These past few weeks have been tough. Almost every business owner I know has witnessed a massive drop in business, with some needing to completely shut down in the short term due to government regulations. There’s the pressure of trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and the pressure of trying to stay healthy. It’s heavy.
I allowed myself a few days to absorb it all last week. After a bit of wallowing, I realized I needed a plan. Not a plan to turn this all around, because if we’re being frank, none of us are going to be able to figure out how to adapt for the long term until we have more clarity on how this is going to pan out. So instead, I focused on the short term: what projects have I been putting off for ages because I “didn’t have time”. Seeing as I have plenty of time now, that seemed like a good place to start.
I put the question to our social media community as well by sharing the template on the left for people to use on their Instastories (feel free to use it too and tag us so we can reshare!). We got some excellent responses, and I loved that most people are using their time to help the community in any way they can. Check out the highlight on our Instagram page to see what everyone is up to.
From a marketer’s perspective, downtime can be great if put to good use. I often use the Arabic phrase “the carpenter’s door is always broken” because as a marketing firm we tend to put off some of our basic tasks in favour of supporting our clients. Now it’s time to fix that door!
Below are a few marketing projects that any business owner can benefit from working on during these slower (and simultaneously more chaotic) times.
Make Videos for Social Media
This should be at the top of your list if you are not comfortable on camera. I don’t need to tell you how important video has become, and people respond even more positively to video that features the people behind brands.
If you haven’t started using video regularly, now’s the time. While it doesn’t have to be uber-edited, it helps to do the basics like buying a small tripod for your phone and finding a quiet location with good lighting. Record a few (or a few dozen) practice runs speaking about topics you’re comfortable with. This is not a Shakespearean tragedy, so don’t memorize lines and don’t over-rehearse. My Marketing Monday (#ICoMM on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn) videos only started to do well when I allowed myself to be less rehearsed and showed more of my personality on camera. Keep videos short and sweet and create a collection of them that you can use over time online. I reduced the length of my videos to one minute only and found that this allows people to digest the content quickly and easily. It also challenges me to know exactly what I want to say and say it concisely.
A video once a week will really boost engagement across your pages and improve your standing on the oh-so-important-but-oh-so-mysterious algorithm.
Update Your Customer Personas
Identifying your target audience is essential for every brand but limiting that to two dimensional demographics will not help your team truly understand the people you are trying to serve.
Instead, I recommend creating customer personas. This exercise will help you dissect your target audience into archetypes that all need your product or services but for different reasons and in different ways. Start by identifying a few key clusters within your audience such as “single workaholics” or “fitness fanatics”; I usually limit these to four unless more are absolutely necessary.
Now, for each of group create a fictional character. Choose a name, find a stock photo online, and write a story about his or her life. Really dive into the character and uncover the hidden motivations they have that your team can tap into to convert them to customers. If you’re stuck, visualize a real life customer that fits this persona and let her life inspire you.
Once you’ve written the story, highlight important bullet points about this person on a separate slide like age, marital status, income levels, pain points, and key aspirations. Add recommendations for your team on how to best serve each group and what potential obstacles to look out for.
When they’re done, have a meeting and share the personas and recommendations with your team so they are prepared the next time someone matching the fictional “Sarah Livson” or “Hamad Mubarak” walks through the door.
Write Content for Your Blog
Blogging is a great way to demonstrate industry authority, especially if you are in a B2B industry. Most business owners know they need a blog but rarely have the time to write. For others, writing does not come easily, so they avoid it.
For people who don’t have a way with words, I recommend writing down the meat of the post and asking someone else on your team to edit it. For example, if you are a enterprise software implementation expert, apply your knowledge and write the basic bullet points for a post comparing different software options and ask a colleague to jazz it up. Once the expertise is on paper, it’s easy to edit.
Refresh Your Website
This is one we’re prioritizing. If you’re not running an online business, chances are that you made your website when you launched and haven’t refreshed it in a meaningful way since (I’m looking in the mirror…). Industry standards for websites change so rapidly, so it’s likely your website has started to look outdated and the information probably needs updating too. Take this time to either revise the content if you’re not ready to undertake a big project or do a complete overhaul if you’re up to it. We work with some fantastic web developers, so give us a shout if you need a hand.
Read Industry Research
I constantly bookmark articles and download industry studies to read “when I have time”. They all get tucked away in a folder that collects virtual dust until the research becomes obsolete and the cycle starts over again. I’m taking the time now to read what is still relevant and research some more so that when business does pick up again, I’m 100% at the top of my game. Euromonitor is one of my favourite resources, and you can subscribe to content based on your interests here.
I’ve been happily fielding marketing questions from business owners for the last few days via our Instagram DMs or on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to pick my brain a little to help you make the most of this time, do give me a shout.
Whatever you decide to do in this slower period, make sure it’s an investment of time. And in the end, that investment could be in your own mental well-being by allowing yourself to be still in the chaos.
Maya Itani is the Managing Director of Itani & Company Marketing Consultants, which she founded in 2015.