Advice from a Small Business Marketer

Apr 15

With the shelter-in-place recommendations due to COVID-19, many small businesses are left to figure out how to run their business in this new climate.  After all, bills still need to be paid, inventory is sitting on the shelves and any remaining staff are still on payroll. This puts a lot of pressure on small businesses, especially for those who are not digitally savvy. Those who previously did not have an immediate need to create a fully functioning e-commerce store or social media strategy may be feeling isolated—or overwhelmed by the idea that they now have to learn everything about social media, website stores and email marketing.  

But there is good news. Taking small steps into the digital space can point you in the right direction to help you weather the shelter-in-place restrictions and stay on top once it is lifted. The consumer is, whether active or inactive, in a constant state of “buying,” so you’ll want to prepare for the times when foot traffic is light to none and when consumers are enabled to continue (closer to) normal shopping patterns.  

According to Emarsys/GoodDataUS online shopping is up 56%. 

U.S. consumers are turning to e-commerce more during the COVID-19 outbreak due to the fact that social distancing measures and shelter-in-place orders have made online shopping more convenient or in some cases, the only way to get the goods they need. Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights

To capture this online shopping market, here are some key activities you can do now that will not only get you started in becoming more savvy online, but will also help generate sales.  


It’s time to re-merchandise your website

If you have an online store, it’s time to re-merchandise and cater to what your potential customer is looking for today. Be creative in how you look at your inventory and think about what you would need or what you would recommend doing during a climate like this one.  Merchandising your store by theme or category makes it easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for.  Do not assume your customer will go to your existing online store and just know what a “must have” or “essential” item is—you’ll need to educate them as they scroll through your home page. Once you are done re-merchandising, let your customers or followers know by publishing the news on your online communication channels!

If you do not have a website, this is a great time to test out both re-merchandising and explore website and ecommerce options. Choose your best shelter-in-place related or essential items. Cozy clothes, wellness related, or activities to keep you away from boredom are just a few ideas.  If you are a store that sells a lot of unique items, create themed bundles to move multiple items at once. You can create simple online stores of just a few products using many e-commerce solutions, like WooCommerce (for WordPress), Squarespace and Wix. You don’t have to be a developer to implement these solutions on your website—these providers use drag-and-drop features and template based designs.  

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Use your Social Media channel to grow your audience

Social Media is especially important right now. But what is more important is the story and content you are creating around your posts. No longer are the days that you can just put your product or service as a simple photo and say “for sale.” It is about providing solutions for your customer’s problem by communicating visually and through thoughtful captions. One way to measure if your posts are resonating to your audience is to check if they are being “saved” for later viewing in your Instagram insights.  

We are also seeing an effort across businesses in “community building” and a sentiment of “sticking together.” These efforts not only create a stronger brand presence but also growth in followers.  

Ask yourself: how does my product help my customer? How is my service improving my customers day-to-day? Use the answer to this question as your foundation to what you are planning to post and share on social media. Here is a content planning calendar to help organize your ideas. 


Email is key right now 

An activity that is often overlooked is email. Many business owners are worried about “spamming” their email lists. This is where you learn the difference between “serve” and “sell” type of emails.  Serve emails provide helpful information to your audience—selling is secondary and not a main topic in the email.  “Sell” emails are when you are selling your product. This means you have an offer, show off a product category or sell a specific service.  With the right mix of “serve” and “sell” tactics in your emails. you will start to notice your unsubscribers will decrease and an overall improvement in open rate performance.

Every email should have a theme. Emails that are full of information such as store news, products to buy, store announcements, blog launches are too much for a reader to digest on their mobile screens. Split these topics to separate emails for easier reading with a clear subject line.

Want to improve your email lists? I highly recommend ConvertKit or drip email providers. These offer link logic by creating smart links to help segment your customers to ensure they are being delivered targeted email content. The better you serve your customer with content that they want to see, the better the opportunity for a sale conversion. 

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Social Media Ads – Invest in brand awareness

To boost or not to boost, a long time argument between marketers. Boosting ads are great for brand awareness, especially if you are trying to build your followers and page engagement. Ad costs are based on impressions, people who have seen your ads. Boosting ads can be done from your page or mobile phone or in your Facebook Ad Center on your business page.  

Facebook Business Ads Manager is worth considering if you want to send your customers perusing on Facebook to a specific landing page on your website.  The Business Ads Manager is a powerful tool that lets you add customer information like emails, past sales, website traffic, Instagram traffic and more. You can also create a look-a-like audience based on your current customer base, and create ads that speak to more people who are similar to those who already shop with you.  Furthermore, the tool enables you to create dynamic creative and product ads by uploading several title options, images, and videos. From there, Facebook will create different combinations for you. Keep in mind that the Business Ads Manager involves more setup and step-by-step ad creation.  

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