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It’s been the rallying cry throughout shutdown. But is it time to pivot the meaning of the mantra?

Being “tone deaf” is a challenge now more than ever for Big Brands that market and sell to Small Business Owners (SBOs). Fear of being labeled an “opportunist” in a post-pandemic climate could cause you, as a marketer, or your agency to take the safer route.

The safest route is the empathetic message, which has bred the ubiquitous “We’re in this together” storyline. But “safer” has turned into vanilla. According to Ad Age, one in five televised ads is COVID-19 related. We’re now entering COVID-fatigue. Vanilla may stop you from sounding tone deaf, but it may also stop you from being heard at all.

So, how do you stand out from the noise?

The easy answer is to be bold, but bold can easily be misinterpreted in today’s environment. Cargo’s mantra when advising big brands is “To move an SBO’s mind, you need to move their heart first.”

Emotion drives action. So, to better understand the current state of SBOs coming out of the pandemic shutdown, we spoke to over 500 of them. And poured through over 200 other articles, reports, and news pieces on the “state of small business.” What we learned was inspiring and should have a direct effect on how you talk to SBOs during their recovery.

“I believe in the spirit of entrepreneurship now more than ever” – Small Talk Panelist

We’ve always known SBOs to be an optimistic and resilient bunch, but we expected those traits to be severely damaged given the forced shutdown. There is no denying the shutdown’s impact as over 83% of SBOs we spoke with have been negatively impacted. But instead of wallowing in it, SBOs are rallying around it.

The general consensus: “We are the creators of the new normal.” And “We’re rediscovering our creative, hard-working, entrepreneurial, outside-the-box roots.”

This feeling of reinvention, empowerment, and reflection opens the door for big brands to shift current messaging from a we’re-in-this-together hug to a we’re-in-this-together rallying cry.

Until the “new normal” arrives (whatever and whenever that is), you want to find the balance between fueling the SBO optimism while still being empathetic to their current survival state

“Getting back to normal isn’t possible. Focusing on creating that new normal will be far more productive. What we knew before is no longer relevant today. There is no going back.” – Small Talk Panelist

SBOs are looking forward and they need big brands joining and helping them with their “what’s next.” While your narrative strikes that balance of empathy and pioneering, it still must remain authentic. SBOs are paying close attention to how big brands handle themselves right now, especially those brands that don’t walk the talk. Being “tone deaf” is not a messaging label SBOs use, but a brand perception label as “You’re either with us or against us.” Not much grey going forward when marketing to SBOs but that’s a topic for another time.

Messaging is just one of the areas we explored when looking at what’s next in marketing to SBOs during the post-pandemic recovery period (over the next 6+ months).

Join us for The Forecast.
Want more insights into marketing to SBOs in an uncertain time? On August 19, 2020, we will share more of our initial findings and insights in The Forecast, our free webinar.

About the Author
Dan Gliatta is the co-founder of Cargo and Small Talk, as well as Chief Growth Officer. Throughout his 20+ year-long career, Dan has had an us-against-the-world mentality, rooting for the little guys of the business world: Small Business Owners. Today, he’s still at it, learning everything he possibly can about SBOs. And by doing so, he’s making sure the voice of “the little guy” is being heard loud and clear by big brands everywhere.

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