Some thoughts from the SME community during the COVID-19 pandemic
In unprecedented times we have spoken (and are continuing to do so) to lots of the founders of our clients past and present. From these conversations we have seen some clear recurring themes and we thought we would share these with the SME community. Hopefully these can be of some help in this testing time:
1. Drive everything online
Everyone is moving to shopping online, finding information online, working out online etc. So, your marketing and sales focus should shift towards online retailers, online sales, online messaging, online media and online marketing. This includes your own platforms which need to be up to date and if possible, transactional. Social media platforms and online traffic are seeing unprecedented levels across Europe at the moment (as an aside this means advertising CPRs are some of the lowest we have seen).
We are conscious that some brands do not have an online presence or distribution capability. If that is the case, please contact us and we will try and connect you with another brand or business who may be able to help you out firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Max out Amazon, Ocado & your direct sales via dot.com
Drive as much as you can through these channels, especially Amazon, as they have the infrastructure to deliver and are also investing in more staff and warehouse capability to increase their capacity further. We are also seeing people shift towards brand websites, ordering directly, as they struggle to order through multiple grocers, high street and their usual stores.
Lots of local restaurants are transforming their model and starting to offer retail options or delivery. Have a look in your local area who you could partner with, support and supply.
3. Reassure people that stock is available and point them towards it
Ensure you are doing this in a non-exploitative way; offers, bundle deals, bulk buys and random acts of kindness are key. Focus on highlighting the functional benefits of your products at the moment versus emotional. Currently people are buying essentials but as this situation continues (over the next 4-6 weeks) we expect to see people revert to a new norm and want to replicate little luxuries at home e.g. pamper time, recreating an out of home dining experience in the home etc. As one client said, “people will still want wine and chocolate”. We are also seeing pre-planned searches already happening across Amazon, Google and social chatter. This includes women wondering how they are going to cover their grey hair = increase in home hair dye searches…through to people looking at ordering home fitness equipment and more. Beauty is definitely in this lag at the moment as food and personal care take the lead.
4. Content is more important than ever! People want communities, albeit virtual!
Don’t go dark. Don’t avoid coronavirus and pretend it isn’t happening. Now is the opportunity to leverage and build a strong community. Content needs to be reassuring, positive, empowering and helpful.
Create content locally and regularly. Instagram & Facebook Stories are absolutely key. We are seeing more drops of likes and views of static feed as everyone moves to bite size short-form content.
Think about video e.g. IGTV
FB and IG lives are really taking off, so think about content across these medium e.g. cook-a-longs, virtual events / meet-ups, fitness from home, self-love sessions etc. Celebrities, influencers, brands and businesses are being so creative. We can send you some examples if you are interested.
Leverage your community to create relevant content for your brand. This should be about them and not you. So, how can you get them to support your business and create content for the community?
Influencer marketing – getting them to specify you, support and champion you. You will need to find a way to send product out and do this in a genuine way. There are lots of influencers out there that want to help, so make sure you contact everyone you have worked with to date and ask if them if they could help you out.
Community management and out-reach is even more important than ever. Don't wait for people to contact you, you should be contacting them and interacting.
Connect daily e.g. polls, questions, quizzes and re-posting of information.
Brand Collaborations and giveaways, especially random acts of kindness.
How can you support people on the front line e.g. gifting product to hospitals, homeless etc? If you do this, it needs to be sustainable and meaningful.
“We all need to be creative and inventive in these new times, especially how we connect and cut-through to our consumers and communities”
5. People are going to be at home and will go back to basics like reading
Think about long-form content too e.g. blogs, vlogs and even PR. Stylist magazine has moved online already, and publications still need content and stories. We are hearing that journalists are being more responsive than ever, probably as media consumption is at an all time high! Also think about YouTube, local/regional media and databases (ECRM) to communicate with people in longer form.
6. Paid Advertising
You should think about what you advertise, how, when and where. Think about programmatic, targeting and messaging. Advertising shouldn’t be hard sell at present. Reassurance is important including messaging like, “Don’t worry stock is still available via X” or “Recreate X in your own home with Y”.
Facebook has also announced a credit scheme for small businesses to help them during this tough time to support paid advertising. We are waiting for news on this but will share as soon as we have it. We don't think they will be the last to do this.
7. Brand Partnerships
Partner with brands to create relevant content and find support across the SME community e.g. Craft Beer & Snacks creating a Saturday Night In box etc. What other partners can help you during this time? Consider brands, businesses, retailer marketing teams, key opinion leaders, media contacts, influencers and other resources. Everyone will be re-planning content, so try and get access to this, share content, piggy-back on other activity and brands.
8. Innovation Launches
Two schools of thought on this. Those that say park everything and focus on core. Those that say accelerate everything and get a broader range out and online ASAP. Ultimately we think this comes down to the personal financial cost and business risk of bring new innovation to the market at this time and its relevance at the moment. Only you can make this decision.
9. Longer Term Planning
Now is the time to do all the stuff that falls to the bottom of the to do list. We should definitely kickstart those longer-term projects and start planning for the future. It sounds silly, but as one client said,
“you need to plan for now but also adapt as things change. Don't just shift focus onto the here and now, you need to also plan to have a steady footing when we emerge on the other side of this”.
As this is a global issue and not a UK one, we are anticipating some shifts in consumer behaviour and attitudes to come out of this. Will we become more digitally centric? Will we be more local versus global focused? Will it change the way we consume media? What could be the impact on future food consumption? Whilst we don't know the answer to these questions you need to think about this when planning forward.
10. Support your retailer contacts (within reason)
They need help pushing stock through the supply chain. Make their lives as easy as possible. If you can’t get the buyer, then go through operations if possible. Also, if you can, offer to help out in stores and support your local store staff.
“Now more than ever they need to support small brands, but we also need to support them too”
11. Be Creative
We are already seeing businesses having to change their models e.g. LEON becoming a shop and online retailer. How can you transition and flex during this time? We are having to think about this ourselves and look at other services we can offer.
12. Keep being agile
Every day we are hearing new news. So you need to be “real time, responsive and sensitive” to what is happening that day and week. This is key for content, leveraging your communities and messaging..
13. Finally, be conscious of the replenishment curve
“With people stock-piling we will undoubtedly see a flattening as they don’t re-purchase in future weeks and months”. This is especially key for non-expandable consumption goods. Also, don’t forget to consider any impact warmer weather may have.
If you need anything don’t hesitate to give us a buzz email@example.com. We are happy to offer any help we can, even if a call to ideate a way through. The survival of SMEs is core to the survival of our business, so we will do anything to help you keep your head above the water.
Letty and The Mind Collective team x