How To Market Your Small Business Online During a Financial Crisis

The impact of COVID-19 on the world’s economy is staggering. Many countries are expecting their economies to experience recessions or financial crises. Individividuals as well as businesses, big and small, are seeing a reduction in their revenues. Some small businesses have started to lay off their staff due to insufficient cash flows to pay the salaries.

Businesses That Are Growing During COVID-19

Despite these gloomy situations, there are some businesses that are doing well now.

According to Google, searches for “grocery delivery service near me” have gone up by 200% globally in March 2020. TechCrunch has reported that grocery delivery apps are being downloaded twice more during Covid-19 outbreak in the US. In Malaysia, it has been reported that a 30% increase in usage of food delivery services during the Movement Control Order (MCO) or commonly known as the lockdown period. Growth of online sales in South Korea in February 2020 during the Covid-19 outbreak there showed a 708% increase for food and health-related items, based on Statista.

What all these statistics show is that people are turning to purchase essential items online as they curb spending and curb attending crowded places to avoid catching the virus.

Digital Marketing Strategy For Physical Businesses and Retailers

If you’re confused about where to start your digital marketing journey, then this is the place for you to get clarity.

The best steps right now to recession-proof your business are to adapt to changing customers’ needs, grow your revenue while cutting down your expenses.

How do I market my small business?

Step 1Be found by customers online: marketplace vs own ecommerce store
Step 2Be found everywhere
Step 3 Be found by special interest groups: position your product as a painkiller

STEP 1: Be Found By Customers

The first rule of business is to be found by customers. There’s a fast and easy way to that online now. You should be aware that they are many gurus that are offering you, free classes. These free courses are actually a hook to get you to buy whatever they are selling. You don’t need to buy courses at times like. There is a lot of self-proclaimed gurus out there.

Go To Where The Buyers Are

Instead of building your own website, or your own e-commerce store, and be recognized for your brand, simply head over to online marketplaces. There’s so many out there, depending on your country.

Online Marketplace Vs Ecommerce Platform

Think of an online marketplace like a shopping mall, where all the stores are located, and people go there to shop. The downside of this is that there are many similar products that compete in the same location.

Ecommerce platforms are on the other hand, are software to enable businesses to build their own standalone online shops. While this is good for your branding, the hardest part for online e-commerce stores is to attract targeted buyers to their online stores.

Your Country Determines Your Online Marketplace

While in a normal situation, where global commerce and e-commerce trade inter-country, in this COVID-19 situation it’s quite different. The travel industry is severely impacted by this pandemic, and as a result, most international flights are canceled resulting in flight capacity reduction between 7%-18%, according to the World Economic Forum.

What this means is that your international customers are less likely to receive their parcels on time, if at all. Hence, it is time to focus on getting customers in your country, preferably in your locality. Look for needs closer to home, that you can serve.

The list above shows the top online marketplaces by country, according to where they have listed up to 153 top online marketplaces by country and segment in 2020.

Just look at the amount of traffic (or visitors) they get per month. The visitors are qualified buyers who visit the online marketplaces to buy or to survey a product. This reason alone is enough for why you should choose to sell your product on an online marketplace instead of setting up your own e-commerce store.

If your products are niche-based, you should also consider listing them on niche-specific online marketplaces. For Halal products, you could list them on OneAgrix, MyHalMart and MuslimBrands.

Most marketplaces offer free product listings, with charges only being made with a successful sale.

If you’re a restaurant or a cafe, list your menu on food delivery services apps, such as DoorDash, UberEats, Food Panda, and so on.

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If you’re offering a service instead of selling products, you could also look into specific online marketplaces. FitMyTime for fitness classes over live video, Preply for private tutoring lessons, and so on.

STEP 2: Be Found Everywhere

As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The same is true for online marketplaces. List your products on as many online marketplaces as you can.

Other than online marketplaces, your business should also be found on Google Search and Google Maps. For local businesses, that can be easily done via Google My Business, a free website provided by Google for local businesses. Just put in your physical address, operating hours, phone number, basic business information. You can then link out to your product listings that you have with online marketplaces.

STEP 3: Be Found By Special Interest Groups

Whatever you selling, you definitely have people who really, really, really need them. The cause of low sales is not marketing but marketing to the wrong people.

During these trying financial times, people are more willing to pay for painkillers than for vitamins. Simply put, people are more willing to pay for products that can solve their problems rather than products that are based on ‘wants’ such as luxury brands and fashion brands.

Position Your Product As A Painkiller

Even if your customers are seeing your product as a nice to have (vitamin), you can reposition your product in your customers’ minds as a painkiller, a product that can solve their problems.

If you position your product (or service)as a nice-to-have, the product or service may lose traction, especially during a recession where people are more cost-conscious.

When positioned as a painkiller, the product soon becomes indispensable. As a painkiller, the more you consume, the more you will consume in the future.

For example, if you sell say Halal smoked beef, don’t just sell it as a nice & tasty food item. In this situation, you’re competing with food delivery service providers. However, for the same target audience, that is, customers who don’t like to cook or don’t have the time to cook, simply position your Halal smoked beef as a ready-to-eat-meal, that offers time-saving, and cost-saving, as well as being nice and tasty.

The same applies if you offer a service. For example, private coaching such as yoga. Where previously doing yoga is Instagram-worthy, and nice to have such a private lesson, you could position your yoga coaching session as a pain killer, literally! Yoga is known to help those with back and muscle pain to relieve their pain and reduce their need for painkillers. You can then position your coaching session for this purpose.

How To Be Found By Special Interest Groups

To be found by special interest groups, you can turn to social media. Facebook Groups have so many special interest groups by location and various other segments.

Just make sure that when posting to these groups that you’re not spamming them with advertorial type posts. Instead, you should add value to the Group by posting tips and tricks and make sure they know about your business, and where to find it, in the same post.

Other social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too work in a similar way. You need to add value to your posts with tips, with a rule of thumb of 5 postings of tips and tricks, and 1 posting on product promotion. The only difference is that you’re normally found by your special interest groups based on keywords hashtags, and from following popular accounts in the niche.

If you have a budget for advertising, consider using digital ads such as Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. You can start from as little as USD10 on Facebook Ads. Only reach the stage of using digital ads when you can be found online easily and where purchasing your product or service can be done easily online.

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