When times are tough (and doors are closed), it can feel like the only thing worth doing is to sit back and hope for the best. It certainly doesn’t feel like the ideal time to market your service-based business.

However, right now is a great time to do just that.

If you make the effort to invest time in smart (not intrusive) marketing, you will reap the rewards when doors swing open again. Lockdowns and restrictions may actually present the perfect opportunity to build trust in your brand, even if you aren’t able to trade as you normally would.

Why is trust important? Well, ask yourself how often you spend money with people you don’t trust. Not often, if ever, and certainly not for big purchases. People will make investments with you that are directly proportional to the amount of trust they have in you. And you have to earn that trust. 

Simply showing up in potential clients’ lives will help create or maintain a connection to them. Send an email to people on your database, but a note of caution here: try to avoid sounding just like every other business sending out boring lockdown updates. Only share critical information about what’s happening in your business, and make sure that when a reader finishes your email, they’re not looking for the “unsubscribe” button.

Also, stay active on your social-media accounts, or use technology to do something for your clients and potential clients, like free training over Zoom.

You also want to spend time figuring out exactly who your potential clients are, for when things get back to normal. One of the tenets I use is called “The Red Velvet Rope Policy”.  It’s like a filtration system that allows only the very best people to work with you. My own analogy is that if you have room for only 12 people at your dinner party, saying yes to the first 12 who come along means you’ll inevitably end up with some folk who are tedious or talk with food in their mouth. You won’t have room at the table for the excellent people who will show up after those 12 places have been filled. And why not have a great dinner with only the best guests?

So, if you’re on an enforced break from your service-based business over lockdown, don’t panic. Use this time to enhance what you do, build up your business, win new clients, and make them the best clients you’ve ever had.

Here are five ways to get your service-based business back on its feet.

Talk to your current clients first

The easiest way to line up new business is to make compelling offers to people you have already worked with – these clients know you, trust you, and have already benefited from your good work. Think about what you can offer your past buyers or clients, then get in touch. An email or phone call may be just the thing to get you more business – or perhaps even a referral.

Assess where your best future clients are likely to hang out

Most business owners think of digital as the only kind of marketing they should be doing. But before digital, we used print, radio, billboard, signage, even direct mail, to attract new business. Break it down for yourself: if you think your potential customers are on Facebook, are they going to be receptive to your business there? Perhaps they are if you sell kids' clothes but not if you sell dental supplies. The best way to get known by potential clients might be on a social-media platform, or it could be more effective to drop flyers into letterboxes around your neighbourhood. 

Critically assess what marketing has worked for you so far

Look back over your client work for the past 6-12 months and tally up all the ways new clients found out about you. It might have been word of mouth, business networking events, SEO, email marketing, PR activity, or chatting to someone on the sidelines at your kids’ sport. Once you’ve done that, it will be clear what your most effective marketing channels are. Invest your time and money there. Because if you’re busting a gut coming up with new Facebook posts every second day and these aren’t bringing you clients, bust a gut on the three to four things that are already getting you results.

Show you’re credible and trustworthy

When you’re thinking of paying for something, how do you determine that the business you’re using will do a good job? You do your research, of course. You ask people you know, or you look at reviews and testimonials – standard credibility markers. Look over your own basic “credibility checklist”. Do you have a website with a professional domain name? Do you have a professional email address that’s not a Gmail or Xtra address? A professional photo and credible, named testimonials on your website? 

Explain how you transform clients’ lives

Talk of transforming clients' lives might sound grandiose, but it’s not. Transformations don’t have to be big and life-altering. People pay for tiny transformations if they are desirable enough. For instance, if you are a bookkeeper, you do so much more than reconcile bank statements and complete GST returns. You also give your clients extra time and peace of mind – the peace of mind that comes from not having to do their own financial paperwork and the time they gain from no longer having to do so much admin. Talk about how to transform lives in your marketing, and it’s suddenly much more compelling to hire you. And if you’re not sure how your service transforms your clients’ lives, ask them.

Kathryn McGarvey is a marketing strategist and coach. Visit timetogetbookedsolid.com to learn more about her coaching programme.