training Livestreams.

Overall, If your business isn’t affected badly by Corona, this could be a great time to build the systems you need to be able to serve at a bigger scale after this has calmed down a bit.

You can connect further with Vincent at his website Suchhafen.de

Work on your marketing efforts, develop a better morning routine, or even reconnect with yourself or loved ones.


Roger Gallegos, Owner
Beacon Marketing
Est. 2017

It is tempting to stay continuously plugged into the 24-hour cable news cycle or social media to keep track of the latest updates, but that could lead to more anxiety and frustration.

Rather, try to consider this as an opportunity to not only improve your business but yourself as an entrepreneur.

Work on your marketing efforts, develop a better morning routine, or even reconnect with yourself or loved ones. In short, make the best of a tough situation.

There is no easy answer but if we all try to keep our heads clear and find a community of supporters, we will all come out of this that much stronger.

You can connect further with Roger at his website BeaconBusinessMarketing.com.

Start using live streaming, showing behind the scenes, have the audience engage with you, and explain how you are keeping your business clean and sanitized.


Yusuf Chowdhury, Owner
Online Business Owners
Est. 2010

First, you have to be mentally calm. Because with fear and anxiety, you won’t be able to think about positive solutions. Use this situation as an opportunity to force you to move forward.

Second, every business is different, but since we are talking about local businesses with the front store, then I have several solutions for you.

Step One: If you are a restaurant type of business, make an announcement on all your social media channels that you are going to follow the guideline ordered by the local health official, then city and CDC regarding the COVID-19.

Step Two: Make the same announcement available on your website.

Step Three: Inform your customers; they can order food for delivery or pick up.

Step Four: If you don’t offer delivery service, then start working with delivery services such as PostMate, DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub.

Step Five: Use Facebook and IG ads to announce and alert new potential customers.

Step Six: Start using live streaming, showing behind the scene, have the audience engage with you, explain how you are keeping the place clean and sanitized.

Step Seven: Contact your national and local chambers and small business development center and ask them for help and advice. They provide tons of resources regarding this current situation.

For all other local businesses, they can follow Step One, Step Two, Step Five, Step Six, and Step Seven.

Lastly, understand how digital marketing works. Learn as much as you can and implement it.

You can connect further with Yusuf and his company at OnlineBusinessOwners.org.

What Are Your Tips for Small Business Owners During this Challenging Time?

We’d love what’s working for you, whether you’re an agency owner or small business owner. We’re all in this together and your answer might be just what somebody else needs right now.

Please comment below, and if you’re inclined, please share this post with others so that they might benefit as well.

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Jennifer Rowland
    April 7, 2020 3:50 pm

    Thanks for the advice, but it was very sad to see that all of your experts are men. There are many, many smart women who could have contributed. Too bad you didn’t take time to reach out to them.

    Reply
    • AvramGonzales
      April 10, 2020 5:57 pm

      Hi Jennifer! I thought the exact thing. The masterminds that I am a part of are mostly men, and the women that I would have asked to contribute don’t work with small businesses. I’d definitely like to feature more women, I just ran with who I had available. Thanks for chiming in.

      Reply

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