Many businesses are coming up with creative ways to meet the needs of their customers during the pandemic. “Business as usual” has taken on a new meaning for most small businesses; however, one thing has remained consistent: the local community is vital for survival. How can you continue to create excitement and improve engagement in your community amid the pandemic’s continued restrictions?
Here are a few ideas to help you generate excitement and engage local customers:
- Give back to the community. What can you do to help those who are most vulnerable in your local area? Give a monetary donation to a local charity or partner with a community non-profit organization to sponsor a fundraiser. You can also encourage your employees to volunteer at non-profit organizations or special events and actively participate in community groups. Be sure to share what you’re doing with your customers – let them be a part of the process as well. Ask them to “join you” in donating time or money to specific causes that make sense for your company and your community. Your efforts in giving back to your local community will shine bright, and you’ll be amazed at how you and your employees will feel as well.
- Set up a virtual “Kudos” jar or suggestion box. Ask your customers how you’re doing and encourage them to give feedback. The more you learn about how you’re doing, the more you can fill in any service gaps that may exist. When you make changes based on customer suggestions, talk about it on social media, so people know you care about what they think.
- Support other small businesses. Find ways to cross-promote local companies — you need each other right now. Consider packaging deals together with another business or two. For example, if your customer buys something from Store A or Store B, they’ll get a discount at your store (and vice versa). Or maybe it’s as simple as co-sponsoring an educational or local event with one or two other local business owners.
- Keep in touch. Of course, you know how critical it is to stay in touch with your customers when you may not be able to see them regularly. It may be the right time to send out an eNewsletter to talk about what you’re doing or targeted emails to ensure they are aware of specials or other options. And keep your social media and website up-to-date. Additionally, you must maintain a relationship with community leaders and groups so you can take advantage of any opportunities available to you and your company. Send them regular emails or set up video conference calls to discuss what’s happening in the community and how you can help.
- Get creative on social media. While we continue to physically distance, use your social media channels to lessen the gap. Connect with your customers by engaging with their posts, answering questions, or starting conversations about your area of expertise. Maybe start a challenge group where you encourage customers to strive toward a common goal or hold a promotional event where customers must check in every day to get the next “clue” for a special deal or prize.
Whatever you do, always keep your eye focused on what customers want or need right now. If you have experienced challenges in your community, don’t shy away from being part of the solution. For example, donate masks or hand sanitizer to local schools (with your brand on them), or share your expertise about specific topics at community educational events. Be seen as part of the solution, and your reputation will improve — even amid a pandemic.