Virtually overnight, this ‘little guy’ arrived and turned our lives inside out. Quarantine, isolation, pandemic and state of emergency, amongst others, became common words in our daily lexicon, and we were all thrown into a life lived almost exclusively online, most of us utterly lost in the digital marketing of COVID-19.
Many businesses were forced to close down and not all were able to adapt quickly to the new reality, especially the smaller and more local ones.
Fortunately, the inventive spirit and the Portuguese’s supreme mastery of the ancient technique that we know as ‘desenrasca’ helped us (and please note that in this case I refer to all those who are here and call this country ‘their own’, regardless of their place of birth), in one way or another, to get up and throw ourselves back in the game (as we usually do!) – small restaurants started to offer take away; butchers and grocery stores, home deliveries; small businesses begun providing their services online.
But the fact that they were able to do so does not mean it was not difficult. In fact, it still is. Whist in a medium or big company (following the standard sizes we have in our Algarve region, of course!) there is usually a marketing department (even if it is made of just one well-intentioned person) that knows, at least more or less, what to do regarding the promotion of its specific products or services to its target audience, using the digital means at their disposal; a small local business has never before needed to compile this information, to test it and, in all truth, maybe its owner has actually previously used social media, but just for his personal benefit, to see what his friends shared.
On my street, my next-door butcher’s (who cuts meat like no one and always knows what my little one likes!) told me that he had created a Facebook page to ‘help the business’, but that now he can’t add his opening hours, nor the phone number for people to place their orders… And to explain to him that what he created was a personal profile and not a business page, it’s not always easy. I find myself thinking that I often speak Chinese, because the truth is that given all its strange words, abbreviations, ‘mannerisms’ and specificities (some almost down to the last detail!), digital marketing is not the most intuitive thing in the world and not everyone has to know how to do it (let alone overnight, with perfect mastery of the technique and at the same time they prepare an order of 1 pound of apples to go!).
In addition, suddenly the competition, which was already fierce, became even more cut-throat, because now everyone needs to use the digital channels to reach their audience. There are simple tricks, easy-to-implement suggestions that everyone will give you for free – “if you have a restaurant, share your menu every day (even if it’s only 2 dishes, for instance) and accept orders via Messenger or Instagram Direct”; “promote your Facebook page to increase its followers and appear on more people’s news feed”; “do a ‘live’ on Instagram to show the fresh products you’ve just received and that you can send home to whomever wants them”. However, my neighbour from the greengrocer, whose son now delivers their customers’ orders to their home; my friend who started to do her Pilates classes for pregnant women and newly moms online; or my next-door butcher (whom, not sure if I said it before, cuts meat really well!) continue, even though thankful for the advice, lost in a sea of ‘where, how and when’. Well, it’s just that in all these cases, it’s ‘just themselves doing business’, without a marketing department to help them, and, unlike an octopus, without eight arms that can reach multiple places at the same time.
So, how do you ‘go about it’? How can you stop being lost in the ‘digital marketing of COVID-19’? It is not simple, but it is doable!
The most important thing is to realise that you will not be able to do everything yourself and that perhaps the time you plan to invest in those free online courses is actually a waste (remember that most times, if it’s free, the amount of relevant information offered will be small and certainly general, rather than tailored to your specific case, which is what would need). You will not suddenly become a ‘digital marketeer’ and you may gain more if you talk to someone who understands the subject, and who can even take it off your hands, but who also has the sensitivity to appreciate that you will never afford the fees charged by the usual marketing agencies.
Fortunately, some of these professionals have already created services or service packages, with quick, effective and low-cost solutions, especially designed to help local businesses promote their products and services, and to survive now and in the future (yes, that one that no one knows exactly how it will be, in the coming days, in the coming months, I would even say in the coming years).
The norm(ality) has changed (and it has done so worldwide) and the adjustment had (has!) to be done quickly. The answers that are now required have to be given remotely, in digital and express mode, with maximum exposure and high return.
And if you own a small local business and, at this point, are already hyperventilating because this seems extraordinarily complicated, calm yourself. Breathe. Your instinct is right, it is indeed complex and requires experience and knowledge that you do not have, nor will you acquire it with the speed needed. But, there are those who can do it for you and I can assure you that the return I mentioned earlier will definitely justify the investment.
If for no other reason, just because, as people say, “there’s no harm in asking”, try it! Talk to the professionals, like Clarity, and who knows, you might just bring some light into your local business’ digital marketing.