“There is no playbook for times like these.” – Joshua Spanier, VP of Global Media at Google
As a digital marketing agency on the Central Coast, we know how to help SMEs thrive online… But what if the fight for first place on Google mutates – overnight – into a fight to simply keep your business alive? Things are certainly very odd at the moment, but there are a few measures you can take today to give your business the best chance of survival.
As normal society comes to a grinding halt, your natural instinct is to think the smartest (and only) course of action is to freeze all your marketing and advertising spend to protect your cash flow. Unfortunately, this is possibly the worst thing you can do to your brand right now. There’s a better choice.
To minimise the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on your business, choose to maximise your marketing efforts during this challenging time. This doesn’t mean spend more, it simply means stay active. Following the GFC in 2008, many businesses who continued to invest in marketing spend actually emerged from the storm in a good position.
Avoid the pressure to give up and sink into the next few months with your hands in the air, missing the opportunities right under your nose. We’re happy to share some of the approaches we are actively applying to our clients’ businesses over the next few months. We hope this free advice on how to stop coronavirus impacting your business helps you find your position in the altered marketplace.
1. Build Brand Awareness
Consumers may be locking down and spending less during the turbulent landscape COVID-19 has stirred up, but they are still looking for content to consume their attention. If you’re worried your customers are going to stop buying, focus on building your brand’s reputation during this crisis.
Reducing your spend on advertising irrelevant products or specialist services makes sense, but investing in keeping your brand’s visibility at the forefront of the future customer’s mind is a smart move at this time. As the coronavirus forces communities to isolate themselves physically, maintain a strong presence digitally, especially on social media, to ensure your business won’t sink into the abyss.
Use this odd time to reconnect with your stressed, disorientated audience through thoughtful, emphatic, well-placed content. Customise your content to this situation. As people spend more time at home, and screen time shoots through the roof, ensure you’re there to offer visitors something valuable. Whether this is a downloadable ebook, ‘How To’ guide, listicle, or checklist, the goal is always the same: create value.
Build brand awareness through email marketing. If your business is not on top of this platform already, now is an ideal time to set up a regular, automated newsletter to keep existing customers updated and attract new subscribers.
Work on publishing branded, value-adding content that gathers lists for:
- Social Media Retargeting
- Google Retargeting
- Email Marketing
The more leads you gather throughout the next few months of social isolation, the greater audience you will have waiting for you on the other side of this pandemic. Save the strong sales messages for then, when people’s confidence to buy is filtering back into daily life.
2. Pivot to Profit
You must learn how to pivot your operations – daily. By pivoting, we’re not suggesting your bottomline will profit from this pandemic, but instead adapt your messaging and operations now for the long-term benefit of your business.
To run a business that survives COVID-19, temporarily change the way you sell your services and how your product is delivered. This is a non-negotiable. Many companies will panic at the thought of digitising, or losing footfall in their store, but those who embrace moving to digital platforms will ultimately have a better chance of getting out of this with minimal pain.
For example, our client runs a dance school for children, but are now rethinking their delivery method and quickly making the move to offer classes online. This decision has the potential to grow their local online dance school to a business 10x its current status, offering kid’s dance classes via a low-cost online platform to Australia and the wider world.
Examples of pivoting during this pandemic:
- Remote video quotes or client calls using platforms like Skype or Zoom (for external tradies, lawyers or journalists)
- Payment plans, rather than payment upfront
- Virtual tours (ideal for real estate agencies)
- Contactless delivery guarantees (ideal for food services or online shopping)
- Online courses, service delivery or training (can your service be delivered online?)
3. Strategy over Short-term Panic
Humans are shocking long-term planners, which isn’t ideal in the current climate. Many small business owners are panicking and we can see firsthand the distress the market uncertainty is having on SMEs, business owners and marketing managers. They need to find a way to turn customers into advocates.
If your cash flow is taking a hit, the last thing you want to think about is giving more money away. Yet, offering customer discounts to stimulate demand and attract new interest is actually one of the best steps to keep your business afloat. Alongside providing an epic service, of course!
Although there is no visible end-date to the coronavirus pandemic in the short-term, business owners need to think ahead, strategically. We’ve already started conversations with our clients about long-term plans and marketing strategy to get through this together. This includes reviewing their current products and campaigns to reconsider what is relevant, where to innovate, and where budgets can be shifted for the next few months.
Businesses could consider offering:
- Discount incentives offering customers “20% OFF now” with the remainder due when they can pay
- Free delivery where possible
- Large discount on a future purchase (once the virus settles)
4. Increase your Share of Voice
Platforms that are usually flooded may suddenly have some breathing space. Your message is more likely to stand out with fewer paid ads online, as many businesses retract their marketing spend. If you’re clever with your tone and positioning, the messages you put out to the public during this “downtime” are more likely to be remembered when the world starts actively advertising again. You have an opportunity to increase your ‘Share of Voice’ on social media and search engines at a lower cost.
5. Champion your Website (finally)
You are presented with the time to finally work on that long list of digital projects that always get sidelined in the daily grind of the office. Meetings, water cooler talk, client briefings, commuting… suddenly these are removed from the equation. Website improvements, upgrades or total rebrands can now be actioned with zero physical contact with the outside world. Web developers, designers and copywriters are all just a phone call (or video call) away.
If you are an online entrepreneur, this is an opportunity for you to shine. Your business is still visible to your audience, and you may even see a boost in traffic as the majority of the public move their attention online, for long periods. If you are not online, or unhappy with the state of your current website, this is your green light to use the next few months to finally get your business website sorted.
6. Value-added Content
Produce and publish relevant content that adds value to your customer’s experience with your brand.
- Are you an arts and crafts supplier who can offer tips to entertain the kids at home?
- Are you a plumber with advice on how to set up the best hand washing station possible?
- Are you a bush tucker expert with a great recipe for homemade antibacterial sanitiser?
- Are you a dance school who can still offer community classes via an online platform?
Educational content is likely to be in high demand throughout the period of social isolation, as people have more time to spend browsing, reading and absorbing content than ever. The majority of headlines are dominated by end-of-the-world-esque apocalyptic news, so appearing in this space with content that is lighter can benefit your brand. Think quizzes, polls, Q&As. Be a voice in these uncertain times that offers ideas and solutions rather than resignation.
7. Think and Act Local
It’s vital to support our local businesses on the Central Coast. It’s also a good move to target your marketing to your local audience, as we see tourism, hospitality, events and retail industries disappear from the forefront of daily life for a few months.
Brainstorm ways to innovate the way you appeal to your local audience. Our team have already seen opportunities including:
- Driveway yelling / shouting / singing (verbal advertising)
- Contactless letterbox drops
- Online exercise classes / programs
- Balcony DJs.
Joshua Spanier, VP of Global Media at Google, raises the importance of considering local context when marketing in this uncertain time. In his article, Spanier draws our attention to context when creating paid ads on search engines, as your content will likely appear alongside dramatic news stories.
What’s on your Digital Marketing Wishlist?
We’re not suggesting you capitalise or profit on other people’s fear. We’re actively putting our disinfected hands on your shoulders, and turning you away from staring into that dark, endless black abyss the coronavirus may look like in the media, and pointing you toward the horizon of opportunity that sits before your business.
There are likely a handful of parked website projects that have never been a priority, but now can finally have the time and attention they deserve. You don’t need a huge budget to run an advertising campaign online – all you need is a smart, targeted strategy, an internet connection, and an active digital marketing agency who specialise in working remotely.
More Online Resources to Help your Business Fight COVID-19:
Why Google Ads still Works Wonders during a CrisisDuring a crisis, your natural instinct is to view paid Google Ads as an unnecessary expense, but here’s proven reasons why AdWords is now a significant marketing opportunity, even during a global pandemic.
Inspiration From Central Coast Businesses Dealing With COVID-19
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5 Ways Your Marketing Strategy Can Cope With Social Distancing
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JobKeeper Program: 3 Important Considerations For Businesses
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Has COVID-19 Changed The Customer Journey Forever?
There is no ‘business as usual’ with the customer journey profoundly changing due to COVID-19. Keep up by moving from old activities to these new opportunities.
Adapting To COVID-19: Video & Tech Tools For Business
Innovate your business overnight by introducing our top recommended digital tools and video technology to your business and daily remote routine.