If you were to ask the average business owner or online marketer what 2020 has been like, they would probably tell you it’s been “difficult”, “unprecedented,” or “stressful.” We can’t argue with any of those assessments, but we would add one more to the list: eye-opening.

Whether you’re struggling to keep sales coming in during the pandemic or are humming along with business as usual, you can’t ignore the fact that many lessons are being taught. In some cases, we are learning new things – like what’s possible when millions of people work from home or start buying online. Mostly, though, we are figuring out that a lot of traditional wisdom is holding up.

To give you a sense of what we mean, and what you should be learning about online marketing from the Covid-19 economy, let’s take a look at some conclusions we’ve already been able to reach…

Reputations Matter When Things are Tough

It is often said in certain circles that customers will always flock to the lowest price, or the most convenient provider. It certainly helps to be competitive in these areas, but what we’ve seen over the past few months is a predictable “flight to quality.”

If you aren’t an economist or business executive, that just means people tend to buy from others they know and trust when the chips are down. When they aren’t certain about the future of their budgets, their businesses, or their families, they think in emotional terms. They don’t take chances on new or untested vendors, even if it might save them a few dollars.

This doesn’t hold up for every market or industry, of course, but the bigger a purchasing decision, the less likely your customer is to take on a risk right now. There is too much on the line for them to shy away from what they already know.

The tendency to stick with familiar or trusted buying patterns favors the businesses who have spent years building up trust, strong branding, and predictable customer relationships. In other words, reputations matter. If people know what you’re about and have faith that you’ll treat them fairly with regards to pricing and service, you’re probably doing a lot better than your competitors.

Online Marketing Isn’t Something You Can Do All at Once

Right now, we are witnessing an interesting phenomenon. Months ago, there were a lot of business owners and marketers who wanted to get around to search engine optimization, social media marketing, or building an email list. However, many of them thought they were “too busy” to set up their campaigns or hire a team like ours.

Those same business owners and marketers are the ones who are hurting most in the current economic climate. That’s because they don’t have the tools or platform to reach out to new buyers. And so, they are suddenly very interested in getting their websites, ads, and messaging up to speed.

Lake is always better than never, but what they are discovering is that you can’t catch up on online marketing all at once. Building a strong brand, creating a sustainable flow of search traffic, and fine-tuning pay-per-click ads all takes time. If you try to rush the process, you’ll end up wasting money – something few businesses can afford right now.

The lesson here is that using the internet to attract customers is a process. It’s not something you’re going to do once and check off a list; you have to make regular time and work at your campaigns consistently. That’s true when times are good, and especially when they aren’t.

It’s Hard to Cut Costs Without Good Analytics

Just as some business owners and executives are looking for ways to dramatically ramp up their online marketing results in a short period of time, others are trying to go in the other direction and cut costs. That makes sense, particularly when revenue might not be coming in as quickly or reliably as it has in the past.

The problem many of these businesspeople are facing is a lack of good analytics data or insights. Because they haven’t been paying attention to statistics on web traffic sources, conversion points, etc., they aren’t sure where they can safely reduce expenses without cutting even more deeply into sales.

That leaves them in a precarious catch-22. On the one hand, they won’t want to spend money on losing campaigns or unnecessary ads at a time when cash is tight. But on the other hand, they can’t afford to cut off the precious few sales pipelines they have that are functioning well.

If you’re in that position, the answer is to review your web analytics with a team of professionals who can evaluate your market, budget, and goals along with the data points you have from your website. And regardless of what’s going on with your business right now, be aware that the information you get from your website is invaluable. Without good analytics data you can’t create detailed plans or make wise decisions about spending or priorities.

Good Messaging is All About Context

For smaller businesses, getting messaging right can be a challenge. That’s particularly true on social media where an owner or executive might have direct access to thousands of customers and prospects. Finding the right combination of promotion and personality can be difficult.

This causes problems even in the best economic environments. In a pandemic, it can lead to all kinds of headaches and unforced errors.

Over the past few months, we have seen brands (large and small) shoot themselves in the foot by posting disinformation, ignoring the realities that their customers or employees are facing, and getting involved in political food fights. None of these is a good look. More importantly, they are counterproductive when the goal is to attract customers rather than driving them away.

Note that the best solution to this problem is not to stop posting online. It’s more important than ever that your market hears from you regularly and that customers or vendors know you are open for business. What every small business should have is a simple set of messaging guidelines (and ideally, an editorial calendar) that keeps posts focused on messaging that is positive and relevant.

What that means exactly will depend a great deal on your industry and community. As a rule of thumb, though, simply ask yourself whether what you’re about to share is more likely to help or hurt the impression that you’re focused on the business of helping your customers.

Business is Easier When You Have a Plan

Amazing as it might seem, there are a lot of business owners out there who were working without long-term plans of any kind. Some might have a few sales goals, but what we’ve seen lately is just how many of them haven’t put any contingency strategies in place for a difficult economy or unexpected event.

That’s understandable in the sense that few of us could have imagined the last few months would play out as they have. However, that doesn’t mean you should just keep plugging forward without making any adjustments to your strategy.

This is the perfect time to look ahead into the second half of 2020 and think about the possibilities. What are the best things that could happen with regards to your business? What are the worst? What do you think is most or least likely to occur, and how will it affect your company, your employees, or your customers?

When you have the answers to those questions you can meet with an experienced creative team and develop flexible plans that position you to win more customers, reduce expenses, or adjust your spending and strategy as needed.

It’s never a good idea to make plans when you’re under stress and facing the unknown. By looking at what might happen now and deciding how you might react in advance, you make it a lot more likely that you’ll have the solutions you need when they matter most.

Is it Time to Update Your 2020 Online Marketing Plan?

This year has brought a lot of challenges, none of which the average business owner could have anticipated. Maybe that’s why a lot of the old ideas and strategies aren’t working as well as they used to.

If you could use a fresh approach to finding leads and customers over the web, why not let our team of experienced business growth professionals help? By bringing designers, programmers, content creators, and marketing specialists together under one roof, we work with our clients one-on-one to find cost-effective answers to their biggest problems.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and see how we can help you keep your business humming along in 2020 and beyond!