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Thanks to social distancing, masks and an increasing vaccination rate, we’re moving closer to normality than at any other point since the pandemic began.
Though this is great news for everyone (especially small business owners), there’s a lot to consider when it comes to your brand strategy. If you shifted your strategy in response to the pandemic last year, your branding may not be as effective or relevant as we get back to ‘normal’.
So, if you want your business to succeed moving forward, you may want to think about rethinking your brand strategy to better connect with your customers as they are today. Here’s how you can do that.
Make sure your branding is consistent.
Trust has always been an important element of the customer/business relationship…and after a year of uncertainty, trust matters now more than ever. If you want people to engage with your business and become loyal customers, you have to build trust with them. One way to accomplish this is with consistency in your branding and messaging.
If you’ve made any changes to your branding (or are planning to make changes soon), make sure your branding is consistent everywhere your customers could encounter your business. Let’s say you recently redesigned your logo. Make sure your new logo is updated across all brand touchpoints, both physical and digital (like your signage, website and social channels). Did you shift your brand voice — the way you talk to your customers? Make sure to update your website’s copy to reflect your new voice.
When your branding is consistent, your customers will know what to expect from your business — and that consistency in your branding will help to build trust and strengthen your relationship with your audience.
Feel like your branding is in need of a refresh, but not sure where to start? The experts at 99designs by Vistaprint can help create a new look for your small business.
Update your customers on any changes to your business.
Most small business owners had to make changes to keep their businesses moving forward during the pandemic. And while you kept customers in the loop on those changes as they happened, how will you continue to update them as restrictions lift? Doing so is a great opportunity to remind customers of the changes you’ve made — and strengthen your brand in the process.
Did you close your brick-and-mortar shop to focus on ecommerce sales? Make sure to send out an email to your customer list reintroducing them to your online store — and offer them something special (like free delivery) on their next purchase. Or, let’s say you own a restaurant. If you’ve shifted operations to takeaway and delivery for the past year but are ready to welcome back in-person diners, send out a branded postcard or flyer announcing your grand reopening.
Businesses have adapted over the past year, and will likely continue to evolve as we navigate a gradually reopening world. In the meantime, make sure your customers have all of the information they need to have a positive experience with your business.
Spread the word about your grand reopening — and consider including a special offer.
Let your customers know how things will — or won’t — change as restrictions lift.
Now, many areas are preparing to see COVID-related restrictions lifted in the near future, including changing guidelines on masks, social distancing and capacity requirements. Many consumers may think those guidelines mean that all businesses will be going back to ‘normal’… but that’s not necessarily the case. Whatever you decide to do for your business, make sure you let customers know how things will or won’t be changing.
For example, maybe you own a salon, and during the height of COVID had to restrict your capacity to 50%. As restrictions are lifted, you may decide to resume operations at 100% capacity…or, you may have realised that your stylists work better (and your business runs more smoothly) when processing fewer clients. Either way, you’ll want to let clients know what they can expect from your salon in the months ahead. Otherwise, if you resume operations at full capacity, you risk upsetting clients who are still wary of exposing themselves to larger crowds. And if you decide to keep seeing clients at a lower capacity, you risk clients getting frustrated when they can’t book an appointment as easily as they could pre-pandemic.
The clearer you are with your customers about how your business is (or isn’t) changing, the better you’ll be able to maintain your customer relationships — and the stronger your brand will be as a result.
Explore partnership opportunities with other businesses.
COVID-19 has been tough on small businesses. But within those challenges is an opportunity to come together as a business community and partner with other local business owners… strengthening your brand in the process.
Look for businesses that have a similar customer base but aren’t direct competitors — and look for ways to come together to add value, both to your business and for your customers. For example, if you own a furniture company, you might partner with an interior designer to offer start-to-finish home design services. If you own an organic juice company, you might partner with a local yoga studio to host a branded pop-up event. If you run an ecommerce shop that sells sunglasses, you might partner with an ecommerce shop that specialises in swimwear and cross-promote each other’s shops to your respective email lists.
These kinds of partnerships are a great way to connect with new customers, reinforce your brand and drive business — so make sure you’re actively exploring and taking advantage of partnership opportunities that make sense for your brand.
If you really want to get the most out of your business partnerships, think of ways to incentivise customers. For example, when a partner promotes your business to their email list, offer them an exclusive discount code.
Look for new opportunities to strengthen your brand.
In many ways, COVID changed the way we do business. And as a result, you should plan to change the way you market your brand — including looking for new, unexpected opportunities to connect with customers and promote your business.
Perhaps you typically market your craft business online and by selling on Etsy. As things start ramping up, you may consider doing some local marketing to connect with customers in your area — for example, at craft fairs. Or let’s say you own a wine business and primarily sell to customers through third-party distributors, such as food shops. You may consider connecting with your customers directly — like through a monthly subscription box or local tasting events.
The point is, there are plenty of ways to strengthen your brand and connect with customers — and if you want your business to thrive as COVID-related restrictions are lifted, you should plan to explore new, different ways to build (and strengthen) that connection.
1. Make your branding consistent.
2. Share what’s new.
3. Update your customers on restrictions.
4. Explore partnerships.
5. Market your business in new ways.