How Coronavirus Crisis is Changing Marketing
“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is comprised of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”– John F. Kennedy
I had began writing this post a few weeks ago, before any of us knew of the current effects of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 global health crisis. I had hoped to discuss that marketing efforts should never be paused or ceased even if your business goes through cyclic downturns or you, the business owner, endure personal issues … which is absolutely appropriate even more so now. I also planned to talk about ways to keep marketing with limited resources, whether that is financial loss, staff reduction or lack of time … which again means more now. One of those ways, in the past, that I have advocated to promote your brand is networking locally at networking events, meetings, workshops and board meetings … which now is not appropriate in these days of social distancing but can be adapted to changing times.
NETWORKING CHANGES: Networking, over the years, has been one of the leading ways I have acquired new leads and many of my new clients. It’s effective and it’s cheap but it does take time to prepare marketing materials, time away from the office to attend the event and follow-up after. And now, it would be tone-deaf and potentially dangerous to try to keep up a schedule of in-person networking. Many organizations have begun applying CDC recommendation of ‘social distancing’ by cancelling networking events and workshops. And boards, companies and organizations have begun conducting remote meetings as much as they can. Networking doesn’t have to stop, it just has to be modified. Social connections can still be maintained with social media, texting, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, remote meetings for personal and professional, letter writing and even phone calls.
CONTENT CHANGES: This is the time to show concern rather than promotion, so first it would be advisable at this time to be responsive to the current crisis, by checking in with your target audience to see how they are doing and/or if they need anything via your marketing channels. Your content should not encourage, by pictures or verbiage, large gatherings, social gatherings or leaving their homes to engage with others. Now is the time to be creative and intuitive on modifying the way you offer your product or service, exploring ways to fulfill current needs of those who are quarantined and isolated at home. Show that you care, show that you are responsive, and show that you offer flexibility to your customers. Your responsive message can be further expanded with strategic content marketing. While content marketing is more challenging to maintain, as it takes more time and creativity, this is the perfect time to invest in writing blogs, whitepapers, webinars scripts, and tutorials, since many of our calendars are suddenly clear from all the cancelled events and meetings.
NOTE: Since we are encouraged to stay home, work remotely or possibly even have to shut our business’ doors to the public in the coming weeks or even months, let’s use this time in productive ways to promote our brand. As they say, marketing never sleeps, so what are some ways you can explore new marketing channels or invest more fully in acquisition channels that have proven successful for your target audience?
* For each marketing tip below, I’ve added comments (in red) with an asterisk (*) on ways to alter each marketing strategy during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless of Feast or Famine, Never Stop Marketing
Never stop marketing. Whatever is happening in your business, regardless of your financial health or your workload or current economic crisis, it’s imperative to keep marketing. Marketing, whether digital marketing, in person networking or traditional marketing, has residual effects that can result in leads weeks, months or even years later. Even when I’m busy with projects, I find time to market my brand in ways that do not require much time but possibly a higher budget. When I’m slow, I have additional time to blog, network and reach out to leads and clients I haven’t touched in a while, but may have less of a budget for ads and paid marketing.
“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.”– Henry Ford
You never truly know how the marketing efforts you put forth today will pay off tomorrow, but you know for certain if you don’t continually advertise your brand in some way, your pay off will be stagnant profits and sluggish growth, possibly even the eventual end of your business. With so many new companies and new competitors popping up each and every day, you can easily be forgotten, so have a strategy to continually ‘make noise’ about who you are, what you are accomplishing, and how you can solve other’s problems. A blog is a great way to ‘push out’ your message, as adding content to your site will build page ranking in search (SEO), keep your story alive and send a reminder that you’re still here, still active and ready to work, especially when you share your blog content on your social media and email marketing.
Even when enduring life-altering obstacles, I have found that I was able to sustain my business based on results of past marketing efforts. Granted I saw an eventual slow down since my time and budget for marketing were limited, but it kept me going until I could revive my former marketing strategy.
Here are some easy, free (or cheap) ways to continue your digital marketing efforts:
ONE. Update existing webpages on your website.
If you don’t have time to create new content, blog posts or articles, then go in and update a page with edited content (improve grammar or spelling), add new statistics or research, information or even case studies that adds to the topic. Top Google results will be content published or at least edited in the last year so if you have pages/posts older than that, go in and make some changes.
“To increase the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and boost your search engine traffic, you can just update your old content and give yourself an improved freshness score.” – Neil Patel
“Updating and republishing old blog posts with new content and images can increase organic traffic by as much as 106%.”– Impact
TWO. Keep up with your Social Media posting.
Social Media content and ads show high impact with brand awareness more so than trackable leads and conversions. People are not attracted to social media by commercialized messages, but they go there for social connection, relationship building and inspiration. So it’s more about content marketing, rather than a sales pitch. Still it’s imperative for each brand to take part, otherwise you appear socially oblivious or outdated. If you can’t post everyday, can you post at least 2-3 times per week on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn? If you don’t have time to create original content for every post, share an article or a colleague or customer’s post (which increase relationship building), and add a short comment on why you are sharing. Save yourself time by scheduling posts or using a social media management platform (Hootsuite, Loomly, Tweetdeck, SproutSocial and more).
“Social connection is such a basic feature of human experience that when we are deprived of it, we suffer.”– Leonard Mlodinow
*During this pandemic, more and more people will be staying home but will fulfill that need for social interaction online, so more than ever it’s imperative you post, post, post. People need to hear positivity, inspiration and solutions on how to endure this time, for example, any content that promotes the message, we’re in this together, will be appreciated and promote engagement.
THREE. Invest in Search Engine Marketing.
If you lack time but still have a marketing budget, place ads. Paid search can help fill the void if you need to pause your content marketing. Google has recently changed the look of their paid search to help blur the differences between organic and paid listings in the SERP. Why? Well 83% of users were bypassing the ads and clicking on the organic listings instead. So in January 2020, Google made the change:
“Google began rolling out a new look for its search results on desktop. In what appears to be something of a purposeful dark pattern, the only thing differentiating ads and search results is a small black-and-white “Ad” icon next to the former. It’s been formatted to resemble the new favicons that now appear next to the search results you care about.”– The Verge
“Marketers that combine organic SEO and PPC ads see 25% more clicks and 27% greater profits.”– SEO Tribunal
*Remember to be sensitive to the content you are pushing out. You don’t want to appear tone-deaf, insensitive, or unresponsive by promoting services or products that are considered inappropriate during this time of quarantine and self-isolation. Instead, promote a message that offers tips to find joy when they shelter in place, or wishing your audience good health and a prompt return to normal, which will go much farther in promoting your brand as a good corporate citizen.
FOUR. Invest in Social Ads:
While Search Engine marketing may require a substantial and consistent budget, social media ads can be rather inexpensive, easy to place and result in a substantial number of impressions and actions. Whether you’re boosting a post or running a campaign, ensure you have a strategy of objectives, target audience and timing, otherwise you’re wasting your money. If you need help placing a social media ad, I will be blogging about that in the near future or you can schedule a training session with Startup Production.
“25% of people who see a social ad, will then respond by visiting the store or website.”– eMarketer
FIVE. Content marketing.
While the common
excuse, I mean reason, people give as to why they can’t write original content is a lack of time. Considering your industry and current restrictions in place by local and state government, you may now have a lot of time on your hands. Use it to write blogs, write new content for your website, advertising materials or email marketing. You could even write a few blog posts at a time, and schedule them for the coming weeks or months, so you’re ahead of schedule.
*Write content that appeals to people’s current needs. Feelings of isolation, fear, panic and boredom are rampant, so find solutions and be their guide during this crisis. Can you offer comfort, inspiration, solutions or tips to help other endure this time? Can your product or service be modified to meet the needs of those who are social distancing? Can you offer advice or expertise for those who are currently out of work or a struggling business owner? Do you have ideas on how to stay healthy, active, calm and content through crisis? Are there charitable efforts you and your employees can participate in and encourage others to follow suit? If yes to any of these questions, than you have the perfect topic to blog about.
SIX. Networking & Building relationships.
In the past twenty years, networking has provided a large percentage of my leads, with a much higher conversion rate than other marketing avenues. So regardless of how busy or how much work it takes to prepare for each event, I make a goal of hitting at least 2-3 events per month. Find groups that offer diversity in your target audience so you can build on that growing network of leads. As they say, everyone you meet knows something you don’t and someone you don’t.
“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”– Michele Jennae
*I’ve been inspired to see so many groups creatively pivot and find ways to network online, find relief from social distancing, commiserate about the current crisis, and discuss effective solutions to keep their businesses afloat during this temporary downturn. I’ve done more networking this week than I have in the past two months, because networking online is a lot easier for my entrepreneurial schedule. In the process of using Zoom for new client meetings, client website trainings, internet marketing meetings and networking events, I’ve discovered some surprising advantages….
THREE ADVANTAGES OF MOVING YOUR NETWORKING ONLINE
- TIME SAVINGS. So, the first advantage of online meetings or online networking events (via Zoom, Skype, Zoho, GotoMeeting, etc) is that the time away from work is only the length of the meeting. Online meetings have proven to be a huge time saver for me, as it’s less travel time to and fro, no need to prepare marketing materials and giveaways, and reduced time ‘dressing up’ for each venue. Let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier to ‘dress’ for an online meeting, which tend to be more casual and where you’re only seen from the neck up.
- PERSONAL CONNECTION. The second advantage is more meaningful conversations. If you can’t meet in person, a video conferencing platform, like Zoom, is the next best thing and much more personal than an email, online chat or even a phone call. When you see someone’s facial expression, you communicate countless emotions without saying a word, which can transcend any language barrier.
“In a new study, researchers defined 21 facial expressions used to convey our emotions and found a computer model could tell them apart with a high degree of accuracy. This suggests that while you can’t mask some expressions, you can proactively use your face to deepen your connection to others when you speak.”– Speakeasy, Inc.
- MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS. Sometimes it takes crisis in our life to stop and consider what’s important and what’s not, who is there for us and who are not, and what is worth our time and what is not. Considering the current COVID-19 crisis, I’ve found that the conversations I’ve had this week online have been more meaningful and open because we are all in this together. So rather than focusing on the unknown fears, the feeling of isolation or the inconveniences of working from home, find ways to make new social connections at a time when so many are looking for and needing it.
- BRAND PROMOTION. As so many in the media have encouraged, this is a time to stop, take a breath, relax and build relationships by getting to know someone else’s story. Each online networking session, I’ve been amazed how the format better allows for even the wallflowers of the group to express themselves and tell their story. It’s a lot easier to participate in the ongoing conversation where everyone has a part, than walking up to a stranger or group of strangers at a networking event.
- POSITIVE & HELPFUL FEEDBACK. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know new acquaintances, hearing their tips on surviving this time, and how their businesses are surviving. Likewise, I’ve been able to tell my story and share the unique challenges I’ve been facing and have benefited from the feedback and suggestions. I’ve also learned some great tips on facilitating meetings in Zoom, including technical tips and tricks, advanced features the platform offers and also how to keep everyone engaged and included.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, SAFETY & COMPLIANCE: And last but not least, the current CDC, federal and state recommendations state that gatherings or events with attendance over ten should be cancelled until further notice. Why? “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities.” (More information)
A Shout of Praise
During this time, I’d like to wish everyone good health and a speedy recovery to those who have contracted Coronavirus. I’d like to offer a shout of praise to those on the frontlines who can’t stay home: healthcare providers, nurses, EMT and first responders. And big thanks to those who continue to work to provide much needed necessities: those working at grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, banks, delivery service, post office, food distributors, truck drivers, IT service providers, and broadband providers. Hopefully, life will go back to normal soon and we will have learned a great deal from our experience.