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The COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown have impacted South African business landscape in a massive way, with many companies not surviving the last nine months, and many more businesses now operating at reduced capacity. While business owners across the country welcomed the recent move to lockdown Level 1 – allowing many to ramp up their companies once again – companies are now faced with the challenge of rebuilding their customer bases and starting the journey towards recovery.

It is also during this time that we truly come to realise that the business landscape has likely changed forever. Social distancing and COVID-19 safety procedures are here to stay, and businesses that rely on getting feet through their doors may find that new online businesses have eroded their customer bases significantly.

With this in mind, business owners who are in the process of getting back on their feet during Level 1, would do well to take a hard look at their marketing strategies, and take some ideas from the innovative marketing tactics that have already emerged as a result of the pandemic.

1. Prepare a brand-new strategy

Even if you had a strong marketing strategy before the pandemic, you should acknowledge that the last few months have likely changed everything for your industry. New competitors have emerged, some business models are just not viable anymore and customers’ priorities have shifted. This is why it is vital to start with a current reality assessment to determine where the business is on a holistic basis. Your company’s current reality will include a full analysis of your consumers or shoppers, suppliers, competition, capacity, capability, and organisation.

2. Make customer empathy part of your marketing

Now, more than ever before, customers need to feel connected to your business. Remember that the pandemic has been tough on your customers as well, therefore show in your communications that you are there to stand by them. Whether you are connecting with your customers through social media or email campaigns, you need to ensure that your tone is authentic. Think like them and show them heartfelt empathy from every angle whenever you want to market your products or services. This also means that you should avoid being too forceful with your messaging and avoid promoting fear.

3. Focus more on online advertising

Online advertising has become cheaper than ever before, and even if you are forced to pull back some of your advertising spend, it is worth redirecting more of your advertising budget towards online marketing. Not only are ads cheaper to distribute directly to your customers online, research has shown that it is also much less expensive to convert users into leads and customers.

4. Let data be your guide

Advanced data analysis has never been more accessible to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and every bit of data that your company gathers can be used to build a way forward for your company’s marketing efforts. Your finance and collections department are incredible sources of information about your customers’ shifting priorities and spending capabilities, while your social media team’s feedback around customer engagement can help you to adjust your marketing strategies in real time. In addition, engaging the services of a partner that can provide more holistic views and data of the wider market is probably one of the best investments that your business can make while you are rebuilding your operation.

About the Author: Gugu Mjadu

Gugu Mjadu is our Executive General Manager: Marketing. As a daughter to entrepreneurs, Gugu is a passionate about entrepreneurship and supporting entrepreneurs to succeed. She has been working in the entrepreneurship space since 2003. One of Gugu’s proudest moments at Business Partners Ltd was leading the rebranding of the company in 2014. Gugu is interested in the advancement of rural areas and early childhood development. Gugu is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME sector lobbying initiatives, youth and female entrepreneurship, marketing, and mentorship articles.

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