There’s surely plenty to be anxious about right now, but one that keeps bubbling up for me is a deep concern that the C19 pandemic will be the bottleneck that far too many incredible local gems won’t survive. I’m not the only one marinating on this, and I’ve seen some interesting takes on Readup that support this theory.
It makes sense, with so many small businesses (and people tbh) skating by on razor-thin margins that the larger companies with deeper pockets and more wiggle room in their operating costs will make it through mostly unscathed. Or at least still breathing. Especially when, post-pandemic (whatever that means), we are able to start frequenting local businesses again, albeit with restrictions that will still further squeeze the little guys.
While it makes sense it may happen, I can’t take it lying down.
I’ve seen some positive grassroots endeavors to keep businesses alive, like buying gift certificates for the future from cafes and barbers to help them make ends meet. This is wonderful, and I think as creative professionals we can take this one step further and aim our skills at supporting small businesses to ride this out, and to also thrive as we begin to de-quarantine (whether this is sooner or later is yet to be seen where I’m at).
Figuring out how to best help a local business be found online is not an easy pivot. Especially if, like me, you’ve been working mostly with enterprise marketing teams and established brands. I spent an hour or so today thinking deeply about the best way to use my skills as a marketer and copywriter to help local businesses get found, and grow their businesses.
This looks an awful lot like sitting on my front porch and staring off at nothing, but the wheels are spinning and I’m working through some serious mental gymnastics for how that works.
What’s hard about serving small businesses and local guys, especially for the “seasoned pros”, is that we’re used to working with clients who already have a functioning, well-oiled marketing machine ready to roll, we just add our own gas and off we go.
The local guys marketing machine can sometimes feel like a basket case project bike you found on Craigslist that “ran when parked”. There is a lot of foundational groundwork that has to be done just to get it started–things as basic (but not simple) as setting up Google My Business or creating an ad account for PPC. Some may not even have an online presence to speak of…including a lack of, or sorely out of date, website.
This has slowed me down many times when trying to help friends with their businesses, it’s hard to know where to start (from scratch?) when you’re used to working with complex, existing marketing funnels.
The thing is, these local guys need the help of creative professionals more than ever. Small businesses, local entrepreneurs, they need the kind of high-level marketing thinking that I can offer to help them get found and grow their business in a rapidly changing world…and a really, really weird world for marketers at that. And to do that, I have the special opportunity of getting back to basics and figuring out what it takes to be found online as a small business on a hyper-local scale.
Right now, I’m feeling pretty clueless, it’s been a while since I flexed these muscles…but excited to figure it out. When you’re used to having endless millions of online citizens to market to, you approach the problem very differently from when you have a city of 100,000 discrete people to find customers in.
On the plus, all the love for placemaking and community activation comes into play when you push hard to figure out how to market a business locally. Let’s see how this goes!