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Reaching customers during the Corona Shutdown

An online presence is more than digital marketing and much more than just a good ranking in a search engine. Well-used digitalisation and digital communication can save livelihoods and retain customers in the current crisis.

Self-employed fighting for survival

The favourite pub around the corner, your favourite Italian restaurant and yoga studio have a lot in common – many of them have been dealing with rising rents and relatively little income for years. In the trendy district of Neukölln, for example, rents have risen to unaffordable levels, and depending on the location, 35 euro/km2 is not uncommon. On top of this, competition is becoming increasingly fierce, with bars and trendy pubs increasingly crowding the Weserstrasse, known as “the party mile”. Even young founders with a dream of their own tango school come to the neighbourhood and they meet a young audience with little money, many of them having a contract with Urban Sports Club. The dumping prices at Urban Sports Club are not the only problems that self-employed people have had to struggle with. But it became clear: if you know how to reach customers personally and arouse their interest and to think about your own offer over and over again, you will make ends meet. The diversity that results from this gives the neighbourhood its own colours. In some cafés there are small concerts by local Berlin bands, other bars attract their regular customers with comedy shows and poetry slam. Parent-child cafés are popular and offer quick little dishes for in between, preferably organic, sustainable and a little fancy.

The effects of the crisis

But then came Corona. The small fashion shops, bars and schools are now struggling with the effects of the contact ban and it’s about nothing less than their existence. Online delivery services may save one or two restaurants, but in cafés, bars and yoga studios it’s getting difficult. Sometimes even one or two months without income can break the founders neck economically. At this moment they are all filling out forms for liquidity bottlenecks due to the Corona crisis, applying for short-time work for their employees, suspending rents or taking out loans.

Digital communication as an opportunity

But these times also show who has accepted the possibilities of digitisation and who has not. A good social media presence is currently more than just collecting likes. Cafés and bars can draw attention to their situation, sell vouchers and collect donations. Some have set up their own delivery service, while a beverage manufacturer, for example, now ads fruit or toilet paper, with each delivery

In the crisis, people are becoming creative and inventive: Crowdfunding is used to launch voucher campaigns, such as the online platform “pay now eat later” and others. Still others organise online concerts with asking for donations. Yoga schools are switching their programs to online offers – the first two weeks are often free of charge, then it becomes more binding and is subject to a fee. Some of the schools offer additional online courses for children. The crisis does not mean that there is no demand, on the contrary, many customers are happy about the offers and there is a strong desire for solidarity among people.

Most important is that customers must be reached. The existentiality of the crisis must be communicated, the new offers, even if they are only requests for help, must be distributed to a broad audience. Digital communication, a concise Internet presence and the efficient use of social media channels are required. Direct communication with regular customers is central, but it is also important to use networking opportunities, such as the website where vouchers can also be purchased, crowdfunding platforms and funds for artists and freelancers.

Many self-employed people make use of these possibilities, but it is amazing how many people have missed out on the possibilities of digitalisation. For example, when I google my little café around the corner – I can’t find anything, no entry on how I can offer support and I don’t feel directly addressed. If not now – then when?

Andrea Wurst, Coach at dynaMIND