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Use Local Campaigns to Raise Brand Awareness During COVID-19

Article - 5 Min. Read

Small and medium-sized businesses are still facing uncertain and unsteady times. See how local marketing campaigns can help raise awareness of your brand and set you up for continued success.

A woman on the phone working in a flower shop looking at a variety of plants.

As COVID-19 continues to change the face of U.S. commerce—and nearly all aspects of daily life—many local small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are still struggling to regain their footing and bring back customers.

Just as restrictions began to lift in many parts of the country, concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant and the uptick in cases have set consumers and businesses alike on edge. To help ensure survival—and success—SMBs must be prepared for the uncertain months ahead. Although in general, most businesses are now better equipped for disruption, many are now also working with fewer resources.

For companies looking to stay a step ahead while raising awareness of their brand, building local campaigns and getting more involved in the community can actually be a very effective—and relatively easy—marketing strategy to implement.

As the pandemic forces people to be less social and less active in their communities, businesses can help fill the gap. Read on to see how community-based marketing strategies can assist with raising awareness, allowing customers to support your local business when it matters most.

Get Ahead of Customer Concerns

As coronavirus numbers begin to rise in many U.S. regions, it’s crucial to gauge what your customers expect; customers’ concerns and comfort levels can vary widely, so take some time to get a feel for their needs. If you’re not sure, and want to tailor policies to customers’ desires, try sending out a simple survey asking directly.

Then take stock of your own needs—and those of your employees—to see what makes the most sense. Depending on the severity of COVID-19 in your area, you may want to consider proactive measures toward ensuring everyone’s comfort and safety. This could mean requiring masks for all customers shopping or picking up in-store, or for those who are unvaccinated.

Or you may want to consider putting a limit on the number of customers permitted in the store at one time—even if you’re legally allowed to have full capacity. If you have the space and ability, an outdoor area for customers can work well; many cafes, bars and restaurants have adopted such models to great success, with customers choosing to sit outside even after indoor dining reopened. Offering curbside or in-store pickup is another good option for customers who are avoiding being in a store for long periods.

Some businesses are even asking customers for proof of vaccination before coming into a brick-and-mortar location. Whatever policies you choose to implement, be sure to communicate them clearly to customers and answer any questions they may have. Incorporating simple, eye-catching postcards into your local campaigns, in order to deliver important updates and announcements, is a good way to keep customers informed while letting them know you’re there for them.

of consumers appreciate the way some brands have changed their advertising tone due to COVID-19.[1]

Keep in mind that some customers may be reluctant to adhere to certain policies; clear, easy-to-understand signage and messaging can help avoid confusion or pushback. You may also want to keep disposable masks on hand in case customers forget to bring their own.

Sending out periodic messages about your policies and reiterating your commitment to your customers and your community through a combination of direct mail and digital channels can help establish your business as a pillar of the community.

By focusing on the well-being of your community and your workers, you can signal to customers that their wishes and concerns will always be your top priority—all while increasing awareness of your brand.

Get Creative to Give Back to the Community

In addition to making customers feel valued, understood and safe, giving back to the community can also help increase awareness of your brand.

As consumers—especially the younger generations—increasingly seek out companies that support causes they care about, showcasing your core values and ethics can help you stand out from the competition.

Nearly 60% of the U.S. public wants brands to give an opinion on topics like social justice and climate change.[2]
Of U.S. consumers age 8–34, 71% will pay more for a product if they know some of the proceeds go to charity.[3]
Consumers are 4.1 times more likely to trust a company that they perceive to have a strong purpose.[4]

Before jumping into anything, first take stock of what your customers care about most. Are they nature lovers? Animal lovers? Likely to donate to veterans’ organizations or homeless shelters? Look through any customer data you have at your disposal to get a better feel for their interests and values.

Then get to work assessing unmet community needs and what causes may be a good fit for your business. If you run a fashion boutique, for example, you could set certain hours or days for the public to drop off clothing donations. To get the word out, try mailing something customers will actually save—such as a small desktop calendar with your donation drop-off days clearly marked.

Just as many businesses are seeking to help support local customers, many consumers, as well, are likely looking for ways to support local businesses—especially during trying times. In fact, 34% of consumers in a recent survey said they would be willing to pay a premium for local products.[5]

of consumers in a recent survey said they’d pay a premium for local products.[6]

Use this to your advantage and showcase the fact that you’re a locally owned business in your marketing. On your website or social platforms, for example, you could highlight how long you’ve been part of the community, how you’re giving back, and what you’re offering to local residents.

Direct mailpieces can also serve as a simple marketing solution, allowing you to get the same message across while providing a tangible experience—a novelty in today’s digital world. Think of your mailpieces as business cards, using big, bold text to make your brand—and your proximity to customers—known.

of consumers now feel more connected or as connected to their communities as they did before the crisis.[7]

Remember that mailpieces can also serve a more personal purpose in connecting with customers and raising awareness of your company. For example, if you know customers’ birthdays, you can send out postcards wishing them well—perhaps with an exclusive birthday discount or promo. Then, once customers have received the mailpiece, you can use the Informed Visibility® feature to follow up automatically with digital marketing reminding them of the discount.

of consumers are more excited to receive their mail each day than they were before COVID-19.[8]

Key Takeaway

As small and medium-sized businesses continue to adapt to an ever-changing—and increasingly uncertain—landscape, leveraging locally focused campaigns can be a simple and affordable way to raise customer awareness.

Helping customers feel safe while playing an active, meaningful role in your community can not only set your brand apart from the crowd, but also establish your business as a committed community leader.

  1. [1]“A Look at Consumer Behaviors in a COVID-19 World,” Valassis, a Vericast business, 2020.
  2. [2]“The Corporate Social Mind: The Public's Expectations of Companies to Address Social Issues,” The Corporate Social Mind, June 2020.
  3. [3]“5WPR 2020 Consumer Culture Report: Insight into the complexities of the modern consumer’s motivations, influences and purchasing habits,” 5W Public Relations, 2020.
  4. [4]“2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study,” Zeno, June 17, 2020.
  5. [5]“Four consumer behavior trends emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first EY Future Consumer Index finds,” EY, April 23, 2020.
  6. [6]Ibid.
  7. [7]“How COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behavior: Fast-changing consumer behaviors influence the future of the CPG industry,” Accenture, April 28, 2020.
  8. [8]“A Look at Consumer Behaviors in a COVID-19 World,” Valassis, a Vericast business, 2020.

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