If you are to thrive as a business when all this comes to pass, it is essential to keep delivering your market message to your clients and let them know that you are still around to serve them and look after their best interests. Deborah Garry, the President and CEO of the BBG&G marketing agency, joins Brian Powers to share some marketing tips for small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Deborah sees social media as the best foot businesses can put forward in an environment where physical contact with clients is severely limited. This entails keeping clients engaged with relevant messaging and useful content. Join in as Brian and Deborah discuss the tools you can use to optimize your marketing and come out of this crisis in the best form you possibly can.
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Marketing Tips For Businesses During The COVID-19 Crisis With Deborah Garry
Welcome, Deborah Garry, President and CEO of BBG&G marketing firm. I am happy to have you here. Tell us a little bit more about you, the firm and the services that you provide.
We’ve been in business for many years here in the Hudson Valley. We started out as a power trio and we have grown quite a bit since then. We are a full-service marketing and creative firm. What that has always meant for us is utilizing the tools of the industry to build bridges between our clients and their customers. In the beginning, it was more traditional media tools. It has expanded to public relations, web building, digital programmatic, SEO, social media, virtual methods, video and virtual reality video. It’s the best way to reach our clients’ customers. It keeps it fun.
In these times of COVID-19, we are trying to pivot our businesses and for some people even stay in business. Talk a little bit about what your clients are seeing out there. How are you helping them walk through these different crazy times we’re in?
We deal with clients in different market segments and industries, so it’s a little bit different depending on the industry. For our tourism clients, they’ve been heavily affected by closures here and abroad. Our tourism clients work with visitors from all around the world and around the country. They’ve been hit hard, so we focused with them during the crisis, how to stay in touch with their audiences, how to be very helpful and low key, give them virtual and video tours of their destinations, give them some fun educational content and ways to stay engaged to keep the eye candy out there like, “This is how great we are. As soon as you can, come and visit.” We maintain that awareness and feed the desire to travel. We know that once the restrictions are lifted, at least for the drive audience, people are going to be anxious to get out and safely travel when they can. I think that the air travel will take longer to come back, but certainly the drive traffic, anybody who can get to anywhere within an hour or two for a day trip, they’re going to be ready to go. We’re helping our clients to be ready when the opening starts to happen.
It sounds like staying in front of the mind is key so they’re not forgotten once things do reopen.
We had to look at their strategy, messaging, content and what they put on their website. We changed up their digital content. The first reaction often is like, “Stop everything.” We’re like, “No, let’s rethink, restrategize, look at the messaging, keep talking to people, help them get through this and help them remember to come back.”
In continuing that conversation, often we get a little concerned, especially with the marketing that we’re putting too much out there. More than ever, people are online and on social media. They want to see things from the companies that they do business with and that they love essentially. That can come to tourism too. That’s obvious.
It’s still an escape. We’ve been working with our clients on putting video assets out there and help give people an escape, promote their takeaway restaurants and beverage partners that people can still enjoy, and be sensitive to where people are at. It has changed even from March 2020 to now. In the first few weeks of March, everybody was scared. There was a collective and we’re like, “Everybody, breathe. Let’s sit back, take a look at things and start to breathe again.” In April 2020, people were starting to think about, “Maybe in July 2020 or August 2020, we can do something. Maybe in June 2020, we can take a road trip as long as where we’re going everybody’s following the social distancing requirements. We can go and get takeout.”
I’ve heard people saying, “Somebody drove an hour and a half to get great Thai food.” They wanted to get great Thai food at a favorite restaurant so they drove an hour and a half, they got it, take out and drove back home. We’ve been changing the messaging to address what people can do. Also, we’ve been helping virtual tourism museums that are closed so people can still get a behind the scenes peek at something or their kids can use it for a lesson, education or coloring books for their destination. That gives people something to do and it still keeps the destination top of mind.Every business’s best foot forward right now is social media. Click To Tweet
You worked with tourism. Are there some other industries that you are involved in?
It’s different. We work with some not-for-profits, B2B, healthcare, finance and banking. One of our B2B clients is affected by the closures around the world because he’s in the food supply chain industry. Some of his clients in the Middle East have an 8:00 PM curfew. We’re helping him grapple with more of a supply chain issue and a demand issue. Some of the ports are closed. His is more of a logistical issue. We’re looking at keeping awareness out there ahead of time. We focused on his website because that’s what needed to be done. We said, “We’re not going to be going to trade show. We’re not going to work on developing collateral but let’s get your website in place.”
These days, that’s everybody’s best foot forward, web and social media. Why not get it running as perfectly as possible? I feel like people turn to it for information, not only if you’re providing information regarding COVID, but we’re finding out what’s going on with your company.
People need reassurance. They need to get a sense that the companies they know are still functioning and doing what they can to stay safe and to keep the clients and customers safe. We’re also working with non-for-profits and their challenges. There’s such an in-person relationship building industry. All of their relationships and outreach to their donors, volunteers and supporters were often tied to in-person outreach and they can’t do that now. We’re looking at webinars, video, social media, content on your website and eMarketing. How can you still inform your constituents and your stakeholders about all the great stuff that you’re still doing, even though you can’t do that educational outreach program that you hope to be able to do in front of 100 people? You can’t have your gala and you can’t have your fundraising breakfast, but how do you still reach out to the people that need to understand what’s going on, how you might need help, how you’re still helping them, and keep the communication open? It’s a switching tactics and always look at the messaging and the content.
Talk to us a little bit about being consistent. It plays off of the, “How do I know if I’m overdoing it?” How important is that?
Consistency is important. There are rules of frequency for social and eMarketing from being ineffective to being overkill. You start to burn out your audience and they start to disconnect, opt-out and everything else that you don’t want to happen. We help our clients with that too. Those rules of frequency are pretty much still the same, but it’s the messaging and content that has to be looked at. It’s a very softsell kind of time. It’s not a hardsell kind of time. It’s going back to the basics of marketing or planning that we all thought we had done and knocked out for 2020, at least for the first quarter or two.
We’re returning and re-strategizing completely because people are in a different place. They’ve got different concerns, different needs and different pain points. All that has to be kept in mind. Social is good, but because you want to reach out more to your clients, it doesn’t mean that you need to be posting twenty times a day. eMarketing is a strong tool but please don’t send out five eNewsletters a week. Don’t overload your audience. Stick to the same rules of frequency and look at what will be the content that will give them a chuckle, help them feel a little inspired, maybe give them some tips they can use. I have friends who are drowning in working from home and homeschooling at the same time. Even educational things that could help them help their kids get through this remote learning.
That hails to the point of knowing your demographic, your client base, who you’re talking to and almost putting yourself in their shoes.
Also being helpful and considerate. It’s big. We always talk about that with our clients. Our logo is, “It’s the work we do before we do the work,” because as a creator firm, people automatically look towards what’s a creative product, tangible. The intangible work we do beforehand is extremely important. It’s all the marketing research and understanding our clients and their customer base. We always say, “Our job is to stand in your customer’s shoes and help you talk to them appropriately, relevant and impactfully. You want to motivate and have an influence on them, but you want to do it from a point that’s relevant to them and helpful. You can’t sell a bikini to an Eskimo. I don’t care how good your strategy is or how good your marketing is. You’re off base. You’re selling the wrong thing to the wrong person.
I’m sure there’s a sense of panic that people want to be everything to everyone, but being able to stay on course and do it well is probably the smartest way to go.
A good strategy is still at the heart of it and being in your customer’s shoes, where are they at. None of us are in the place we were in early February 2020.
It sounds simple enough, but if you don’t know or aren’t 100% on where they are, pick up the phone or shoot an email and see where they are and what’s going on.
We’re encouraging our clients to talk to their customers. It is a good time to do customer surveys, especially for looking ahead to the post-COVID time. Don’t assume that they’re in the same place they were before.
I know you guys have put together a resources site. Maybe we could talk a little bit about what’s on there and some tips and stuff that you’re providing.
We put together content around our strengths but also geared towards the challenges of this time. We’re helping people focus on what are the digital, virtual and web-based strategies that companies can employ, whatever your industry, to reach your customers and clients. The in-person is not happening, so you have to keep communicating. We looked at the key tools, and a good strong website starts with that. Before anything, it’s looking at your customers, doing a content audit and re-looking at everything. Look at your email, eMarketing, social content, web content and any downloadable tools you might want to add or change on your website. We’re also talking to our B2B customers and they’re used to doing in-person sales.
Their sales process revolves around in-person communication, trade shows and one-on-ones. They can’t do that. What sales tools do they need to be on their website? What webinars can they create to take the place of in-person presentations? How can they use eMarketing or even direct marketing to reach out to those 200 people they thought they’d get to see at the trade show and they’re not going to? Know your audience, do a strong content audit of all your tools and reshape your messaging. Don’t make any assumptions. Talk to your clients. Look at your website, your tools, your eMarketing and social.
We’ve been also working with people to boost up their eCommerce because companies that did not sell online that much, they certainly are now. They need to update their eCommerce package. Make it more comprehensive and promote that so that the clients know they can get what they need online. SEO is a big scary acronym, but it goes back to understanding your audience. There’s a skillset behind this and our digital team are Google specialists and Google certified. We know how to do this. It’s making sure that your website content reflects what people are searching for both in short searches that are normally done online and long-tail searches that are tied to voice searching.
You hit the nail on the head. People tend to cringe when it comes to talking about SEO. They don’t necessarily understand it but it’s important. It’s almost like a foundation when you talk about a house. It’s equivalent to a website because you want to be found for the things that you’re talking about and posting.Good, relevant content is critical to client engagement. Click To Tweet
Also, that you’re good for, that you can provide.
If done correctly, Google will reward you for doing that.
Yes, they will. The algorithms will reward you for good content, good links and good backlinks. No smoke and mirrors. Everyone can remember years ago, when people were building all kinds of crazy sub-sites and links and all this stuff. Search engines do not support any of that at all. It’s good and relevant content that’s substantial.
It doesn’t have to be crazy and all over the place and a ton of stuff. As long as it’s pointed in the right direction and talking to what you do and who you’re trying to appeal to, it can help.
Also understanding how your customers search for your products or services. Sometimes, it’s not getting caught up in our own vernacular or our own industry jargon. Depending on what industry you’re in, some of your clients might search on those kinds of industry-specific terms and some might not. It’s knowing your customers.
There are some tools out there on the side that you can utilize to find, what keywords people are using to find your products or services. That’s a start.
There are tools out there that we use. You can also look even in your social content, in terms of conversations that people are having and the words that they use around your services or your company. Also, the search terms tied to your social. There are a lot of different ways you can gain insight into how people are looking for you. You don’t want to guess.
You had mentioned backlinking. That’s another positive thing to use.
It has a valid and incredible relationship. It’s getting backlinks from other sites, resources and partners that logically tie into your website content and services. For our choice of partners, we’ll say, “We did an itinerary and some content on your website around these different kinds of places. Let somebody reach out to those partners and say, ‘We did this whole itinerary and you’re included in it. How about you do a nice social post and link back to this itinerary? You’re helping your fans and it’s a credible backlink. It’s not garbage.’”
It’s not just doing it to do it. It’s part of your plan. It leads me to the word that I love to use all the time, which is integrated. I see you utilize that in your logo as well. You don’t have to do a ton of things, but if you are going to do web and one or two social channels, make sure that’s integrated with your look and your feel and how people see your brand.
That all works together in a plan. I’m very big on planning. You have to get that set up first. You can’t just jump into making pretty things. You have to have a plan.
It’s the truth. Even as simple as seeing the overall look across the board of your email blast, your website to your social media, as we’re discussing virtual, it is key so that people recognize.
It is also understanding that people look for different information in different places. There’s even a strong distinction between some of the different social platforms and understanding that, so that the content you put out on Facebook is not necessarily what you’re going to put out on LinkedIn and slightly adjusted for Instagram. It’s understanding that too and where people look for certain kinds of content information. That’s where the integration is important. The different tools and tactics support the overall goals and objectives of the organization and they work together.
For a majority of the businesses that are in the Hudson Valley, when it comes to social media, Facebook is the King. Sometimes, it’s a pain for me to say it. LinkedIn is another good place, but you may have a place on Instagram.
Depending on the industry. For the food and beverage and the tourism industry, Instagram is very strong.
The nice part is they’re owned by the same people, so they play well on the sandbox. Maybe asking the question of, “Is it time to look at Pinterest?” It is not a social media channel, but it can be a good search.
Over the years, we have leveraged that in different ways for different customers in their overall strategy because how people use Pinterest is different than how they use Facebook. It’s an eye candy platform. For our food and beverage and destination, we put lots of pretty pictures, recipes and content that feeds the search.
I had this conversation with a friend who has a business. He had a great personality and that’s another thing that has to come out sometimes through social media. If you’re the face of your company when you’re out in person at these networking events. Now it’s on time as anxious people may become about doing it, they need to get on social media and show their face and not just their logo or a nondescript.Get to know your audience constantly. Don’t make any assumptions. Click To Tweet
As far as an agency, we’ve always used our Facebook platform as a way for people to get to know us more as individuals and our personalities like, “Here are some fun work we’ve done. Here are some clients that we’re proud of.” We’re doing different community events. We did a virtual mock-up for hospice and we put those pictures up of all of us out and about walking separately but together. This is to give that sense of a flavor of the agency like, “These are real living people that you’re going to work with. We like to have a little fun and we love our clients. Here’s a little bit of a taste of who we are.” For LinkedIn, it’s more of a platform to build thought leadership to connect more on a professional level. It’s important to understand we might talk to the same people on two different platforms, but the content and the interaction are different.
It goes back to the beginning of the conversation of how you said, “Things are different now than they were in March.” I see a lot of talks that people are consuming content differently. You could be talking to the same person but getting them in two different places. They may be going to Facebook to see the fun stuff, the social stuff, but then LinkedIn to read that article on the new tax law or something.
Also post-COVID marketing tactics. Our goal is to help our clients get through this and come out on the other end hopefully stronger and smarter. They maybe have some new ideas they hadn’t thought of before and prepare to keep going and grow.
This will not last forever. It’s time to start to talk about the next steps and what’s going to happen after the fact. We just have to be prepared.
This is the time for preparation and planning and still staying out there in touch with people.
Deborah, thank you very much. We accomplished what we were looking to get with this talk. Give us your website, and where can people find out more?
They can search for you on those social media channels we talked about. Thank you very much.
We are here to help. I’m taking consultation calls from people who need to call, chat and brainstorm. I’m making myself available.
That’s good to know. We will remind people of that. We appreciate the time. I’m sure this won’t be the last episode we do together. Have a good day.
You too. Take care.
About Deborah Garry
As our president, Debbe sets strategic direction for our agency, and heads up the charge for our clients. She thrives on collaboration, and leads by empowering her team to be their brilliant selves. Together, they make sure all campaigns – whether digital, web, social, mobile, or traditional – win the hearts and minds of their audiences and meet client objectives. Debbe has more than 25 years of marketing and branding experience, and is a Certified Account Planner and Marketing Automation Specialist. What this really means is that she has learned even more creative ways to solve problems and delight clients. When she isn’t in the office, Debbe enjoys gardening, reading, making music with friends (she’s involved in her church’s music ministry), or finding any excuse to travel or throw a party.
- 2020 Enterprising Women of the Year Award Recipient
- Certified in SharpSpring
- Graduate of Leadership Orange
- Serves on Leadership Orange’s Board of Directors
- Member of Leadership Orange Marketing and Nominating Committees
- Member of Orange County Citizen’s Foundation Placemaking Committee
- Serves on Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Board of Directors and Strategic Planning Committee
- Member of NYSTIA Marketing Committee
Best words to describe Deborah:
- Idea Generator
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