How COVID-19 Has Changed Small Business Marketing

It’s probably safe to say that by now, everyone’s sick of talking and hearing about the Pandemic. Most of us would gladly go back to a simpler time where there were no mask requirements and where businesses and restaurants were open for business as usual.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic has not only changed daily life but has changed advertising, marketing, and promotional campaigns for small businesses.

Ranging from brick-and-mortar small businesses to international brands, companies have needed to re-evaluate their approach to marketing to adapt to the new normal.

The new policies that small businesses now face from the FTC, CFPB, and FDA have all homed in on unfair and deceptive business practices to protect vulnerable consumers. They monitor marketing campaigns and track down and terminate COVID-19 scams from online platforms.

Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business Marketing

Adapting to Change

Small businesses should be up to the challenge of creating innovative marketing strategies and practices that don’t alienate their customers.  They can ensure that their operations are seamless and that their campaign planning is flawless.  COVID-19 has ushered in a new commercial world of uncertainty and the need to promote products and services which meet customer’s unique needs and desires in a post-pandemic world.

With the States stuck on a rollercoaster ride of ‘business open’ and ‘business closed,’ advertising dollars spent decreased dramatically in 2021 as physical stores shut their doors and deliveries came to a halt.

So, what does marketing look like for a small business today?

Social Media: More Important than ever

The budget for marketing your small business should directly reflect the shift in the way customers shop and find you online. As restrictions were put in place across the US – public and print advertising came to a near-instantaneous halt.

In the meantime, in-home media usage went up, including:

  • TV viewership
  • Streaming services
  • Social platforms

And as stated in a study by GWI (, 45 percent of global consumers devote more time to social media, and video streaming has increased by 25 percent. Why is this data crucial to the survival of small businesses?

It’s critical that small businesses now seek to optimize their marketing practices to reflect this rise in the online presence of their customers, digital transactions, and entertainment choices. If you know your demographic has been using Facebook more during the Pandemic, you know what your Q3 & Q4 2021 marketing roadmap should research. The number of consumers using online food delivery services and essential goods delivery solutions has risen dramatically. Customers are online, now more than ever – because it’s critical.

Being Human has never mattered more

Consumer demand for empathy on behalf of businesses and brands has been at an all-time high during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The small businesses that will continue to thrive in 2021 will try their best to promote and communicate with customers emotionally, understanding their pain points.

If you’re like many, you may be growing tired of hearing about COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean your small business should ignore it. In a survey conducted by Kantar, 77% of consumers said they now want to see online content from companies to show ‘how you’re helping people get used to the new everyday life.’ How can we achieve this with our marketing?

  • Seek to build long-term trust.
  • Educate customers about your struggles as a small business.
  • Engage with your audience through more personal means than simple ads.
  • Entertain your audience when they need it most!

Email at the forefront

If email does not currently form a part of your small business marketing strategy, now is the time to change. If you’ve established a keen database of current/past/potential future customers, email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective, powerful tool to market your business during the Pandemic. No leaving the house, no physical locations – just old-fashioned digital. Plus, email marketing historically provides some of the most asymmetrical positive returns in the business world. It’s cheap and effective.

We can’t ignore COVID-19. But, while updates are essential, they should not be the only focus of your email content (especially if you send it to customers you want to sell to!)

Here are some COVID-19-friendly email campaigns to add to your mix in 2021.

  • Newsletters – Do you want a laid-back, friendly way of keeping your customers in the loop about your business? Newsletters are the way forward. Think: promotions, deals, one-time offers, discounts – and virtual/physical event dates to grow your business. On top of that, you can tick the box of being ‘human’ by featuring local news stories, share social media updates and get customers involved in quizzes and prize surveys.
  • Offer help to your customers – Depending on the nature of your business, you might be able to help the community during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Do you have connections in the business space that can help your customer? Are you running a fundraising campaign for local equipment/vaccine centers? If you can support your audience, you’ll want to send email campaigns to reflect these plans.
  • Business as usual emails – You’ll need to strike a balance between being COVID-friendly and business-friendly. Remember: you’re running an operation here, and it’s probably your livelihood. It is worth your time to be cautious of the language you use, as this year, people want empathy and sympathy for their current circumstances (and they still want to be sold to!)

What’s Stayed the Same?

COVID-19 has caused a seismic shift in the way small businesses market. But there remain some consistencies to approach. You don’t need to start over from scratch.

Your Customers Still Like Your Ads

As mentioned in a study on sentiment done by Kantar, the same brand’s other COVID-19 Barometer Survey, 8% of consumers believe that brands should stop advertising during the Pandemic. Some businesses are concerned about offending their customers or community, but the data gives them the green light to go wild.

This data will also resonate well in the marketplace because people want normalcy back. They want the ‘old way of life back pre-COVID-19, and that means ads. It means billboards, great TV ads, and physical shopping.

Data Is Still King

The data hasn’t changed. If your business isn’t paying attention to data to drive decisions and establish marketing strategies, you’re missing out on a great deal of money and growth.

You can collect data in your CRMs to create a clearer vision of your customer and create powerful marketing campaigns using social media content and ads. Using what information you generate with those campaigns; you can come back stronger with an even more resonant message.

The customer is still at the heart

How many emails have you received from small businesses, companies, or brands that start with ‘During these difficult times’ or similar greetings? It’s getting old. Business customers are blind to empty words like this and are finding it harder and harder to connect.

You still need to put the customer first. The Pandemic is no longer a shock or something to transition into: it’s reality. Deliver helpful, meaningful, and engaging content. Solve the customer’s issues by talking to them and finding out how you can help.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has shown that most small businesses don’t have much of a marketing strategy. If you have a plan, that’s great. You don’t have to start fresh. If you’ve been trying to put a plan together but have had no success, it’s time to build a pandemic-friendly marketing strategy that resonates with an audience that’s come to grips with a new world. There’s never been a greater opportunity for small businesses to reach and engage with customers at such an intimate level.

CMG can help you navigate your Digital Marketing Needs Give us a call