Even at this early stage of Canada’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impacts are widespread and deep. Airlines have laid off thousands of people. Oil prices have plummeted. The loonie is down.
The effects touch every part of the economy, but many small businesses are in a particularly tough spot. Many of them have tight margins and limited cashflow, and cannot survive months or even weeks with dramatically reduced revenues — or no revenues at all.
Moncton-based BrainWorks Marketing began as a small business, says Brad LeBlanc, the president of the integrated marketing company. With 17 full-time employees today, their business has expanded significantly since their early days working out of a coffee shop, but the company is now putting its energies toward a campaign meant to help small businesses in their area and around the country pivot during this uncertain time.
The Love for Local campaign is a bilingual campaign meant to raise awareness of how to safely support local businesses right now, LeBlanc said.
“The whole idea of Love for Local is really heightening the awareness that supporting local is more important now than it ever has been’,” he says. Businesses need to get the word out about what they can offer their customers right now, and there isn’t enough media capacity to do that for everyone right now, he said. This campaign is meant to provide a way for them to do that.
The idea for the campaign came from Moncton’s chamber of commerce, he says, but BrainWorks hopes it will go much further than that because the need is everywhere right now.
“You’d have a hard time finding a consumer who doesn’t want to support local at this time,” he says—but they don’t necessarily know how they can do that while following guidelines on physical distancing, or when business storefronts are closed.
At the same time, many companies don’t know what they can do to continue to bring in revenues and serve customers. “It’s become very clear very quickly that anyone with a traditional retail offering, if they weren’t operating online they’re going to have no choice,” LeBlanc says.
Getting online and figuring out how to adapt their services for that, then letting their customers know about what is going on, is a challenge during an already difficult time. Businesses are looking for inexpensive and effective strategies to stay afloat right now, and the ones that can find them will be best positioned to survive this, LeBlanc says.
As part of the campaign, the team at BrainWorks is developing an all-digital toolset that any local business can use, including example emails and social media posts. They intend to share that toolset across the country once it’s complete.
So far the support for the campaign has been great, he said, with donated ad space and offers of help. In the coming days, BrainWorks hopes to build an online community to share the Love for Local for Local materials and offer them as widely as possible.
“Our viewpoint is this is an international level, we have a sense of responsibility to use our experience and skills and knowledge to use this,” LeBlanc says. “This is our time to step up and walk our values.”