Business owners need to think about life after quarantine because it’s not going to be long before governments start loosening restrictions and people begin venturing back outside. In some areas, it’s already happening.
There is going to be a unique window post-quarantine where consumers are going to relish the opportunity to see and talk with others, browse brick-and-mortar stores, and shop in-person again.
Here are a few techniques small business owners can use to attract customers after stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Don’t Abandon Digital Solutions That Were Working
Just because society may start getting back to normal doesn’t mean you need to abandon what you were doing well during the pandemic. Many business owners were able to use digital solutions to improve communication, operational efficiencies, or marketing efforts during the quarantine. See if you can still benefit from using these solutions moving forward.
Brock Jennings, the owner of Lakeland Century 21, moved most of his energy online because of the coronavirus. He conducted daily Zoom meetings with his agents, provided client updates via email and phone, and invested heavily in digital marketing to attract new leads.
He went on to say, “I never had the time before to really dive into email marketing—but after the first 2 weeks of sending newsletters to my subscriber list, I’ve generated 11 leads.”
If you found a new resource, tool, or digital strategy that helped during quarantine, don’t just abandon it afterward.
Communicate the Changes You’ve Made
It’s going to take a while for life to return to anything close to pre-pandemic levels—especially as it relates to social distancing and personal contact. This reality means that you can’t just throw open your doors and expect customers to rush inside.
Review your business plans to determine how to open your store safely and efficiently. These precautions could mean eliminating a few restaurant tables to accommodate social distancing or adding sanitizing stations throughout your store.
These changes shouldn’t just be directed at your customers. Take time to assess and improve policies to keep your staff safe and healthy, especially if they are returning to the office.
You also need to develop a communication strategy to relay these changes to your employees and customers. This step isn’t just about safety—it’s also a marketing tactic that will help separate you from your competitors. Letting everyone know you care just as much about their health as you do your business will give them peace of mind and a sense of security.
Consider How Your Target Audience Has Changed
Even once everyone in your town is healthy and back to some semblance of “normal,” many will still be dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
Most of your customers lost income during quarantine from layoffs, pay cuts, or furloughs. Unfortunately, it may take a while for many of these people to get back to earning a stable paycheck again as the coronavirus closed many businesses for good.
To make matters worse, many states have mishandled unemployment benefits during the pandemic, leaving some without any source of income.
While the financial effects of the pandemic will be massive, people will also be left to handle the emotional, physical, and psychological effects. Self-isolation plays a toll on everyone mentally, changes priorities, and can strain relationships. Your customers’ needs may be completely different than they were before, and you need to take the time to determine what—if anything—has changed.
If your target audience has been severely affected financially, then you may need to modify your price. If you can’t lower your price now, consider changing the materials used or adjust the quality to give you more flexibility.
After the quarantine, you’ll need to take a hard look at your business and target audience to determine the best way to move forward. If you need to pivot, do so quickly.
Profile Employees Who Have Returned to Work
If we learned anything during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the value of people. We helped loved ones who came down with the virus and offered support to families affected financially. You can continue this trend by putting your employees first in your promotional efforts.
Introduce (or re-introduce) employees who returned to work after the pandemic. Talk about the great work they do and why they are happy to be back at your business. If you are one of the lucky few who hired new staff during this period, talk about your growth and thank your customers for supporting you during the pandemic.
Right now, customers are very conscious of the actions of brands. You can set your business apart by showing how you cared for your employees during that stressful time.
Turn to the Local News for Support
Turn to your local publications, radio stations, and TV news channels to see how they are covering reopenings. There might be a weekly profile of a local business or interviews with owners. See if you can get your brand featured by one of these outlets. Mass media is still one of the top ways to reach new audiences and drum up excitement about your brand.
If you have the budget, consider buying advertising space in your local newspaper or sponsoring an email from a relevant blogger. Many papers lost a significant amount of advertising revenue as businesses closed during the pandemic. Not only does buying ad space serve to promote your brand, but it also supports local journalism.
Update Your Images and Marketing Materials
After a few months of nothing but pandemic news, Netflix, and endless hours on Twitter, most people are ready for something new. Look at your current marketing messages and see if you need to update your branding.
For your opening launch, consider modifying your graphics with new products, your updated store layout, or changes to your staff. Even if you didn’t change much during the pandemic, you can use this time to refresh your marketing materials in a way that appeals to new audiences.
If your business is still closed, use the downtime to update your photos, videos, and other promotional items so you can hit the ground running with fresh marketing materials as soon as you reopen.
There is no playbook for reopening businesses after a pandemic. Most government leaders and chambers of commerce are making up plans as they go along. As you promote your brand post-COVID-19, stay flexible, and understand that you may need to make a few changes to handle new consumer and market trends.