Digital Marketing During Coronavirus, March 2020

Digital Marketing During Coronavirus, March 2020 Featured Image

How to Market During Coronavirus

Serving Your Customers During a Crisis

In times of crisis, many innovative entrepreneurs find opportunity. Notice we say “opportunity” and not “exploits.” There’s a key differentiator in there — it’s about uplifting and serving the community in new ways begged by the cultural shifts experienced during a crisis. It’s not about taking advantage of panic, or scarcity, or fear. 

Think of Walt Disney’s decision to release a full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs during the Great Depression against the advice of his advisors — and even his wife — who thought it would be a failure. Despite common refrain, the movie received a standing ovation and brought a new kind of cinematic joy to a public all but consumed by economic downfall. 

And, while it didn’t open until 1955 and had plenty of hiccups during the unveiling ceremony, Disneyland itself was a product of the Great Depression. Or, rather, a product of Walt’s infatuation with offering struggling American’s a fairy-tale reprieve from their daily struggles. 

While the icon of cartoons had plenty of characteristics to criticize, a knack for uncovering a community’s uplifted spirit during trying times can offer some positive guidance today. 

Think of ways to inspire positivity in yourself, your brand, and your customers. 

How can you and your brand provide cheer, comfort or much-needed services to a public with far too much worry and panic on their minds?


Whatever You Do, Don’t Lose Momentum

Get creative with your revenue structure — just look to movie giant Universal, which is releasing video-on-demand titles rather than theatrical engagements. As the Los Angeles Times points out in their title, this is not just a short fix — a reaction to barren and closed theaters — but an opportunity to test out a new way of doing business in the era of streaming. 

Or be like fitness studios and yoga instructors, who have switched to online streaming solutions in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns. Do you have an Instagram account? Then you can run a  class from your Stories, and even do it live, like many in the always-pioneering Southern California region

And in the B2B world, companies are pivoting to meet the unique demands of a COVID-19 economy. 

Take SpotSee, a leader in supply chain monitoring, which is focusing on their cold chain monitoring products. These shipping indicators are essential for COVID-19 testing kit shipments that need to stay in a precise temperature range to protect sample quality. 

Or look to tech company Coupa, which is helping customers carefully manage business spend during the pandemic and economic crisis. 

And even as the automotive industry takes a nosedive, dealership inventory management company Zurich Connected Cars identifies an urgent need for car dealers: securing vehicle lots at risk to rising crime and theft rates while employees and customers vacate to self-quarantine. 

It doesn’t take a new product to address the needs of a COVID-19-impacted economy — just a thoughtful repositioning that shows an understanding of pertinent customer needs. 

So take a cue from these companies, and don’t let the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing, and economic uncertainty quash your momentum. Instead, keep your foot on the pedal — maybe turn the wheel a bit, click on the headlights — but keep the hammer down. 


Driving Business Management Efficiency

Think of ways to reframe your product not as a value-add, but as an essential. Are you giving companies a look into their supply chain to help them monitor its performance when the workforce is down to a skeleton crew?

Can you offer ways to streamline operations for those in the retail and service categories? Now that they have fewer (or no) customers and employees on the floor, they have time freed to consider other business problems. They’re also looking for ways to automate previously human-led tasks. 

Once you know how you fit into the market, the next big question is how do you get the word out?


Everyone’s Online Right Now — is Your Digital Marketing Up to the Task?

Whether they’re working remotely or stuck at home due to quarantine, reduced hours, or otherwise, consumers are now on the computer more than ever. 

They’re not driving around glancing at billboards. They’re not shopping retail or going out to eat, experiencing your product in person. 

They’re online, conducting more searches than ever and putting stress on the country’s internet infrastructure

Once they’re done Googling the latest updates on coronavirus, they’re going to stick around and surf awhile. Are you visible now, when it matters so much more?

We cannot forget the elephant in the room: people have less to spend in this new normal, so the competition is tougher and you should look for efficiency in everything your business does. 

If you’re not doing so already, you need to:

  • Understand what’s working
  • Look for areas to cut — that won’t impact your bottom line
  • Refine your tactics for even better ROI

What does this all mean for digital marketing?


Content is the Way to Sell When Nobody’s Buying

At Digital Current, we’re huge fans of content — because it works. With strategic content marketing, we’ve helped clients increase their blog traffic more than 100% year after year after year. And that translates to increases in traffic to other pages, too. 

So in a time when the pandemic has folks pausing big purchases, cancelling vacations, and otherwise curbing spending on nonessential goods, content is the way to keep them engaged. 

After your company releases its own “coronavirus statement” to alert your customers to the steps you’re taking (and possible fluctuations in operations) in response to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s time to ramp up content for the long play. 

Customers can’t buy right now — but they can read up, research, and consume engaging content. Now’s the time to build brand advocates before they buy. It’s a chance to capitalize on an audience even more open to sitting down and reading content, because they’re stuck at home and are trying to fill their time from their phone or computer. 

Make sure that content earns search engine rankings through strategic link building

While you’re developing content for these not-yet-customers to consume, you can drive newsletter and mailing list signups to keep in touch with them when economic conditions allow for more spending.

And while you develop content, make sure it maps to the buyers’ journey of your target audience.


Understanding Your Buyer’s Journey — Especially the Research Stages — is More Important than Ever

And speaking of buyer’s journey — do you even have one? If not, or if yours may need an update, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide: CUSTOMER PROFILES, PERSONAS AND BUYER’S JOURNEYS: WHAT TO KNOW AND HOW TO BUILD THEM.

Understanding what your customers want to read about at each stage of their journey is key to resonating with them during this time of reduced spending. Specifically, capitalize on the research, discovery, and/or awareness stages to give them all the ammo they need to convince themselves (or their parents, partners, coworkers, etc.) to buy — once they’re financially ready.


Making It Easy for Customers to Click “Buy” or “Submit” will Offset Losses

Don’t make it hard to buy. Sure, that sounds like a no-brainer — but there’s an entire industry devoted to conversion rate optimization (CRO) for a reason. 

Driving users to convert is both art and science. Here’s some resources to help you take a careful look at your own website and identify ways to better optimize for conversion:


PPC is a Bit Volatile — Keep an Eye On It

Many leaders in search marketing, including SearchEngineLand, are reporting that spending on ads is increasing in this pandemic time, due to so many customers shifting to online shopping. Yet even those same outlets report that ad spend is down, but could rebound later in the year. Overall, it seems that click-through rates are dropping, though, especially for industries including real estate, home improvement, home furnishings, automotive, and retail. Travel and hospitality — really, anything you have to do in person — has been hit the hardest. If you’re in the business of “essentials,” you’re in good shape. On-demand media is on the rise, too. Interestingly, spend in the “business management” category is up, too, seemingly as companies prepare for remote workers and employee shortages. 

What should you take away from these competing understandings of the digital ad spend landscape?

Well, if you have the budget, keep buying ads. As retailers run out of stock, they may stop advertising — so if you’re in stock, it’s your chance to power to the front of the line. 

As Henry Ford said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” Even with revenue falling during the coronavirus crisis, spending on marketing and advertising is essential to stay visible and get in front of whoever is buying. 

Maybe you’re not ecommerce, but part of a company that’s in a position to offer business management or efficiency services. Now’s a prime time to boost your spend and get in front of business owners and leaders seeking a way to keep the ship steady during a time of economic uncertainty, less visibility throughout a supply chain, fewer employees and customers on the floor — and on and on. 

Or maybe (as we mentioned above) your company offers content that nurtures buyers through now-extended research and awareness stages of your buyers’ journey. Using PPC to position your nurture content in front of searchers not-quite-ready-to-buy can snag brand loyalty now that flips to brand buying when the chaos settles a bit.

But there’s a huge caveat — you need to have an eagle-eye on your PPC performance, and adjust spend and strategy as the market fluctuates. 


Local Search is Still Essential

Even though everyone’s staying home to self-quarantine (well, hopefully!), local search visibility is still important. Actually, it’s even more important as we ration our trips into the outside world. Communicating with searchers via your Google My Business listings is the best way to capture the carefully rationed foot traffic we’re seeing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

First off, know that Google has instituted some changes in local listings to protect business owners during such a hard, strange time for business. That includes freezing new reviews, review replies, and Q&As; limiting access and responsiveness for adding, claiming, editing, and verifying new listings; and, interestingly enough, relaxing the rules a but to easily allow businesses to add takeout and delivery keywords to their business names, to help the public identify resources for food. 

Google is obviously experiencing its own internal slowdowns as it deals with the coronavirus pandemic and necessary precautions, so it’s understandable that it would limit some features to allow staff to focus on the most important stuff. And freezing reviews is a smart way to protect businesses from frustrated customers who may not be entirely respectful of a business’s limitations during this time. 

Still — double check your Google My Business listings to make sure it’s accurate. Include your new operating hours, if they’ve changed. Update your contact information. Add the “Takeout/delivery” tag to your title, if it’s relevant. While you won’t be able to fully “optimize” your listing right now, accuracy is key. 


Don’t Forget the Importance of Ecommerce Optimization

Make sure your ecommerce website is ready for an onslaught of online shopping. Check out our guide: HIGH-IMPACT SEO STRATEGIES FOR ECOMMERCE SITES

With brick-and-mortar retailers ordered to close in so many areas, consumers turn to the internet for their shopping needs. Don’t be left behind because your site isn’t up to the task. 

And think about the upcoming stimulus checks the government is promising in the next week, or month, to boost the economy while providing citizens with a much-needed income stopgap. 

Sure — many individuals will need that money to pay their rent, utilities, or buy essentials. But many people won’t. They weren’t laid off or they have other means of supporting their budget during the pandemic. 

While many in this group will stash the money away, many still will look to spend it on a feel-good purchase they’ve been reading about for the past two weeks (see how that content comes into play?) like Luxy hair extensions to feel glamorous on video calls, No B.S. skincare products to achieve healthy skin while they’re makeup-free or Vegamour brow growth serum to finally undo over plucking without being out and about during the awkward growth stage.


And Finally, Use Your Free Time to Educate Yourself 

We’ll keep this one simple — here are some of our own resources you can look to. Check these out and level up your own digital marketing skills. 

If all this has you feeling a bit overwhelmed, you’re not alone. We’re here to help you find quick wins, develop a durable strategy, and set you up with a strong digital marketing foundation that outlasts any storm life may throw your way.

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