8 Ways Merchants Can Weather the Coronavirus Pandemic Economic Crisis
by Tami Lange
Tami Lange, owner and founder of the Save The Girls Touchscreen Purse, has some tips to share with other small businesses whose sales are reliant on traditional, ‘brick and mortar retail outlets’; that is to pivot very quickly to web-based sales. It is learning to reach customers this way and that could be the difference between surviving and not.
Going Down or Staying Afloat?
Neiman Marcus is the first department store to go bankrupt because of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. JC Penney is on deck to do the same. But according to Lange, there are things that merchants can do to stay afloat during this economic crisis.
“You can hang on if you are willing to be flexible,” said Lange. “There are tools, techniques, marketing communications, online, and public relations strategies that the small businessperson can leverage to their benefit for the short term.”
Lange did so successfully when she reached out to Howie Mandel to appear on his e-commerce channel.
Found Public Relations
Lange found that Howie Mandel, a well-known germaphobe and judge on ‘America’s Got Talent’, had an online presence where he featured small business owners like Lange. His program is on the ‘Talk Shop Live’ page and is called ‘Sold Out.’
“I knew that Howie was a germaphobe, so I used that to appeal to him to put our purses on his program,” Lange said. “But I think what really convinced him to give us a try was our philanthropic efforts and contributions to Breast Cancer Research that got us on his program.”
That experience and some other observations were what Tami Lange wanted to share with her fellow small business merchants.
Tami Lange’s Small Business Stay Afloat List
- Can you sell online? There are numerous resources available to a small business that are low cost and even free. These include eBay, Etsy, Shopify, Square and WooCommerce to name a few. Find one that best suits your business. If you cannot do the programming yourself, there are lots of people who can and they are pretty easy to find online.
- Is your business electronically connected to its customers? If it is not, can it start?
It’s amazing how many retail businesses do not collect the email addresses of their customers. In good times, email marketing can communicate deals, coupons and other promotions to customers.
Those customers, in turn, will often share those emails with friends and relatives. In bad times like these, email connections can be a lifeline. If you are not doing email marketing and collecting email addresses, start now.
- Make your site customer friendly. Lange had not promoted her company’s web site for direct sales because she did not want to undermine the approximately 2500 independent retail outlets that carried the Save The Girls Touchscreen Purse. But with most of these closed for the duration of the pandemic, she very quickly pivoted and embraced online sales, allowing her brick and mortar stores to promote her product, while she shipped the products for her stores directly to their customers. This along with a more aggressive public relations outreach has proven a win for Save The Girls.
- Approach the media with stories about your business with the pandemic as a setting. Not all businesses are suited for this approach to promoting a business, but most are. There are plenty of newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and bloggers who are looking for stories during this time and yours might as well be one of them. But recognize that the story needs to be connected to the Covid-19 story in some way. For most national, regional, and local mainstream media, it is COVID-19, all day every day. Lange was successful with this approach emphasizing the ‘germ-free’ cell phone touchscreen all of her purses have.
- Donate. Lots of companies are doing so and have always done so, like Save The Girls, with good outcomes for their reputations.
- Make a public service announcement. A good example is Nike, which put out a campaign encouraging people to ‘play inside’ as governments enforce social-distancing measures. “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance” was the message Nike tweeted. It was quickly embraced by sports leaders like Michael Jordon, LeBron James, and others.
- Be relevant. Save The Girls made the message about its product related to the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. Their message was that cell phones do not come in contact with surfaces or the fingers of the user, because they are inside the purse. Find a way to connect a benefit your product provides in the age of the pandemic.
- Don’t sell. Those who don’t have a connection to the pandemic need to wait this out. This is not a time to ‘sell’ a story, a product, or a company; that would be rejected as tone-deaf. But it is a time to support the greater good with stories that inform and add to the overall national response in this unprecedented time of crisis.
Like all start-up entrepreneurs, Save The Girls competes with much larger brands.
Using public relations and other online marketing tools during this crisis can be the difference between succeeding long term or folding.
About Save The Girls
Save the Girls is a purse company with a unique design that allows owners to use their cell phones to text, answer calls, and other smartphone functions while still in their purse. Women who own a purse from Save The Girls can carry their phones everywhere, in a safe, fashionable purse.