The COVID-19 pandemic touches every part of our lives, and it is rapidly changing the way that we do business. If it’s left your reeling, know that you’re not alone. Marketers everywhere have had to shift gears and adapt to these extraordinary times. While it’s tempting to step on the brakes, now is not the time to halt your marketing activities. It is time to pivot to cost-effective marketing tactics that deliver results now and in the future.
With stay-at-home orders in effect across the U.S., digital marketing is more relevant than ever before, as people are staying indoors and on their devices. Nielsen reports that there’s been a 60% increase in the amount of content consumed. People are online and your business needs to be there too.
Following the 2008 recession, Harvard Business Review research showed that those businesses that invest during economic downturns recover more quickly than their counterparts. They share reassuring advice that:
“In recessions, marketers have to stay flexible, adjusting their strategies and tactics on the assumption of a long, difficult slump and yet be able to respond quickly to the upturn when it comes.”
Of course, it’s not business as usual either, and it’s up to you as marketers to determine the correct balance. How do you manage costs, honour and answer your customers’ changing needs, and prepare to respond when the economy begins bouncing back? How do you do all this while still remaining sensitive to the state of crisis so many are in?
The marketing strategies below provide practical answers to these questions. They’re not new, but they have been framed to respond to our current reality. As you implement the strategies that are right for you, always remain empathetic to your customers’ needs and the global crisis. Consider how to relate to your customers and determine what it is they need from you. And, as always, be helpful.
Now, let’s dive into how you can implement cost-effective customer acquisition strategies like SEO, email marketing, and social media.
Create Content for SEO and Lead Generation
Content is the foundation of an effective SEO strategy and investments now will pay off in the future.
Focus on content for both the COVID-19 pandemic and your customer’s journey. What’s useful right now? The first priority is addressing your customers’ current concerns about how to do business with you. How have things changed since the COVID-19 pandemic? What questions are your customers asking?
Update your homepage with a company statement, for instance. If your consumers are asking a lot of the same questions, answer them upfront. Provide as much information as they need. If operations have changed, add a pop-up with that information, linking to any relevant blogs, news products, or services that your business is providing. Make sure all of the information that your customer needs is right at their fingertips.
Now, let’s look beyond COVID-19.
If you’ve had content on the back burner, now is a great time to create it. Start by conducting an audit of your existing content and create an inventory list. Then, ask yourself:
- What am I missing?
- Do I have content for each step of the customer’s journey?
- Do I have content for keywords that I want to rank for?
- Are there frequently asked questions that I can respond to right now?
- Do I need to promote a specific product or service line?
Once you’ve identified the gaps in your content inventory, you can start filling them in with fresh, high-quality content. You may think that creating content costs a lot of money or takes a lot of time. Instead of starting from scratch, use your inventory list for inspiration. Can you combine old articles into a new eBook? Or maybe take a conference presentation and create a new blog series? What about an existing technical manual that can be parsed into an FAQ?
Here are a few types of content that you can start on:
Like I just mentioned, now is a great time to create eBooks, white papers, and webinars. If you have an active blog, you likely already have the information you need. Take a look at your blog and see if you can combine articles around a common theme. With a little elbow grease and fresh information, you can create a high-quality eBook that you can use as a lead magnet.
Start building a pipeline now to capture and nurture leads, then you will be ready to meet the demand that is sure to come.
Everyone loves a good checklist, especially if someone else is creating it. You likely already have checklists that you use in your business. Talk with your customer service and account representatives to see if they have documentation or checklists that they share with new customers. Or perhaps the sales team uses a checklist while they’re discussing product or service benefits.
Use this information to create checklists that make your customers lives’ easier. This doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, just make sure that you’re adding value. Checklists also make great content upgrades. You can “upgrade” a blog post by adding a call-to-action to download a relevant checklist. Use the blog post to rank for target keywords and then convert the visitor with the content upgrade.
Now, more than ever, people have questions. Lots of them. Like I mentioned above, you first need to create an FAQ page or website section that addresses COVID. Communicate how the pandemic has impacted your business’ operations and what that means for your customers.
After your COVID-19 FAQ is live, spend some time thinking about other questions your customers frequently ask.
- Do you find yourself always answering the same questions on social media?
- Can your customer service representatives identify information gaps?
- What questions are people searching for?
Create FAQs to answer these questions so that website users can easily find the answers they need. FAQs can be standalone pages or they can be sections added to the bottom of related service or product pages. Make sure that you add FAQ schema code to your webpages. If you do, you may be able to snag a rich snippet, which dominates the search engine results page and can increase traffic to your website.
FAQs also improve your website’s user experience, which ultimately helps you convert more visitors into customers. Right now, you need to make every visit count.
Case Studies and Testimonial Pages:
If you haven’t created any case studies, now is a great time to do so. Showcase how you helped your customers achieve incredible results. Considering highlighting customers that didn’t buy your premium product or top-tier service. People are price-sensitive right now, so show how small investments can make a difference.
Once your case studies are live, reach out to your featured customers and request that they share the case study across their channels. This will help increase brand awareness and could help generate backlinks, which are critical for SEO success. Content and link building go hand in hand; now, let’s dive into what you can do to generate more backlinks.
Increase Link Building Efforts
Now is a great time to bolster your SEO strategy and build links to the existing (or new) evergreen content you want to rank well in search engines. With most physical locations shuttered, it’s more important than ever that your online content ranks well and attracts productive visits
People still need to solve problems, and the first place they go to is their search engine. Search engines use incoming links to determine a web page’s position in its results. The more high-quality links that you have from respected websites, the better a given web page will rank.
Here’s are three straight-forward approaches to build links:
Write Guest Posts:
This is a tried-and-true method of building links. Businesses are looking for ways to support each other during this difficult time. Write a guest post for your vendors or suppliers. Or ask loyal customers if you can write a guest post about how you helped them. Offer your expertise and support to their audience.
Write a Joint Press Release with Fellow Business Owners:
COVID-19 is impacting other businesses in your region. Work with other business owners to post a press release that discusses how you’re navigating this situation, the impact on business operations, and how you’re contributing to your local community. In addition to being posted on the wire, each business can post the press release to their website with links to the other businesses.
Write Op-ed Pieces:
If you have a unique perspective related to COVID-19 or can offer expert advice, write an opinion piece. People are looking for information and solutions. Remember, this isn’t about being promotional. It’s about helping.
These link building strategies serve two purposes. In addition to building backlinks and strengthening your SEO strategy, you’re communicating to your customers and community what you’re doing to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get Social with Online Video Content
People are spending more time than ever on social media channels. According to an InMobi study, people are spending 73% more time on their mobile devices, and 29% of that group reported that they are spending more time on social media apps.
If you want to connect with your audience that’s online, you need to ramp up your social media activity. People are looking for educational and inspirational content, and video is a great way to deliver both. Video receives more engagement than any other type of post on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Through video, you can show that you understand their needs, are empathetic, and ready to help them get through these difficult times.
Videos don’t have to be high-budget, either. If you have a smartphone, you can start creating low-cost videos for social media platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and LinkedIn Videos right away, usually of fairly decent quality. Make sure your video content checks at least one, if not more, of the prerequisites below:
Here are three tips for creating effective video content with your smartphone:
- Keep it short and simple. As a general rule, shorter, more concise videos perform better, especially in social channels.
- Record in a quiet environment to eliminate background noise. If you’re outside, reshoot if it’s too windy or a vehicle goes by. If you’re inside and your family or dog is making a lot of noise in the background, wait until a quieter time to reshoot.
- Buy a tripod or invest in a cellphone gimbal stabilizer. This will reduce camera shake and make your videos more professional.
Looking for more tips? This Content Marketing Institute article shares more information on how to create effective videos with your smartphone.
Build Email Marketing Automation Workflows
Marketing automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of your email communications. While it takes time upfront to build automated workflows, they’ll serve you for a long time. Plus, you probably have more time to do it now than you have in the past!
There are low-cost automation options that are fairly intuitive including MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit. And there are many ways that you can use marketing automation, as follows:
Simple Email Marketing Automation
- Create a blog subscriber welcome series. If you don’t have a blog welcome email, make sure you create it now! It can be as simple as one email that welcomes new subscribers to your blog. Or, you can build a multi-email campaign that shares relevant resources and encourages engagement.
- Enhance your confirmation emails. You likely already send order confirmation emails, but think about how you can make them more productive and useful. Include links to relevant information, how-to articles, or case studies. Use them as an opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell. Showcase other products your customers might be interested in.
- Implement a customer anniversary email. Show your customers you appreciate them and their loyalty. Thank them for being a customer and consider offering a special discount for your products.
- Integrate email marketing with your website. Email marketing automation software, like ActiveCampaign or HubSpot, can integrate with your website and trigger email campaigns based on specific website activity. For example, if someone visits a product page but doesn’t place an order, you can send them an email that explains the benefits of the product or addresses potential purchasing barriers.
- Revive abandoned carts. Marketing automation is extremely useful for getting users back to their abandoned carts. When integrated with your website, you can use marketing automation software to send website visitors a follow-up email with a coupon to entice them to complete their purchase.
Email is still one of the most effective digital marketing tactics available. Use this time to review and overhaul your email marketing program so you can communicate with users when they’re most likely to respond.
Marketing in the Time of COVID-19
None of us have ever faced a global pandemic this massive before. Remember that we’re all in this together, and all customers and marketers are generally in the same boat. Now is the time to listen to your customers, team up with your fellow business owners, and create helpful content that is empathetic to our shared situation.
Just because everyone is at home does not mean that business has to shut down. And there are ways to move the needle through smart, strategic digital marketing without being opportunistic. The tips above are practical, sensible places to start.