Just a few months ago, business owners would regularly call us with questions about the best ways to improve their search engine visibility or get more and better online reviews. Now, what they want to know is a lot simpler: “what now?”
That’s understandable. Things have changed so quickly and thoroughly in 2020 that a lot of the normal online marketing concerns don’t seem relevant. What business owners and executives need are smarter strategies they can use to guide them through an uncertain time and economy.
As you can imagine, there isn’t any single set of ideas or tactics that would apply to every business and situation right now. What we can give you, though, are three smart plans you can follow to get your company through the next few months, as well as whatever comes afterwards. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so you can use different elements of each as it makes sense.
Let’s look at each of the three strategies in a bit of detail…
Strategy #1: Waiting Out the Storm
The first strategy is the simplest, but in a strange way it can be the hardest to implement. If you have a business that is strongly affected by the current pandemic and recession, your wisest move may be to simply rollback your online marketing. That might apply particularly to the parts of your plan that involve direct expenses, like pay-per-click advertising.
As an example, if you have a business that is extremely dependent on face-to-face contact and customers won’t (or can’t) come and see you, then you might not want to be running paid ads for your services on Facebook. There just wouldn’t be any return and the expense could be significant at a time when you need to watch your bottom line closely.
A more common scenario would be one where a business owner might decide to pause certain campaigns or hold off expanding particular areas of a website until the immediate future comes into focus. Naturally, as web designers and online marketing specialists we prefer to see our clients playing offense instead of defense, but if money and resources are tight then you certainly don’t want to deploy them in a way that’s not efficient.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that most companies shouldn’t go into full retreat. Even if your business is directly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, you’re probably better off exploring the two other strategies we recommend, at least for some aspects of your marketing. You may need to wait out the storm and hope for better conditions in the coming months, but that doesn’t mean you should waste time or lose ground to your competitors.
Strategy #2: Exploring New Channels and Messages
In most of the businesses and industries we’ve come across, things aren’t so much slow as they are different. In other words, there are still customers to reach and deals to be made, but they might not be the same ones you were looking for in January.
A shift in your sales and marketing strategy could take a lot of forms. It might mean adding shopping cart and ecommerce features to your website. It could involve turning your services into digital products that can be offered remotely or in a downloadable format. You could decide to give customers more delivery options, new pricing, or even special products and services that weren’t part of your business in the past.
The point here is to be responsive to customer demand. You should be thinking carefully about what it is your market wants to buy instead of what you’re interested in selling or which ideas have been most popular or profitable in the past. Conditions change and your strategy might have to be adjusted as well.
Even if what your business is selling doesn’t change, the way you tell people about it might have to. This is an ideal time to start looking at new advertising and promotional channels. For one thing, many of your colleagues and competitors may have stopped marketing altogether. That leaves an opening for you to reach buyers who wouldn’t normally be as receptive to your messages. Additionally, it creates the possibility that you could reach more people on a smaller budget because the competition isn’t there.
The same principles apply to your marketing messages. If you focused on the reliability of your product in the past, but know that your customers are facing a cash crunch now, it might be time to emphasize competitive pricing. Or, if you’ve always relied on written product descriptions to boost sales this could be your chance to experiment with online video presentations.
The possibilities are endless, and you have the chance to put your finger on the pulse of your customer base and figure out what it is they need most during this difficult time. That’s a good idea in any economic environment, of course, but if you can zero-in on their concerns at a time when they’re feeling stressed, it can only boost your sales today but help you earn their loyalty for the future too.
Strategy #3: Building a Bigger Long-Term Base
Regardless of whether you are following one or both of the first two strategies, we think this third tactic is something you should definitely pursue through the second half of 2020.
So much of what is happening right now is unprecedented in our lifetimes. If there is any silver lining to any of this, it’s that most of us have more time than we did a few months ago. While we hope you’ll be using some of it to get closer to your loved ones and enjoy a bit of quiet, it’s also an opportunity to get smarter, sharper, and more competitive.
Many of our clients and friends have been using 2020 to catch up on their reading or finish online courses. This could be your chance to learn about the ins and outs of search engine optimization, social media marketing, or email list building. You could master a new platform, pick up a new app, or develop a skill you think would make you a stronger marketer.
Some savvy marketers are stocking up on content that can be posted in the months or years to come. Maybe you don’t normally have the time to write, or have put off arranging the YouTube studio you meant to set up in your home office. This could be the right time to create images for your company’s Instagram account, or to collect customer testimonials.
Speaking of customers, this could be your chance to call them and have the kinds of longer conversations you (and they) would normally be too busy for. You could find out what sort of challenges they are facing, see what they want from a business like yours, or where they plan to be headed in the future.
And of course, you could use the lull in activity that you’ve gotten this year to simply execute on ideas that were already in place. Whether it’s a matter of optimizing your website, developing some new product pages, or just writing that industry-leading book you had on your mind, what better chance will you ever get to turn those ambitions into a reality?
Which Online Marketing Strategy is Right for Your Business?
As we’ve already mentioned, finding the right path forward for your business is all about understanding where you are and where you expect to be in a few more months. Let us also remind you once more that these ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, you could decide to pause some promotions that aren’t likely to be profitable in the short-term while at the same time adding ecommerce features to your website to boost sales now and improve your search visibility for the long run.
In working one-on-one with our clients, we have found that going through these options has been a great way to clarify what’s possible and probable going forward. It has also given them the confidence to make good decisions, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have a cohesive strategy that goes beyond reacting emotionally to each new piece of stress that comes at them.
Of course, the best way to get the insights and perspective you need is to talk things through with a professional web design and online marketing partner. So, if you want to get past the basics and start developing a workable strategy developed specifically for your business, contact us today. We will be happy to schedule a free consultation and help you find the answers you need to keep your company moving forward.