What Kind of Marketing is Possible Right Now?

In Part 1 of this series, I shared my thoughts on Appropriate Marketing in a Time of Crisis, like the crisis we are all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’ve determined that it does make sense for you to be marketing yourself as a self-employed professional at this time, how can you go about it?

Working at home

Perhaps you typically market your business by attending networking meetings, or scheduling coffee/lunch dates, or through public speaking. But under stay-home guidelines, none of those in-person options are available. Or maybe you’ve already been marketing yourself online, but now that it seems everyone is online, you’d like to take better advantage of those avenues.

Here are seven approaches for marketing your business that will help you stay in touch with your audience, plus reach out to new prospective clients, despite current conditions.

1. Your website – Have you made changes to how you do business? Perhaps you’re meeting with clients by video instead of in person, or offering online classes instead of doing hands-on work. Be sure to make those changes highly visible on your website; don’t just bury them on your “services” page. If you’re available to work right now, display your availability to serve clients prominently, rather than making potential clients inquire.

For example, Diakadi Fitness in San Francisco added a banner to the top of every page on their site, reading: “Helping You Navigate the New Normal | Virtual Training Now Available.” The site of Cincinnati licensed counselor Rachel Hiraldo displays a notification bar saying: “COVID-19 UPDATE: We continue to see new and existing clients.” The notification links to a box describing office visits that observe social distancing and video teletherapy sessions.

2. Social media – If you’ve already been using social media, take the time to update your profiles with current information like that above. Then step up your activity level. Post more often, and spend time engaging with others by commenting on their posts. With so many people active on social media right now, you’ll gain more visibility there than you would have before.

What should you be posting about? On Twitter’s blog, Alex Josephson and Eimear Lambe suggest you focus on what people need most right now. They recommend choosing from these four categories: accurate and reliable information; customer service and support; distraction and levity; community and positivity.

3. Email and messaging – Reach out to all your existing contacts with emails, direct messages on social media, or text messages. Ask how they’re doing, and let them know how your business is available to serve them at this time.

It’s completely appropriate to be marketing your services now if you’re able to serve clients. But do pay attention to your tone and word choice. Content marketing manager Kristen McCormick advises “keeping a positive, inspirational, and helpful tone” and “avoid being humorous, witty, or casual.” She also suggests you stay away from “excitement- or scarcity-driven copywriting, like ‘Don’t miss out!’ or ‘Grab your spot before it’s too late!'”

4. Phone and video calls – Now more than ever, there’s no reason to limit yourself to online connections or broadcast messages. Pick up the phone, or arrange a time for a video call. Writing for their audience of accountants, The Profitable Firm says “mass communications are good: but it’s the one to one contact which will be the most helpful, the most supportive, the most appreciated.”

You don’t need any more of a reason to call than asking how your contact is doing and whether there’s any help you can provide, with your business or otherwise. Calls like this would be appropriate to clients, prospective clients, and people in your referral network.

5. Virtual gatherings – Many of the networking meetings you used to attend in-person are now happening online. Leads groups like BNI (Business Network International) or LeTip, and business networking groups like Polka Dot Powerhouse or the hundreds you can find on Meetup, have quickly moved to online meeting formats.

You can also host your own virtual gatherings for clients, potential clients, and referral sources. Pick a compelling topic, set a time, and put the word out to your audience on any or all of the channels above. Many of your contacts are eager for the connection, reassurance, and advice you could provide to help them through these challenging times.

6. Guest speaking – If you were marketing yourself with public speaking before, those opportunities haven’t disappeared; they’ve just shifted online. Virtual gatherings of many types still need speakers — networking groups, association meetings, conferences, and more. Podcasts, vlogs, and online radio shows are always seeking experts like you for interviews.

Just as with in-person speaking, the key to gaining clients is making an attractive offer to the audience that invites them to provide their email address. You may see even higher returns on this strategy than from speaking live, as the audience may already be at a keyboard during your presentation.

7. Publishing content – Since everyone in your world is likely online now, it’s the perfect time to provide them with useful or inspiring written, audio, video, or visual material that you’ve created.

Focus on making your content what I call R.E.A.L. — Relevant; Educational, Entertaining, and/or Evocative; Authentic; and Leads to Trust. When you offer clients blog posts, recordings, videos, or visual images that educate, entertain, or evoke a powerful reaction, your content reinforces you in clients’ minds as their go-to resource.

As you can see, there are plenty of options open to you for marketing during the pandemic. Choose two or three approaches that rely on your strengths and seem like a good fit for your situation. Then put them to work — while remembering what I said in Part 1 of this series. Be gentle with yourself. You may have much more on your plate than usual right now. Do what you can about marketing, while allowing self-care and looking after your family to come first.

Part 3 of this series is now available: What Can You Do if You Need Clients Yesterday?

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