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    Viral marketing takes on a whole new meaning

    By Thom Villing

    The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many businesses in many different ways. For a lucky few, the impact has been positive. But most, including a high percentage of small businesses who don’t have the resources of larger firms, have experienced serious disruptions to their revenues and cash flow.

    It may be a classic case of necessity being the mother of invention, but I have been so impressed by the creativity of many small businesses in responding to the challenges 2020 has presented. Numerous organizations have smartly adjusted everything from their core business model to their distribution and marketing practices to offset current or potential downturns in their traditional business.

    In the local area, we have seen many examples of this kind of creativity. Hard liquor distilleries such as Indiana Whiskey and others pivoted from bottling alcoholic beverages to manufacturing hand sanitizer. Restaurants like The Skillet promptly abandoned in-restaurant dining in favor of a very efficient and effective curbside service. Who knew Polish dinners would be such a welcome treat for those tired of eating their own cooking at home?

    In nearby Crown Point, Indiana, Moriarty’s Gem Art shuttered their doors in March because the city designated them as a non-essential business. Jeff Moriarty, the store’s marketing manager and son of the owners, related how the retailer responded by creating a livestreamed gem show. Long story short, the 2-hour weekly show has enabled Moriarty’s to expand its customer base exponentially and offset lost revenues.

    Like much of the hospitality industry, service and facility providers have been hit especially hard. Dallas-based Emily Clarke Events responded to a serious increase in cancelled events by creating Curb Appeal Party. This new venture creates elaborate yard designs made from balloons and ready-to-order signs. As more and more people have resorted to drive-by events to celebrate graduations, birthdays, etc., Curb Appeal Party provides a DIY solution.

    In suburban Chicago, La De Da! Gift shop built its brand on personalized gift recommendations. With the onset of essential social distancing, owner Jill Carlisle provides customers with a Google form that effectively replicates the kind of questions she formerly asked in person as the basis for identifying that perfect gift. And Necker’s Toyland in Connecticut has started offering a FaceTime browsing option that virtually walks kids around the store.

    The list of small business innovations resulting from the pandemic goes on and on. Flipping back to the local Michiana area, you can experience first-hand stories from small business owners and executives via the October 20 virtual presentation “MAKING LEMONADE: Small business marketing amid a pandemic.” A panel of three area businesses will discuss how they have adjusted their businesses to the current environment. Information about this special event can be found at https://amamichiana.com/meetinginfo.php.

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