It is safe to assume that an increasing number of businesses are going to focus more on their online marketing strategies, given the unprecedented global impact of the COVID-19 virus. In several cases, this may well be the differentiator between businesses that manage to ride the storm successfully and the ones that don’t.
The near disappearance of face-to-face interactions in the form of meetings and live events pose a significant challenge for most businesses. What might work, in such a scenario, is building and maintaining a strong online presence.
The Impact of COVID-19
According to data released by the Pew Research Center, around 70% of Americans feel that the coronavirus outbreak poses a major threat to the country’s economy. Around 35% feel that the outbreak will affect their personal financial situation.
PredictHQ, a data intelligence company, published rather alarming figures – pointing to the fact that concerns about the coronavirus outbreak resulted in a 500% increase in the cancellation and postponement of major events only in February. Over 225 events that ranked as high impact stood cancelled. The cost of these cancellations is estimated to be in the billions. In addition, the company expects an even higher number of cancelations in March.
Making the Case for Online Marketing
According to data release by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research in the 2018 Marketing Spend Decision Report, B2B marketers who partake in industry events allocate around 40% of their budgets to shows and exhibitions. Less than 10% goes toward their online marketing efforts. If they end up directing even a small percentage of their budgets for events to digital marketing, they may look forward to considerable growth in the online marketplace.
Non-digital native businesses might have a more difficult time in addressing digital growth as well as customer relations. When it comes to small businesses that have so far relied on their offline reputation and word-of-mouth referrals will also need to take stock of how they approach digital marketing in the near future.
Mid-sized to large businesses that have lost out on profits because of cancelled events may benefit by allocating the money they get through flexible cancellation policies or insurance claims to their digital marketing budgets.
Several businesses that have avoided the online world will have no other option than to go digital because of existing and impending shutdowns. For instance, if you business relies on face-to-face meetings with probable clients, you might consider making the most of apps that support multi-person video calling. There is no telling how long people will continue to remain wary of physical interactions, so taking a look at what online marketing can do for businesses is the obvious way to go.
Digital Marketing Ideas for Getting Through the COVID-19 Outbreak
As a marketing specialist with time on your hands, you need to look at your company’s online presence and come up with ways to make it better. A good place to start is to look at the results achieved through previous efforts. Then, a resetting of goals for your upcoming online marketing campaigns might be in order.
As things stand because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may forget about attending conferences or in-person events in the near future. This requires that you use different online strategies and tools to further your marketing efforts. For instance, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram let you stream live videos, and this gives you an easy way to engage with your audience. Webinars also give you the ability to get people to connect with each other from the comfort of their own homes.
Here are some other aspects that require your attention if you want your business to make the most of the online space during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Get Your Branding Right
For people to turn to your business in the online world, you need to work on developing your brand. By building a suitable branding strategy, you give your target audience an easy way to identify and distinguish your business. It also leads to increased credibility and customer loyalty.
Optimize Your Digital Content
Take a good look at your website and look for ways in which it can offer a better user experience. Your website should contain the right marketing message and have a suitable call to action. No matter whether it’s your website, blog, or a listing on a third-party site, you need to ensure that all the content is completely optimized. You need to have an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place, so your content becomes as visible as possible. This helps increase your organic search rankings while improving the quality and quantity of online traffic coming your way.
It helps to narrow down on what’s working for you and what’s not, as this gives you the ability to tweak your online marketing strategies accordingly.
Focus on Content Marketing
This is a good time to come up with ways in which you may connect with your target audience through the use of content in different forms. This can range from blog posts, to videos, to newsletters, to case studies, to webinars. What you need to keep in mind is that while your content should relate to your brand, it also needs to provide value and address the needs of your target audience.
Social media plays an important role in content marketing. If your business has kept away from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram until now, it’s time to embrace what these platforms have to offer. While your content marketing efforts should not explicitly promote your offerings, you need to capture and hold the interest of your target audience.
Pause Non-Essential Launches and Press Releases
Launches and press releases play important roles in public relation (PR) strategies. However, it is not a good time to proceed with a new business announcement – unless it cannot wait or it’s related to the coronavirus pandemic. After all, people in most parts of the world are experiencing a sense of panic, and hardly anybody is going to be interested in news about your business. Thinking about piggybacking company-related news with the outbreak is not a good idea, as it will appear to be in poor taste. Most new launches can and should wait until a sense of calm prevails again.
Revisit Pending Projects
Most businesses have projects that they put on hold. This is a good time to take a look at all the projects that have been put on the back burner, because you can give them your complete attention. This could involve looking at new web design alternatives, revising your branding strategy, creating a YouTube channel, preparing presentations, or even encouraging employee participation through digital channels.
Update Local Business Listings
This is particularly important for small businesses that do not have their own websites yet, and rely on local directory listings instead. Small business owners need to remember that this is the information their customers get to view online, which is why it needs to remain up to date at all times.
Google makes use of Duplex, its AI assistant, to confirm business hours in order to maintain accuracy in its Search and Maps. However, there is no reason why you cannot update your business hours manually, without waiting for Google to contact you first. If your business hours have been affected during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, make sure you update your Google My Business listing accordingly. Google also gives you the option to list it as “temporarily closed”. Review your business listings across other platforms such as Bing Places, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too.
You may also consider creating Google Posts, through which you get to provide information about how the outbreak is affecting your business. These posts stay in place for seven days, and show up in Maps as well as Search.
Your aim should be to post at regular intervals, as this gives your customers a sense of confidence in your business. However, it is important that your posts remain relevant to your target audience. Since several people are in panic mode right now, it’s not a good idea to focus on your needs. What you need to do, instead, is address the needs and concerns of your customers. For instance, a local gym can give its customers tips and ideas about how to work out from home.
Create a Dedicated Coronavirus Page
If the coronavirus outbreak has had a significant impact on your business, think about explaining how your business is coping, either right on the homepage, or through a dedicated page. Several large businesses have already asked their media sections to address this aspect. The information you provide should tell your customers how the situation might affect them, and you need to update this information as often as required.
Several businesses need to address questions their customers have about the coronavirus outbreak. These could include questions about business hours, changes in safety protocol, as well as the specific measures your business is taking to adapt to existing restrictions. In such a scenario, your customers would benefit if you provide answers to most commonly asked questions in a single place.
Provide Structured Data and Product Feeds
Online retailers need to ensure that the status of item availability is updated in near real-time, because different online businesses are seeing a surge in demand. For instance, item availability should clearly highlight whether a product is available, out of stock, in limited stock, or discontinued. This would require addressing the product schema on product pages and in product feeds.
Event organizers can use the Event Status schema type on their websites to list their events as Postponed or Cancelled. According to Google, organizers should stick to the original Start Date until they can confirm a new date. Once you have a new date, you may update the Event Status as Rescheduled, and update the Start Date and End Date.
If you’ve moved a physical event to the online world because of the coronavirus outbreak, you can set the Event Attendance Mode to Online Event Attendance, and the Location Type you’ll need to select is Virtual. The Special Announcement option makes way for date-stamped textual updates as well as contextualized web links to link announcements with particular situations.
Determine How You Can Help
This is not so much a marketing idea, but simply a way to do the best that you can for your employees, customers, and the community at large. The help you may provide can come in the form of monetary aid, technology, or a particular skill set that’s in demand. As long as you keep doing the right thing during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a good chance that your efforts will be noticed.
Don’t Forget to Work From Home
No one really knows just how long the coronavirus outbreak will last or how many people it might affect. What’s known, though, is that it spreads easily and quickly. As a result, work from home whenever possible, and ask your employees to do the same. This not only protects you, but also prevents any possible spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Most businesses will experience different challenges in the coming weeks or even months because of the coronavirus outbreak. Business leaders and managers need to come up with ideas surrounding what they need to do in order to make up for lost opportunities. Part of the process should involve shifting the focus to digital marketing in a strategic manner. After all, online marketing does not have to be a stopgap measure, since it can provide long-term benefits even as the world limps back to normal.
While digital marketing requires little to no face-to-face interaction, you also get the ability to measure results. A good marketing company can get a fair indication of your return on investment (ROI). It can also determine which activities result in the most number of quality leads and then suggest suitable changes in your overall marketing strategy.
In case you have some free time, especially if you have to remain in isolation because of the coronavirus outbreak, it is crucial that you make the most of it and review your online marketing strategy.