COVID-19 and Digital Marketing: Adjusting Your Strategy
Posted at Apr 3, 2020 11:38:17 AM by THAT Agency | Share
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed our lives. Our daily routines are impacted by school and business closures. Our vocabularies include new terms like social distancing, self-quarantining, and sheltering in place. Even our personal habits are affected, as we now more vigorously wash our hands and avoid touching our faces.
Amid this public health crisis, US consumer behavior also has changed. Online shopping has become more popular than ever – as has the consumption of digital content. Social media, email, search engine, video streaming, and podcast platform usage has grown out of a collective desire to stay safe, informed, connected, entertained, and productive.
With so many eyes and ears tuned to the digital realm, it is vital for your business to have a strong digital presence.
As it is the year 2020, you likely already have a website and a digital marketing strategy in place. However, due to the economic uncertainty caused by the spread of COVID-19, you might be considering scaling back your digital marketing services. Ultimately, you need to do what’s best for your business and your people. Only you and your team can decide how to mitigate against potential losses.
That said, the following article provides suggestions for adjusting your marketing strategy for COVID-19.
The Time Is Now
In a recent Forbes article, Bernard Marr wrote, “If your organization previously put token efforts into digital channels – because like a lot of other businesses, you had built your networks offline and that had always seemed to work – now is the time to revisit them.”
But taking the right actions can be challenging, especially during such a dynamic situation.
“All companies should operate with integrity and trust even as they come under pressure from a swiftly evolving situation,” wrote Gartner contributor Laura Starita. “Those with a product or service well-suited for difficult times must, meanwhile, tread lightly, lest customers think they’re exploiting tragedy.”
How to Get the Message Right
With much of the American population staying home, the demand for – and consumption of – content has increased dramatically across multiple digital channels. From your paid search ads to your social media posts to your website, it’s extremely important your brand remains consistent regardless of where, when, and how your audience is engaging.
A consistent brand has purpose, and that purpose should remain steadfast throughout your marketing, even when the messaging shifts. For example, if you provide the best quality service in your niche, show your audience how your business is rising to the occasion to help keep employees, customers, and community members safe while continuing to deliver top-notch service. If you focus on developing a top-of-the-line product, explain how you’re doing so without sacrificing product quality – perhaps by allowing your employees to work remotely.
Your specific skills or benefits that people can’t get anywhere else are what establish your brand’s competitive advantage. You’ve been integrating this advantage within your branding from the outset to connect with your audience and establish brand equity. Changing course now can cause a crisis of identity.
You want people to be able to recognize any asset you own as yours right away, so they can connect the value with you and not one of your competitors. Know yourself as a brand and know your audience. When you understand both, your marketing can serve as a bridge between the two and your business can flourish, even (or especially) during extenuating circumstances such as these.
Speaking of connecting, remember that people prefer to do business with people. One of the most effective ways you can relate to your audience is through shared experiences. Make them laugh. Give them that tidbit of nostalgia that flashes them back to “the good old days.” Establishing a positive, emotional connection during trying times helps establish and maintain trust.
Now, let’s get down to the delivery.
Ways to Deliver Your Message Digitally
During a pandemic, or any disaster for that matter, it’s good to address all channels of marketing for user experience and messaging. However, none may be as time sensitive as your paid search strategy.
As you are spending serious cash each day on a per-click basis, the environment is rapidly shifting, and consumers are turning to search engines for quick answers. If you are lagging on updates, then you are set up for failure.
Look at your keywords and ads: would some of your services (if that is your business model) be available outside your office or business location? For example, a restaurant likely isn’t able to offer “buffet-style meals” or “water-front views” when being required to only offer take out.
To help keep you in the game with leads flowing, here are some other aspects to consider in relation to your product and service offerings:
What specific products and services are you still offering? Have any products or services been delayed, discontinued, adjusted, or stopped during this time? It may be a good idea to get these changes laid out in writing so you can map out which campaigns, ad groups, and extensions need to be updated.
Are more searches on your search terms report coming in with terms like in home, online, virtual, delivery, pick up, etc. verbiage before your brand name, products, or services? This is a great indicator of potential ways to stretch your product and service capabilities to keep revenue coming in.
Do you see any new and relevant search terms in Google Trends? Although this data will only give you a sliver of information (since social distancing and shelter-in-place initiatives have only recently begun), you will still see some search volume trends filter in.
Will your new or adjusted products and services be offered in your regularly targeted geographic area? For instance, are you willing to bring your service to someone as far out as you are willing to advertise? Depending on the situation, you would need to consider the travel expenses and time constraints. Decreasing your location targeting should be considered along with this question.
After your products and service offerings are decided, be sure to update your ads, ad extensions, keyword pools, and even your negative keywords to make sure you are highlighting and not negating these new opportunities for customers and clients to find you.
Now may also be a good time to test out some ad extensions like the call extension, lead form extensions, and promotional extensions that you weren’t able to utilize beforehand. Just like your products and service offerings, creativity needs to be open as to how you are sourcing leads. An example here would be a chiropractic office offering in-home adjustments. They might not have been able to utilize lead form extensions in the past for scheduling appointments due to a previously busy schedule, but these online forms could now be openings for users to convert directly via ads.
In addition, keep an eye on trends in your market. Are your impressions nose diving due to fewer consumer searches? Is your search impression share decreasing due to more competition going after the same number of possible leads? Are you seeing new competitors popping up in the action insights tab – if so, what are those competitors offering? What about trying Bing search as a complement to your Google Ads spend?
This situation is a moving target, so staying light on your feet is the goal here. Our advice is to stress your business’ capabilities to shift to meet changing consumer expectations and to constantly evaluate what can set your products and services apart in an unknown market.
With large corporations pulling their social media advertising, now is the time for smaller-to-medium-sized businesses to make their move. With the lack of large corporation relevancy, there is an increased chance of your social media ads being seen due to the never-ending relevancy hierarchy.
The first step is creating your “corona persona” and identifying who you want to target with your social advertising during this rather unique time. By figuring out location, age, and interests, you can then dive deeper into platforms. Every social media advertising platform is niche-oriented and can reach your target audience more effectively. If your persona has a visual preference and is above the age of 45, you should consider YouTube. If your persona is under the age of 45, consider Instagram. The strategy in the placement of ads is essential to obtaining an effective return on your ad spend.
After creating your persona and narrowing your platforms, you can then figure out what social standpoint best represents your brand. There are multiple angles from which you can position your company: these include audience conservation, emotional connection, mitigation, and preservation. Each one of these standpoints coincides with a social media campaign objective.
But which one is best for your business?
Audience conservation entails messaging that keeps users engaged throughout the pandemic. It uses phrases like, “We are all in this together” and “This is how we are spending our day.” This social standpoint keeps users informed and helps maintain a relational connection.
Emotional connection uses feel-good and fear-of-missing-out messaging to get followers to engage with content. For example, the Hallmark Channel announced its roll out of feel-good holiday movie weekends. This type of message and offer triggers nostalgia and helps ease the minds of users practicing safer-at-home-style protocol. Since implementation, Crown Media Holdings reports the Hallmark Channel has seen a +12.92 price-performance increase. In turn, effective branding and social media marketing have improved the company’s bottom line.
Mitigation is an informative approach tied to conversion-based targeting. This is the best approach when you are trying to maintain an open and honest forum with your customers or clientele. You may do so from a statistical and statement-based message by using phrases like, “Today, THAT Agency hired 16 West Palm Beach employees to help combat the increase in digital media services.”
Preservation uses lessons and tips to help build a better base for the future. This includes working and evolving as the times are changing. For example, a company like Ford has switched production to making face masks instead of vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic. When using a brand awareness social campaign to advertise a change like this, you inform social users who are not in your immediate audience about what you are doing right now to help. This can preserve purchases of Ford vehicles for a time when users feel safe to more freely leave their homes.
Email is a tried and true method of communication. It should also be a key component of your business’ digital marketing strategy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, consider reaching out via email in the following ways:
Customers – Reach out to your customers via email to inform them about any changes that could affect the quality of your services. For example, alert your customers as to any known product shipping delays, any changes to your operating hours, and any new distancing or disinfecting procedures you have put in place.
However, don’t communicate just for the sake of communicating. It’s important to remain focused on adding value. Before you hit send, review your message from the prospective of your customers. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?” If your message doesn’t provide any benefit to your customers, why would they care to read it?
Leads – Use email marketing to thoughtfully nurture your leads by providing them with relevant and useful content.
If your sales are driven largely by events, face-to-face meetings, or in-store traffic, email your leads and invite them to join you for a video conference in which you host a performance, virtual tour, walk through, or product demonstration.
If you’ve built up a collection of premium digital content like eBooks, checklists, videos, podcasts, and other inbound lead magnets, consider un-gating and opening your library via an email to your leads. Since you’ve already collected their contact information, there’s no need to make them complete more forms prior to downloading. Giving your leads free and easy access to your digital library adds value, especially while so many Americans are staying at home and consuming more content than ever before. If you hesitate at un-gating your premium content, you might instead reach out via email with a relevant reading list of some of your top blog posts.
One last thing about email that’s also quite relevant: there is typically a lower cost associated with using this marketing method.
Adjusting your strategy is a lot to tackle right now. The experienced digital marketing team at THAT Agency can help you adapt your marketing to meet the changing needs of consumers, so your business is better positioned to weather the storm. We specialize in content creation and distribution across multiple digital channels, including eCommerce, search engine, social media, and email marketing platforms, as well as websites and blogs. We can also help you implement a chat bot on your website to aid in attending to customers and leads during times of business disruption.