Speaking strictly from a marketing perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the current marketing landscape. Original marketing plans are being thrown out the window and we are faced with yet another challenge: constructing completely new strategies in this previously uncharted territory.
While you can still market yourself during this time, you have to be careful – even more so than usual – in ensuring that you are being sensitive to the situation.
All over the internet, we’ve seen marketers tell people to “lead with empathy” and to “be patient and kind” to your clients. While it’s undoubtedly great advice and definitely something you need to keep in mind now as well as beyond this pandemic, it doesn’t help you come up with any form of plan as to immediate actions you should be taking when it comes to your marketing efforts.
Should you stop marketing altogether for the time being? Is now a good time to continue with traditional marketing efforts or should you make the shift to digital marketing? If you choose to implement or continue with a digital marketing strategy, what specific strategies and tactics should you focus on? Pay-Per-Click (PPC), also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? How do you connect with current and prospective clients and consumers to minimize the negative impact to your business?
Should You Continue Marketing During This Time?
Short answer: yes, you should. We know; we sound biased being a marketing agency and all. But for you to stay competitive now and in the future, you must stay top of mind. But, to continue marketing doesn’t mean to continue doing the same things that you have been doing. There should be a shift in how you market.
Shift Away from Traditional Marketing
If you have heavily relied on traditional marketing strategies in the past, now is as good a time as any to make the shift towards internet marketing. People are not leaving their house; we’re social distancing, and there is even some anxiety when it comes to receiving things in the mail. If iPhone Screen Time reports are to be believed, the average iPhone user is spending at least twice as much time on their phones than usual.
We’re spending our days staring at different devices, from our phones to our computers, and from our tablets to our TVs, searching for a reprieve from our current situation. So, if you want people to see your ads and increase awareness of your brand right now, then digital is the way to go.
What Digital Marketing Strategy Should I Be Deploying?
This is the part where you really need to take a step back and look at your business and your industry, as each answer will vary.
If you have implemented a digital marketing strategy before, analyze your results. Look at what worked and what didn’t work. Some elements that have worked before may work in this new context. Think about conversion rate optimization and eliminating friction points on your website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Regardless of whether you are B2B or B2C, it is in my opinion that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the most valuable digital marketing strategy that you can deploy at this time.
While some brands are now faced with new challenges when it comes to their operations and supply chain, there is marketing potential with this shift in people’s shopping habits. For B2C businesses, anxiety (such as anxiety in regards to a pandemic) fuels impulsive shopping and “retail therapy” because it helps us to feel better, in that it allows us to feel some control over something when we are in a situation in which we have no control. We gravitate towards choices that reduce risk and uncertainty.
As for B2B businesses, anxiety also causes buyers to do more research and seek out more information before making decisions.
With SEO, you can reduce the perceived risk and uncertainty of your products and/or services by providing meaningful information and proactively answering questions that a buyer may have. Put yourself in the shoes of your target buyer (“lead with empathy”) and ask yourself what questions your buyer might be asking themselves. What problems or challenges are they facing? What solution are they looking for to solve their immediate problem and how can you help?
The more questions you can ask yourself from your target buyer’s point-of-view, the better you can anticipate their needs and the information they are searching for. In turn, you will be able to curate better and more meaningful content that will not only help your consumers but will also help your website rankings.
Focus on being educational and answering questions/potential pain points, rather than trying to push a product or service. While this type of content won’t convert in the short term, it will build awareness and consideration which will eventually lead people further down the funnel towards the eventual conversion.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
For businesses with a limited marketing budget that are unable to fully operate and provide services at this time, it may be best to momentarily allocate that budget towards an SEO strategy. PPC is a great way to drive traffic as it gets your ads to the top of search results, but if you are unable to provide services, you will end up with a much lower ROI than average.
On the other hand, if you are able to provide services or can cater to those impulse buys (even if you aren’t fully operational right now), don’t be so quick to reduce or reallocate your spend.
Look at your products and services objectively, as well as the industry. Are people likely to act and convert right now? If so, review your campaigns and ads to ensure that your ads are still relevant given the context and that you are being sensitive.
If certain products or services are getting more traction right now, make temporary changes to your strategy so that these products/services can get more visibility and maximize your results. If you are not currently doing PPC ads but you provide an essential service, now may be a good time to start running some paid search ads. Inevitably, there will be competitors that will reduce their spend or stop their ads altogether. This gives you a much better chance to stand out at a lower average cost!
For those with a more robust marketing budget but are unable to provide services, PPC ads are still a great way to ensure that you stay top of mind. Consider shifting internet marketing tactics from lead generation to building awareness. You can position yourself as a market leader.
MARION Has Additional Resources
Visit MARION’s dedicated COVID-19 marketing hub if you’re looking for more information on marketing during the Coronavirus.
Our strategists are constantly updating the hub with timely and valuable Coronavirus marketing articles to help you navigate during this difficult time. For those in need, we are also offering free marketing consultations to assess what actions you could be taking now or help you plan a marketing strategy for the market rebound. No obligations, no strings attached. Just give us a call or fill out one of our online forms today.