We’re living in uncertain and frightening times.
The outbreak and spread of the Coronavirus is like nothing the world has ever seen. A pandemic of terrifying proportions, it has impacted every household and, inevitably, every business.
In time of crisis, companies often seek to batten down the hatches and cut costs. When money is tight and the pipeline dry, pausing or cancelling marketing services is typically the first step in a hastily assembled action plan.
History tells us that reducing marketing budgets provides a short-term fix but longer-term problems. That’s because the storm will eventually pass and those that have downed tools altogether will have ground to make up. Lots of it.
Now – more than ever – is a time to remain front and centre, offering your client base familiarity and reassurance. Equally important is developing what’s termed ‘emerging marketing’ – a plan of attack for a world beyond Coronavirus.
So what can you be working on right now as we approach a much-feared peak?
It’s easy for us as marketers to preach the importance of adopting new marketing tactics during unprecedented times. Yet there’s compelling to evidence to support this view.
A good deal of research has focused on how businesses respond to unforeseen circumstances such as a recession or, in our case, a pandemic. These same studies have also looked at how businesses bounced back.
For example, the Harvard Business Review Study looked into 4,700 companies before, during and after an economic downturn. It was able to categorise their respective tactics into four distinct strategies – prevention, promotion, pragmatic and progressive. Here’s how they differed...
The prevention model is akin to firefighting. Companies looked to cut costs and every decision was made with a view to tightening their belts. Significantly, they committed to deliver more or less the same work, only with fewer resources. The sad but predictable outcome is the quality of their output diminished. After the recession passed they managed just 21% bottom line growth.
The promotion outlook was in sharp contrast to the prevention equivalent. Businesses adopting this approach could be accused of turning a blind eye to the severity of the situation. The majority added features/products, believing customers wanted more value. They were also guilty of ignoring early warning signs. When the situation improved they were able to realise 26% growth in their bottom line.
Companies considered pragmatic combined elements of the prevention and promotion models with varying success. They placed great emphasis on cutting their workforce in efforts described as ‘haphazard.’ They achieved 29% growth in their bottom line after the recession.
Finally, analysts detailed a fourth category titled progressive. These businesses combined elements of the prevention and promotion outlooks but to far greater effect.
They focused primarily on reducing costs but only on things they wouldn’t require in the future. Staff and marketing did not fall into that bracket. It was these companies that registered the best bottom line growth after the recession...37% on average.
The biggest take away from the HBRS findings is that those cutting costs fast and deep do not necessarily fare best long-term. In fact they have the lowest chance of succeeding once things stabilise...and have the most ground to make up.
We’re currently at war with a faceless enemy and none of us knows how long the battle will last. While going to ground and cutting expenditure may seem an obvious decision it is in fact short-sighted. Ultimately, nothing improves if you stand still.
That’s why continuing with marketing efforts and honing them now will have a major bearing on your future after Coronavirus. It’s a time to strike a balance, refocus and ready your business for both the war and the aftermath.
To survive and then thrive…
So – how can you do that? Here are six ways you can invest your digital marketing to help your business in the long-term and beyond the current crisis.
1. Be Visible
Retaining visibility is critical. Granted, your target audience may be spending less but those willing to spend will hope to do so with companies they both recognise and trust. That’s you – and that’s why keeping in touch is a must.
This can be achieved any number of ways:
Using the likes of HubSpot allows for countless workflows to be set up with different messaging primed for different points of the buyer's journey. While creating these campaigns is quite involved, they do take care of themselves once published. Now is an ideal time to embrace automation and remain top of mind to those who engage.
Content creation should not only be maintained but increased. Topical, contextual articles are an ideal way to continue a conversation with your audience. It’s here where you can share expertise and promote short-term offers owing to the situation we find ourselves in. It is also sound practice to ready content for when things right themselves. This will save you a good deal of time further down the line.
Continuing with social media is likewise essential. With the country in the midst of an interminable lockdown, the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn are expected to see a 22.2% rise in traffic.
What else is there to do?
Meet your audience on those very platforms by posting new content and engaging in conversation.
Progressive companies will remain visible and attuned to customer needs. Disappearing from view is not an option.
2. Focus On SEO
A number of background tasks can be undertaken during a time of upheaval.
One of these is focusing on your website’s SEO. Improving visibility in search engines will help increase organic traffic when you need it most. In other words... now.
This is also an opportunity to make headway should competitors down tools, as some inevitably will. Suddenly terms that once seemed impossible to rank for may just be within reach.
We’ve already touched upon creating new content but editing and repurposing existing blogs can have as big an impact here.
Tapping into the likes of SEMrush and Moz will allow you to assess noticeable drops in position. Optimising content, including meta titles, descriptions and alt tags, should arrest any decline and bring about improved visibility.
Neglecting SEO will only see those positions worsen and give you a bigger mountain to climb once normality is restored.
If you want help getting started – why not download your free 20-Day SEO Guide?
3. Experiment With Paid Ads
Paid advertising is a vital part of any marketing strategy and never more so than in a time of uncertainty.
As highlighted, when confined to their homes, people are sure to be spending more time on the internet. You can capitalise on this with some smart advertising.
The likelihood is that a good number of your competitors will be cutting ad spend. This changing landscape affords you an opportunity to get your message in front of a far bigger audience. Dwindling competition should lead to lower costs and an even playing field.
Create impactful text, image and video ads to draw attention and improve clickthrough rates during this period. Split testing will better refine your PPC strategy also.
It’s easy to think you can’t afford to invest in paid ads right now but in truth, you can’t afford not to.
4. Make Analytics Your Friend
The best marketing strategies are those informed by data analysis.
Completing tasks as little more than a box-ticking exercise is frivolous. And for however long this pandemic lasts, you cannot afford to waste resources.
That’s why tapping into your Google Analytics and considering what it’s telling you is so important.
Here you will find insights into audience size, sources of traffic, engagement, traffic flow and so much more besides. This is where red flags can be identified and plans put into place to remedy any obvious issues. Similarly, if one area of the site is working particularly well, it can shape another.
You should also determine which of your customers have dropped off and which remain, along with what products they’re still prepared to pay for. Armed with that information, you can push those to the forefront.
It’s time to box clever, something Google Analytics prepares you for.
At a time like this creative thinking can turn the tide; if your industry and business model allow, it serves to bring new, innovative ideas to market.
This can be in the shape of an original product or service, so too alternative pricing models.
Those companies which attend a host of client meetings may suddenly offer virtual equivalents. Those reliant on site visits to showcase a product range may post walk-through videos. Thinking outside the box can lead to unexpected but positive results.
Sometimes smart ideas stem from adversity. Marketing partners will assist in the planning and execution of such concepts. They will also propose projects that ensure you hit the ground running, as soon as you’re able to do so.
6. Review Your Website
Now is also an opportune time to fine tune your website.
Conversions are precious in this climate so giving your site the best chance of securing them is just common sense.
This is best achieved by tapping into analytics and using data to inform the user journey. Navigation should be simplified, with clear calls to action ushering end users towards key (and topical) landing pages, as well as those all-important contact forms.
The equivalent of a spring clean may also involve fixing broken links, compressing images, archiving pages and improving SEO.
With mobile usage likely to increase, responsive performance is pivotal. A thorough review of your website at all resolutions is advised, to ensure the user experience is as good as it can be. Addressing any areas in which it falls down should take priority as you will see a spike in visits from handheld devices.
Sometimes a fall in traffic is unavoidable, so ensuring you deliver the best possible user experience for those that come your way (on whatever device) is essential.
Understanding where you sit in comparison to your competitors is also important to understand and we can get you started!