Weeks into the coronavirus crisis, marketers have learned to think long-term and keep on with their digital marketing and brand-building efforts.
While experts predict that this radical shift in business (and everyday life) might actually help us get ready for big changes in our economy, marketing professionals and business owners are focusing more on the here-and-now.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly has taught us a lot (including just how woefully unprepared most of us are when businesses are suddenly flipped around in an instant). Hard lessons, to be sure, but lessons nevertheless.
Here are nine of those lessons we’ve learned along the way while doing digital marketing during a crisis.
1. Leave It To The Experts
First things first: when crazy things happen to the world around us, let us clear the way for experts—good people who actually know how to set things right for us—and let them do what they do best.
It’s times like these when trust, more than anything else, is important. We, as marketers, have a duty to vet our sources of news and information.
So on one hand, we’re here to help helpful, relevant, and timely information reach our customers and followers. And on the other hand, we do what we can to stem the spread of fake news, fear-mongering, exploitative journalism, and misinformation.
2. Now Is the Time To Double Down (On Marketing Efforts)
Even as we’ve secured the safety and well-being of our colleagues and seriously cut back on operations, we should not just carry on with our marketing efforts, we should also find ways where we can double down on some of those efforts.
The key here is to market even more efficiently and judiciously. The business landscape is in total flux, with some industries more hard-hit than others. Now is NOT the time for promoting special deals. Rather, let your customers know you’re here to help.
What can you continue doing? Email marketing is both cheap and effective. You can carry on with your brand-building efforts just by being genuinely helpful. Keep engaging your customers, your fans, and your followers on social media.
3. Now's Also a Great Time For SEO
“SEO-focused content is the most cost-effective and direct path to maintaining your business during economic downtimes. It requires a lower investment. And, it doesn’t have an on/off switch like traditional paid media campaigns, so it pays off long after the investment.”
—Pat Reinhart, Conductor
With more people at home looking for answers, news updates, or entertainment, internet traffic is actually up by 50%.
One of the lesser-known advantages of SEO is that search engine optimization works during all sorts of economic environments, including times of uncertainty (such as now, with the COVID-19 pandemic going around).
Continued investing in (and even doubling down on) SEO not only offers long-term gains but is also a lot scalable and has excellent ROI, yielding you a steady stream of leads at a considerably lower cost.
- Use this time to do a technical audit of your business website and make the necessary adjustments or improvements.
- Ramp up your content marketing efforts and create more high-quality blog posts, graphics, ebooks, videos, podcasts, and more.
- Re-optimize your existing content by adding proper alt tags and meta descriptions, have your pages link to each other, and other quick on-page optimization tweaks.
4. Reassess Your Paid Search Opportunities
Should you still be doing PPC advertising and running ads on social media?
From the good people over at Wordstream: yes, you should, but you must also adjust based on how the market’s online habits have shifted.
Especially as brick-and-mortar stores have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, more people have shifted online to make their purchases. People are spending money, but just a bit differently (as this recent Yelp! Local Economic Report would tell you). Search traffic is down overall, but that only means less competition, and perhaps a good time for some brands to consider ad networks other than Google Search or Facebook.
5. Reach Your Audience on Other Networks
Speaking of other networks, now is also a good time to consider connecting with your audience across other social media platforms.
With everyone confined to quarters, you can certainly expect screen time to go up. People turn to their mobile phones for connection and support, for information, and for entertainment.
Brands (as well as celebrities) have been particularly helpful in encouraging people to practice social distancing, making folks understand why we need to stay at home, and showing how we can all feel we’re part of communities through various social networks.
Being helpful to your target audience, especially during times of crisis, goes a long way not just towards brand-building and ensuring top-of-mind recall, but also by genuinely earning goodwill and trust.
6. Revisit Your Google My Business Account
We’ve talked about the importance of optimizing your Google My Business page. If you haven’t had the chance yet, well, now’s the time to claim your brand on the world’s largest search engine.
Remember: keeping your Google My Business account current and fresh is a great way to boost your local SEO, so put up a quick COVID-19-related update, and adjust your business hours accordingly. Yes, even if you have to close shop for a while (or for an extended period of time).
7. Necessity Forces Us To Get Creative
Far from just sitting around, now is also the time to really look for those new opportunities for you to shine.
Remember: people aren’t buying like they normally do, but they are still spending—they’re just doing so a little differently.
Is there another way for you to deliver your products and services? Can you use this time to build your email list or your social media followers? Maybe you can double down on some of your ads on social right now with their dirt-cheap CPMs?
8. Level Up Your Marketing Skills
Nothing to do and nowhere to go? Expect big changes when things return to normal, so that also means you, as a marketing professional, should get ready for these changes by upskilling.
Take this opportunity to pick up some new marketing, tech, or business skills to complement your existing skillset.
Look into getting some marketing tools to help better organize your process. Create playbooks and guides. And don’t forget your crisis communication plans and business continuity programs; this crisis certainly caught us all unaware. So in the unlikely event that we do see another similar pandemic or disaster in our lifetime, we’re all better prepared and know what to do.
Fun fact: a growing number of companies have generously opened their premium digital marketing courses to anyone looking to do some upskilling in these troubled times. We’ve kept track of those sites where you can get free training (or ebooks) to level up your digital marketing skills.
9. Focus On Your Existing Customers
One important lesson this pandemic has emphasized for us: it’s so much easier (and a lot less costly) to take care of your existing customers than it is to acquire fresh clients.
So you have to ask yourself: “How else can I be helpful to my existing customers?” This is a good time to reassess the value you bring to the table as a company. What adjustments do you need to make to keep delivering? How “on top of things” are you when it comes to adapting to the changing needs of your market?
Bonus: 10. We’ll All Float On Alright
Ladies and gentlemen, as bad as things are now, it can really only get better. Yes, with stay-at-home orders in effect, and having to scale back business operations considerably, these are tough measures for tough times.
But there will soon come a time when things will go back to a new normal. Restaurants will be full once more. Folks will go out and get their hair and nails done. Baseball games will be sold out. People will go back to shopping the way they have.
But there will be changes. And so when we do get the all-clear, you’ll want to be ready for that renewed flurry of business activity.
A Final Word About Digital Marketing During a Crisis
If there’s one key takeaway here, it’s this: use your digital marketing skills for good.
As marketing professionals, we certainly don’t have a lot of useful skills during a crisis, but there are two things we might particularly excel at: getting the word out and helping businesses grow. Even when the economy grinds to a halt, the best way we can be of service to our clients is to carry on with online marketing efforts—maybe even helping shift some crucial business to the digital space.
Because after all this, things will definitely be better. Different, most likely, but better in many new ways as well.
That means we can all look forward to a new surge in business as things return to normal, and when that day comes, we should all be ready to hit the ground running.