As a child, I remember the milkman delivering to my home (I’m dating myself here.), so when I discovered a few weeks ago that you could still get milk and eggs (and more) delivered from area farmers, it evoked that happy memory of my childhood.
I learned about this on a new Facebook page I created called “Stand up to COVID-19 – Support Local Tulsa Business.”
Like so many, I own a small business — a PR and marketing firm. I’m used to sharing stories of great businesses and organizations. On March 16, I was scared and worried — like so many of us — about this unknown threat to our lives and livelihoods. I remembered my mom’s advice: “When you’re scared or lonely, help someone else.” It never fails.
That was the inspiration for the Facebook group. I started it to help my friends and clients who own small businesses. The idea caught on quickly. Less than three weeks later, there are more than 25,000 members — business owners, nonprofits and consumers.
It’s been truly incredible and reinforces what I always have known about this city: Tulsa has a heart bigger than that state that’s south of us.
The phrase “We are stronger together” has never been truer than during this global pandemic. Here’s what I have learned that can help small business.
1. Power in numbers: If you’re a business or want to support one (or both), reach out to your networks online, on the phone or FaceTime/Zoom. Share your business and promote others.
2. Innovate: This is what many restaurants and other small businesses are doing with mobile “contactless curbside” and delivery options. Rethink what you can offer. Add online ordering. Offer virtual service. Take pre-orders for future events or appointments.
3. Creative marketing: Offer incentives for people to buy gift cards. I’ve seen local businesses that are shut down now offering raffles for gift cards. A local bartender is doing Facebook Live demos making cocktails and accepting tips. She’s also building a following, and I bet she’ll have some new customers when her restaurant reopens.
4. Give back where you can: Try to give something, even if it is just your time. Many people doing a little can add up to a lot.
5. Speed up when others are slowing down: Many companies are cutting back so try a different tactic. Invest a little in marketing online; buy ads as many outlets offer specials to fill inventory; focus on PR as media is looking for creative stories. Reach out to clients and see how you can help them weather this storm.
6. Commit to “buy local” now and forever: It sounds like an ’80s love song title, but this is something I feel strongly about. Do what you can.
• If you can afford it, order take-out once or twice a week, and check out a new bakery or coffee shop.
• Buy a gift card from a local business you can use later to help them with cash flow now.
• If you need something for your home or office, search for a local business first.
• Support others by liking their social media pages, commenting on posts and sharing their products and services. Someone in your social media sphere of influence may become a new customer.
And when we beat this virus — and we will — keep supporting these small businesses. Before heading to a national website or company, ask if you can find it local and then buy local. Because it really is true that we are stronger together.
Diane White is a former TV reporter and owner of DWPR, a public relations and marketing firm based in Tulsa.