These days it’s hard to go on just about any website without seeing articles about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and crisis management – with good reason. Businesses are adapting their marketing strategy to the COVID-19 crisis. And so should you.
We all know that a critical time is upon us. But in times like these it is more important than ever to remember: do not panic. Now is the time to think strategically.
There are quite a few resources available for larger businesses and their employees for adapting a marketing strategy. Or in other words, to help them plan, prepare and respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. They also likely have more resources to handle crisis like these. However, for small business owners, startups and freelancers there are considerably fewer resources and – if any at all – protective policies in place for the economic impacts widespread self-isolation can have.
This leaves us with the million dollar questions – what can you do to help your business survive the economic impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak, and even grow stronger in the process? How can adapting marketing strategy help you succeed in growing your business today and into the future?
Here are a few tips to help answer these questions and prepare your business to make it through the crisis, getting ready to capture the demand when the economy picks up once again.
Be smart about possible cuts in budget
Realistically, all businesses should be keeping budget trim and reducing any unnecessary overhead expenses – in other words, everyone’s goal is to make it through this difficult period while preventing long-term damage to their brand.
Now is the time to reevaluate and reallocate, not cut your budgets entirely. While most businesses are desperate to save money anywhere they can, it is necessary to maintain a digital marketing plan throughout the Coronavirus that is tailored to your needs and desired outcome in both the short and long term. In fact, businesses in their early brand building years should be allocating at least 7-8% of their revenues to marketing.
Here’s why rash decisions could hurt your business
Think about it this way: it is likely that others might give in to the initial panic state and cease their marketing efforts completely. This decision will cause their engagement to drop drastically, which ultimately means they might be losing presence across online channels and will face a hard recovery later on. Meanwhile, this could represent an opportunity for your business, and here’s why…
Online marketing (both paid and organic), reaches the consumer when they are in a state of need. It converts sales because the consumer is actively searching for a product or service. During times of social-distancing consumers have this in common – they are staying at home. This implies that they would be making use of search engines now more than ever. By ranking on the SERP, you put your brand in front of the right searchers – and your chances of making the cut in their purchasing decision go up (For more information on SERPs check out our article here). But keep in mind SEO is not a one-time fix – it requires consistent actions taken over time. You should start seeing the first measurable results in about 3-6 months. So here is our advice: stay strong & consistent – the results will come.
Pivot to new markets, channels & services
Current COVID-19 recommendations suggest people self-isolate at home – so anything that makes quarantine more bearable will be in high demand. This means some businesses are likely to thrive during a pandemic, like companies that deliver a convenient service right to your door. If you begin to experience economic impacts as a result of people staying home during the Coronavirus crisis, it might be possible to pivot/adapt to something more home oriented.
Now is the time to get your storefront online and leverage e-commerce technology to meet the demand for digital sales. Or to offer your services digitally, so that your clients can continue to engage with your business. New channels are out there, it’s time to find them. Your communications strategy should follow the same logic.
Gaming companies, streaming platforms and cable providers will likely see an increase in sales and subscription services. And content creators on Youtube, TikTok, podcast producers will probably have an increase in audience, eager to consume new media. It is worthwhile to brainstorm ways your company could create new content for platforms and markets you haven’t reached yet – i.e. informative or entertaining videos, articles, blogs, social media posts, etc. This has the potential to boost your organic reach.
By creating engaging content, you’ll stay fresh in the minds of an audience actively searching for products/services in new (untapped) media. You could lower content creation & SEO expenses, save time and money by outsourcing these services.
Observe buyer behaviour (and adapt accordingly)
If you’ve been directing your marketing at the top of your funnel, but are currently experiencing cuts in budget, try moving your efforts to consumers with more immediate buying intent. By applying Search Engine Marketing (SEM) not only can you better understand user intent – you can prove whether you are successful and adapt accordingly.
Search is measurable. By taking a look at sales & leads in your website’s analytics it becomes clear where your efforts are getting the most return and which allocations in budget might prove successful in the end. If you cannot afford to grow right now, that’s okay. Understand your existing customer-base’s behaviour – who is your target market? What keywords do they use when searching for your product/service?
An effective way to use SEM in your favor is to narrow down which keywords have the strongest buyer intent at the moment (or in other words, searches which actively convert sales or high-quality leads) and optimize/implement them into your content marketing and paid advertising strategy.
As we can already observe, buyer behavior has been changing drastically over the past weeks (and will continue to change in the months to come). Data-based strategies and reallocations in budget tend to serve this change in behavior more cost-effectively.
Coming up with an outreach plan
Addressing the pandemic with your customers is not always appropriate or even recommendable. In order to do it the right way for the industry in which you operate, consider the existing customer-brand relationship, and the true purpose of the communication.
In case you have been maintaining an active communication with your clients, don’t let this relationship get cold – stay in touch! Also, in case the crisis affects your industry directly i.e. different operation hours, precautionary measures being taken, relevant updates – make sure to communicate them. Now is the time to strengthen your online presence. Your customer-base wants to hear from you!
However, think carefully about your message. The goal is to offer reassurance, connection and (when possible) assistance. Expressions of support and empathy have proved to be most effective.
Real-life effects of the COVID-19 crisis
When in doubt, it is usually valuable to look for practical examples of those who have faced similar situations as we have just encountered. By doing so, we can often spot trends & successful strategies even before they manifest themselves.
On that note, there are a couple key learnings we can take from several leading chinese brands in how to effectively relate to consumers during this time. According to a just-released Gartner research, China observed an increase of 20% in overall internet usage. Social Networking remained at roughly 32% of the total share of time spent online while mobile gaming experienced a growth of 44%, video consumption increased 14% and access to News and other information sources also increased 14%.
Brands who were able to shift their marketing efforts online, made use of highly engaging media (i.e. entertaining/informational videos & podcasts), were agile in developing new content and adapting to new platforms/circumstances, focused on delivery options and transparency succeeded. These companies were able to play a role in easing people’s concerns and sense of isolation.
One interesting example of this are Activewear brands and fitness bloggers which have been quick to promote in-home exercise content at a time in which short video Apps TikTok (known as Douyin in China) and Instagram have seen a steep increase in usage. Nike has been posting workouts to the platform, and the account counts currently on 781.9K followers and over 3 million likes.
Adopting the right outreach strategy is without question a necessary measure during a pandemic. Marketing is about creating a connection & dialogue between your brand and your customer-base – the way you do that during challenging times matters just as much (or even more) as when circumstances normalize.
Adapting your marketing strategy for when things go back to normal (they will)
Do not panic – emotional decisions might bring you setbacks in the future. Establish on-going communications with your current clients and inform them about any changes/precautions you might be taking. Remind & reassure them that any temporary setbacks will end and business will eventually resume as usual.
Now is the right time to start on your SEO optimizations. As we mentioned they take time. Make sure you’re capturing your customers’ attention when they begin their buying cycles again – chances are they’ll be doing so on a search engine.
We want to help you do the right thing for your business. That’s why we’ve implemented flexible pricing plans to help relieve the pressure without compromising. Head over to our pricing calculator for more info.
Eventually, things will normalize – and when they do, we want you to have a head-start on the competition. As previously mentioned, adapting your marketing strategy will play a key role in this.
Bonus: 4 actions that will help you boost your SEO during times of crisis
Search Engine Optimization is composed by a mix of on-going actions which should be consistently implemented over a long period of time. Here we will go over 4 important tasks you will want to keep updated/optimized during a time of crisis. Definitely keep these in mind when adapting your marketing strategy. You’ll be glad you did.
Work on your Online Reviews Strategy
Long story short, well-managed reviews signal to more brand trust which often leads to a high Click-through rate (CTR). This plays a big factor for SEO, as CTR is one of Google’s ranking factors. In other words – the way you handle your reviews matters.
The web is full of non-answered online reviews, and making sure those don’t correspond to your brand will be beneficial for preserving a positive online presence. Don’t get me wrong – there is no need to crawl through reviews from years ago. But if there are more recent ones make sure those receive a thoughtful response which should resonate with your brand messaging. (For more information on how to handle online reviews check out this article).
Update your Google My Business profile
Google aims to provide searchers with the most accurate information possible – and with this end in mind the search engine encourages business to update their Google My Business (GMB) profile with relevant information during this crisis (and always).
Did the COVID-19 affect your operation hours? Is your business taking any extra precautions? Are you experiencing any delays at the moment? Do you provide any extra services to your community? This is valuable information you can (and should) be displaying through the right tools.
Spice up your Website
Take this time to improve your website. Whether you own an ecommerce store, catering business, small law firm – it does not matter. Your website is the way to display your product/service and therefore it should reflect why you are the right choice for your prospect client. Check out this article and we’ll teach you how.
Alternative forms of content (aka podcasts, webinars)
In times of social isolation, people want to see your face/hear your voice more than ever. This might be an opportunity to establish a connection with consumers while exploring alternative forms of content sharing – which has been proved to be highly effective specially for B2B as 91% of professionals say webinars are their preferred type of content format for learning. By doing so, you could increase organic traffic to your website and improve your ranking on the SERP.