How to Shift Your Marketing and Communication During COVID-19

Ramon had a virtual sit-down with Gabrielle Raymond McGee, Chief Operating Officer of the Tory Burch Foundation. The theme was marketing and communication during COVID-19. Gabrielle and Ramon chatted about tips on small business branding, social media, and more on their #AskMeAnything series.

The questions asked by listeners ranged from social media to eCommerce. The talking points discussed included:

  • How to communicate with customers without sounding tone-deaf
  • Discount and coupons strategy
  • Customer acquisition
  • Content creation
  • Customer experience

So it’s easy to understand why this conversation lasted an hour! But if you weren’t able to tune in, or simply don’t have the time right now, we’ve got you covered. Below are a handful of questions and Ramon’s answers and insight. If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably had these questions pop into your head.

Let’s start with a common concern: current marketing tactics

Marketing and Communication During COVID-19

Tackling this means creating communication that is well-received by your customers and audience. 

Q: As stores begin to open, how do you promote your business without sounding tone-deaf?

A:  Three types of customers exist right now:

  • Customers who are not doing well: their business is shut down, they might have been sick or have people close to them who are sick, could have lost their job, etc. The messaging for this customer should be something along the lines of, “We hope you’re ok and we miss you. We are here and ready to serve you.” 
  • Then there is the customer who is doing well. Maintain the empathy in your marketing, but remind them that you’re still around to support them. 
  • And lastly is the customer who had to shut down but is getting their loans, figuring out a new way to shift, and still needs your services. This customer needs to know you’re around to help them and their business stay afloat.

It’s important to be sensitive and be aware of your message to all three of these types of customers. 

Q: How do you create digital messaging to stand out?

A: As with any form of communication. Know who you’re talking to. Marketing is marketing, but how you communicate about your business is what will make an impact. “You’ve probably been sharing that you care. Not every message has to promote that, it should evolve to something else over time. You can have promotions available if they are relevant. You might not want to name a promotion after “back to school” or something that's still in flux though,” Ramon commented. So if you’re doing a promotion, just be mindful about why you are doing it and who it helps. Be sensitive (as mentioned before) to the timing. 

Now that parts of the country are lifting restrictions, many stores are eager to get customers shopping in-person again. 

Q: How do businesses get people back into their stores?

A: To start, put a sign up that says “We’re Open” in big letters. Let people know easily you're there. Change it up so it catches people's eye vs. using the same sign that you’ve had for a while. Then make sure to communicate your opening. Update all your online social media profiles as well as Yelp, Google My Business, and others. If you have an email list, use it to update your audience on your hours and what to expect when shopping in-person.

This next topic is one that many business owners are facing — uncertainty about tomorrow.

The Future of Business

While Ramon can’t make any guarantees on what’s to come, he did provide a good outlook to follow.

Q: Any advice for people who are in the thick of it and aren’t sure if their business will survive?

A: To start, don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment. When making business decisions, try to do it when you’re feeling rational versus emotional. It’s hard to see clearly in moments when emotions feel overwhelming. Then do a little research into what your customers are doing and buying. How are they spending money right now? Does your business fit into that somehow? And lastly, if you think there is a future — if you think your business will be needed — then try to plow through. It’s the only way you’ll know for sure.

We all know that Ramon hosts and speaks at events (in-person and now virtual) all the time. So this next question was understood on a personal level. 

Q: How can you host an event and obtain sponsorship without being insensitive to the pandemic?

A: Companies are still spending money and advertising, so make sure to be sensitive but dive in and start the conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask if they are spending and have a budget to work with you on your event. Start the conversation politely, asking how they are, how their team is, and how their company is pivoting at this time. Find ways to converse about why their sponsorship can be mutually beneficial. 

During the chat, many great questions — and equally great answers — about marketing and communication during  COVID-19.  If you want to listen to the whole thing, you can find it on YouTube. The Tory Burch Foundation draws on experiences and on conversations with businesswomen from around the world and the programs and initiatives that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses. The foundation provides access to capital, entrepreneurial education, mentoring, and networking opportunities. 

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