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How to Navigate Your Digital Marketing Strategy During Coronavirus

March 30, 2020
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The city streets and neighborhood parks are at a standstill. Your regular morning coffee walk leads you to a sign on the door displaying closure until further notice. The office is empty, only monitors and desks occupy the room. Slowly, your community turns into a ghost town. However, for the virtual world, this is not the same. The population of active online users is drastically increasing, and they’re not exactly sure where to turn to for information. You may notice companies are at a loss for words or not pivoting their strategy for this unique and strange time, and you may find yourself asking, does that mean your business should do the same? 

Guidance and a positive mindset will lead us through this time — don’t be afraid of the change. People are searching for answers and your business has the power to step up and instill confidence in your audience. The easiest way to reach your audience at this time is through the messages you send through your digital marketing efforts. Increasing your digital footprint or pivoting your strategy will benefit not only your business but also your customers — they need your influence and resources now more than ever.

Be a guiding light for your customers and clients by applying our tips on how to navigate Digital Marketing through COVID-19 in each digital channel below.

COVID-19 Digital Marketing Strategy by Channel

Public Relations During the COVID-19 Crisis

Email Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Content Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Social Media Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Social Media Paid Advertising During the COVID-19 Crisis

Influencer Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Paid Search Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Amazon Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

SEO Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

B2B Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Web Development and Design During the COVID-19 Crisis

Public Relations During the COVID-19 Crisis

Right now there is so much out of our control, brands and consumers are panicking and people have uncertainty around the brands they have previously become loyal to. They aren’t engaging in the same way they used to. But, what we can control is how we message about the brand and the road we are taking during this time. 

Ideally, you and your business are prepared with a proactive crisis communication plan already in your back pocket, which can help you navigate through an unforeseen crisis. Unfortunately, many businesses are forced to be reactive and do not have these crisis communication plans at the ready. If you find yourself in this spot, here are some of our recommendations on how to navigate this difficult situation.

Identify and Construct a COVID-19 Crisis Roadmap

This roadmap is crucial for ensuring your entire internal team (outside of just your communication team), is on the same page. This will be your go-to resource for all messaging and will act as the source of truth for the next steps and best practices during this time. The crisis roadmap will include the following: 

Internal Escalation Protocols 

  • Key speakers to deliver messaging to publics 
  • Action items for inbound inquiries surrounding COVID-19 
  • On-site or online protocols for the internal team including social media guidelines for employees 
  • Messaging for informing the internal public (team members and stakeholders) 

Channel by Channel Protocols 

  • Is your brand currently running a campaign not related to COVID-19 or is there one coming down the pipeline? That will need to be paused to remain sensitive to the current climate. Outline what actions need to be taken to pause this.
  • What other marketing channels are you running? Outline what action items need to be taken within each channel to ensure cohesive campaigns and pivot to support your crisis communication plan.
  • PR specific action items: craft a press release statement, in case your team decides it needs to be distributed.
  • Monitor media by setting up Google alerts for any brand mentions.

Customer Notification Communication 

  • Craft an approved statement that helps answer all of your customers’ potential concerns or needs. Only deliver them what they need to know in order to continue to trust you as a brand.

Media Communication 

  • This will include an approved communication statement to the media, which is typically about 3-4 paragraphs in length. This message can be pulled from depending on each media contact’s needs (This statement should also live on your website).
  • Additional key messaging to include specific, who, what, where, why, when and how to keep the public informed.

Forecasting Additional Q+A 

  • Here is where you’ll want to lean heavily on your PR expert to identify what types of questions the media and our publics may come to you with.
  • You’ll want to construct those responses in advance to ensure you do not come off unprepared if and when asked.

If it becomes crucial to comment or make a statement regarding COVID-19 and you don’t have the luxury of time to construct a full crisis roadmap, engage with your PR agency who should be able to turn it around in 24 hours, OR work to create a minimally viable product (MVP). Your MVP is a statement that can be used to share with consumers and/or the media, in which you consider the following: 

  • Who is the audience that will be reading this statement regarding COVID-19? 
  • Can anything from this statement be taken out of context and wrongfully interpreted? 
  • Will this help put the audience’s mind at ease? Does it answer all of their top questions?
  • Does this best represent the brand?
  • Your top priority is coming out of this crisis stronger on the other end. Does this help accomplish that and does this paint us in the best possible light? 

The key to Public Relations is not to stay complacent and think that your business is not at risk. The need for a crisis communication plan will come at no notice, so being proactive right now – even if your business has not yet been directly impacted – will save you later if it does occur. Whether it’s a comment on social media that upsets your audience, an internal team member who falsely communicates to the public, a media member looking for insight on how your business is coping with the pandemic, it is inevitable that you will need some degree of communication planning to get through this crisis.

Email Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

You may have noticed your inbox is currently FLOODED with Coronavirus updates from brands you engage with on a daily basis or brands you haven’t heard from in years. It’s become so monumental that there are even memes on it:

There are dos and don’ts to email marketing during a global crisis like COVID-19. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before hitting “send” on that COVID-19 email to your entire subscriber list:

1. Does COVID-19 Affect How I do Business with My Customers?

If you’re in the brick-and-mortar retail space and customers are no longer able to frequent your establishment(s) in person or there has been a change in hours or even changes in how you conduct business (for example, you offer pick up or delivery or are offering online discounts), then by all means, go ahead and hit “send!” 

However, if you primarily conduct business online or your customers’ relationship with your business will not be impacted or changed by the current situation, we recommend leaning away from sending a dedicated email about how your business is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Do I have an Ongoing Relationship with this User Base?

If you haven’t sent an email to your subscriber list in over 3 months, now probably isn’t the best time to take up an active email marketing strategy. It may showcase the brand in a “not-so-positive” light and have the reverse effect on how your audience perceives your brand. 

3. Is My Business Positively or Negatively Impacted by COVID-19?

This is the biggest and most important question you can ask yourself during this time. If your business is negatively impacted by COVID-19, then use email as a resource to notify your customers on how it affects shipping timelines, store closures, and inventory availability. Be transparent and honest with your messaging here. It goes a long way. 

If your business is positively affected by COVID-19, empathetically market this to your subscriber list. Don’t send a message that potentially conveys you are exploiting or taking advantage of the situation. Instead, use the unique position you are in to authentically lift your subscribers’ “new normal”. 

This can be done by providing discounts or incentives on essential products or services, crafting uplifting messaging, and offering your business’s value. By handling this situation correctly, your brand will come out as a true industry leader. 

Looking for inspiration? Check out ReallyGoodEmails’ collection of “Emergency Emails” as a starting point! 

Content Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Your business should not halt content production during this time, in fact, it’s the opposite. Users are consuming more content than ever before. Offering resources and showcasing your company as a go-to will push your business out on top after this global crisis.

Here are a few tips to leverage your content game during a crisis:

1. Be Ahead of the Game

Think about how your specific industry is affected by this global pandemic, then create content that provides a solution. Compile trusted resources for your users and offer opportunities to those who navigate to your site.

For example, as businesses are not operating out of an office, for the time being, there is a shift in daily habits amongst your audience. Working from home can lead to an increase in cyber attacks since users are not using the same protective virtual walls as they would in an office. If you are an insurance agency, the solution you can offer is a piece of content explaining how a business should increase its cybersecurity protection and its cyber liability insurance (where your business steps in as a solution for this issue). 

Another example is a car insurance company can write a piece of content on how their audience can save money on car insurance since they are driving fewer miles.

A smart move is to invest in SEO-based content now while other businesses are pulling back on this spend. This leads your business to come out on top of search results after the crisis. SEO content is a long-term investment in your business and traffic growth. We expanded on this in the section SEO Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis below.

2. Create a COVID-19 Landing Page 

Your business may need to pivot its strategy. Develop a landing page explaining your company’s new process during this high-risk situation so users know how you’re continuing your business, or putting appropriate precautions in place. To build out this copy, explain your new, temporary process and think about what you could offer during this time. This could be online consultations via phone, video conferencing, an explanation on your precautionary procedure involving increased sanitation, or why your customers still need to prioritize your product during this time. 

3. Think Outside the Box 

Can your audience use your product in a new way so you can adapt to the times? What can your audience look forward to when businesses open up again? Continue to think about how your customers can use your product or your resources (content) during this time. 

4. Don’t Stay Silent and Speak on Your Values

Be loud! This will stand out amongst businesses that are staying quiet during this time. As mentioned, users are consuming more content than ever at this time. Continue to push out content so your customers know who to turn to in every crisis and at the end of a crisis. Additionally, speak on your values, if keeping your customers happy is a priority, push out positive content. With the negativity surrounding this environment, your customers will remember this!

Social Media Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

People are working from home, taking online classes, and spending more time than ever on social media. This is why it’s critical to ramp up your efforts on social media as users and usage time continue to significantly increase due to COVID-19.

We recommend that your brand posts its response to COVID-19 on your social media channels, whether that be updating your audience on company changes, new service offerings, or simply your stance and support. In the chance that nothing or something minimal changed for your business, notify your audience of this as well to keep them in the know.

 It’s vital for your brand to detect unique ways to strengthen your relationship with your customers on all your social platforms. This increases their loyalty and affinity to you. How you connect with your customers now can affect your business for the next 10 years. This requires creative thinking and asking yourself: are there online campaigns you can initiate to engage your audience?

Equally as important is looking at any pre-planned and scheduled content that may be insensitive during this pandemic or may not make sense based on restrictions for shopping, gathering in groups, and going outside. Postpone this content and identify the appropriate ways for your business to connect with users amidst this crisis. Is it appropriate for your brand to provide:

  • Comic relief
  • Educational content
  • Value-based content
  • An ask for help
  • Live at-home content
  • Open forums for conversations

If your small business is suffering, don’t be afraid to open up about it on social media. Now is the time to connect on a personal level with your audience and show them just how valuable they are. The more human a brand appears, the easier users can connect with or support them.

Social Media Paid Advertising During the COVID-19 Crisis

As we all practice social distancing, we look to social media to stay involved with our community. There are more users than ever on social platforms – What’s App has seen a 40% increase in usage since the outbreak of COVID-19. This means now is the best time to ramp up Facebook and Instagram advertising.  

Here is the landscape and reality of the situation:

  1. There are lower CPMs on Facebook and lower traffic costs
  2. There are more potential eyes to get in front of 
  3. This could ultimately mean lower cost per conversion

Although costs are lower, sentiment and consumer behavior are different – it’s more important now than ever to craft a quality and sensitive message. 

Positively Impacted Businesses Should Double Down on Paid Social

Businesses that are performing well and remaining competitive should realize the short term opportunities that are presenting themselves with less competition from other brands pulling back on spend. As businesses pull back on ad spend, it means less competition and lower costs.

CPG brands are seeing greater success during this time, whether it’s a food brand that people are still buying – if not buying more of – at the grocery store, or looking to those same brands to purchase higher volume online. Brands that offer both retail and online support within food, beverage, beauty, home, are withstanding the economic pressure because the demand is still there.

Outside of the CPG space, demand for home fitness is the highest it’s been in 12 months based on search volume. As people are unable to visit gyms and fitness studios, they are turning to online streaming of workout videos and fitness equipment for their homes. Businesses that do not offer streaming services are needing to adapt and businesses that offer that are capitalizing on this time. 

Negatively Impacted Businesses Should Think Long-Term in Terms of Paid Social Efforts

Now is the time to think long term as well for businesses who might be seeing a decline in sales or leads during this time. There are lots of opportunities to set your future self up for greater success with a fundamental pivot to your approach.

First, now is a cost-effective time to be leaning into top of funnel efforts (prospecting new customers) and building new usership and awareness through value, like offering free content and downloadables leveraging remarketing and email to those users when operations are back up and running.

B2B advertisers can lean harder now into top-funnel efforts because it’s cheaper. You should lead with value and build that trust. There is an opportunity to still generate leads with a limited time offer or reduced rates for future services. For example, using the message “get in touch today, we’ll take care of you when we’re open.”

Take Your Offline Efforts Online

Consider taking your offline efforts online. Times are changing, and we all need to adapt to the landscape.

Look for ways to take your physical offering/services online and directly into peoples’ homes. Look for ways to bring products direct to your consumers’ doors and sales to your website.

At the end of the day, it’s not about whether or not the channel is still viable – it’s about whether or not we are adapting to use it most effectively.

Influencer Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

We’ve said it already and we’ll say it again – social media screen time is booming. That means now is a great time to market through influencers who have an audience that you can introduce and prospect to. When it comes to influencer marketing, the first priority is to be sensitive and adjust your messaging.

1. Cater Messaging to Accommodate the “New Reality” of an Indoor Lifestyle

With the importance of social distancing being stressed across the world and nearly all consumers at home right now, it is crucial for companies to cater to all brand and product messaging to accommodate consumers’ new reality of an indoor lifestyle. 

Pivot your influencer campaign messaging away from overly promotional, hard-sell of “shop now” and lean into humanizing your messaging to resonate with ALL audiences and the current situation. 

Lean into messaging that provides users with a helpful resource to make the current living situation less painful. For example, if you sell “non-essential” baby toys and you are actively messaging to parents, consider messaging like “Game-changing toys that keep your children entertained throughout the day.”

2. Create Relevant Content That Stands Apart From the COVID-19 Social Noise

With the increase of users scrolling through Instagram mindlessly, how do you capture the attention of users and stand out from the hundreds of memes circulating right now? 

The answer is one word: video. 

Video Content is KEY for authentic storytelling. Instagram Live offers the opportunity for consumers to be directly engaged in the content offering. For best results, we recommend that the influencer and brand announce when an influencer will be going ‘live’ on his or her stories or through a static Instagram post prior to the IG Live. IG Live content should offer value to the user, i.e. a home workout, recipe, cleaning tips, etc.

IGTV is the perfect content opportunity to capture the interest of those consumers scrolling through Instagram. Similarly to IG Live, it is best to offer valuable content to your users, such as recipes, exercises, beauty tutorials, etc. IGTVs are fabulous content to be repurposed as well to your brand’s organic social (stories, highlights, Facebook, etc.) and have a longer lifespan (users continue to view and engage for months) than a static Instagram post.

3. Activate Amazon Influencer Campaigns…. NOW!

If you are selling products on Amazon, there is no better time than now to activate your Amazon influencer campaign! Consumers are leaning heavier on Amazon now than ever as their trusted online retailer (with fast shipping!). 

Amazon influencers not only offer brand awareness on Instagram and Instagram Stories but also drive traffic directly to their Amazon Shop Pages (and product pages) to not only drive more traffic to Amazon but also see higher conversions. 

At this time, these partnerships are also very organic and an easy tie-in for influencers during everyday life! The best performing brand genres for Amazon influencers are baby, CPG, home and beauty.

For best results, be sure to have your partners include #FoundItOnAmazon on all social posts and drive traffic directly to the product page on Amazon to make the consumer journey seamless.

Paid Search Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Many brands are looking to cut costs and ad budgets are usually the first to go. This creates an opportunity to maintain or expand paid media efforts to capture high intent traffic while cost-per-clicks decrease due to the decline of overall advertisers in the space. 

There are three important efforts you can take to optimize your paid media marketing during coronavirus:

1. Pay Close Attention to the Competitive Landscape Through Auction Insights Reports

The Auction Insights report in AdWords shows how many advertisers are bidding on your keyword sets and how often they appear on the SERP. This provides visibility into how the Search landscape has changed to ultimately help dictate your ad budget. For example, if you were consistently seeing 10-12 competitors in the Auction Insights report for February and that figure has dropped to 6-8 in March, you have the opportunity to capture more traffic at lower costs due to the decreased number of advertisers in the auction. 

2. Promote Offers for Subscriptions to Gain Long-Term Customers

With the craziness of retail stores and shipping times being extended due to higher demand, now is the time to offer discounts on your subscriptions. This signals to your audience that your product is “one less thing to worry about” as it can run on autopilot. 

3. Make Sure SEO and Paid Search are Working Cohesively

Generating high intent website traffic is crucial during this time of uncertainty. Advertisers should be monitoring their website’s Organic rankings and identifying middle to bottom-funnel keywords with high search volume to ensure they are being aggressively targeted across Paid Search. Having both a paid and organic listing will not only take up more precious real estate on the SERP but also help build credibility for your brand. Every search is a potential new customer so capture as many users as possible. 

Amazon Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Amazon is incredibly volatile right now – causing businesses to not know if orders will go out on time and/or if they are able to sell at all. Here’s some clarification and tips on how to deal with the current landscape:

A quick note: Currently, all products on Amazon are still purchasable, there aren’t any items that were discontinued when Amazon announced a pause on certain shipments. “Orders” are when a product(s) is sent to a customer, “shipments” are when products are sent to Amazon’s warehouse for distribution. 

1. Understand Which Amazon Products are Priority

Some category shipments are paused and cannot send more units to Amazon. Businesses need to check and see if they qualify or not to send shipments. Currently, Amazon is accepting the following product categories: 

  • Baby Supplies
  • Health & Household
  • Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)
  • Grocery
  • Industrial & Scientific
  • Pet Supplies

2. Change Your ASINs to “Fulfilled by Merchant” and Ship Orders Out Via Your 3PL

Non-essential shipments are on pause. This means businesses that sell a non-essential product cannot send more units to Amazon’s warehouse. You may bypass the current shipment restrictions Amazon has put in place by changing your ASINs to ‘Fulfilled by Merchant’ and shipping all orders out via your 3PL. However, if your company can afford to pause efforts, this relieves Amazon’s busy fulfillment centers.

3. Visit Your Listings Every Day

Since shipping windows for non-essential orders have been extended. Amazon has not announced when shipping windows for non-essential orders will resume. This means businesses need to react. 

Visit your listings every day, while logged in via Amazon Prime, and see what the shipping window looks like. If your shipping window is 2 weeks or more, think about switching to FBM and/or pausing advertising until the shipping window closes. Additionally, consider ramping up spend for advertising pointing to your website since you know orders will be fulfilled on time. 

SEO Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

As companies look to cut costs across the board, it’s a great time to invest in SEO. As a fixed-cost, long term strategy, SEO will payout to companies once the global pandemic settles in, especially in new or rapidly evolving industries (telehealth, virtual physical therapy, and so on). Businesses that hunker down on organic as a source of traffic will come out of this primed to tackle new or changed industries since they’ll have 3-6 months of solid search engine optimization behind them. 

Reduction in ad spend means that businesses are going to look for new sources of traffic, no matter the source. Couple that with the general unrest and uncertainty about COVID-19 and you have a much higher volume of people searching for a lot of things they never really considered in the past – think spikes in trends for things like home office equipment, home workout equipment, etc. More people searching means a bigger potential pool of organic traffic, and establishing brand loyalty now via organic, in a time of crisis, will definitely pay off down the road.

Generally speaking, in the long term SEO is the most cost-effective digital channel because there is no cost to the traffic – just the cost for resources or a digital marketing agency to properly optimize the website. This allows you to generate significant volumes of traffic for free, which provides a very healthy and sustainable customer acquisition model. When budgets are tight, make sure you invest in something that provides long term value to allow for a sustainable marketing mix. 

Here are a few tips to use now to improve your SEO:

1. Find Trending Keywords

Find keywords and topics that are increasing in search volume via tools like Google trends. Create content for these keywords and publish that content so that it can be crawled and indexed. Many companies are only focusing on a short term or direct return channels right now to generate revenue, so producing content right now for some topics has less competition than normal, and this content will start to pay off soon – and continue to pay off long term.

2. Focus on SEO if you are a B2B business

Sales cycles will become longer and while companies may be putting more efforts into outreach and prospecting, their efforts are taken away from SEO. This presents less competition and can allow you to take the SEO market share from competitors so that over a longer-term, your business can come out stronger than before. 

3. Invest in SEO if You are Positively or Negatively Impacted by COVID-19

If you are in an industry that is positively impacted by COVID-19, invest in SEO so that you can maximize performance at this time. 

If you are negatively impacted by COVID-19 you shouldn’t cut SEO budgets. This is because businesses in your industry are most likely doing so, this presents a great opportunity to optimize now and surpass competitors. You’ll come out on top for search results once the global pandemic passes.

B2B Marketing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Though many B2B businesses are experiencing a slowdown in lead generation or sales velocity due to the COVID-19 crisis, demand will eventually come back full force. The key to sustained success is to focus your marketing efforts on things that will positively impact us in 2, 3, even 6 months down the road when that happens. 

This means writing high-quality content that can be used moving forward, further optimizing the site experience and SEO. Creating assets for the sales team that they can use to provide value to their prospects – but make sure that it’s not salesy. 

Prospects have other priorities right now, and the sales cycle will slow down. We need to only provide communications that will help our prospects through this. Once this passes, they’ll come back to see that your brand was a huge value to them.

The main goals are to weather the storm and position the brand to come out of this crisis strong.

Web Development and Design During the COVID-19 Crisis

With more users online searching for information, it is important to keep the digital experience as up to date as possible. For any business, your website reflects your emotions and positivity during this time. Your site has the power to keep users and customers confident.

Here are some common elements and features to add or change during the COVID-19 situation:

  • A Simple Landing Page: Create a page to house your company’s thoughts and measures on handling Coronavirus, as well as any specific changes they should know about.
  • Pop up Modal Windows: Display a message directly on your site that is triggered when a user visits, allowing them to easily find your take and coverage of the situation.
  • Banners: Use a top banner (similar to a discount banner) to add a link leading your page covering your business’s situation and steps to handling COVID-19.
  • Email Sign-Ups: Allow users to directly opt-in to updates and notifications around the measures taken, your company’s hours, additional changes, etc.
  • Introductions: On the home page include a banner or hero section reflecting your approach or precautionary measures your company has taken.
  • Forms: Add a form to the site allowing users to reach out if they need anything from your business. A helping hand goes a long way, especially for retail brands looking to impact the community.
  • Imagery: It’s important to audit all images on-site for anything insensitive to the situation, as well as implementing imagery that is welcoming to a user and approaches the crisis with care.

Smarter Marketing

Incorporate an activist mindset in your COVID Digital Marketing strategy. Step up to the plate (aka computer) and do your part to lead the community to a better spot. Everyone has a voice online, we want you to share yours. Be the guiding light during this dark time. The best thing you can do is leverage your skills or business offerings for the better.

Like you, we understand that the uncertainty, fear, and changes in the environment and economy are likely impacting your business. We are here to support you (virtually) and provide free insights and recommendations to help you weather this storm. For more information on navigating your Digital Marketing efforts during COVID-19, contact Power Digital Marketing.

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