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'It's been fun to learn': Portland-area businesses acquire new digital skills during pandemic

From Facebook Live to TikTok, business owners navigate various social media platforms to connect with customers.

PORTLAND, Ore. — This year has been rough for many businesses, but others are doing surprisingly well when it comes to sales during a pandemic.

Many in the Portland area have had to learn new skills when it comes to connecting to customers online.

Daron Deonier-Clemons is a buyer and stylist for The Difference Clothing Boutique in Vancouver, Wash. She’s excelled at styling clients virtually.

“For example, myself as a stylist, I would try on items, film a fashion show and send it to clients via email,” said Deonier-Clemons. She’s found a way to stay connected and help clients with their wardrobes in an era of nonstop Zoom meetings.

Credit: Daron Deonier-Clemons

“We also had to learn how to be much more friendly with being on camera,” Deonier-Clemons explained.

At Novitas Data in Portland, Scott Stevens, the director of business development, said his company has shifted how it gains new clients.

“We've always had a company Facebook and company LinkedIn,” said Stevens. “Now it's become really a focal point of our outreach and our engagement with our community. It's really shifted and flip-flopped the priorities. It's been fun to learn and to embrace.”

Crista Tappan teaches a social media marketing course for business owners at Portland State University. She said the pandemic has led to blockbuster sales for many businesses.

“People are online shopping more than ever. And they're especially wanting to support brands and businesses that they care a lot about,” said Tappan.

Tappan also runs her own company, Dirtbag Runners, an online community and apparel brand. She’s seen her sales triple over the past year. 

Credit: Crista Tappan

Tappan said the best thing businesses can do when it comes to marketing is be authentic and start small.

“My first recommendation is to not try to do everything. Pick one or two things, and do them really well,” she said.

She recommends doing market research to identify your customers. “Are you targeting to a young, hip generation? Maybe TikTok is going to be your platform you are going to focus on,” Tappan said.

Her course teaches business owners that it’s not all about social media. Email and newsletters go a long way too.

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“People still really open up emails, they still click through,” said Tappan. “They're still purchasing things marketed through email.”

And she recommends looking for ways to save when it comes to marketing. Websites like Canva offer free or low-cost graphic design services that can really level the playing field for small businesses.

“It kind of removes that barrier for business owners in needing to have high-quality content,” said Tappan.

For Deonier-Clemons, being able to stay connected with her clients, even virtually, has been a blessing during the pandemic. But she’s looking forward to the day she can have those personal interactions, hopefully soon.

“We just miss seeing them in store. We miss the little moments,” she said.

Credit: Crista Tappan

Tappan is offering another course this summer. If you'd like to learn more, visit here.

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