February 16, 2021

Returning to Storefronts Post-COVID: 3 Marketing Tips

Finding a way to return your storefront to normal can be tough, especially after COVID -- with our 3 marketing tips, hopefully it can be easier

Before COVID, a client of ours was trying to figure out how to open a new location for her small bakery business. My client has built a decent and loyal following at her first location, in no small part because or her personal touches and delicious pastries. She had been planning on opening a second store prior to the COVID outbreak in New York City, but now she was finding it hard to get her old business back. How can people know that you’re open in the first place? She and I realized that it would take more than just re-opening the store. It would take some clever marketing and promotion to get people comfortable with coming back. Brick & mortar businesses in New York City have been pummeled 2020, but that doesn’t mean you can’t successfully re-establish yourself. As you’re reopening your storefront to customers, these three tips might be able to help you. And hopefully the story of our client “Clara” will provide a good illustration.

First, Find the Right Kind of Engagement for Your Business

The first thing that I helped Clara with was by emphasizing the things that made her business special. Clara put such amazing care into every single treat she made, with her cupcakes in particular a crowd favorite. It isn’t just something that made Clara unique; it brought customers through her doors. We decided to capitalize on her talents with cupcakes and dessert making in order to expand her reach out to other potential customers. At Klaviyo, an awesome guide titled “COVID-19 Marketing Strategies for Food and Beverage Brands" provided some of our ideas. Klaviyo’s site specifically deals with helping on their own platform, but Clara’s business really does most of its work in stores, especially right now. But one idea really jumped out to us: personalization. Due to COVID-19, many people need an excuse to go out to a store, so we built a marketing plan that made a trip to Clara’s bakery special. Clara and I found a campaign that she could thrive with. Clara sent an offer to all her Instagram followers, promising a free cupcake personalized with any message with a purchase. It got people into her store, especially from her long-term customers. Clara also encouraged people to see her in person, even if they couldn’t stay too long.

Next, Find a Marketing Plan that Works for Your Store

While this was a great idea for Clara to start with, it was temporary. Sure, her oldest and most loyal customers know that her bakery was open. But how could new people get involved? Well, Clara and I decided to build a new campaign that took our engagement ideas another step forward. The Balance writer Domenick Celentano wrote a good article about “Food Product Marketing Plan Basics" that I recommended to Clara. Celentano talked about making sure that brand recognition was maintained in all marketing campaigns, and he suggests building brands through social media. But it was the idea of setting long-term goals that I really wanted to stress.

What we did for Clara

We needed something sustainable that could market Clara’s Bakery for some time to come, and which would take advantage of her storefront. There was decent foot traffic near her bakery, but that didn’t get Clara customers. Clara’s store had a window display that she didn’t change too often, so we decided to use that for a new means marketing to a new audience. In her window, we put a sign promoting a new campaign. We reached out to some local artists and took pitches on what could go in the window. Then we encouraged everyone who came into the store to vote on what the final design would be. Every purchase got a vote, and every share on social media got another vote. At the end of a month, we had gotten almost 7,000 votes, and we started to plan for other contests like this. It might not be much, but it was a start of a new plan. Clara could keep doing it and keep driving customers. Everyone was happy. This is especially important when trying to maintain contact during COVID.

Finally, Try Out Strategies Until You Know What Works

Robert Duke from Blue Mail Media wrote an article in 2019 about "10 Must Try Marketing Strategies for Food & Beverage Industry" which inspired something for Clara. Namely, that Clara doesn’t need to try just one thing. Our cupcake-incentive idea was a great way to beat COVID and bring people back to Clara’s store, and the window-display was a smart idea to use in marketing for the long-term. But that doesn’t have to be the end! Working with Clara, we tried out some other ideas, a few of which we took from Duke’s article. This included:

  • Revamping Clara’s brand image 
  • Blogging and using social media 
  • Hosting events 
  • Seasonal offers 

While Blue Mail Media goes deeper into all of these concepts, we thought we would share some of our own quick ideas and results.

How Clara helped herself

Clara’s brand could shift a bit. A change in the storefront was needed anyway to fit both the marketing plan and new COVID-19 regulations. A change in the physical image of the store couldn’t hurt. We already were planning on changing some of Clara’s social media presence, but deeper changes could also be possible, so we leaned into that as well. Clara took control of her Instagram far more, including live videos and cooking demos. She maintained communication during COVID, which was important because it easy to be forgotten. Finally, she has started to plan for seasonal events after the summer. While this might be harder than usual because of COVID, it is something to hope for at the very least. Maybe the events will be virtual, but at least it is something to give a shot. I also will be happy to help her more later.

Reopening Your Storefront with Clever Marketing

If you’re trying to reopen your store after COVID, here are some marketing ideas for you:

  • Build Engagement: make people want to come to your store, and make them want to tell other people about it.  
  • Find a Marketing Plan that Works: As the world has changed, make sure that you’re marketing plan has changed with the times as well 
  • Try and Try Again...: If you’re unsure of how to plan for your storefront reopening, try different marketing campaigns that suit your business. It doesn’t have to be intense; it just has to work for you.

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About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile

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