3 marketing lessons for small business owners from recent derecho

Tens of thousands of people in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the U.S. suffered devastating power outages caused by a freak derecho that hit their properties June 29. My home in Maryland that lost power in weekend storms, although only for about 24 hours.

Small business owners can use the lessons of the storms to improve their marketing.

Unexpected things happen to businesses. The storms and the resulting damage seemed to appear out of nowhere. People had little time to prepare. Marketing is similar. Problems or unexpected situations occur, and small business owners must do what they can to survive or succeed amid the adversity.

The best laid marketing plan can fall apart in an instant.

Consider the marketing challenges for a company that had been scheduled to hold its grand opening June 30 in one of the communities where power was out. The owners had to adjust. They had to deal with it. People would have understood if it had to be postponed.

Informing people, even of bad news, is better than not tell them at all. In my part of Maryland, BGE controls the power lines. The company’s spokesman, the ubiquitous Rob Gould, proclaimed within a day of the storm that it might take more than a week for power to be restored to every customer.

It’s a week later and my mother’s power continues to be out. Knowing about that possibility helped her to make an accurate assessment about her situation and to act appropriately. While I feel sorry for those people still without power, the knowledge of a realistic timetable about when power might return is better than being left in the dark (no pun intended).

Businesses should keep their customers. If a product is out of stock, then tell people. If an owner doesn’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Find the answer and get back to the inquirer.

Up-to-date information allows people to make appropriate decisions, and in the long run, businesses build people’s trust – the real key to any successful, long-term relationship – by communicating honestly, in good times and bad.

Everything appears better or worse in the moment. When our power went out at 3 a.m., we were really upset. We lost sleep – literally. Like millions of other people in the same situation, we worried about how long it might take to restore our electricity. I panicked inside for a few moments, wondering if I could service Bigger Pie Strategies‘ clients if I had no power. But since it was the middle of the night, I tried to get back to sleep.

After a few hours of sleep, I awakened more calm. We went to work; we shuttled frozen meats to a freezer with power a few miles away; we ate dinner out that night. (Granted, more than 24 hours of the situation would have gotten old quickly.) But we worked it out.

When hit with new, powerful information most people’s heads reflexively spin out possible scenarios. This brain game is a good one, for it allows us to figure out possible courses of action and avoid, in severe . But most of the time, I find that distance from the concern or situation gives new, valuable perspective.

Jumping to conclusions with marketing is bad. Just because the open or click rate on an email campaign isn’t great in the first hour doesn’t mean the whole campaign failed, nor would an incredibly high open rate right after an email is sent show incredible success.

Small business owners can increase the power they have with their business and in developing better relationships with their customers and prospects by heeding these lessons that resulted from the power outages.

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