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7 Recommendations for Small Businesses in a Pandemic and Post-Pandemic World

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We all know 2020 has been one for the books—and running a small business through this past year has added a whole new level of stress. This is why we were excited about the opportunity to join All In For Small, a marketing collective of Interpublic Group that is dedicated to the betterment of small business through education and support resources, for a panel conversation.

In late Q3, Hulu’s own Faye Trapani, Director of Self-Service Advertising Sales, joined the discussion, where panelists explored the deep and lasting impact of COVID-19 on entertainment production and, most importantly, how small businesses can rebuild and reconnect with their customer base. We’ve pulled together a recap of the recommendations that came out of that conversation.

Whether large or small, nearly all of the entertainment and leisure industry has shut down brick-and-mortar experiences for months on end. Even now, regulations around reopening are strict. Suddenly, as discussed in the roundtable, TV viewers’ favorite late-night show looks a lot like their favorite vlogging channel.

Roundtable participants agree: Now is the time to get super creative. Content is king! Your small business may not have the unlimited budget of a large-scale production, but creating something unique, engaging, and interesting that suits the audience you know best has never been just about money.

Everyone agrees that while small businesses are struggling, so are their customers. Layoffs and furloughs have swept the country. The roundtable discussed the need to treat customers with empathy, and try to build the entire community up.

Corporate partners, like Hulu, are working to provide better options for businesses of all sizes to market effectively and within their means. Small businesses can reward their customers with promotions, reassure them with marketing around their health and hygiene protocols, and foster a sense of community by showing they take COVID, and their customers’ well-being, seriously.

The group of industry veterans also discussed the unique technological challenges of socially distanced production. Small businesses are uniquely poised to pivot and make decisions quickly. Mastering the tech, shooting with a skeleton crew, and the ability to jump headfirst into brand new ideas, without the red tape, are all huge strengths.

Roundtable participants shared that they took advantage of lulls in business to refresh their website and blogs, make sure their reels were up-to-date, and start learning more about the latest trends in entertainment and media.

As one discussion participant stated, we need physical distance from one another—not social distance. Trapani shared that co-viewing on Hulu rose early on in the pandemic (March 2020)1 as families are looking to share experiences, and connect with each other through entertainment—even if they aren’t in the same room together.

Hulu’s research, conducted in March 2020, indicates that compared to March 2019, co-viewing on Hulu was up 48% in the beginning of shelter-in-place advisories.2 Customers have the appetite for many sources of entertainment. According to that same research, most viewers were watching up to 9 different titles a week.3 That’s on top of social media, live streams, podcasts, video games, and more. And we expect these trends to remain steady through the holidays, as November viewers are still watching an average of up to 9 different titles a week. 4

The roundtable also discussed how experimenting with ways to connect with your audience is key to finding your niche. Small business owners on the panel suggested partnering with other local businesses to provide a richer at-home experience. For example, coordinating dinner drop-offs from local restaurants with a live streaming performance from a local theatre.

Drumming up interest with limited-run streaming events and activities has also shown higher engagement. While your local business might provide an evergreen service, finding ways to recreate the effervescence of live experiences, even by offering limited-time access to pre-recorded content, can produce higher impact and attendance.

Looking beyond the pandemic, participants shared what they believed would be lasting change in the marketplace. One creator shared they already had plans to create more low-fi video and that they feel opportunities for video shot with phones and similar tech would become more mainstream. Crew sizes and budgets may come back smaller and more lean, but the amount of content produced could also increase as these new, non-traditional methods are embraced.

The general consensus was that whoever can produce the most engaging content, no matter the budget behind it, will win the market. Businesses of all sizes can get creative and be innovative in how they’re producing content—especially as formats like the grid video shot and footage shot with phones have become more mainstream—while maintaining a focus on engagement with the viewer.

All the participants agreed that marketing is an integral part of keeping their small businesses afloat, even if they have to take a different approach. Trapani shared that at the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses were wondering if they should pause their advertising campaigns. To best understand the impact, Kantar conducted a research study to find out which concluded in a prediction from them that a six-month absence from TV advertising would result in an estimated 39% reduction5 in total brand communication awareness. With this in mind, Trapani and the other participants then gave insight into how any size business could market effectively, and connect with their customers in a new way.

Let’s face it—connecting with your customers in-person may prove to be challenging right now because human interaction has shifted. However, this doesn’t need to be an obstacle that prevents you from “spreading the word.” It’s actually an opportunity to explore new ways to connect with them digitally. Trapani spoke to the point that the huge increase in viewers looking for in-home entertainment creates a ready and captive audience.

To help businesses better market, Trapani gave insight into Hulu’s new self-service advertising solution. Built for businesses of all sizes, the tool allows users to set a flexible budget—as low as $500 per campaign—and easily create video ad campaigns, targeting a highly local audience, being featured on a platform that offers TV’s biggest shows, and tracking up-to-date performance. Hulu also provides a means to find creative partners to work within producing video ads.

If you’re looking to advertise to an audience of millions, Hulu’s new self-service advertising solution is there. For more information about how Hulu can help you connect with your customers, sign up to learn more today.


Source: Hulu Huddle Co-Viewing During COVID-19 Survey, April 2020

Source: Persons Using Television (PUT): Live Linear TV + DVR Playback + Set-Top-Box VOD (PUT is largely comprised of Traditional Nielsen-encoded Content from the Broadcast and Cable Networks)

Source: Hulu Internal Data: Week of 4/12/2020 vs. week of 4/10/2019

Source: Hulu Internal, Weekly Engagement, 11/1/20 – 11/7/20.

Source: Kantar, COVID-19 Barometer: Consumer attitudes, media habits and expectations, March 25th, 2020

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