Greg Perrotto column sig

Businesses, no matter how big or how small, are all scratching their heads right now and wondering what steps to take to conduct business in the next few months.

Now that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has issued a plan to open the state back up and get things going, these same businesses are faced with answering many questions, such as:

• Do we open just yet or wait and see how it goes? I don’t want to open to soon, or miss the boat either.

• How do we control our employees return? Bring them all back at once or do it in various shifts?

Rural communities, like Warren and Fountain counties, are no different regarding how to maneuver the best path by following state and local guidelines. Some businesses have temporarily, or even permanently closed their doors. Some have implemented major changes in order to continue to conduct business in a limited capacity. Some have been lucky enough to continue to march on with slight changes. But either way they all have been affected.

Locally, merchants have tried to band together and remind consumers to buy local and from small businesses as much as possible.

Why?

Locals know that the small mom and pop businesses are the backbones of their communities. They are the ones who have invested their money and countless hours into this community and they will be the first ones to go out of business if they are not supported. Big box chains are nice, and convenient, but they do not offer the variety of hometown merchants. But they are the ones with the deepest pockets and seemingly unlimited resources too.

The question that faces more small family owned businesses now is “How are we going to get our customers back into our stores? How are we going to let them know we are open? How are we going to let them know we are having special promotions? And better yet, how can we afford to do this?”

As a seasoned marketing professional, the bigger question that I would ask is “How can you NOT afford to advertise right now? How can you afford to let "the other guy” get his message out there while you do not? How can you afford to let that product sit on the shelf and cost you money? How can you afford to pay your overhead and not have people walking through the door?

The answer is YOU CAN’T! You cannot afford to lose your market share – now more than ever.

As a fellow business owner, I understand how closely everyone is watching every penny of their marketing budget. I also know that every penny you invest in your marketing should be the most impactful as possible. This may mean not only going with your local newspaper, it may mean adding various tools to your marketing.

But don’t do it blindly.

Over the years of helping local merchants market their products and services, we have come to understand that even when times are down, you must continue to self promote. Maintaining a presence is the important thing to remember when you are advertising. You don’t need to buy the one time, 1/2 page ad to get noticed. Sure, it’s nice, but what if your audience doesn’t see that one campaign you just spent your whole advertising budget on for the quarter? You need consistency. You need to maintain the readers attention. That can be done with a weekly ad.

Take for example buying new furniture. You have seen that same old commercial, with the same old obnoxious guy, from that large store located 50 miles away, with a huge budget, yelling he has a great deal for you!

He has the best deals in 100 miles! Best selection in the area! He runs that full color, 1/2 page ad every week.

But does he really have the best deal and biggest selection, or is he just the one you go to because you have seen him shout it to you so often?

So when you received that $1,200 check, where is the first place you are going to go looking for furniture? The obnoxious guy right?

But wait…hold on…. did you stop to think about that small little shop in the next town over that just opened up six months ago? You know, that guy that went to school with your parents, who used to work in the big furniture store but felt like he could offer you better customer service on a more local level.

What? You didn’t know he was there? He’s been there six months.

The moral of the story is the good old guy who took the plunge and opened up the cute little store down the street lost $1,200 to the guy who shouted the loudest about his product on a regular basis. Do you think you can afford not to be shouting right now?

So again, the question is, do we pause our marketing campaigns?

It’s difficult to know what to do, what kind of effect this will have on your business, how to anticipate and prepare for what's coming your way. It is indisputable that every single action that you take (or don’t take) will affect your business for weeks, months and even years to come. This situation may have seemingly exploded overnight and the impacts are hard and fast.

This will not be the same story for the rebuild. Much like a natural disaster, it takes a short period of time for catastrophic damage, but it takes a lot of time, patience and hard work for the repairs and overall reconstruct to take place.

Buckle up and be ready to ride this thing through. There is no “quick fix” here. Marketing is a long game anyway, now it will be even longer. Have patience and know that every effort that you make right now will pay off in the long run. Do everything in your power to keep up the consistent outflow. It will not only keep your business alive during this time but it will almost certainly ensure future growth.

This can be done easily with the The Review Republican, Fountain County Neighbor and Messenger in their print or digital marketing opportunities. Let us know when you are ready to jump back in and take control of your market share!