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.

3 Quick Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Small businesses (or SMEs) are often understaffed and it’s often left to the business owner to run a social media account. When you’re juggling a thousand balls in the air, it’s easy to forget best practices. As hectic as operations get in your small business, keep these three simple social media marketing tips in mind.

Don’t Run Ten Accounts Poorly
With so many social media platforms – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snap and whatever flavor of the month catches tech press’ fancy (remember ello??) – it’s easy to feel compelled to be on all platforms. FOMO is real when it comes to social media marketing. However, not every platform’s audience is right for your business. Focus on quality, not quantity. Pick the top platform that your customers are heavily engaged in and focus on creating quality content on that platform, rather than every single social media platform.
Reward Your Customers
Don’t forget to reward your existing customers when creating social promotions designed to lure new customers. Existing customers don’t want to feel left out or “punished” for being loyal. Promotions for first time customers/new customers are certainly important but if they’re the only promotions you’re pushing on social media, your loyal customers will feel left out in the cold. It doesn’t always have to be discounts but offer opportunities for your loyal customers to feel like a part of the family, from exclusive invites to sneak peeks.
Don’t Forget It’s a Dialogue
Listen! Don’t just push discounts, sales and promotions about your business non-stop. Your followers want more than to be sold to when it comes to social media. Share content that might interest them, because it interests you. Remember that social media isn’t a one-way street. Don’t post content and walk away from your computer. Monitor, read and actively listen to what your customers tell you on social media. Don’t be defensive, paranoid or have a heavy hand on the delete key. Take in the feedback, do your best to make amends when you can, and make adjustments as needed.

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Be Heard on Social This Holiday Season

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Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, social feeds will be filled with ads and marketing messages enticing shoppers to buy the perfect gift.

But when everyone from your cousin’s Etsy page to Fortune 500 brands are competing for eyeballs, clicks and dollars, how can a small business stand out among the noise?

Here are some ways you can meet your KPIs as the calendar turns to December.

1) Instagram Stories

Photo by Hans Vivek

Move over, Snapchat. The hottest time-bomb messaging program is baked right into Instagram. Boasting 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are becoming the go-to platform for brands big and small.

Users love watching Instagram Stories, and brands are able to include a Call to Action, such as directly linking to a landing page. Now you can even upload photos to your Instagram Stories that are older than 24 hours, allowing your marketing team to plan.

Instagram Stories allows companies to show off a fun, playful side — but the short life of posts means you can create immediate demand with limited-time-only sales.

For instance, Black Sheep Cycling used Instagram Stories to promote a new cycling kit. They announced the promotion in a traditional Instagram post, then used Instagram Stories to showcase the outfit — with a one-hour sale. They sold out in 30 minutes. You can also post coupons to drive in-store traffic, such as announcing a 50 percent off sale of a certain product or showcasing a hot new item.

Not only does this create immediate desire, it lets your customers feel like they’re in a special club with access to this discount. You can promote the Instagram Story sale on Facebook, or wherever your fan base is, to drive traffic there.

2) Be a Mobile MVP

By Jonas Leupe

It feels like old advice at this point, but it still needs to be said. Just having a great website or Facebook page isn’t enough. Increasingly, shoppers are checking mobile first, even if they convert on desktop or in store.

If you’re using Instagram Stories to drive customers to a dedicated landing page, make sure the mobile experience is top-notch. If you’re linking out to blog posts from Twitter, those pages need to load quickly, or else eyes will wander.

Adobe has predicted that nearly half of all retail website visits this holiday season will come via mobile (45 percent), nearly eclipsing desktop (46 percent). The percentage of mobile visits has grown considerably, up from 33 percent in 2015.

Unless you already have a dedicated userbase, don’t place too much importance on a mobile app. Adobe found that while 64 percent of shoppers have a retail app on their phone, only 32 percent would download an app specifically for holiday shopping. You’re better off driving traffic to your mobile-friendly website.

3) Charitable Efforts

 

By Nina Strehl

 

More and more, people want to make sure they’re spending responsibly. As companies come under fire for derogatory statements by leadership or wasteful business practices, today’s consumer wants their dollar to go somewhere worthwhile.

The uptick in cause marketing and the success of cause-based for-profit companies like TOMs shows how critical it is for brands to do good and be good.

This doesn’t mean you need to donate all of your profits to world peace or pivot to becoming a charitable nonprofit. You can tie sales goals to a cause that your customers care about, such as announcing via Facebook that you’ll give a percent of profits on a certain item to a local homeless shelter or posting an Instagram coupon saying customers can get 25 percent off by donating school supplies.

Holidays are the time to make an emotional appeal, whether that’s laughter or tears. Brands all over the world have put away the schtick this holiday season to connect with their customers emotionally. You can do that on a local scale, by showcasing yourself as a charitable neighbor.

Bay Area clothing retailer Oaklandish has this down to a science. The company embraces its standing, partnering with local organizations and giving back. They know they’re not just a business in Oakland, but a member of the community.

Find ways that you can emotionally connect with your customers by getting involved with causes close to them, and to you — and tell that story responsibly on social.

Written by Justin L.

 

3 Things Small Businesses Should Consider For Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Photo of Montreal’s Clark Street Mercantile

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve heard how influencer marketing has helped brands big and small, using trusted content creators to share their messaging.

Studies have even shown that each dollar spent on influencer marketing generates $6.50 in revenue. Consumers follow recommendations from their favorite content creators, as 92 percent of people surveyed said they trust an influencer more than an ad or endorsement from a celebrity.

 

Photo by Eaters Collective

But is partnering with an influencer the right move for your small business? Budgets for influencer marketing continue to increase, especially as top YouTubers and Snapchatters command top dollar for their services. The costs for influencer marketing are overwhelming, and can dominate your entire marketing budget.

Small businesses can still reap major benefits from influencer marketing, though they have to be more careful than Fortune 500 companies when partnering with a popular content creator. We’ve heard of businesses spending thousands of dollars to partner with an influencer, only to see little to no ROI from the campaign, as no relevancy was in place.

Here are three things small businesses should consider before partnering with an influencer, based on our own experiences:

1) Is the influencer relevant to your company?

The first mistake many companies make is getting seduced by follower counts. While it might look cool to have a well-followed influencer talking about your product in their podcast or vlog, the cost to get that conversation going often heavily outweighs the ROI.

You need to find an influencer who is relevant to what your company is trying to accomplish. If your company sells life insurance, trying to woo a beauty vlogger with a million followers could be a costly mistake.

The most important currency to influencers isn’t money, it’s trust. They’ve built a community on a solid foundation of trust and authenticity. While some lesser-known influencers might take the money and share your message with a disinterested audience, others will turn you down because your product has nothing to do with their messaging.

At the most basic level, find a content creator who shares similar messaging to your company. For instance, if you’re a hardware store, partnering with a popular DIY builder on YouTube would be a natural fit.

2) Is the audience relevant to your company?

This is the other big question you need to ask before starting an influencer marketing campaign. Look at the audience that the personality speaks to on a daily basis. Is it the same demographic you’re trying to reach? Unless these goals are in perfect alliance, it would be unwise to move forward.

If you’re trying to reach affluent Millennials (and have a product they would be interested in), working with a vlogger whose primary audience is tween girls could be a waste of time and money. Do some homework and study the audiences.

Audiences follow influencers not because they’re really great at reading ad copy, but because there is an authentic connection. These influencers know this, and usually only work with brands who have a message that resonates with their audience. An influencer marketing campaign absolutely has to tie into your main business objective, or it runs the substantial risk of not delivering ROI.

The trust between the content creator and their audience is crucial, but lucrative. Google found that 6 out of 10 YouTube subscribers would follow purchasing advice from their favorite content creator over their favorite TV or movie personality.

3) Is there a local influencer?

For most small businesses, the best pairing won’t come from an international superstar YouTube personality with a massive cache of followers. It will come from someone the local community trusts.

Hyperlocal influencer messaging is on the rise, as small businesses look for ways to break into new levels of conversation. Businesses are partnering with Yelp reviewers, popular local bloggers and podcasters, amateur athletes, creating relevant content specifically targeted toward local customers.

The major risk of influencer marketing is the lack of sustainable ROI. If you spend your entire marketing budget on a high-priced influencer just because they’re followed by throngs of subscribers, you’ll likely receive a temporary spike. Once that influencer moves on, so will their followers.

But by asking customers where they go to learn more about their community — whether that’s a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, etc. — you’re able to see where they voluntarily go for content.
The winning influencer for your company might be just footsteps from your storefront.

By Justin L.

5 Ways PR is Easier Than Ever For Small Business

Small businesses like our favorite neighborhood bookstore, The Green Arcade, have more PR opportunities than ever before
Small businesses like our favorite neighborhood bookstore, The Green Arcade, have more PR opportunities than ever before. Photo: Change Communications

We PR pros like to kvetch about how media relations has become infinitely more difficult, thanks to the digital age (and it really has, given that the ratio of PR pros to journalists sometimes feels like 1,000 to 5 – no, really, it’s bad). But for small business brands and SMBs, digital media has ushered in a significantly easier PR landscape. Now, more than ever, PR has gotten easier, cheaper and more effective, for small businesses to leverage.

No More Gatekeepers                          

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You don’t need to spend big bucks to wine and dine media, or even try to figure out how to get a hold of them. Now, anyone who discovers you can spread the word about you. Brand ambassadors abound, and are more than eager to share how great your business is. Media used to be the gatekeepers to the precious social currency of knowing what the hot new businesses were. In today’s world, social media has broken down those exclusive gates and anyone can discover you and share the good news.

Free Crowdsourcing Makes You Better
Online critics make it imperative for your product to be great  – this is a good thing! While many businesses complain about companies like TripAdvisor or Yelp (and many of the criticisms are very valid), the silver lining is that online reviews can force businesses to just plain be better. Doing business better and creating better products (whether that’s a physical product or a service) can turn haters into fans. Bonus: you have free, built-in crowdsourcing and virtual survey results! You no longer need to pay a market research firm to do this for you – just read your

online reviews and see where the pain points are.

Can’t Get the Media’s Attention? Write it Yourself

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Content marketing has always existed in PR – it’s just been christened with an annoying new term. If you can’t get a reporter to tell your story for you, do it for yourself. Blog posts and social media postings can help you explain your business, tell a great story and are often an easier way to get a reporter’s attention. Creativity is your currency and clever viral posts or memes can have a life of their own that draw even more attention.

Who Needs Billboards When You Have Facebook?

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While it’s true that you have to have a certain ad budget for social media, which no longer offers brands a free ride, you don’t need to break the bank anymore like you used to when you had to take out television or bus stop ads or billboards. You can spend as little as $100 on a Facebook promotion and get it amplified. Our client, Tiger Pistol, has seen small businesses generate massive ROI on budgets under $500 for entire campaigns (this handy dandy report from BIA/Kelsey that uses small biz case studies from Tiger Pistol is worth a read). Plus, you get access to insightful data on your customers that you wouldn’t get from a magazine ad. Analytics still have a long way to go to compete with SEO analytics but it’s improving.

Social media has created options on the ad spend front. Google AdWords is incredibly costly, though certainly still very effective for many businesses. Social media advertising has emerged as an equally effective, and less expensive, option.

Proliferation of PR Means Lower Costs

PR costs have gotten less expensive as the industry saturates. While this isn’t necessarily a good thing for firms like ours, it definitely helps small businesses reach out to more people who can help them market their brand. From solo freelancers to boutique shops to specialists, there’s a plethora of affordable PR options for small businesses.

While social media is no longer the level playing field for brands that some thought it might be (given that it’s the new advertising), digital media has created many more affordable options for small businesses to better market themselves and generate great PR. There’s no excuse anymore. Go do it.

Don’t want to do it for yourself? We’re here to help, and we love small businesses. Contact us today.