As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses across the board, whole industries are reinventing themselves to adapt to an ever-changing consumer landscape.
Understandably, this means that many are also reviewing their digital marketing strategies and budgets in the light of socio-economic uncertainty.
In this blog, we wanted to share some insights from experts in their field to help marketers currently treading such unchartered waters.
Anna Morrish, Founder & Managing Director of Quibble Content
Everyone is trying to remain positive, but the pandemic is going to have a lasting effect on the economy, and businesses will suffer if they’re not smart. Putting marketing activity on hold will do nothing but hinder a business, allowing competitors to jump ahead. And, with some health experts predicting that we may need to continue some form of social distancing for the next two years, that’s a long time to put marketing on the backburner. But, continuing as though nothing has happened isn’t the right approach either.
You won’t hear me talking about the “new normal”, as I believe it’s more of an evolution. The situation we’ve found ourselves in has given people the push they needed to be smarter with their marketing. We’ve been working with clients to ensure they’re maintaining consistent communication with existing customers, along with previous customers and prospects. Throughout this journey, clients have also been able to evolve their product and service offering, which has been great for PR!
Other trends we’ve seen include an increased interest from businesses wanting to refresh their websites and ensure they’re able to convert traffic into leads, companies taking the time to update their social media knowledge through training we provide and an increase in PPC activity.
So, what should you do?
There’s a few things you can do. Firstly, ensure you have a communication strategy, then address your website, review the UX – your website should be easy to navigate, mobile friendly and fast! Next, help your customers, provide free advice and tips, guides, templates and even samples. Doing this may not increase your sales right away, but it’ll improve your brand’s reputation and help you build up a pipeline.
Alexandra Cote, Freelance Content Writer and SEO Strategist at MKTodyssey
Avoid promoting fear and inducing unnecessary panic. I’m seeing a trend in which companies are looking to take advantage of all the negative consequences of this crisis to induce fear and propose their product as a solution.
Instead, focus on changing your messaging and being more empathetic of people’s needs and preferences. Brand messaging holds a pivotal role here as you can’t keep your past mottos, value proposition, or even products the same way you had them before. The world and way in which consumers make a purchase decision right now has fundamentally changed. From moving brick and mortar shops to online to reconsidering how you present your products and what extra services you can offer.
Now more than ever is a perfect chance for brands who genuinely care about their customers to step forward. Reconsider every element of fear that your prospects and current customers are dealing with to see how you can offer solutions without making use of negative aspects. Be open to offering free services and extra perks to delight your existing customers and stay ahead of your competition. If you haven’t yet done all you can to retain your existing customers, well, it’s never too late but start as early as possible.
Obviously, your content marketing strategy plays a huge role here. If you’ve been focusing mostly on product updates and articles around your own company, it’s time to move beyond this towards educational content that can genuinely help someone.
Jen Penaluna, SEO Manager, Bigfoot Digital
You might have paused your SEO campaign to retain cash flow in the interim, or you may have continued pushing forwards while others cut back. Whatever you’ve decided to do with your SEO during lockdown, the search landscape is about to change again, post-lockdown. As if these times weren’t tough enough already, Google announced the Page Experience Update would roll out from 2021.
If you’ve got a site that’s difficult to use on mobile, loads terribly and has sub-par content, now is the time to sort that out. Just because your site passes the mobile responsive test, doesn’t mean it’s actually useable for a real-life customer. Use your website yourself on mobile; how quickly does it take to read the content or be able to scroll? If it’s annoying to you, it’s annoying to your customers. Fix that.
If you’re still financially recovering from lockdown, don’t be afraid to pause your SEO while you get your website updated. We may even thank you for it in the long run. Depending on your budget, you may only need to pause for a couple of months, which shouldn’t be too detrimental to your overall campaign. What would be worse is putting all that money into building up good rankings over the years, just for them to be lost because of your website?
Treat your website like your shop window; this is the first impression people get of your brand. If your décor was starting to look a little old-school and the doors were a bit wobbly, you’d update them, wouldn’t you? Do the same for your website, and your customers will thank you for it; now more than ever, people are searching for a trusting face.
Now is the time to start planning ahead; it might feel like we’ve only just started 2020, but the 2021 update is coming, and the pandemic has given us plenty of decisions to make down the line.
James Anstee, Digital Marketing Consultant at Minc Marketing
A large part of what shapes your initial ‘return’ to your regular marketing activities is how you dealt with the lockdown and the coronavirus outbreak as a whole. We have seen many businesses who went quiet on all of their digital platforms from the start of lockdown and who will now be looking to return as lockdown is lifted.
That’s fine, but the businesses who remained active across social media in particular during this time, adding value to their audience rather than continuing to sell to them, have a better foundation to build on for the remainder of 2020.
Take the time to address the situation if you have not yet done so and be truthful about how you have been affected. Your customers will certainly appreciate your honesty about where you have been over the last few months and how your business may have changed. To have been quiet for three months and return with content selling your product or services shows a lack of understanding of what may have changed for your audience during this time.
Ultimately this represents a fresh start. There’s a real opportunity to kick-on following the lockdown and strengthen your position against your competitors. People miss their social and leisure activities, and while they will have certain places or products in mind to return to if you market yourself in the right way, you have a chance to impress.
What does this look like from a strategic perspective? I would be spending as much of your marketing budget as you can on Facebook and Instagram adverts, offering giveaways, running competitions and continuing to recognise and reward the key workers who have done so much throughout this time. When people are struggling, they will gravitate towards businesses who show genuine care and can offer them value.
Craig Murphy, Managing Director at ALT Agency
We believe that by acting now in preparation for post-lockdown marketing is one of the best strategies – get a head start and put yourself in the best possible position for when things start to improve.
For us, we still believe that the most effective strategy will be SEO as part of a bigger omnichannel approach including offline methods such as direct mail and telemarketing which is tied in nicely with other online activities such as remarketing across Google and Social platforms.
In preparation for that, anyone looking to do SEO would be wise to not expect miracles to happen overnight, so education around SEO and understanding the lag factor is something that we are educating prospective clients around.
Another significant shift we expect to see is with wholesalers and similar businesses who have had their supply chains disrupted and will now go directly to their customers as an additional revenue stream for them.
We expect demand for ecommerce to grow bigger than previously projected across the next 12 months as businesses go direct to market. This will also be the case for potential customers that are still a little uneasy about returning to the world and will rely further on online shopping.
We still believe that SEO is always fundamental to a business growth strategy and when tied in with other areas that all produce a measurable return of investment which is always critical with any marketing activity.
All of these things take time and planning, that’s why we believe it’s best to get started ASAP and be in the best possible position to be found and with a strong offering as strength and intent returns to the market.
Ben Harper, Managing Director and Founder of Meet Hugo
The global pandemic has had wide reaching effects on almost all aspects of our lives, with businesses taking an unparalleled hit as part of a lockdown which has spanned months. As restrictions are gradually lifted, businesses that have been able to survive lockdown now face an entirely new set of challenges.
As a result, there needs to be a clear and consumer-sensitive direction for those who are open for businesses and want to reach prospects and current clients alike.
Your marketing strategy will need to consider the current situation in hand and be flexible enough to react to new economic and consumer challenges down the line. Successful businesses will know their audience, be adaptable and optimise what works.
When it comes to your marketing channels, one expectation is that more prospects are likely to be spending more time online, if lockdown trends are anything to go by. Methods for reaching prospects should focus on where your audience exists – video is especially still valuable in encouraging the personal aspect of marketing your brand and has more repeatable value if executed wisely.
Elsewhere, it is worth addressing your entire marketing mix at present, retaining what works and optimising the channels that add most value to your audience. In short, a clearly visible and authoritative brand that leads from the front is one that will gain the greatest successes in these difficult times.
Keep your strategy flexible enough to adapt to evolving conditions, learn quickly from what is working well, and build authority for long term gain. By giving this real thought from end-to-end, you are in the best position to still provide your expertise to an available and captive base of clients.