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How to promote your business in the current climate

by Team Holly & Co

Unless you’re a bit of a psychopath, there are few things in life that feel worse than hurting somebody you like’s feelings. Even if it’s unintentional, sometimes we say or do things that upset others and feel horrible about it — especially if they are already in a bad place. But when it’s through your business, putting a foot wrong can have even deeper consequences. We’ve all heard stories of brands that have made some sort of social faux pas and got a name for themselves for all the wrong reasons.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that at the start of the pandemic, the Holly & Co inbox was filled with people asking if it was okay for them to promote their business in the current climate. Many founders felt guilty talking about enterprise when so many people were struggling with the effects of Covid — even though customers were asking them about their products because they wanted to send parcels of love and care to friends and family, for example. Had those founders not continued to promote their business during this time, they wouldn’t be here today because ultimately when you ask if you can keep marketing to customers in uncertain times you’re asking if you should keep running your business and you should — as there will always be uncertain times.

Our very own founder Holly Tucker explains, “Let me start by saying, you can and should be promoting your business. The nation’s living through the most turbulent era since the second world war and as soon as one shocking event finishes another arrives, but let me be clear: people are still spending money and unless you amplify your business they won’t be spending it with you. Of course, you may need to change how you promote yourself to ensure you’re doing so in an empathetic way but generally, customers want you to reach out. I feel strongly about this as it’s often small businesses who really know what their communities need and are therefore well placed to help. Think about it. It was the shops on our local high streets that kept us all going through lockdown —the grocers, the bakers, the letterbox gift makers — and we can do it again.”

Ultimately when you ask if you can keep marketing to customers in uncertain times you’re asking if you should keep running your business and you should — as there will always be uncertain times.

If not now, when?

There’s another key point to consider here and that’s the news. There will always be a reason not to promote your business. We’re living in an era where we have continuous access to this in all guises – local, global and even live as it’s breaking. We used to have to wait for the morning papers or the evening news yet now, our phones flash with real time alerts fantastically keeping us up-to-date about world issues but the media has become increasingly sensationalised; a common tactic used to gain and keep an audience’s attention. It’s why headlines are often filled with exaggerated and shocking words that have the power to blow even the most mundane things out of proportion, let alone the events we’re seeing now, and it’s only set to continue. So whilst we’re all praying hard that the war finishes tomorrow, it’s important to keep in mind that even after this we will hear about something else, so it’s key we do all we can to keep going.

Money is being spent, shouldn’t it be with small businesses?

As the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. In 2020 consumer spending in the UK was more than £1.23 trillion¹ and if it doesn’t go to small businesses where else will it go? To soulless, tax-avoiding corporations? Remember, people need more than just to buy things at this time. They require cheering up, connection and thoughtfulness. Your products, services or the way you talk to them often have the power to give someone a moment of pure joy amidst all of the doom and gloom. You can help them, giving them an experience they won’t get with a chain because every time your customers buy from you, they’re voting with their money and taking part in something bigger. It’s your responsibility to show them that. If you donate a percentage of your profits to charity, for example, you need to not just tell them the difference it’s making but really bring it alive and remind people that they’re part of a movement.

Have the confidence to promote yourself, just do so empathetically

Whatever may be happening in the world one thing will always remain the same: customers crave connection. In order to connect, you need to put yourself in their shoes and use genuine empathy to understand them, what they are feeling and what they need from you. Nothing should come before this. It is vital to communicate with emotion.

Emotion is such a complex word and there is no single, universally accepted definition of it. It derives from the old French word ‘emouvoir’ meaning to excite and the Latin ‘movere’ meaning to move, and isn’t that why people would buy a product, because it excites them, or moves them in some way? The tricky part is that emotions are so personal and unique to each of us, due to our past experiences. Thanks to the very nature of this, it is instinctive, intuitive and utterly separated from reasoning, conscious thought or knowledge. As humans, we are powered by emotion and as Daniel Kahneman (the world’s most influential psychologist and Nobel prize winner for his work in emotional economics) discovered, 95% of our decisions are driven by emotion. This is why we are in the age of the ‘C Consumer’ where the C stands for:

  • Caring
  • Conscious 
  • Charitable 
  • Campaigner

Whatever may be happening in the world one thing will always remain the same: customers crave connection. In order to connect, you need to put yourself in their shoes and use genuine empathy to understand them, what they are feeling and what they need from you. Nothing should come before this. It is vital to communicate with emotion.

How marketing with awareness shows you have heart

If you’re promoting your business emotionally and with empathy, firmly imagining what people are going through or feeling, the next step is to market with awareness. You need to make sure you stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the world as this will help you understand the nuances of how you need to communicate, especially on social, where the temperature can change in the space of an afternoon. Staying abreast of issues will help you talk to customers more inclusively too. It’s important not to just think of your own experience but what others might be going through. Avoid making assumptions and don’t be afraid to ask if there are things you don’t understand. People would much rather that. 

It’s particularly important to be mindful of the language you use and to stay educated. For instance, when talking about Ukraine you should say ‘Ukraine’ not ‘The Ukraine’ because ‘The Ukraine’ is how Russia referred to that part of the country during the times of the Soviet Union. Simple Politics are a good account to follow on Instagram for easy-to-digest updates about these matters. Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes. We’re all human, but as long as you put your hand up and quickly admit the mistake and correct it, then learn from it next time, people are often forgiving.

If you’re in a position to do so don’t be afraid to offer practical help, be it offering a percentage of your sales to a cause that you believe in, amplifying something going on in the world across your platforms or refocusing your business to help create something needed at the time – as many small businesses did in 2020.

Remember, for every one of our community that succeeds, we all become stronger

Too many small businesses feel bad about making a sale when things are hard for others. It’s the shadow side of being so empathetic, but we need to rewire our brains. Because everytime you make a sale, everytime you succeed, you’re not only surviving but you’re also setting an example and hope for fellow businesses and for the next generation. Our children need examples of entrepreneurs who are building their dreams through thick and thin because in the kind of multi-hyphenated existence that they’ll have, many will need to create their own brands and they’re not learning this from school. They need to learn it from our community, from us. You’re not being selfish. You are setting an example and helping others to be empowered to make change that’s required.

We have to understand that by building our companies, we aren’t being commercial tyrants who are mute to the world, we are entrepreneurs and founders with huge hearts who want to build businesses for good. So tell your story, connect with customers on a human level, share the behind the scenes and the process — bring them into your world and they will be emotionally invested in your business, your products and you. So yes, you can still promote your business in this climate, and any turbulent times to come, as long as you do so with empathy.

Source: 

  1. Total consumer spending 2020 | Statista
  2. Kindness is the best currency print – Basil & Ford

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