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. Early on, grocery stores were left with empty shelves while restaurants were 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.
Why Businesses Shouldn’t Ignore Digital Marketing During COVID-19
One definitive about the coronavirus amid many questions that still linger is that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate.
By now, many of us have had a friend or family member test positive for the virus. Some of us know people who have died. No matter your race, gender or economic status, the coronavirus has invaded all of our lives.
That also rings true in business. Large corporations have filed for bankruptcy while small businesses have been hit hard throughout the country with many closing their doors for good.
More than 72,800 businesses have permanently closed in the United States since March. In Texas, more than 6,500 businesses have permanently closed (almost 2,000 businesses in Dallas alone) since March 1, according to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report that was published in June. Many more businesses have closed since June with thousands of others struggling to survive.
One of those struggling businesses in the Dallas area is in the southern suburb of Duncanville. Phyllis Lambert, a 71-year-old who has owned and operated a small jewelry store for more than 30 years, said she’s about to go out of business, according to a mid-August story in The Dallas Morning News.
Like many other businesses, her store, Gold N Things, is closing its doors because of the impact of COVID-19. She said her revenue has been cut in half and she’s now holding a going-out-of-business sale with the expectation of shutting down for good in September.
“It’s the economy and the pandemic,” Lambert told The Dallas Morning News. “I’m a luxury, not a necessity.”
Many business owners can be empathetic of Lambert’s reality. She’s obviously done well to make it 30 years. But unfortunately Lambert also appears to be in the same boat as some other struggling business owners in that she’s ignored the importance of building a strong online presence for her business.
A quick review of her website via Ahrefs.com reveals that www.goldnthings.net is nearly invisible to search engines. Its domain rating is only 3 (out of 100) and its monthly organic traffic is just 64 site visitors. It appears that Lambert also hasn’t invested in any pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising.
It’s a stark reminder to business owners everywhere that if you ignore digital marketing during COVID-19, you might not be around to sell your products or services when the economy bounces back. Businesses can’t simply survive on foot traffic alone when so many people aren’t leaving their homes and risking their health in stores, especially companies that — as Lambert described her jewelry store — are “a luxury, not a necessity.”
Lambert told The Dallas Morning News she wasn’t planning on retiring, but she just couldn’t risk the family savings.
“If no money’s coming, we’re not going to stay here,” she said. “How long are you going to keep floating the business?”
This isn’t the time for business owners to sit back and wait and see what happens. You should be as aggressive as ever now to keep your business afloat.
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 four 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.”
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.