The great thing about marketing in the digital age is its tremendous malleability. As the world faces down COVID-19 and the associated economic slowdown, every business has to adapt its approach to marketing. With so much uncertainty, it’s hard to know what will prepare your business to weather the storm. How long will the storm even last? Well, there are certain actions you can take now and in the weeks ahead to fortify your marketing strategy to handle almost anything.
No Time to Panic
Becoming overwhelmed by this rapidly unfolding crisis can lead to panic. Panic causes irrational thought, which often leads to shutting down. Your impulse might be to stop doing everything, frozen in time until the word returns to “normal.” You might want to pull your ads, stop sending emails, and go radio silent on social media. Don’t do that.
Marketing is communicating. We talked in a previous post about how the worst marketing move you can make during a crisis is to stop advertising. Stay in the conversation. The fact is, we will be looking at a new normal for quite some time—months or years. Panic makes us see only what’s happening today, but your marketing strategy must be built for the long-term.
Communicating in the Moment
By now, hopefully, you’ve covered the crisis communication basics, such as posting your own “coronapage” letting customers know when and how to reach you. Google has introduced new types of schema to allow the inclusion of COVID-19 announcements for essential services and updated event statuses for business. They also offer a wealth of useful, frequently updated information for small businesses.
Up-to-the-minute communication is challenging but indispensable. Tell customers whether they can buy your products online, request a virtual quote on services, or if you offer online product demonstrations. At the same time, as we mentioned above, keep looking ahead.
Keep the Conversation Going
Once you get everything up-to-date, keep talking. This is a great time to keep your existing customers engaged and speak to top-of-funnel audiences.
Share useful or entertaining information that will keep you top-of-mind when customers need you again. For existing customers, this might consist of tips and tricks for how to get the most out of your products. For potential customers, it introduces your brand personality and thought leadership. Particularly for B2B companies with a long sales cycle, your conversations now can convert down the road.
Know Your Target Audience
This is good advice any time. But whether your eCommerce sales are up or down in spring 2020 depends largely on your target audience and how you reach them. Don’t assume nobody wants to buy your product during quarantine, or even during an ensuing recession.
Granted, consumers cutting back on spending will forgo some frivolous purchases right now. Yet some buyers, fortunately, still have disposable income and a lot of time on their hands. While you might think that people are buying only toilet paper and hand sanitizer, sales are skyrocketing for jigsaw puzzles and landscaping equipment.
Be a Hero to Your Customers
Some companies are grabbing headlines—and positive consumer sentiment—by tweaking their core function to meet the needs of the current crisis. Ford is making respirators. Distilleries are selling or donating hand sanitizer. Lyft is delivering lunches to kids and seniors.
Those are just examples that meet the needs of the current moment.
What might the world need in a few months? Think about these questions and how your business might fit into the answer:
- What will be the challenges of transitioning back to the office?
- What will back-to-school season look like this year?
- What services will people desperately need because they’ve been unavailable for awhile?
- What tools will people need who are looking for new jobs amidst high unemployment?
- How will brick-and-mortar businesses earn the trust of customers worried about germs?
- What kind of financial advice will individuals and businesses need?
If your business has the means to meet emerging needs, either with your existing products and services, or by modifying them, communicate that through your marketing. This is your chance to be a hero to your customers.
Pivoting to eCommerce
Whether you already run a robust virtual store, offer a few products online, or haven’t yet broken into eCommerce, there’s never been a better time to revisit your strategy.
Businesses seeing a major increase in online demand are finding the chinks in the armor, and finding ways to improve the user experience. Those seeing a slowdown are forced to make sure their site performs better than ever so they don’t lose a single sale.
Some eCommerce businesses are being forced to bring fulfillment in-house since Amazon will not accept shipments of non-essential items. Even if this ban is short-lived, businesses can learn from the experience and prepare for next time by becoming less reliant on third-party fulfillment.
Watch How Trends Shape Consumer Behavior
Look around: Businesses are figuring out how to manage remote workforces. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with shopping online for things they once only bought in-store. Live streaming and video calling have exploded. More people appear to be joining social media channels (although data on this remains to be seen), including more “niche” channels like TikTok. Watch for new features, too, like Instagram’s Co-Watching feature that they rushed to release in response to widespread quarantine. These behavior changes are likely to stick. Your business will need to adjust its marketing strategy accordingly.
What to do Right Now
At Bayshore Solutions, we handle all aspects of digital marketing and work with clients in a tremendous range of industries. We’re seeing the current situation affect different businesses in vastly different ways. We believe, however, that those who keep strategizing, and keep marketing, with their eyes to the horizon, will see the best outcomes. Take these actions right away:
- Assess your eCommerce capabilities
- Stay active in your current communication channels
- Invest in content that will contribute to your long term SEO success
- Revise any ads or social posts that are not performing
- Think about how your customers’ needs and behaviors might change as a result of this situation.
We wish you all the best during this unprecedented time. If we can help you with your eCommerce or digital marketing strategy, please get in touch!