5 Things To Do Now To Benefit Your Small Business Later

If COVID-19 has impacted business for you like it has for many others, you may have had to temporarily close your doors. Or maybe you’re a business in planning whose opening date has now been delayed indefinitely. While certain sectors (at least in California) are starting to slowly open back up in a limited capacity, the restrictions may still be impacting your business operations and your bottom line.

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know I stress that now is not the time to lose momentum. And if you know me, you know I love a good checklist. So here are some things you can do *right now* in this season of waiting that will benefit your business in the future.

  1. Update your website. Take this time to ensure your business information is up to date (including new hours of operation, if they’ve changed!). Refresh your photos, add new customer testimonials, and make sure your website copy reflects your company’s services and values. While you’re at it, make sure that your Google Business Page and any other platforms you’re on are current, too.
  2. Create content. Even if your doors aren’t open right now, you can still create content that engages your customers and keeps you top of mind. Allow your employees to do an Instagram takeover to introduce themselves and show off their #WorkFromHome set-ups. Create simple videos with favorite recipes or other DIY creations your customers can try at home. Offer free workout classes online or do a free guided wine or beer tasting event. Business that offer free value now will see a great return when they reopen.
  3. Connect with customers. Whether your business is on pause or if you haven’t opened yet, encourage people to sign-up for your email list. At a pace that makes sense for your business, you can send updates, connect more personally with your customers and create excitement for when you reopen. I typically use Mailchimp for my clients but there are so many great platforms out there to try.
  4. Network, network, network. Chambers of Commerce and other local business groups are a great way to stay connected to the business community right now. So many of the Sacramento Region’s Chambers of Commerce are going above and beyond to offer value to their members, from virtual seminars to resource portals. Connect with fellow members for virtual coffee. And see if the organization has any opportunities for you to promote your business, like Member-To-Member discounts.
  5. Plan ahead. Your marketing budget and timeline may look a lot different now, so take advantage of this slower time to reevaluate your strategy and priorities. You may want to develop a plan around your reopening and devote more resources to it. If you’re able, you may want to consider taking your brick and mortar business online. Whatever this looks like for you, use this time to plan ahead and develop a sound strategy that will benefit you now and in the long run.

I’m working right along side you during this uncertain time! If you need help with any of the above checklist items or want to brainstorm over a virtual coffee, let’s get in touch.

3 Tips for Getting Media Coverage During COVID-19

To Pitch or Not To Pitch During COVID-19

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how media pitching was going to go earlier this week.

A craft brewery client of mine had to (like many others in their industry right now) pivot their business and drastically change the way they sell their beer. They asked me to write a press release about the brewery starting to ship its beer anywhere in California.

Press coverage is never a guarantee, but in the wake of COVID-19, I couldn’t help but think: Is this angle truly unique or “new” enough? Will reporters even care, when they’re busy covering a pandemic? Will consumers? 

While alcohol consumption during shelter-in-place is on the rise, craft breweries are seeing a drastic decrease in sales due to COVID-19–nearly a 42% decrease across Northern California, according to a California Craft Brewers Association survey. Unable to invite beer enthusiasts to their taprooms where most of their money is made, small breweries now must rely predominantly on carryout sales and, thanks to relaxed ABC laws, many are now delivering and shipping their beer statewide. 

When creating content during this unparalleled time, I’ve urged my clients to remember that any piece of content can end up sandwiched between two COVID-19 related posts or headlines. It’s so crucial to be mindful of the content you’re putting out there and the context in which it can show up so your brand doesn’t come across as tone-deaf. 

With that in mind, I crafted my press release and made it clear throughout: This business pivot was a direct response to COVID-19. This is a small business that has been impacted by the pandemic. And of course, it didn’t hurt that the brewery was named Brewery of the Year in a large beer competition and has kick-ass beers.

We got some great coverage, and there’s still more in the works. But just like my client, I had to pivot in the way I do things, too.

Here are my three takeaways I recommend to brands when pitching media in the current news landscape.

1. Do your research. This is always something I tell clients to do before approaching the press in general, let alone during a pandemic. In many cases, publications and news outlets are working with less staff, if they’re in operation at all. Your usual press contact may be out of work or covering a different beat. I was even more diligent than usual with this in mind and was careful to research how publications were covering the topic of craft beer in their area. With any pitching effort, do your due diligence to avoid unnecessarily cluttering a reporter’s inbox and be mindful of their time when you do send an email. It will help build (or preserve) your relationship with them.

2. Expand your definition of “the press.” I knew getting media coverage in the client’s target markets – namely the Bay Area and Southern California – would prove more difficult than usual. With publications looking to support their own local businesses and report on COVID-19’s impacts in their area, I wasn’t expecting them to take too kindly to the idea of promoting a business that was, in some cases, on the opposite side of the state from them.

Instead, I approached social media influencers in these target markets. Anyone who knows me knows that I love good influencer coverage! I researched influencers in our target markets who met my additional criteria, and I asked if I could send them product and the press release so that they may consider posting about it. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I know it will make a huge difference for my client–both increasing their following on social media (hello, awareness!) and moving the needle for their sales in new markets.

3. Be relevant. When approaching news media or industry-centric publications, think about other angles or insights you can offer that provide value. In the case of pitching this release, I sent it with the caveat that they please keep the brewery in mind for future coverage. On a macro level, their brewmaster could speak to beer trends or the pandemic’s impact on small businesses. Regionally, they could attest to the state of the Sacramento Region’s beer industry. While coverage may not happen on the press release topic right now, I created a foundation that furthered my client as a resource and industry thought leader that can come back ten-fold for them in the future.

And it’s important to never discount your local media outlets. The relationships you build with local media will support you beyond the pandemic and be even more helpful when things return to normal (or whatever the “new normal” will be). Publications are looking to support local businesses right now. Even if you are expanding to a market that’s not in their coverage area or feel like it’s too similar of a topic they’ve covered about a competitor, still send that press release…taking Tip #1 into consideration, of course.

I earned coverage for this effort in the Sacramento region’s largest news publication and in less than a day of the client posting the article to their Facebook page, their engagement went through the roof. At the time I’m writing this, their post has nearly 200 Likes and more than 20 Shares. Who said media relations doesn’t work!?

If you’ve had to pivot, think about ways to communicate it to your target customers through social media, news outlets and the other platforms you have available. You’ll be one step closer to building a resilient brand that survives this crazy time and is stronger than ever when it’s over. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line at lindsey@nichecomms.com.

Strengthening Your Brand During a Crisis

I had the privilege of presenting (virtually, of course!) to Pink Boots Society‘s Sacramento Chapter about strengthening their breweries’ brands during a crisis. I wanted to share some of the key takeaways that any small business can start implementing today, even if they’re not currently operating.

1. Consumer expectations are changing. They’re looking for transparency, information, and entertainment. You don’t have to offer all three, but think about what content you can offer: Can you make videos or blog posts that offer education and showcase your expertise? Can you offer a helpful resource guide or checklist? Or create fun Q&A videos with your employees that allow consumers to get to know your team better? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

2. Use email, and use it responsibly. Especially if you’re not running social media ads, your social media posts may not even be seen by your followers. But you can guarantee your message will reach their inboxes. Be strategic when you send emails, and ensure each one offers value to the recipients.

3. Don’t stop marketing. You may have to pivot your messaging, current campaigns, or even the way you offer your products or services, but now is not the time to stop promoting your business. It’s important to not lose momentum during this time and remain top of mind to current and potential customers.

Thinking of all my small business friends and entrepreneurs during this time. Let me know if you want me to send you my presentation deck or need to brainstorm ways to keep your brand strong during COVID-19. Reach me at lindsey@nichecomms.com.