The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Nothing: Digital Marketing Strategies in the Time of Coronavirus

It can be stressful to operate a business in normal circumstances, let alone at a time when a coronavirus interferes with nearly every facet of daily life. It only makes sense that small business owners feel anxiety about what will happen to the companies they’ve worked so hard to build, especially if they got the “non-essential” label and were asked to temporarily close.

Just because you aren’t actively working with customers right now, does not mean this is the time to settle into complacency when it comes to keeping your business on the minds of your target audience. The worst thing you can do is do nothing.

At iFocus Marketing, we’ve put a lot of thought into how your small business can stay as strong as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic and come out on the other side, ready for success. After putting our strategic minds through a marathon of brainstorming, we’ve assembled what we believe are four of the most critical considerations to help your small business to stand out during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Don’t assume your competitors are taking a pause on their digital marketing tactics.

Although business closures can mean financial dire straits, pausing all your marketing efforts can make your business lose its market position to your competition.

We know you’ve probably considered dropping your digital ad spend altogether as a way to save money. However, we do not advise this. Instead, maintain at least a portion of your ad spend and adjust your messages in digital advertising channels. Dropping your digital ad presence altogether means you’re starting from scratch when you reopen for business. Stay the course to help improve your outcomes and economic recovery.

Americans are turning to the Internet to stay connected while isolated in their homes. Internet service providers report that web traffic has increased by 20 percent week-over-week during the pandemic. Because of this increase in Internet usage, it’s important to continue using digital marketing channels to stay in front of your audience, like:

  • Updating your online ads and campaigns to reflect the times. This may be a complete change in ad content, or nuanced edits to improve ad quality.
  • Continuing to post on social media, even if your business is temporarily closed. Well-composed photos, information about your products and services, and links to your blog or website pages resonate with your audience.
  • Writing and posting blog content to maintain or improve your search engine rankings. If your competitors continue their SEO optimization tactics, you’ll fall below them and could lose potential customers when the crisis is over.

With 70 percent of ad buyers adjusting or pausing their planned ad spend through the end of spring, by carefully continuing yours, you can take advantage of the fact that Internet users are feeling less bombarded with ads. This could make them more likely to see and remember yours–and get ahead of the competition.

Make your business digitally accessible.

Just because your business is considered “non-essential” by government standards does not mean your clients don’t need or want your services. In fact, they, too, are craving normalcy, and your business contributes to that ideal for them.

If you are unable to open your physical doors to customers, it’s time to create digital doors for your customers to enter. If you sell a tangible product, create an online store using social media, Shopify Buy Buttons, your own website, or even an Amazon storefront. If you sell a service, enable gift card purchases online so you get some cash flow during the shutdown. Gift cards also help ensure your clientele will be back to see you as soon as they can.

Don’t let the overwhelming prospect of adding a shipping component to your retail business sway you from taking action. Consider accepting local orders for merchandise and pre-packaging purchased items for non-contact pick-up outside the door of your local business. Keep your social distance and your business running.

If you don’t have the option of selling a physical product, selling digital services can prove your knowledge, build relationships with clients, keep your business top-of-mind, and help you stay competent and up-to-date in your specialty or discipline. For example, you can:

  • Assemble a database of videos and written manuals in your field of expertise and sell monthly subscriptions to access it.
  • Utilize Zoom or other teleconferencing services to conduct secure virtual consultations, or provide virtual assistance to your clients for a one-time payment.
  • As  a subject-matter expert, create and host live, online courses your customers can pay a small “tuition” fee to attend. These can be private lessons or group classes, depending on your topic

Be sure to brand these digital interactions with your logo, design style, and voice to position them as a product that is cohesive with your standard offerings.

Serving your community is the best PR.

Small businesses make communities unique. That’s because it’s you who truly understands the pulse of your city! Use your knowledge and connections to find ways to get the right kind of attention as you work to help your community through the coronavirus crisis. 

While you’re closed and your operational supplies, like latex gloves or surgical masks, are sitting untouched, can you donate any to local hospitals or nursing facilities? Will your breakroom snacks expire before your team returns to work, and a food bank could put them to good use today? Could you use your expertise to benefit anyone in need in your community? Can you offer a selection of free, branded digital content to make staying at home more enjoyable, like short video demonstrations or tutorials? These are all fast and easy ways to get the least expensive PR ever available. 

Your target audience will take notice of the steps you’re taking to make a difference in the lives of those around you–especially if you share it on social media–and they’ll remember your good deeds when you reopen your doors after COVID-19 clears.

Communicate when necessary, and tone-check your messages.

Although it’s tempting to make what you are sure are clever jokes about the coronavirus crisis in an attempt to get eyes on your business, don’t cheapen your reputation by making them. Rethink what you put out into the world. 

It’s especially important to consider all possible interpretations of your messages, and to make sure your content acknowledges the significance of what is happening, even if it’s subtle. Don’t pretend like nothing is happening, and it’s business-as-usual. Our blog about marketing during a global crisis offers additional guidance.

You should only be releasing statements to announce the new ways your business and clients could be affected by the coronavirus. If you do not have new information relating to COVID-19 to share, do not overwhelm your contact lists with messaging about it. Creating unnecessary noise could prompt your contacts to unsubscribe from your emails, which means you’re narrowing your audience for the next time you have important news to share.

If you’re running an essential business and remain open, provide information that reassures your customers that you’re taking steps to ensure their health and safety, like how you’re sanitizing surfaces in your business more frequently, providing personal protective equipment to your employees, or taking measures to maintain social distancing–like no-contact contract signings, purchase pick-ups, and home delivery. 

“But iFocus, I’m not tech-savvy enough to do this!”

Digital marketing channels and new tactics to keep your business operating can be complex to navigate alone. Most people are not experts and don’t have time to conduct their own research, sit through training, or develop their own platforms to showcase their new digital products.

Turn to the digital marketing experts at iFocus Marketing. We’ll help you strategize your digital ad spend to get the most for your money and develop new ways to stay connected with your audience when they’re stuck at home. Don’t let this temporary economic setback set the tone for your business in the future. Now is the time to get ahead.

Contact us to schedule a no-obligation virtual needs assessment to help you identify ways you can forge ahead in your digital marketing strategy and help your business grow. We are here for you and can assist in providing guidance to help you succeed.

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