Where Small Businesses Should Spend Their Marketing Dollars in a Pandemic

Photo by Alexander Mils

 

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Americans normally work, shop and spend their leisure time. Since consumers as a whole have decreased their overall spending, companies in turn have decreased their marketing budgets. However, businesses shouldn’t make the mistake of slashing and burning their marketing budgets completely. McDonald’s did this during the 1990-1991 recession and saw sales drop by 28%. Fast food competitors Pizza Hut and Taco Bell strengthened their advertising budgets, and increased sales by 61% and 40% respectively.

So, where should small businesses spend their marketing dollars in the most cost-effective way right now? Social media advertising (also called paid social), content marketing, and market research are the best ways companies can maximize their budgets right now. 

Social Media Advertising

Photo by William Iven

Compared to pay per click advertising models like Google Adwords, paid social is still more affordable for advertisers. Average CPC (cost per click) for Google Adwords is between $1-2 on the search network, while for Facebook ads, it’s about $0.35 globally and about $0.28 in the U.S. Advertisers can choose to either run an ongoing campaign with a minimum daily budget of $5 or boost a post (usually a one-time cost) for $10 to reach a certain percentage of their Facebook page’s followers.

Interesting facts you should know:

  • The pandemic actually caused a drop in Facebook advertising prices when you compare CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per mille impressions) prices from Q12019 to Q12020. Check the charts below from Revealbot.

  • Ad prices did tick back up in April & May 2020, likely due to advertisers returning to the platform. Advertisers should focus campaign objectives on Reach+App Install, which saw the biggest increases in CPM. (source: Revealbot)
  • Social media platforms saw solid growth in their monthly active users, with Facebook,Youtube, and Whatsapp seeing the most growth in April 2020. (source: Next Web)
  • Advertisers can now reach more than 2 billion people on Facebook. (source: Next Web)  

Bottom line: Facebook advertising and paid social advertising in general are the best ways to reach a captive audience, since many people are turning to social media for connection, entertainment, and information. 

Potential cost: $5- $$ (depends on your ad budget and campaign length)

Content Marketing

Photo by Florian Klauer

Even though most internet users have increased their time spent online, brands still need to consider whether the content they publish is relevant, interesting, and valuable. People are more likely to pay attention if your content hits these points:

  • Craft content that’s both informational and entertaining. If your content can both alleviate pain points and do so in a humorous or light-hearted way, you’re more likely to convince your readers to perform an action- whether that’s signing up for an email list, buying a product, listening to a webinar, or visiting a website. 
  • Efficiency and DIY topics are likely to be a huge hit with employees who have had to shoulder an extra workload because of downsizing while still needing to make deadlines. 
  • Tune into the thoughts, emotions, and challenges people are feeling with working remotely during this pandemic and what your brand can do for them.

Bottom line: Whitepapers, webinars, blog articles and Facebook/Instagram Live videos don’t require much overhead but do need the involvement of content writers, designers and social media managers. 

Potential cost: $$ Time and manpower from key internal + possibly external stakeholders. 

Market Research

Are your customers’ values and behavior still the same, prior to COVID-19? Chances are, probably not. Consumer purchasing behaviors change in a down economy. 

Confirm what products, software, and services your customers still deem essential. Market research in the form of feedback forms, surveys, and email campaigns can help determine whether customers will remain with a premium product line, downgrade to a basic package, or switch to a cheaper substitute/competitor.

Learning your customers’ priorities during this time will help you figure out if and where to reallocate funds and manpower. It is more important than ever to be responsive to what your customers are saying and doing, and adjusting expectations as necessary. 

Bottom line: Verify your core customer needs in order to make critical decisions about product roll out and existing services. 

Potential cost: $$ Internal stakeholder labor plus additional low-cost and free tools such as Survey Monkey, JotForm, and Hubspot Make My Persona which help you create surveys and generate buyer personas. 

Post by Courtney L.

Guide to Social Media Marketing For Startups & Small Businesses – Part I

Which social media platform is right for you?

This blog post is part of a series focusing on emerging brands, startups and small businesses that are just beginning their marketing/PR efforts. 

How are we defining a small business? Although the Small Business Administration typically defines a small business as less than 500 employees, this series focuses on businesses that are even smaller than that.

Photo by Mike Petrucci
Photo by Mike Petrucci

 

By now, social media is so ubiquitous that it feels like an everyday part of one’s life, no different than email (which, umm, why has no one disrupted this yet??). Yet the majority of small businesses (or even Small to Medium Business – SMBs) still lack basic social media strategy, with some lacking even a presence.

This series will focus on which social media platforms are optimal for a small business brand. This is NOT for social media advertising (which will come later) but for organic marketing on social media. We’ll discuss content, advertising and integration in later blog posts.

This particular series will focus on U.S.-based small businesses/startups that caters to consumers (not B2B), and that don’t have the budget to hire folks like us. They’ll have to start scrappy and do it for themselves.

With all of that out of the way, which social media platforms should a brand new small business catering to consumers focus on? Given that the small brand will have to DIY their social media marketing, and resources are extremely tight, only one or two platforms can be tackled for optimal ROI.

 

Photo by William Iven
Photo by William Iven

Facebook 

Facebook is still the #1 platform in the U.S. and will likely remain at that top spot for a while. There are few businesses and brands that Facebook doesn’t make sense for. However, Facebook is now pay-to-play (gotta justify that stock price!) so if you aren’t routinely “boosting” posts, then you’re SOL. Even spending $5 on one post per month will see your engagement skyrocket, compared to not spending any money at all. Does this suck for brands with extremely limited budgets? Absolutely. But we all knew that the free ride wouldn’t last, especially when Facebook went public.

While $5 for, say, a weekly post won’t break any budgets, it can add up. Unfortunately, depending on organic reach is a thing of the past. How can a small business get around having to pay-to-play? Hashtags have become as critical to audience growth on Facebook as it has on Twitter and Instagram. So #hashtag the #shiz out of that #ish (<–don’t actually do that – that’s really dumb). Another way to grow an audience is to tag/mention other pages.

But ultimately, content is still king. Videos can still “go viral” without plugging in your credit card number. And sometimes, a brand can just get plain lucky. Look at the Kohl’s Chewbacca mom video for proof of that. Treat your customers well and you might be surprised how they will reward your brand on social media.

 

Photo courtesy of FreeStocks.org
Photo courtesy of FreeStocks.org

Twitter

For many B2C brands, Twitter will be as important as Facebook. We have found Twitter to be the best platform for local brick & mortar businesses, in particular. The best businesses that thrive on Twitter are still ones like Kogi taco truck (the brand that revolutionized local social marketing on Twitter), that can tweet out a location, or a special deal, for customers who might be wandering nearby.

Be warned, however. Twitter has become a customer service platform, with customers routinely tweeting complaints to brands. B2C brands in particular bear the brunt of Twitter complaints. If you don’t have a way to address customer service complaints on Twitter, you’ll be digging yourself a hole that will be difficult to crawl out of. Even before you set up your Twitter page (or Facebook, for that matter), make sure you have customer service response plan in place. Whether it’s merely responding to a tweet with an email address to contact, or actually addressing issues directly, have a plan and don’t be caught unaware. Unlike Facebook, you can’t delete or hide criticisms on Twitter. It’s the most transparent of platforms.

 

Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters
Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters

Instagram

If you have even a somewhat visually appealing store or product, then Instagram is your best option. The engagement on Instagram is significantly higher than any of the other platforms; however, that doesn’t mean it translates into sales. If you’re suddenly rewarded with hundreds of likes for your photo, don’t get *too* excited. Instagram is not great at driving sales or traffic, primarily because it doesn’t easily allow for links. But what it’s great for is showcasing your brand in a visually compelling way.

The businesses that it’s particular great for: Consumer products, especially fashion brands; entertainment brands; stores such as bookstores and consumer goods; travel and luxury brands; restaurants/food brands.

Because so many Instagram users will take photos of your business, it’s important to acknowledge them (favoriting/liking their photo, via the heart icon, is a good start), and then engage and occasionally reward them (we’ll talk about engagement and rewards later).

When regramming a user’s photo/video, be sure to tag them and credit them (better yet, ask for permission first. Most users are more than happy to see their photos be picked up).

There are so many ways to be creative on Instagram. Leverage the layout, for instance, with a photo collage. Use the video function to drive traffic outside of the app, etc. It’s one of the best marketing platforms for any brand that can take a simple photo.

We’ll discuss the other social media platforms in part II of our series. Check back on bethechangepr.com/news. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter as well. 

Drink It In: 3 Alcohol Brands With Winning Marketing Tactics

 

Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters
Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters

It’s not easy launching an alcohol brand. We’ve experienced the rigors of alcohol brand marketing and PR ourselves with our previous alcohol clients like Pinky Vodka. In addition to the need for serious marketing and sales costs, alcohol brands have hurdles to jump through for marketing that others don’t. In the U.S., alcohol brands’ customer base has a hard minimum age of 21 and they have to warn about the dangers of overindulgence of their product. There’s also more and more competition each day, as small and craft products emerge and become local favorites, and behemoth conglomerate brands leverage big budgets to overwhelm startups.

Where some companies might see walls, these brands saw opportunity. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting alcohol brands today and how they offer cool refreshment through marketing.

Budweiser

Though Budweiser is owned by Belgian conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, the flagship beer brand knows how to best use the stars & stripes. In time for the presidential election, Budweiser scrapped its own branding on cans and bottles in favor of America.

 

Cheesy? Sure, but this is a savvy move for Budweiser. Who wouldn’t want to take a big, cold swig of America? This bold decision is the latest in a bigger marketing campaign that thumbs its nose at the rise of trendy microbreweries. Budweiser is a brand that knows what it is and who drinks it — people who don’t want something small-batch or artisanal, but truly heartland American.

Bud Light has also gotten into the discussion this election season. They’ve formed the satirical Bud Light Party, chaired by comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. Much like the Democrats and Republicans, the Bud Light Party is going on the road to meet with constituents.

Takeaway: Know your customers. Budweiser knows that the people who drink their beer didn’t mistake it for your local pumpkin spice craft summer IPA. They also tapped into the sentiment of unease with a two-party political system by creating a fictional third party. It’s a smart way to latch on to what’s shaping out to be a historic election for our nation.

Stone Brewing Co.

This San Diego-based craft brewery excels at social marketing — without a Budweiser budget.

At the onset, Stone took pride in having a non-existent marketing budget. Their fans are more than happy to spread the word without much prompting. While Stone has a marketing team, most of the influence comes from those who drink the product.

Stone, which has produced popular brews such as Arrogant Bastard, created a social marketing hit with their Enjoy By IPA. The beer’s label is adorned with a date, telling the customer when the beer should be consumed for maximum freshness.

This created immediacy (instead of letting a couple of bottles languish in the back of the fridge, customers know they need to drink the beer soon) and gave consumers a cool subject for Instagram posts.

http://www.instagram.com/p/BHydI6QAYm7/

The posts seem to perk up around the time of landmark dates, such as April 20 or July 4.

Takeaway: You don’t need a social media guru or a huge advertising budget to grow your company. With smart labeling and clever marketing, Stone Brewing Co. has become one of the biggest craft breweries, thanks to plenty of word-of-mouth.

Pappy Van Winkle

Haven’t heard of this brand? You’re not alone. This bourbon made by the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery doesn’t have a verified presence on Facebook or Twitter.

It is the anti-Fireball. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, with a full-on marketing blitz, Pappy Van Winkle knows that its customers are hardcore whiskey fans. That’s good enough for them.

More importantly, they’re whiskey fans who will tell their friends. Pappy’s been described as a “cult” liquor. It’s probably not available at your local watering hole, but the scarcity of the product has only led to overwhelming demand.

Since it’s such a small batch bourbon, it’s very hard to find. Bottles sometimes hit the secondary market, commanding thousands of dollars. People are even forging bottles of Pappy Van Winkle.

Pappy’s appeals to lovers of quality bourbon, and the lack of availability only helps it grow more popular. They know they’re not in the same market as mass-produced brands such as Jim Beam.

Takeaway: Be authentic. As the Ron Swanson chair of the liquor market, Pappy Van Winkle excels at being a premium and exclusive brand. They don’t try to compete with the Jack Daniel’s and Fireballs of the world, since they know they have a different customer base. Less is more.

As many alcohol customers look for price point or quality, these brands have found a way to stand out among the crowd. Even if you don’t have the instant name recognition of Budweiser or cult following of Pappy Van Winkle, you can use creativity to get fans on board — and sharing with friends.

Need help with your alcohol brand’s PR? We love to drink and we do it well! Contact us today.