10 ways to market your business as the lockdown lifts

With most consumers having spent the last year or more locked up in their homes, and having adopted lots of new habits which they have gotten used to, it will be extremely challenging for many businesses – firstly to get back to being top of mind for consumers, and secondly, to encourage consumers to resume old purchasing habits.

I’m Brody Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Camile Thai Kitchen, the UK and Irelands fastest growing Thai restaurant chain.

While in Camile, we have been fortunate to have been allowed to remain open (even if it was in a limited way) during the lockdown, we have had to adapt and change how we reach our customers, as traditional mediums were no longer relevant.

I have set out below some thoughts about how to kick start your business from a marketing point of view, and to encourage customers back and spending in your  business. While many of the tips will be relevant to a retail or hospitality business, the ideas are relevant for all those charged with getting businesses back to normal.

Like most things to do with business, good marketing is mostly about common sense. You are trying to remind existing customers that you exist, and attract new customers to your re-opened business.

Brody Sweeney

1.   Digital First

It’s not a surprise to see that marketing through digital channels continues to be the most cost effective and relevant way to market your business. In particular, digitals ability to be really targeted, both by location and by demographic, means that your advertising money can be well spent.

For example, in Camile, most of our customers will come from a 3 mile radius around our restaurant. This also happens to be the best area for us to deliver to. If a customer lives 4 or more miles away, we can’t deliver to them efficiently. We also have a good idea that our core customers are young professionals.

With social media channels like Facebook, Google search and Instagram it is relatively easy for us to target this particular area, and to go after this particular group of core customers. And it’s relatively inexpensive and less wasteful than say advertising in a local newspaper.

Coming up with good content for your online marketing efforts can include staff stories, product features and now very popular Blogs and Podcasts which have also taken off. If you have a particular expertise in an area, recording a podcast, or typing a blog like this – can help someone with your knowledge – and promote your business by extension.

2.   But don’t forget Offline Marketing

In the ever growing rush to digital marketing, we can sometimes overlook the continuing role for offline, to back-up what you can do online. Cheap and effective, it has a place in your plans.

Knowing where your customers come from (as in 1. Above), means like online, you can target your offline efforts.

Leaflet drops in your 3 mile catchment still have a place (you need to do this repetitively to get traction – same or different leaflets into the same house repeatedly). But what about other ideas like demonstrations or talks in your premises. And is it appropriate to offer samples outside your location, or drop door to door. A new banner over the door saying that your open again. Flags and Balloons draw attention to your building.

Guerilla marketing like stringing a banner on a bridge over a main road near your home (maybe try this at the weekends when the council workers are off!), or standing at traffic lights with a sign on a pole bring immediate and relevant attention to your business.

3.   Say Thank you

Two simple words, with such a big effect.

When you do welcome customers back to your business, a sincere thank you for the business that they are bringing to you, always goes down well. And it’s surprising how many forget to do it.

And thank you’s of course shouldn’t stop with your customers, your staff also appreciate the recognition. And appreciated staff give better service.

One of the things we noticed early in the pandemic was that our drivers were no longer getting tips (A practical way of saying thank you), as customers shied away from cash and physical contacts. We discovered a fantastic startup called STRIKE, who enable customers to give tips on their phone, by scanning a QR code that comes with their delivery.

4.   Encourage trial and re-trial

There’s no getting away from the fact that people and especially your customers have gotten used to living life under lock down, including getting many of the products and services they used to get in a conventional way, now in an entirely new way – and some of these new ways are pretty good. It may require a great deal of effort to get people to change back to the way they were purchasing before, and coming back to your business.

Getting people to try and re-try your business is key. How you do that is by giving a really decent incentive to try you. And it needs to be decent (and short term, because it costs money). 10% off is no longer considered a decent incentive. 25% off yes. Two for one yes. Added product or service for free yes.

5.   Make service a differentiator

While it’s true a lot of personal services cannot be purchased online in the sense of service delivery (think hairdresser or beautician) – many goods like clothing or furniture have moved online in a big way – and its these types of business that can differentiate through great service.

Playing to your strengths – being able to touch clothing and try it on is something you can’t do easily online. Getting an experts opinion in person. Speaking to a human, giving a personal thank you, and making someone laugh are all things that can’t (mostly) be done online.

Treat your customers like royalty when they come back and experience with you, one to one human interactions again with a business.

Camile Thai

6.   Innovate new ways to package what you’re already selling

This is a great opportunity to review your old methods of delivery. For many restaurants that reluctantly got into takeaway and delivery, they have discovered a profitable new channel. Packaging may have been thrown together hastily to solve a problem, but if you stood back and looked at it – could it be done better? With our sustainability point below – reducing the quantity of packaging (has anyone been slightly sickened at the amount of cardboard and polystyrene delivered with a meal kit – which can’t be reused?), and making it re-usable or re-cyclable will impress your customers

7.   Do market research

There is no excuse for even the smallest business, not to find time to listen to where customers are at – it’s common sense in action.

We listen all the time in Camile, but probably our cheapest and most valuable research is what we call “In Home Research”, where we give customers a free meal, and in return we get to quiz them for half an hour about their habits around food. Costs almost nothing, and we always learn something useful

Finding out how your customers are thinking and feeling about the lock downs lifting, can help you adapt your business to the new reality. Customers have gotten into hew habits, whether its shopping online, or entertaining themselves at home.

Some simple research (say 10 relevant questions) to both a group of former or current customers, and non-customers may wake you up to the new commercial world around us, and simple research like this doesn’t have to cost money, just some time and effort.

8.   Make a plan

Even though we know intellectually that plans almost never quite work out, its an indisputable fact that your better off with one, than without.

For many businesses, the lifting of lockdown will not mean an instant return to pre-pandemic business levels (although for some it will), where business returns gradually as confidence grows and people get out and about more.

You should start with an initial re-boot marketing plan, which you can adjust as reality unfolds.

Some changes from the pandemic are likely to stick – like the acceleration away from cash to mobile payments. What does this mean for your business? Is there an opportunity to reset?

What about price changes you would like to make, or changes to the style of service, or shutting down some parts which you believe will no longer be profitable, or developing new business opportunities?. All this is related to how you will market your business into the future.

This is an ideal time to make changes that perhaps you had been putting off, as all rules are off and big changes accepted as part of post pandemic restructuring.

9.   Think sustainability

Consumers are growing ever more mindful of a businesses stance on sustainability, and that creates opportunities to differentiate yourself from your opposition, who might not be quite so “woke”.

Reviewing your supply chain and your operational practices. Reducing your carbon footprint and reducing your use of plastics. Moving away from single use containers, more plant based foods, saving water, re-purposed clothing etc. all contribute to doing the right thing for the planet, but also ticking the boxes many customers now expect.

Reducing, recycling and re-using can all be applied to every business.

10.   Sell local

One trend that has emerged is the willingness, actually more the desire for consumers to support local businesses which have been having a tough time. Supporting local jobs, reducing carbon footprint and just doing the right thing, are some of the reasons consumers feel like this. If this is relevant for you, you should promote this for all it’s worth.

For those lucky ones amongst us whose business returns quickly and profitably – fair play to you. For the rest of us – the future is still uncertain. Common sense ways of getting back to customers attention is what this blog is about. Planning your marketing carefully and sensibly, will give you the best chance.

Good luck and stay safe! 

Interested in finding out more about the Camile Thai franchise opportunity? Visit our profile >> 

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