Throughout the pandemic, the resiliency of small business owners has been commendable. But with McKinsey forecasting that it could take up to five years for small business revenues to return to pre-pandemic levels, the economic downturn is far from over.
Don’t let this statistic scare you, however. Even in the midst of this economic setback, technology continues to move forward. Before the pandemic, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said the world was navigating a Fourth Industrial Revolution, and during the pandemic, this trend accelerated rather than slowed.
As a small business owner, there has never been a better time to step into the digitization movement, pivot your business model, or uncover opportunities for reinvention. Here are five easy-launch marketing ideas that can double as new revenue streams for your small business.
1. Host an online event
Your online business is more valuable than your brick-and-mortar storefront, and people care about more than just what you sell.
Remember the days of window shopping, community gatherings, and life events? While we all love a good in-person gathering, times have shifted and so should your business. Using a platform like Zoom, Attendify, Crowdcast, or Hopin, you can easily create an online meetup or event. One simple approach is to invite a speaker or host a workshop about a topic your customers care about.
Take a look at Kaleigh Moore, for example, a freelance writer who regularly hosts events for fellow freelancers such as this workshop on pricing.
You can even choose whether to offer events for a fee or free of charge.
2. Offer coaching services
If your business specializes in providing a skill or service (e.g., beauty, public speaking training, tutoring), your knowledge is your most valuable asset. So why not offer your expertise to your customer base?
Even if people can’t visit your store, they may still be interested in learning about the expertise you’ve gathered over the years. Early career professionals, especially, will be interested in starting a business just like yours.
For this reason, the coaching industry is thriving, and you can easily add on a coaching line of your business to reach people who want to level up their skills.
Platforms such as sand Coach.me provide low-cost infrastructure to help aspiring coaches get up and running. For inspiration for a coaching business, take a look at Megan Kierstead, who recently left her user researcher job in tech to offer coaching services to fellow user experience (UX) professionals.
3. Start a Facebook Group
Facebook is a powerful platform for connecting with people based on shared interests. Using Groups, build an audience to engage in meaningful, substantive dialogue with greater reach.
Approximately 1.8 billion people use Facebook Groups and tens of millions of groups exist on Facebook. In May 2020, Facebook Group membership grew by 3.3x, which means there’s a rise in demand for community. So if you’re looking to organically build and grow a community around your brand, Facebook is a great place to start.
Groups have viral feedback loops, meaning there’s an amplification effect for the content you publish and promote. That’s because Facebook’s algorithms are optimized for connecting audiences with topics they’re interested in and want to learn about.
To build your Facebook Group, take a look at this step-by-step guide from ManyChat to help you build a vibrant and engaging community.
4. Partner up
To paraphrase a popular saying: Success takes a village. Instead of navigating this challenging economy alone, join forces with fellow business owners to create collaborative offerings.
For instance, if you’re a yoga teacher, you could team up with a professional chef to create a “healthy body, healthy eating” event or course. Or if you own a clothing boutique, you could team up with a bartender to offer a virtual fashion night with a curated cocktail list.
In your partnership, share customer lists, leads, and resources, and divide up the work for a successful campaign. With two minds working together, you’ll also be able to approach the challenges you’re tackling with heightened creativity.
5. Automate communication
Even though people want immediate help, they don’t necessarily want to talk to a human — in fact, 62% of people prefer conversing with a bot. Meanwhile, as a business owner, you likely don’t have time to manage all the different conversations required when providing customers the personal attention they need.
One way to provide this attention and automate your communication is to use a chatbot. Here are a few reference cases where chatbots were successfully used across multiple industries:
- DimNiko specializes in advertising for eCommerce brands and has spent more than $10 million on digital ads across its customer base. Last year, they helped a fitness apparel company run a virtual giveaway that drove 254 orders, and almost $24,000 in revenue, in just one day. Read more about implementing a chatbot-run giveaway here.
- Hideaway Handmade is an online Australian retailer that sells signature handcrafted soaps. As part of its marketing system, the retailer uses a chatbot to engage with its audiences and gather product feedback. The company’s goal was to streamline customer support and create a more interactive marketing experience. These efforts led to generating more than $100,000 in sales, 68,000+ subscribers, and a 99.5% click-through rate on one-time notification (OTN) messages over the course of one month.
- A family-owned Mexican restaurant in Spokane, Washington created a chatbot with a holiday tamale promotion intended to target the restaurant’s current subscriber base. The campaign was deployed across SMS and Messenger by Facebook, resulting in the sale of 27 dozen tamales.
- During the pandemic, established wedding photographer Henry Chen pivoted his company by adding several new lines of business including licensable marketing templates, training, and other services. A chatbot helped him build a process to follow up with leads, qualify prospects, respond to repetitive questions, and be more productive on mobile. It also helped him build his training and consulting line of business.
Last but not least
Given the societal shifts taking place, right now is a good time for experimenting, tinkering, and exploring. If your small business is experiencing a revenue downturn, it’s important to think out of the box about your next move.
Marketing is just as much about discovery as it is about growth. Keep an open mind, seek out new customer segments, and use your findings to inspire new lines of business for your company.
You are the soul of your business and the heart of your marketing strategy. At the end of the day, business is about human connection, so let your creativity shine.