If you're reading this, I'm earning money. Thanks for helping to feed my family. Please see our disclosure for more information. Also, any advice provided is for informational purposes only. I'm not a CPA, lawyer, or doctor, although my parents wanted me to be all three. So, talk to a professional before acting on anything you read below.
How do you plan to connect with your audience in 2021?
Let's face it: 2020 was a year unlike any other. Many of us changed or altered the way we conduct business--perhaps forever.
It's important to focus on one crucial element: engaging your customer by making a personal connection. That is where we need to reach people again on a human level and form a tight bond with our raving fans.
To that end, I asked a few dozen public relations and marketing professionals for their best tips for small business owners. We know you're among the hardest hit during the pandemic, so this post (and others in this series) are for you.
Read on to see what folks had to say--and how it can help you going into this crucial year.
"To build media relationships, you need to ensure your pitch is tailored to the editor’s column and matches the outlet’s tone. But the first place to start is by addressing the editor or producer by spelling their name correctly. Using a generic salutation such as “Hi”, "To whom it may concern," or “Dear Team”. Because your email isn’t expected, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be customized.
The body of any pitch you send out should be between limited to 500 words—this includes the brand narrative, bullet or talking points, and the bio or boilerplate. This format enables the editor or producer to skim it for the most important points in a few seconds. Keep in mind that editors see boring and unexciting constantly, and your only job here is to keep the reader reading and respond for more information. Stay away from including filler words such as “leading”, premium, leading, innovative, and superior—you will sound like every other pitch. Add a line about what you’re pitching for, whether there’s a demo that can be scheduled, or samples available."
"Tighten your focus on your core and repeat customers. Look at mailing lists, invoices, social media engagement and other sources that can show you who kept buying when times were hard. Create special promotions for these lucky few--the most effective will be dedicated mailing lists with exclusive offers--using messaging that reminds them how you took care of each other when the chips were down."
— Elea Carey
Founder, Zero to 1
"In the age of COVID the life of our media professionals has changed drastically and what they all need is content but what they all want is connection. Reaching out is much easier than it's ever been. Want to
connect with a producer? PICK UP THE PHONE…Yes, call the station, ask whom the lifestyle producer is on your local news. Have your pitch ready!"
— Beth Nydick
Magnetic Business Mentor at BethNydick.com
"I'm telling each member on our team to take note of some of the key interests of our best clients so we can send them personalized client appreciation gifts throughout the year. This lets the client know that you're always thinking about them and care more about them as a person rather than just their business with you."
— Brady Kirkpatrick
Editor-in-Chief, Gun Made
"This pandemic has changed our lives—in good, bad, great, and awful ways. Which means if you're still talking to your ideal customer as though they're the same person they were pre-March 2020, then you're no longer speaking a language they understand. In order to market your business effectively post-pandemic, consider: How has my customers' shifted or changed in the last year? What do they need right now? How can I meet that need in my marketing efforts?"
— Carly Bell
Founder, WholeCo Media LLC
"Knowledge is more valuable than information. We can put out lots of information, but when we equip customers with a way to apply and use the information, that's knowledge. Overall, we aim to educate our audience which is best achieved by producing lots of relevant and informational content for our social channels, mainly focusing on YouTube and Facebook. We put out new videos 3 times a week. This strategy is extremely budget friendly as we produce and edit all of our content in house. It also allows for us to get creative and communicate a clear and consistent brand message across the board.”
— Dr. Livingood
Get Your Brand Noticed.
"When it comes to marketing strategies post pandemic, I can share our plans at Miracle. We plan on continuing to use the strategies that are currently working for us as well as keep an open mind to change by social listening on our platforms. At Miracle we mainly focus on Facebook and Instagram. They have the best ad platform and despite relatively high ad costs, when you dial in the right creatives you can scale to the moon. Facebook is all about the creatives. You need to figure out what resonates most with your audience, keep testing new angles, and continuously scale your working creatives. Social listening is a huge part of our work on these platforms especially now in the time of a global pandemic. Through engaging with our audience we can garner ideas to create future content that will perform even better because it is derived from real and authentic consumer responses. By cultivating a community of consumers, we can build trust and longevity for our product."
— Brandon Monaghan
Co-Founder, Miracle Brand
"Focus branding on experiences. Post-pandemic, consumers are going to chase experiences more than ever. Many people are going to want to travel, after being stuck at home under lockdown orders for months at a time. Branding that can capture this emotion, and position the product or service as a great experience will succeed in the post-pandemic months."
— Calloway Cook
President, Illuminate Labs
"Optimize your online channels for prime user experience and refocus ad spend on most profitable areas. Your goal is to power your marketing strategy for fast and efficient growth. When choosing the optimal channels for ad spend, create at least 3 versions of creative for each campaign. Spend the first 25% across each type of creative. Then allocate the remainder of the ad spend on the versions of creative that performed the most."
— Nick Swekosky
CEO, Market Metrics
"As we have entered into a highly digital culture, social media and influencer marketing is extremely valuable. An easy tool to get your brand more exposure is setting up brand ambassador programs targeting influencers with smaller but useful platforms. If you gift social media models and entrepreneurs with products or services, they can give you a post or video in return, boosting the awareness of your brand"
— Nik Sharma
CEO, Sharma Brands
"Video marketing has been on the rise over the last few years and I don’t predict it will be going anywhere post pandemic. With this year’s explosion of TikTok and Instagram creating Reels to stay relevant in the social media market, video is becoming more relevant day by day. Also, the current state of the world under a global pandemic is contributing to video marketing increasing in popularity. Consumers are spending more time online than ever before. Furthermore, we are noticing a shift in the type of video content audiences are searching for and consuming. Quick, educational, and attention-grabbing content is far outperforming the visually stimulating and aspirational content that was favored in previous years. People don’t want to feel that they are wasting time on these platforms. They want to be entertained while simultaneously learning tips and tricks on how to improve their lives. Business owners should not shy away from video marketing as it can bring high rewards."
— Eric Wu
"Be compassionate. After the pandemic, people will still be rebuilding. While it may be tempting to chase profits and promote your brand, focus on helping others. Lending a helping hand in your community will be the best type of publicity you can earn in the eyes of your peers and potential clients. Use the time after the pandemic as an opportunity to do humanitarian work that builds trust and positive sentiments and you will put your business in the best position for success."
— Michael Vaughan
Account Executive, HeraldPR
"Over the next year, I predict there will be an even bigger shift towards marketing through social media communities, for example, Facebook groups. Figuring out a way to organically engage and formulate relationships within Facebook groups allows you to genuinely market your product to thousands of members. Especially in this time of a global pandemic, when people are spending so much of their time online. It is important to never underestimate the power and need for human connection."
— Jason Akatiff
Co-Founder/Angel Investor, Boundery
"Utilize ‘buyer personas’ to better understand new post-COVID customers. Now more than ever, traditional assumptions you might have held about your customer may be obsolete. Your customers may carry new pain points that need to be addressed. They may possess new value drivers that need to be considered. They may act according to new behaviors and preferences that need to be recognized. Building a richer understanding of your customers is the logical starting point for navigating through these challenging times. Doing this is best achieved by creating buyer personas: fictitious avatars of your target customers that help you conceptualize them as real human beings with individualized needs and wants."
— Evian Gutman
Evian is also the author of Coming Back From COVID: The Definitive Guide for Small Business Owners to Rapidly Recover From the Coronavirus. Get your copy from Amazon.
"We intend to keep our focus on growing our audience on our social media platforms especially as everyone will continue to spend a lot of their time on their phones. Being a cleaning essentials company, we sell some of the most needed products right now which are hand sanitizer, surface spray, surface wipes, and Castile soap. So instead of just always promoting sales, we also like to educate our followers on how to live a healthier lifestyle. For instance, while promoting our Castile soap, we'll talk about it being important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. In another post we'll talk about the importance of using a hand sanitizer, surface spray, or surface wipe that has the CDC-recommended 70% isopropyl alcohol to effectively kill germs. We may post a giveaway to get more email subscribers and then every Sunday I write a helpful informational post to our subscribers talking about different relevant ways to stay happy, healthy, and clean."
— Dr. Paris Sabo
COO/Co-Founder, Dr. Brite
"So many audiences are looking for ways to make their dollar count in more ways than one which means being able to afford the things they need but also contributing to the rebuilding of local businesses, so if companies can afford to tie in their offer with a social cause, they're more likely to earn new customers as well as new PR opportunities. The stages after the pandemic are going to be heavily focused on rebuilding and research shows that young consumers who make up an immense section of the buying force in America are searching for ways to give back at an affordable rate. That means companies should look for ways to position their offers with initiatives that also help communities and workforces who have been severely impacted by the pandemic and the news stories will follow."
— Katie Fellenz
Head of Marketing, Trust & Will
"Our influencer outreach team uses Insense.pro and Carro to gather influencers to give us UGC (user-generated content). Most of the time we give them free products in exchange for a video testimonial/usage and recommendation. We also have a collaboration program, where we get access to influencers' Facebook page/Instagram page to advertise their generated content, it makes it more personalized and gives our brand more reach."
— Ashwin Sokke
Co-Founder, WOW Skin Science
"All business owners need to be more conscious of their spending right now and typically marketing budgets are the first to be revised. At Whom Home, I plan to shift most of the marketing budget offline and redistribute the funds towards more traditional marketing, such as direct mail and ads on cable TV. My marketing strategy has shifted since the start of the pandemic and will continue to adjust as the world climate changes throughout the next year."
— Jonathan Bass
CEO/Founder, Whom Home
"After the end of the pandemic, the companies will be expected to continue emailing and communicating via social media, even if they are brick-and-mortar. Businesses willing to invest in carefully planning their digital marketing efforts will benefit from increased readiness of the customers to share their data. Higher online adoption rates and increased data value per lead can make up for the business lost during the pandemic."
— Rebeca Sena
Architectural Marketing Consultant, GetSpace.digital
"Influencer marketing will solidify its position as a key channel for consumer brands. Consumer brands have historically used social media influencers to present authentic unbiased advertising to appeal to prospects and customers. The pandemic amplified the impact influencers have on the purchase of products, due to a limited ability to shop at stores. Social media use dramatically increased during the pandemic and research firms believe this trend will be lasting.
A recent study found that 40% of people reported that they purchased a product online after seeing it used by an influencer on YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter. As a result, there is an opportunity for brands to utilize social media influencers more now than ever. TikTok experienced explosive growth, surpassing Snapchat in usage with Gen Z, and brands have taken notice. Ocean Spray and Florida Paint's timely and opportunistic embrace of influencers is just the tip of the iceberg for brands going into 2021. Influencers can speak on a more personal level and give their honest opinion that resonates more with their followers compared to normal brand advertising. We expect influencers to gain even more popularity and followers and businesses to use influencers more than ever before."
— Kent Lewis
President/Founder, Anvil Media, Inc.
"Today it's important to consider and focus the PR strategy around clients' needs and explore new opportunities. During COVID-19 media outlets, editors and reporters are actively seeking thought leaders and experts to provide insights, expertise and advice on relevant and timely topics. We have to make sure the stories ideas we are looking to promote fit within the current situation, educate, inspire and inform, rather than sell. During this time, small business owners should be expanding, enhancing and utilizing channels that allow them to reach their target audiences including social media, email lists, newsletters, videos, and other content posted in their company website."
— Martin Diaz
Public Relations and Media Relations Expert, Roar Media
"Keep showing up! If you vanish from your social media, people are likely to think you’re no longer trading, so make sure that you show up consistently so people know that you are still trading and open for business. It might feel a bit strange because, obviously, many people have been hit quite hard by the last few months, but you hiding your business from their view won’t help anyone!"
— Rhea Freeman
Owner, Rhea Freeman PR
"Creating an effective growth strategy for uncertain times next year will be the biggest challenge. Going digital became necessary to survive for most businesses this year, and so it will be imperative to make the most of it and have a solid digital marketing plan in place. Catering to client needs sensitively through a worldwide pandemic has also been an obstacle this year. All in all - being flexible and adaptable to any situation will be the best strategy for success in 2021."
— Melissa Ramsey-Green
Marketing Expert, Allobee
"Invite your customers to share their pandemic stories. We have all been through a lot and are eager to start rebuilding connections. Invite your customer base to share how they got through the pandemic. Create a social media hashtag and feature that content on your website or blog."
— Jeni Abramson
Founder/CEO, Deep Drawer Digital Media
"Promotional products that target consumers' post-pandemic needs will supercharge your marketing efforts. Recovery, for instance, will be a primary post-pandemic need. Recovery has many facets, and something as simple as providing promotional products with kind messages will make someone smile and give them the strength to fight on. Identify a post-pandemic consumer need you can address with promotional products. It will build goodwill and loyalty that you can leverage once the economy recovers."
— Reuben Yonatan