As a small woman-owned local business, we realize the financial strains companies are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that continues to wreak havoc on the global economy.
As we watch local shops reopen and restrategize their business models, a common denominator for everyone is customer loyalty. Your business hinges on your pre-pandemic local fanbase and will rely on it once this is over. Make sure you’re being good to them, and they’ll be good to you.
Communicate with your loyal customers.
Your local customers may not be in a position to purchase like they used to, but that doesn’t make them less valuable—make sure they know it. Use your company newsletter to update them with helpful coping tips, explain how your store is handling safety issues, or give them a purchase incentive that they can use at a future time.
Customers are fragile financially, emotionally, and philosophically. Show some humanity by providing supportive information and they’ll remain loyal to your company.
Stand by your brand.
Now is not the time to change your brand’s mission and vision. Your clients are experiencing enough unknowns and volatility without your business creating more confusion and noise. Be consistent and steady with your messaging. Use social media platforms to create positive reinforcement of what your brand means at this time.
Stay true to loyal local customers.
A local coffee shop recently told a paying customer with a loyalty punch card, “We’re not taking those right now. We’re just focusing on trying to stay open.”
In a city where a customer is fortunate enough to have a job and has decided to spend their local dollars in your store, it’s best not to 1) shame them for trying to use their card, and 2) deny them the use of the card at the time of purchase. It’s in poor taste and it’s bad business.
It’s not necessary to create a loyalty program during a pandemic, but if you already had one, either honor it or clearly display that you have discontinued it. Because until further notice, we are all making major decisions on where to spend our hard-earned money.
Reconsider your local marketing dollars.
Have you been spending money on digital ads outside your market or print ads in the tourism industry? Consider reallocating those funds for now and focusing on boosting your local SEO. Getting your website to rank toward the top when people search terms like “coffee near me” is worth every penny these days. You can create new loyal local customers by hiring an SEO strategist on a contract basis who can work fast and measurable ROI.
Rethink your services.
We live in a creative community with people who love and want to support local businesses. Have you talked to your loyal customers about what they need from you or what they’re missing? You may be shocked to learn what they really want is someone to drop off fresh eggs to their house. Your restaurant has drivers and farm fresh eggs—maybe you can add this service to your business model.
Think outside the box. Maybe even create a box with eggs, coffee, and locally baked bread; you get the point! Now is the time to meet demands, where and when you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions.
People are going to remember how you made them feel during a crisis more than anything else. Did you stand by like a trusted friend even though you were in a state of panic? Were you offering services even though you were in a pinch? Was your company true to its brand and effective with its messaging? If so, hang on tightly. Your loyal customers will remember, tell everyone who will listen, and write reviews. If, on the other hand, your business has been less than gracious, the locals will know, because the locals always know.