How To Guide: 20+ Ways to Market & Communicate Ethically Right Now

As small business owners, we are primed to market our businesses all the time. We use very opportunity to tell people about what we do and create opportunities to sell our products and services.

However, when times are tough or the market is sensitive, like through the Covid-19 lockdown, openly marketing and selling your wares might feel uncomfortable. It might be that you have altered your offer to customers and that marketing & selling is difficult or feels impossible.

Either way, marketing and communicating well has never been more important. It is important to be, and be seen, to be as ethical as possible. We are not large corporate businesses who can suffer with disastrous PR or insensitive communications. We are small business owners who need to survive and thrive while keeping our audience at the front of our hearts and minds always.

So, today I am sharing a few ideas and pointers to help you find a way to market your business, tell your story and communicate effectively when times are tough.

  1. Put service at the top of your list.
    • You might have turnover and sales at the front of your mind (& boy is that important) BUT actually what you need to have at the front of your mind always, is how you can serve your audience in the best way. This means listening, watching and having a deep empathy for what it is they need most. If you serve first, the money will follow. If you chase the money, then you risk alienating the very people you could serve. So start with a list of ways you can serve. Can you share ideas, expertise, be inspiring, entertain, offer advice, be generous.
  2. Market & communicate from your heart.
    • Something that small business owners are good at. Few people are looking for cool, slick, flashy or contrived right now. Your audience is looking for connection, human, love, authenticity and real. Be as open as you can in everything you post, share or send out. If you are a business that is closed, tell your audience that you miss them and that you are planning to make things amazing for when they return. If you are still making things in your studio, share your process, open up about how it helps you, ask their opinion on new designs.
  3. Be generous.
    • I know you’re a generous lot but be more so now. Your audience will remember how you made them feel right now. This doesn’t mean discounting. This means giving free top tips, giving time, giving something special to someone in need. It might mean making a donation to a charity for every sale, offering a scholarship or a ‘pay it forward’ scheme.
  4. Make life easy.
    • If you’re open for business, then let people know how easy and safe it is to buy from you. Maybe you can send items to their isolated loved ones. Perhaps you can deliver safely and locally. Perhaps you can collaborate with another business to create a package that solves a problem. Think about easy payment options too – online payments, staggered payments, deposit now & balance later. Perhaps you can alter your T&Cs now to show how flexible you are.
  5. Communicate – often.
    • What your audience wants most from their favourite micro businesses is connection. They want to hear how you’re doing. They want to see what their favourite place is looking like through the seasons. They want to know what your plans are. Regularly update people about your policies, changes of business, new ideas. Ask them for their opinion or feedback. Add a proper section to your website about your response to lockdown and how your business will help them now or even in the future. Start a video or blog diary about life where you are.
  6. Don’t stop.
    • Life is overwhelming and scary sometimes. Take things slowly, work when you can face it, post online when you’re feeling better. Just keep going. You’re not alone and there are many people out there who still want a business like yours. They still need help, Birthday gifts, nice things to look forward to and more.
  7. Some quick ideas & inspirations that I have seen and heard about:
    • Deliver a ‘Pub in a Box’ – bottles of drink, glasses, beer mats, snacks & a quiz
    • Offer a free scholarship for a struggling small business
    • Start a VIP club by email for free tips, ideas or mini tutorials
    • Donate a % of all sales to a charity
    • Offer an NHS giveaway to a key worker
    • Offer some of your services in return for a charity donation
    • Start a weekly online class – recipes, making, wellbeing ideas, yoga, art and more
    • Share a daily diary with entertaining ideas or inspiring images
    • Ask your audience to sponsor you or your business e.g. sponsor a barista or baker in return for a free cake or coffee when you re open.
    • Offer delivery locally – cake club, supper club, cream tea in a box and more
    • Offer a wrapping service to send gifts to isolated friends and loved ones.
    • Design or sell one item where proceeds go to charity
    • Collaborate with another small business to offer a new package – web dishing & photography, cake & craft kit, gift cards for accommodation & a beauty treatment
    • Create a celebration in a box for a Birthday or Anniversary in lockdown (think collaboration above)
    • Create a contest for a tagged key worker to win one of your items or an online treat.