Most of the communities within the boundaries of Central Counties have been in Stage 3 since July 24. With that comes optimism for many whose businesses, or the businesses they support, that have now re-opened. I am certainly not denying that the prospect of welcoming guests is exciting and provides hope that you are going to weather the storm. However, now is not the time to sit back and hope people spend money with you. Now, more than ever, you need to partner with your neighbours, partner with your municipality, partner with your region, and partner with Central Counties. And here is why:
- On a recent with Abacus Research, they noted that consumer fear has increased with the announcement of Stage 3. The fear is around the increased possibility of a second wave of cases because of the easing of restrictions.
- On a different call with IPSOS Research, they noted that only 20% of Ontarians are ready to get out once a community reopens in Stage 3. 19% are nearly ready, 23% want to but can’t (financial restrictions, vulnerable loved one, etc.), 18% are content with the way things are, and 20% are afraid to venture out.
- Every business in Ontario that is just like yours is reopening at the same time and will be marketing to and communicating with the same types of customers you are.
This means that:
- Businesses are going to have to work hard just to get 40% of their normal customers.
- Part of the decision making process for customers will be their confidence that the business has done everything in its power to keep them safe while delivering a good experience.
- There will be increased noise on all communication channels making it difficult for individual businesses to be heard.
This intro isn’t meant to get you down or put a knot in your stomach. The point is that there is strength in numbers and more than ever before, you can’t look at your neighbours as competition. They are your allies. And by working together, and utilizing the resources available from your various supporters (Chamber/Board of Trade, BIA, Municipality, Region, Central Counties), there is a better chance of getting customers through your doors quicker and more often so that you can begin to breathe a real sigh of relief.
If you don’t know where to begin, below are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. The Central Counties team is also here to help you get started, make connections and support your efforts. I am just an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Create a Video
One of the things researchers are hearing is that potential customers want to “see” what the experience at your location is going to be like within the realities of social distancing and PPE. Creating a short video of you and/or staff demonstrating what a visit looks like will go a long way to make people comfortable – especially if you include video of the cleaning procedures you have implemented. Not everyone has the skillset to make and edit these short videos so this is a great opportunity to partner with your neighbours. Share the cost of a videographer between several businesses. They charge by the day, and filming will only take an hour or so per location, making it possible for several of your neighbours to take part. We can even help source a videographer. Just send me an email.
Having a critical mass of safe places to visit will increase the likelihood that your area will get visited. You probably have a database of past customers and/or social followers and so do your neighbours. By creating a joint message about all of the great things to see and do safely (with links to videos and websites) in the neighbourhood, and having all of the partner businesses send the message to their customer database, each individual business has just directly reached exponentially more customers than they could have on their own. The best part is that every person reached has loyalty and trust in at least one of the businesses featured in the joint message. Familiarity and comfort about a location is important during these early days of recovery.
Use your Supports
I often hear that there is too much duplication when it comes to the marketing efforts made by all of the organizations supporting your business. One of the fundamentals of marketing effectiveness is reach and frequency. In these days of a virtually unlimited number of possible touchpoints, another key factor in decision-making is the number of sources a prospective customer learns about you from. For the cost of your time, your business can be listed on any number of supporting websites, and for a bit more time and the effort of reaching out to them to tell your unique story and engage with them, your business can be featured in any number of ways.
On July 14th at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Minister Lisa McLeod announced an additional $500,000 in funding for Central Counties to support our stakeholders through marketing to our residents and neighbouring communities. We are just in the process of putting some plans together and a good part of it will focus on partnering/supporting those that are working together to create small destinations for residents and locals to visit and spend money. To make our efforts even more successful, we are counting on the businesses, BIA’s, Chambers/Boards of Trade, Municipalities and Regions involved to leverage the content we will jointly create and tell the stories across their channels. This will ensure that we get the biggest bang for our investments.
Rereading what I have written, I feel I sound like I am on a soapbox and that is the farthest thing from the truth. I am passionate about your businesses and the industry you support. We have all spent the last four months on a roller coaster of emotions and conflicting messages. Our team has heard from you at times of deep despair and moments of triumph, and we have had many sleepless nights worrying about stakeholders, many of whom have become friends over the years, and how they are going to make ends meet. I honestly believe, with every ounce of my being, that each of you has a better chance of surviving this if you are working together to share the costs, share the time, share the hardship and share the rewards.
Start with us. It’s our reason for being. And we probably have some great ideas and contacts that can get you started. We also have lots of programs that are free of charge which can help position you for greater success through the reopening phase.
Good luck with your re-openings and please let me know if there is anything we can do to help.