Welcome to The Pivot Pod, where we'll figure out together what's next for small business. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new expert on each episode. Today it's how to keep talking to your customers when every dollar is tight.
A piece of advice that several experts have repeated across the latest season of The Pivot Pod, is a warning not to cut the marketing budget.
I can see their point; we're in a time of change, your business is likely trying out different products, and you need to keep communicating with your customers about what you're selling and how they can buy it.
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But at the same time, when every dollar is tight, many businesses are rightly concerned about only spending in the most efficient ways possible.
So for the latest episode I brought in Bruce Gourley, head of brand experience at Stanley St.
He said small businesses had a certain advantage in not needing to be everything to everyone. Instead they could focus on who their ideal customer was, and pursue them relentlessly.
"I think that is something we need to encourage our small businesses to do more of - not try to co-opt the models of how you would speak to people if you were a larger brand or a larger business," he said.
"The place that you start should always be two sides of the same coin: who are you, and who is your customer?"
Gourley said digital tools often were the most cost-effective, including digital advertising and social media channels.
But understanding the brand identity, customer identity, and what problem you're solving for the customer was crucial before starting to put time and effort into those tools.
"The digital and social channels are an absolute godsend for smaller businesses and brands.
"Thankfully more and more people are realising that it's not the smart thing to do to cut the marketing budget in times of need.
"The data is out there that as long as you are getting your message out there it is a strong indication that you will acquire new customers.
"It's how you approach those channels that is of interest to me. I think that you need to look at those channels as community-building platforms.
"You are in the public space, you are trying to generate communities around your brand."
Gourley said it was important not to immediately start promoting your products, but to talk to customers, be social, and focus on solving their problems.
That could mean content marketing, by offering good information that relates to the area where you do business, without explicitly telling people to buy your product.
The good thing is that, purely by working in the area that you do, you know more about it than the average person does.
Sharing snippets of that knowledge is not only valuable to your potential customers, but also establishes your authority in the area.
Once you'd established trust, you could then start putting out more messages to explicitly sell.
For all the tips listen to The Pivot Pod here.