Our world is facing a very serious challenge with the spread of the coronavirus, but there is hope on the horizon.
Businesses have been greatly impacted as the economy has taken a hit because of COVID-19. Grocery stores have been left with empty shelves while restaurants are like ghost towns.
It’s a unique opportunity for brands to unite together! said Thrive social media manager Savannah Keck. “Our communities need each other now more than ever. People need support, understanding, education, resources. Social media can provide just that and can be extremely powerful if it’s done correctly.”
As a business owner, you’re likely looking for ways to survive the wave that has Americans shifting their budgets.
Try to Stay Positive – It’s Going to Get Better
If you’re following the constant news updates about the coronavirus, you’re likely wondering if we’ll ever be able to leave our homes again.
But this situation isn’t going to last forever. And your business isn’t closing.
As one medical expert said on ABC’s 20/20 on Monday night, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” But don’t overlook the end of that quote: It’s going to get better.
Want proof? Look no further than where the coronavirus started.
According to CNN, China is lifting travel restrictions and life is returning to normal. The coronavirus outbreak has largely been contained across China with lockdowns lifted and employees returning to work. China reported only 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. That’s a huge contrast to February when China reported thousands of new COVID-19 infections a day.
Even better news came Thursday, when China marked a milestone. For the first time since December, China had no new domestic cases of coronavirus to report.
The U.S. is about six to eight weeks behind China in the spread of the virus. If the trend holds, the U.S. should also see a dramatic decrease in positive COVID-19 tests sometime around May.
This should only be a small interruption for your business. And when normalcy does return soon, you don’t want to be left behind your competitors in a race to regain any potential lost revenue.
At a time when much has come to a standstill, business owners need to keep pushing forward with the reality that they will need to be positioned for a strong fiscal second half of 2020 to meet their revenue goals.
What you don’t want to do now is come to a grinding halt with your digital marketing efforts, said Matt Bowman, Thrive Internet Marketing Agency president and founder who has led his company to three consecutive appearances on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing businesses in America.
“That would be a mistake and a complete waste of the time and resources you’ve already poured into your business to gain traction in a crowded online marketplace. You would lose ground to your competitors and put your business in a position to fail in the second half of 2020 when — by all indications — we will have moved past this unfortunate coronavirus outbreak.”
History Shows If You Cut Less During Down Times You’ll Gain More in Better Times
Historically, businesses that have chosen a more progressive strategy of refocusing spending during a recession have outperformed businesses that made sweeping cuts, according to studies that analyzed recent recessions outlined in a blog post Thursday by CXL.com.
One study that focused on what happened during a recession affected a company’s performance after the recession. The study found that “successful leaders, trading lower short-term profitability for long-term gain, refocused rather than cut spending.”
A Harvard Business Review study of 4,700 public companies analyzed three years before, during and after recessions. The study identified the percentage of companies that outperformed their rivals: 21 percent for businesses that opted for a prevention focus (more cost-cutting) and 37 percent for a more progressive focus. The study found that “firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish. They have the lowest profitability (21 percent) of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”
Furthermore, a Bain report found that getting it right during the lean years has a huge impact on a company’s growth rate after the economy improves.
10 Digital Marketing Ideas to Consider During the Coronavirus
1. Connect With Your Customers on Social Media During a Critical Moment
We’re all dealing with the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on our lives whether you’ve tested positive or not. We’re all taking precautions. We’re locked in our homes and our kids aren’t in school. We can’t visit our friends. We can’t eat at our favorite restaurants or go out to the movies. Sure, all minor conveniences but jarring nonetheless. This is a time to really show empathy to others and help out where you can. This is a time we all need to be sensitive — and not too salesy or pushy — but it’s a great opportunity for your brand to stand out during a difficult time. More people are on social media now while stuck at home, scanning for updates and trying to stay connected in a suddenly isolated nation.
Also, use your business to contribute to area food banks or assist the elderly with their grocery shopping. And promote your good deeds with social media marketing to help build your brand.
It’s a unique opportunity for brands to unite together! said Thrive social media manager Savannah Keck. Our communities need each other now more than ever. People need support, understanding, education, resources. Social media can provide just that and can be extremely powerful if it’s done correctly.
2. Make Sure Your Business Can Be Found Online
In case you haven’t noticed, more people are online right now than in their cars or walking the sidewalks. Search traffic has increased significantly over the past week and will continue to climb as we hunker down. We’re all glued to our computers and phones looking for updates within our community. We’re also looking for entertainment and ways to pass the time. For many, that includes shopping online.
Anything online right now will be consumed more than ever before. This is not the time to be hidden online. You should be using search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to climb to the top of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) so your business can be easily found. This is not a time for a business to go into a shell and poke out your head every few days to see if the sun has come out.
People still place orders and need things even when at home, said Thrive senior SEO manager Carlos Rosado. “A lot of people still contact companies during work hours, and that is not going to change just because they are home. Your competition may adjust but that doesn’t mean you have to stop everything and lose sales.
3. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising is a Smart Move Right Now
With more people at home in front of their screens, it’s a great opportunity for businesses to use PPC marketing to connect with their customers and gain a competitive advantage. Oh, and it’s a great chance to save some money within your digital marketing budget. On average, cost-per-clicks have decreased by 6 percent across all verticals since last week, according to Thrive senior PPC manager Jacob Wulff. And CPC is likely to continue to decrease in the coming week, reducing the amount of money an advertiser pays a publisher for every ad click. That gives your business another opportunity to scoop up that lost market share from others pulling back during this time.
It’s a great time to continue your digital marketing as other advertisers may go offline at this time, said Thrive PPC manager John Powell, “and businesses can capture traffic and conversions because of reduced competition. We have clients’ best interests in mind and work to provide solutions to maintain exposure while prioritizing budget spend during these uncertain times.
4. Stay Ahead or Jump In Front of Your Competition
SEO helps your business increase organic traffic to your website and move past your competition. You want to be on the front page of the Google SERPs — and at the top of the list — so that when your customers search for certain keywords you’re the company they end up calling. To climb to the top of the SERPs takes time and strategic optimization strategies. If you don’t continue to optimize your website and content daily, you lose valuable ground in the search results and your freefall could cost your business thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
It’s important to stay ahead of the curve and do whatever is possible to keep your website updated and optimized, said Thrive senior demand generation manager Alan Muther. The level of competition within businesses will probably increase in the near future and it’s also important to remain competitive with your digital marketing strategy to help your site rank higher than competitors.
What you don’t want to do is halt an SEO campaign. That can be a critical mistake for your business. Your leads and revenue will suffer. But if others choose to pull back on SEO, it’s also a perfect time for your business to push even harder to surpass your competitors.
Competitors may be stopping their campaigns because of their fear of what is ahead or their current situation, said Thrive SEO manager Cesar Zambrano. This is a great time to strengthen your campaign in order to improve your rankings and potentially outrank competitors.
5. Prepare Your Business For the Bounce-Back Surge
As we noted earlier, the coronavirus outbreak should fade (just as it has in China) after a few months. That’s when normalcy returns and consumers’ spending habits stabilize. You have to remember that SEO is more of a long-term strategy. What you do today for your SEO campaign will affect your organic search traffic two months from now. Pausing your SEO campaign now could have a detrimental impact on your revenue potential two months from now when the coronavirus starts to become a distant memory.
As SEO professionals, the work we do today will affect the results months from now, said Thrive SEO strategist Dan Casey. If you stop the momentum now when the market starts to rise you won’t see the results you want. Anticipate the low times, prepare and press now while others are letting up. The results will be in your favor when you will need it.
6. Unique Circumstances Provide Opportunities for a Special Offer
During this uncertain time period, you have the opportunity to show support for your customer base by offering special discounts that will keep your revenue flowing. Identify your product-market fit and create a special offer. Many people are at home browsing, looking for discounts to save money during a time of unrest. It’s a great way to engage with your customers and keep a steady stream of revenue that will keep your doors open. You can push out your special offers through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and social media.
Be prepared to jump into action with new strategies to help your brand come back to a ‘healthy market,’ said Claudia Cruz, Thrive’s link building manager. The preparation should start today.
7. Local SEO is now More Relevant; So Are Your Online Reviews
We’ve all reduced our travel and are staying close to home. In the rare times when we do leave our house, we’re looking for nearby destinations for services and supplies. So you want to make sure your business is using local SEO strategies to optimize your website for “near me” searches. You want customers in your geo region to be able to easily find you online so they turn to you first. At a time when we’re all looking for more convenience, this gives your business a chance to provide assistance during a critical time for families.
Another way to boost your local SEO during this time is to not forget about the importance of adding positive reviews. During the coronavirus, online reputation management is as important as ever because this is a great time to really connect with your target audience during a chaotic time. To provide the right service or product for people during a stressful time like this — when they need it most during this COVID-19 pandemic — is likely to be rewarded with a glowing review.
Even though Google My Business (GMB) has temporarily suspended publishing online reviews, you should still push to get reviews submitted so they publish when GMB returns to normal. One way to boost your brand during a crisis is turn to a professional online reputation management company such as Rize Reviews to help you with your review responses.
Companies have a tremendous opportunity to improve their Google review profile during this time of crisis, said Tim Clarke, Rize Reviews’ senior reputation manager. Many businesses will not add reviews because of closures and lack of attention, so some companies can create a competitive advantage with a proactive approach.
This is also the perfect time to start an Amazon marketing campaign to take advantage of the eCommerce surge.
Now is a perfect time for eCommerce businesses to leverage digital marketing, said Thrive SEO manager Josh Gazelka. There has been a massive influx of consumers shopping online with recent events, causing businesses such as Amazon to hire nearly 100,000 new employees to prepare for the increase in business. Utilize digital marketing now to stand out.
8. Be Prepared to Pivot as a Business and Inform Your Customers
In a fluid situation, your business should also be fluid. This is a time that you should find ways to connect with your customers like never before. It shows empathy and keeps you relevant at a time when your business may have been impacted by people staying at home. For instance, restaurants are shutting down right now because customers aren’t dining in. You should make sure you’re offering free delivery services. Just the other day, a local Dallas restaurant emailed offering three ways to get their food into their customers’ hands: delivery, curbside ordering and parking lot pickup. Also, let your customers know you’ve increased your sanitary practices and how you’re doing that specifically.
But other businesses should pivot right now, too, as we stay in. Gyms have closed their doors in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but why not offer online workout classes right now? Dentists could offer online consultations. Grocery stores should offer free curbside pickup. All of these opportunities can be boosted with strategic social media campaigns.
Since people are forced to be quarantined at the moment, there will be more eyeballs than ever before online so people will be consuming more digital marketing on all fronts, said Thrive social media director Nhi Shirley. People will be looking to social media especially for updates on closures, new procedures for businesses and news. They will also be looking to see how brands and businesses are reacting to the current business environment. Now is probably the most important time to be visible digitally because other forms of traditional marketing will be stalled.
9. Don’t Fall Victim to the Panic Move
How much toilet paper do you have at your house right now? If your answer is a closet full, you’re likely one of the people who flocked to the store when the coronavirus hysteria started to accelerate over the weekend. That’s not how you want to react if you want to implement a smart digital marketing strategy. You never want to make a panic move. You always want to use metrics and analyze all of the data you have available before making a decision.
Knee-jerk reactions usually don’t end well in digital marketing. Take caution when quickly reacting to a sudden shift in the economy or market.
The economy isn’t stopping, Wulff said. Homeowners still need home service providers. People still need goods and services. Money is still changing hands and consumers are still relying on Google to find people to do business with.
10. Use this Down Time to Finish Your Digital To-Do Lists
Now that you’re not commuting to the office or taking in-person meetings, your schedule has likely freed up some time for you. Those marketing items that may have fallen through the cracks and been overlooked can now be addressed.
Perhaps your website needs a fresh look with a redesign. Thrive’s website design professionals can overhaul your website in two months all while working remotely. This is also a great time to have a conversion rate optimization specialist perform a CRO audit of your website to ensure your call-to-actions (CTAs) are turning leads into customers. Also, it’s an ideal time to do an SEO audit of your website to ensure you’re maximizing your optimization strategies.
This is a perfect time for self-improvement, said Thrive SEO strategist Matt Garrett. Use your newfound spare time to work on your SEO presence, like cleaning the house on a snow day.
Added Claudia Cruz, Thrive’s link building manager:
“It is a great time to go back to the roots, using some of your hours on your current service contract to revise your marketing strategy with your specialist.”
Also, once you’ve survived the coronavirus shutdown of your company, you’ll need to ramp up your digital marketing efforts to jumpstart your business to make up for the lost time.
Your Business Needs to be Agile and Prepared to Pivot Quickly
Businesses must remain nimble during this economic downturn because of the restrictions that are in place in terms of quarantines, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders because of the coronavirus.
You should look for new ways to serve your customers while they mostly remain in their homes every day. Businesses that think on their feet and show the ability to swiftly adjust with new COVID-19 marketing ideas will come out ahead of others that fail to alter their approaches.
Many companies are now offering paid services as free options, including some self-improvement and entertainment resources you can benefit from.
Only “essential” brick-and-mortar businesses remain open throughout most of the United States. But just because you can no longer accept walk-up customers doesn’t mean you have to stop selling or halt your digital marketing.
For instance, hair salons aren’t considered “essential” businesses and have been closed in most cities. But guess what? People still need haircuts. So now they’re searching on Google for “How to cut my son’s hair” or “How to cut my hair at home.” As a hair salon owner, you could take advantage of this new search traffic by writing content that focuses on those keywords and answers those questions. Include a video for more of an SEO boost. And just like that, you have the opportunity to reach new customers and strengthen your brand that will better position you for your return to work.
Think about that for your business. Are you in an industry that’s been impacted by a sudden closure? What are your customers now searching for at home because you can’t serve them?
The best way to execute content and SEO for this type of brand boost and targeted approach during COVID-19 is through hiring a full-service digital marketing company. But if your budget won’t allow you to do that, you can still post content on your website or blog that would cover topical keywords that are now more relevant because of people’s circumstances.
How Small Businesses Have Pivoted During COVID-19
The economic impact of the coronavirus has been devastating for many businesses, especially in the restaurant, travel industries, entertainment, fashion, real estate and construction industries.
The entire sports world has even shut down. Gas prices have dropped below $1.50 per gallon in major Texas cities with projections that may have it falling below $1.00 per gallon soon. And the last week of March saw a record 6.6 million people in the United States file for unemployment.
Suddenly, much of the world has seemed to go silent and even driving down the street gives you an eerie feeling.
But businesses that will come out of this with their doors still open are fighting to survive. They’re doing everything they can to keep revenue flowing as their customer base shrinks.
Small businesses especially have been hit hard, but those considering COVID-19 marketing ideas and thinking outside the box will survive — and perhaps thrive — after this is mostly past us.
Let’s look at how some small businesses locally in North Texas have adapted to these uncertain times:
A local art teacher found a way to connect with children now learning from home with schools closed and their parents scrambling for ways to keep their kids entertained. She started offering FREE art activities online through Facebook Live. Suddenly, hundreds of children — and their parents — were tuning in live or watching the replay.
This was brilliant marketing. She found a need and solved it at no cost. In the process, this local art teacher had the chance to show how she interacts with kids, gain trust of the parents and boost her brand and services. Guess what? When the economy bounces back, there’s a good chance these same parents will remember these free art activities and have no problem paying to participate in her art classes and lessons.
Another way businesses have filled a need for students now learning from home and parents looking for ways to teach them is through owners and executives reading a children’s book and recording it on video. This gives children someone to read to them, and provides a brand boost for your company. Share this video through social media marketing and you’ll win over your audience by connecting in a real way for them during a trying time.
Another lesson from a local small business owner: A photographer in North Texas came up with a great COVID-19 marketing idea to document this time in quarantine for families. She’s taking photos of families together on their front porches or in front of their front doors, many often holding signs that spread some humor during this stressful situation. These “Front Porch Sessions” have been shared all over Facebook. One recent photo included a man wearing a dress shirt and tie and casual shorts, showing what he looks like now suddenly thrust into remote work at home while talking to his coworkers via Zoom video calls each day.
How Major Brands and Business Are Marketing During the Coronavirus
Not just small businesses have suffered during COVID-19. Major brands and large companies have suffered major blows to their revenue streams and certainly won’t be hitting their financial goals in 2020.
But they, too, are adjusting on the fly with some timely COVID-19 marketing ideas. Many big companies are using smart marketing and advertising campaigns right now to promote positivity and relay important messages. Let’s take a look at five businesses that are getting it right:
KFC recently took to Instagram to share a smart social distancing campaign while promoting their chicken. The Instagram post read: “KFC is committed to providing delicious, home-style meals for your family. Our drive-thrus are open and we’ll continue to offer order-ahead and free contactless delivery on kfc.com. KFC used a smart infographic to promote their drive-thru and free contactless delivery services as well as their “industry leading sanitation & hand washing policies.”
Yes, as you might expect from the world’s largest search engine, Google has also used smart, timely marketing during the coronavirus.
Google’s marketing idea during COVID-19 was to spread knowledge about how to properly wash your hands. Google took to Instagram to promote an step-by-step infographic for washing your hands and to recognize Hungarian physician Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who is widely attributed as the first person to discover the medical benefits of handwashing.
Starbucks used compassion and empathy as part of a smart COVID-19 marketing strategy during the coronavirus. Starbucks posted on its Instagram account recently a “thank you” message to healthcare workers and first responders “who are working tirelessly to keep our communities safe” and offered all “front-line responders a free tall iced or hot brewed coffee” at participating U.S. stores.
As part of its COVID-19 marketing campaign, Kroger took to Instagram to offer appreciation to its employees by expanding the brand’s emergency leave guidelines. The company also offered full-time and part-time employees bonuses. Grocery stores are busier than ever right now, and many employees put themselves at risk working to keep shelves stocked. Kroger has also made a smart move to appeal to customers who don’t want to go into their stores. Kroger used to charge at least $5 for processing curbside pickup grocery orders but now is offering the service for free.
ALDI, another national grocery store chain, also showed empathy and smart marketing during the coronavirus. ALDI took to Instagram recently to offer “exclusive hours to vulnerable customers,” giving senior citizens, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system or considered high-risk the chance to shop before others are allowed in their stores. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, ALDI is opening at 8:30 a.m. and reserving the first hour of business for vulnerable shoppers. Many other national retail stores, such as Walmart, have offered something similar.
What these COVID-19 marketing ideas show us are business owners that refuse to bury their heads despite the trying times. Hopefully you, too, can glean some insight from these smart marketing tips during the coronavirus and use them for your business.
Just be sure to adjust your strategies and marketing. Meet your customers where they are now (and that’s mostly at home and online). Find a way to pivot and give your business the best chance to stay afloat by making your website easily found online through a strategic SEO strategy.
Yes, these are challenging times for everyone. But your business can still flourish if you’re willing to try a new approach and not pull back on your marketing during a critical time for your company to show compassion and empathy. Now is the time to connect with your customers like never before and not separate from them.
If you have any questions about how Thrive’s full-service digital marketing agency can help your business grow, please contact us online or call us at 843-353-6383.