Like virtually every business out there today, my company’s leads and sales took a drastic downturn in late March, when the coronavirus forced many businesses to shutter. Our sales dropped 58 percent over the next five weeks compared to the first 11 weeks of the year.
I freaked out, I won’t lie. I probably wasn’t the only one.
Thankfully, my business is already fully back, with sales having returned to within a normal range for four consecutive weeks. In fact, this past May was our best May in many years. I’m not saying this to brag at all. My hope is that by sharing what I’ve done and what has worked for others, I can help get your business back on track, too.
1. You have to maintain your marketing strategy as if nothing is happening.
You probably want to know — what’s the biggest factor that led to my company’s quick recovery? Hands down, the No. 1 reason we bounced back so quickly is because I spend about $100,000 every week on marketing, and we maintained that budget throughout the entire pandemic. I know, $100,000 is a huge expense, but it’s right for PostcardMania. (As we discovered after much testing.) Sure, cutting that budget could have made riding out this pandemic more comfortable, but at what expense?
In late 2007 — remember that recession? — I cut back on my marketing at the behest of advisors after losing 46 percent of my clients to the housing crash. At first, it wasn’t a big deal. We were down about $150,000 overall in 2008. But in 2009, those cuts truly took their toll and my company lost almost $5 million in revenue, or about 15 percent overall. The only thing that reversed the damage was spending enough on marketing to make up those losses. (This is the Cliff Notes version. You can read the entire saga here.)
So, fast-forward to 2020 and COVID-19. I made it clear that my marketing budget was untouchable. As a result, our numbers were only down four weeks to five weeks. It’s vital that you do the same for your own business. What you spend on marketing isn’t frivolous — it’s a crucial business expense. You HAVE to create awareness and interest in your products, because that leads to sales and revenue.
If you’ve already scaled back your marketing budget, I encourage you to return it to normal or even give it a bump to make up for lost time if you can. (That’s what McDonald’s did.) There are low-cost methods at your disposal as well, and my company made good use of those, too. Let’s talk about those …
2. Increase your low-cost/”free-ish” marketing to directly address the pandemic.
Keeping customers and prospects informed about changes and developments within your business should be a priority during a pandemic. Otherwise, people will assume your business — like all the others — is on hiatus. Here’s how to make the most of the resources likely already at your disposal:
- Communicate how your business is adapting. This could mean blogging, updating your website, deploying an e-newsletter, among other content initatives. My team developed and updated a Small Business Coronavirus Survival Guide to communicate with our clients throughout the pandemic in a way that wasn’t commercially driven.
- Email frequent updates. Once your updates are written, email them to your entire database. My team has updated the survival guide above 20-plus times since March, and each update became an email blast. From the people who replied to those emails alone, my company has made over $35,000. That wasn’t our intention, but it just goes to show that communication makes a difference.
- Post daily on social media. It’s likely that customers will visit your brand’s social media pages to see if anything has changed within your business due to the pandemic (e.g., hours of operation). Daily social posts will reassure them that you’re here to stay and that they can reach out to you with questions.
Basically, communicate, communicate, communicate!
3. Take advantage of free offers and resources available to small businesses.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on small businesses. Thankfully, many large corporations have taken notice and extended some goodwill in the form of free products and services for business owners for a limited time.
For example, Facebook has launched a number of new tools that make it easier than ever to promote your retail small business and sell products right on its platform — and they’re all free. There are several virtual meeting tools that are free for a limited time to make it easier to do business virtually. Google Meet, GoToMeeting, and Discord are just a few. Entrepreneur compiled a list of 198 business-focused, newly free resources. Inc.com got in on the action too with its list of freebies. Comcast is even offering free Wi-Fi hotspots.
And, my company is offering “We’re Open Again” postcard campaigns on a big discount for small businesses. Just choose a design, customize it to your liking, and we’ll print it and store it for you until you’re ready to get back to business 100 percent. Just let us know you’re ready, and we’ll mail your postcards immediately.
Hopefully these insights will give you some direction and inspiration moving forward, and help your business recover quickly and fully from this pandemic.