The Dutch version of this article has been published on Frankwatching, the most popular marketing & tech blog in the Netherlands, on April 7th 2020.
Around the globe, brands are bracing for the unprecedented impact this pandemic will have on their business and workforce. Every industry is affected in different ways; Marvia is experiencing this first-hand from our clients. Especially for local businesses, these are challenging times. Research of Goldman Sachs under small business owners indicates that the impact of COVID-19 is significant for this group. 75% of the participants say that fewer sales have already impacted them, and only 13% says that they are confident in their contingency plans. We listed some actions on how local marketing can be adjusted to the current scenario, based on our extensive experience with local marketing. We hope this will help you maintain the trust you have built with your customers at the local level over the past years.
Keep your location data accurate
Providing accurate information to your customers is the most critical thing any local business can do right now. Consumers are uncertain on which locations are open and what services stores still provide (pick up/ delivery). Therefore, consumers make their choice online before leaving their homes to enter your location.
As shown below, the search volume for “store hours” worldwide in the last thirty days increased significantly. With measures and regulations changing rapidly, the right online information on opening hours, and availability is vital for your business continuity.
Local businesses know just how significant a role Google plays as an intermediary between brands and the public. That’s why it is crucial you keep your Google My Business profile up to date. Below we have suggested the most important actions to do this:
1. Opening hours
Update your hours regularly. Your business profile needs to reflect up-to-date information: if you are closing on certain days or anything changes related to your stores and services.
For instance, we see many grocery stores in the Netherlands open one hour earlier for the senior population, or closing an hour during the day to restock supplies. Those type of changes are crucial to mention in your online profile:
Google implemented a “temporarily closed” button to manage your business hours. Making your business temporarily closed will not affect your search ranking and will be treated similar to open business.
In addition to GMB, Bing and Yelp also introduced the “temporarily closed” label, make sure you edit your information there as well, if applicable.
2. Name and contact information
Make sure your business information is up-to-date. Google is usually pretty strict when it comes to business names in GMB, but is now allowing restaurants to edit their business name field to reflect that they are offering takeout and delivery. When your current name is “Joe’s Burgers”, you are allowed to temporarily change your name to “Joe’s Burgers - Delivery Available”.
As some of us are shifting working environments and working from home:
Make sure all those ways consumers can contact you are up-to-date and accurate.
If you are redirecting phones, make sure that those are working. Update your answering machine or voicemail to reflect the changes.
If you need to change to your home or cell phone, make sure that you list the appropriate new number in all of your business listings.
3. COVID-19 update posts
Google is prioritising health-related business and will therefore not be publishing any new reviews, review replies or new Q&As until further notice.
They do, however, created a special type of COVID-19 post that you will see in your GMB dashboard. Try to fit as much information as you can about the changed status of your business into your posts.
We can’t empathise it enough: give as much relevant information as possible and be transparent. Keep updating your opening hours and contact details, and don’t forget to update your services if they change, like menu’s and if you are delivering.
Whether your customers’ social community is on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or another platform, there has never been a more critical time to make use of the instant communication these platforms provide. Social Media is an essential lifeline between local businesses and their customers. Also, social networks are seeing exponential usage on their platforms. Being stuck at home, connecting with family and friends, and gathering information through socials has become more popular than ever.
There are various ways of interacting with your online community and followers to stay visible and connected in these isolated times:
Open up about how this situation has impacted your business and the lives of your employees.
Tell about how you are involved in supporting your local community (Eg. when you are donating to the local food banks.)
Take the time to highlight other businesses than your own, tell about initiatives that you have discovered by other companies in your city, this will strengthen your community. You can even work with other local businesses and share how working together during these times can help.
It’s also a great time to get creative. Use video to demonstrate a different way of doing business. Highlight new or extra services, or show how you are managing traffic within your store. Video is an excellent tool to be informative on social and engaging at the same time.
Overall: don’t go silent or dark during these times. Times like these demand a clear and consistent brand message. This message needs to be disseminated quickly to local markets to ensure you maintain your local community connection. Socials are extremely equipped for this: low effort, low costs, short time to market, and extremely popular.
Below some great examples of engaging social content from some of our Marvia users.
Re-allocate your marketing budgets
The current situation demands quick action, and adaptation to overcome short term sales struggles. Rather than cutting back on marketing immediately, focus on measuring its impact and re-allocating your budgets to different channels. There are still opportunities to run effective brand-building campaigns to drive more loyalty and sales when consumers can start spending again.
We think that we can’t understate how important digital advertising is, for obvious reasons:
Most people are indoors and working from home; not many people will going to drive by your billboard or see an ad at the local cinema or sporting event.
Additionally, printed messages are static and tough to turn around based on real-time info. The world is currently changing faster than ever, and you don’t want to end up with an ad running for months that isn’t going to be representative for your business that long.
Digital provides speed to market and is easy to pivot. Another benefit is that digital offers the possibility to do specific targeting, like geofencing.
You can also measure results such as clicks, costs, views and in-store traffic (if applicable). While social networks see an increase in usage of their networks, advertising is being curbed by the virus. This is likely due to advertisers making fewer bids and cutting budgets, which can lead to increased ROI for the ones that do advertise online.
Publishers are offering support to companies affected by the coronacrisis. For example, Yelp is offering $25M in local ad support for local restaurants and nightlife businesses and partners with GoFundMe to let users donate to small businesses. Facebook is providing $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries. Google is offering $340M in ad credits in Google Ads for Small and Medium-sized companies stay in touch with their customers during this challenging time.
Things are changing so fast, being able to turn off ads, switch out messaging, and targeting capabilities make digital flexible. Therefore, re-allocating some of your marketing budgets to social media marketing, digital ads, SEO and content creation could be a smart move for your local business in the long run.
Building a stronger local future
If COVID-19 has paused your business and you find yourself with much more time on your hands than usual, consider using it to come out of this period of crisis stronger:
Reexamine business processes, try new things and think creatively about how to move forward.
Brush up your knowledge; many education platforms are offering free access to their courses.
Examine both your product and services supply chains for potential disruptions and fix them.
Take care of technical debt and maintenance that has been on the back burner.
Update your website and visuals.
When the dust settles, and the health of your community improves, these measures will have a lasting effect on your business. We wish you the best of luck in the days ahead and hope you will succeed in building a better local future.