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7 ways to encourage customers to support your small business when the pandemic ends

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The impact of COVID-19 is easy to see. At the start of the pandemic, we saw a push for consumers to help support small businesses. At the end of the pandemic, we can expect to see a second wave of small business support. What will your store do to attract customers back? Here are seven small business advertising strategies for you to try. These ideas are sure to get customers back into your store.

Competition will be high. According to Forbes, almost 100,000 stores had to close because of the pandemic. Even more are struggling to stay open. It seems like stores are holding their breath, eager for the pandemic to end.

Once customers can freely shop, stores will jump at the opportunity to ramp up their advertising. Small businesses are hungry for sales, and they’ll be vying for customers' attention. Expect high competition for consumer dollars when the pandemic ends. 

You’ll want to make sure your store is prepared for the pandemic to end. Get ready to reconnect with customers. Here are seven ways to encourage customers to support your small business at the end of the pandemic. 

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1. Push for the support of local business 

Supporting local business is essential for any community. When consumers shop local, they help keep more money in their community. When consumers make a purchase at a local shop, their money provides the wages of other local citizens. Shopping local allows consumers to buy from a real person. Supporting small business is a movement that many consumers can get behind.

Bring your store to the front of everyone’s mind by calling for local community support. This will provide you with a compelling message. It's a message that customers will want to hear and share with others. Use your voice to help solidify your place in the community.

Don’t be surprised if customers ask how they can help your store. It's okay to be candid with your response. Let them know that making purchases and referring friends, is incredibly helpful. Loyal customers want to see their favorite shops and restaurants succeed. Help customers help you. 

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2. Start a referral program to bring in new customers 

Word-of-mouth promotion is one of the best forms of marketing. Consumers tend to trust their friends' opinions. It’s more trustworthy than an ad or commercial.

The downside is that outright asking customers to promote your business feels impersonal. Instead of begging customers, consider offering a referral program.

With a referral program, you can provide an incentive for loyal customers to tell their friends about your shop. They have a reason to promote your business, but in a way that keeps it honest.

Choose a referral program incentive that is affordable and fun. You might provide a discount for loyal customers each time they bring in a new friend. You might provide newly referred customers with a free subscription for a month. Need more ideas? Check out our blog on referral programs here

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3. Offer gift cards to your customers 

There was a whole year of skipped holidays and celebrations. Consumers are eager to make up those missed birthdays and holiday celebrations this year. They'll feel pressured to buy gifts. What’s a good present for someone you haven't seen in over a year? A gift card might just be the perfect solution!

Gift cards are great because they can help grow your loyal customer base. A loyal customer comes in and buys a gift card for their friend who’s never been to your shop. Now their friend has the ability to visit your store and buy something without spending their own money. It’s almost like a free trial.

The reverse is possible too. A new person walks into your store to buy a gift card for their friend, who happens to be one of your loyal customers. While there, they buy a small product to try for themself. In both of these situations, you bring more foot traffic to your shop. If the customer has a good experience, they’re likely to return.

Starting a gift card program for a small business is easy. Check out Acumen Connections for more information on the process of setting up a gift card program. 

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4. Bulk up your social media followers 

Every business loves free ad space. Social media and email marketing provide affordable advertising opportunities. Get ready to promote your brand and business digitally.

For a successful campaign, you’ll want a strong customer base. Start building up your email audience and your social media following. Bulk up your customer base now so that you're ready for when the pandemic ends. When it does, you’ll be ready to send out your campaign to customers interested in hearing what you have to say.

With each sell you make, encourage customers to follow your business on social media. Encourage them to subscribe to your emails too. Let them know that doing so will allow them to stay up to date on news and discounts. Customers that love your store will be eager to interact with it online. 

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5. Try something new with guerrilla marketing 

Your family is on a road trip. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a giant hot dog passing you. The hot dog is driving in the fast lane. Do I have your attention?

It’s likely the Oscar Meyer Weiner bus, and is just one example of guerrilla marketing.

With guerrilla marketing, you catch your customers off-guard by having your product show up somewhere unexpectedly. They’ll be sure to question it enough to at least look up your business online. Plus, the surprise and shock factor help create a memory that is hard to forget. Certainly, it’s a lot more attention grabbing than a traditional ad.

When done right, guerrilla marketing can draw attention and be affordable.

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6. Start a customer loyalty program 

Celebrate your loyal customers and let them know they’re appreciated. Customer loyalty programs are great ways to get your long-time customers back in the store. These programs also help encourage first-time buyers to return to purchase more. Loyalty programs provide your favorite customers with extra benefits.

What perk should you provide your loyal customers? Consider a punch card!

Punch cards work because of this idea of gamification. Marketing Resources talks a little more about this idea. Essentially though, the reason consumers like punch cards, is the same reason they like games. People like feeling accomplished after completing a challenge.

When we play games, we face challenges, and we watch our progress grow by completing levels. When we finish a game, we usually win a prize of some sort. Punch cards provide these same interactions with a business.  Completing a punch card allows us to win a prize of sort, traditionally a discount or free item. Along the way, we can track our progress by getting another punch on our card. Punch cards work because they pressure customers to come back until they complete the card and earn a reward. 

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7. Keep the extra services you recently added 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all become used to a new norm. Expect some pandemic trends to stay. Staying home is fun, and delivery and curbside options are convenient.

Consumers like being able to order something online, swing by the front of the store, and have someone walk out to their car with their purchase. It saves the customer time and energy.

If you started offering curbside or carry out services during the pandemic, don’t stop. You’re going to want to keep providing those same services for the customers that want them. Some customers will be more than ready to embrace old traditions. Just as many customers will have become comfortable with the new norms.

Start planning your small business’ advertising strategy now 

Consumers will be ready to shop. Your competition will be ready to sell. Will your small business be ready to capture the attention of your customers?

Start building out your small business advertising plan today. With vaccines available to the market, more and more consumers will feel comfortable returning outdoors. Make sure your small business is ready for the shopping wave that’s sure to follow. 

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AlexImn My favorite color is green and my lucky number is 7. Just a guy that enjoys writing and happens to know a little too much about business and finance.
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