If you’re like most small business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic has almost certainly left you reeling.
The closure of “non-essential” shops and services, combined with widespread travel restrictions and lockdowns has brought about the perfect storm for many local brick-and-mortar establishments.
It’s been a rough few months that’s for sure…
Now we’re beginning to see a drop in new COVID-19 cases, and governments are beginning to ease lockdown measures, it’s probably a good time to start contemplating how to get your business back on its feet. One of the best ways to get the ball rolling is to implement a solid digital marketing strategy.
To that end, we’ve put together a guide that will refresh your digital marketing knowledge and lay the foundations for success in a post COVID-19 landscape:
Laying Down Some Ground Rules:
Before we get started, it’s vital that you tread cautiously and take heed of the following important advice:
1. Create a Plan of Action:
When business owners complain that digital marketing “doesn’t work”, it’s usually because they jumped in at the deep end before they were ready.
Digital marketing can be tricky to master and slow to yield results in the early stages. To avoid disappointment, always work to a strict schedule and set realistic milestones along the way.
2. Avoid Multiple Platforms and Mediums:
Many marketing experts will tell you that you need to “dominate your niche” or “be everywhere” to attract the most interest.
There’s definitely some truth to that advice, but if you’re a beginner to the world of online marketing, it makes the most sense to master just one (or two) mediums at a time.
Advertising tools like Google Ads can have a steep learning curve, and social media and content marketing require a lot of up-front time investment. Spreading yourself too thinly will yield sub-optimal results everywhere.
Take our advice: Concentrate your efforts for maximum impact.
3. Avoid “Analysis Paralysis”:
Whilst we’re big advocates of self-learning, there does come a point where you’re actually going to have to take action and do something!
There are hundreds, if not thousands of armchair experts out there that have read every morsel of information about digital marketing, but have failed to make any headway whatsoever.
It’s good to be cautious. Just make sure it’s not an excuse for inaction!
4. Steer Clear of Marketing Gurus:
All the information you need to become a digital marketing expert is both easy to find and totally free. There is absolutely no advantage to purchasing the latest $2,000 course from a so-called “Marketing Guru”. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
5. Avoid Guesswork:
Never run adverts, post social media links or write Tweets on a hunch.
Everything you implement within the scope of digital marketing should be trackable and measurable. Test, test and test again. Never use random guesswork in your campaigns.
OK, Enough of the Lecturing, Let’s Get Started!
Paid Advertising Campaigns
Paid ads are the absolute gold standard in online marketing.
Getting your product or business to the top of a Google search page is still a worthwhile marketing tactic in 2020, but it requires SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or a long term content marketing plan. Both of those disciplines take a long time to master and yield results very slowly. In addition, both require a significant financial outlay if you decide to outsource the work.
On the other hand, paid ads are getting cheaper all the time and in addition, offer a very measurable (and fast!) way of getting eyes on your brand.
So which advertising platforms perform the best?
Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram for Business and LinkedIn Ads (in that order) all have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Take time to consider which of the platforms is most frequented by your potential customers. Your mileage may vary greatly.
What Should I Advertise?
If you’re a local business with very low competition, then it’s perfectly fine to run ads that link directly to your website. In some instances, these types of hyper-targeted ads can be extremely cheap, and yield excellent results.
With that being said…
In more competitive niches, savvy business owners might want to play a longer game: Try using adverts to direct prospective customers to well researched blog posts and even videos. Once you’ve enticed traffic onto your landing page, you can offer free giveaways, discounts and extra information in exchange for a visitor’s email address.
Why bother capturing a visitor’s email?
In spite of the rise of social media, email is still the best medium by far for converting leads into sales. In part, that’s because the vast bulk of leads will only be converted into buyers after several interactions with your brand. Timed email sequences can help you to stay relevant with your prospects.
So to Sum up:
- Use carefully crafted ads to send prospects to a landing page.
- Give away great content.
- Persuade visitors to subscribe to an email list by offering an incentive.
- Use email sequences to gradually convert leads into sales.
Get a Google My Business Listing
If you run a bricks-and-mortar business, you absolutely MUST get a “Google My Business” (GMB) listing up and running.
When your establishment is listed in GMB it will appear above all of the organic search results in a dedicated box. In smaller towns and cities, this is an absolute game-changer that in many cases can render traditional SEO completely redundant.
In addition, GMB comes with some extra features that could work well for your business: GMB listings feature a “call” button for smartphone users, a “directions” link to Google maps and a small snippet of information about opening times and user ratings. Adding your business to GMB also gives you the opportunity to link directly to your main website.
One More Game Changing Feature:
Last but not least, many business owners are unaware of the newly implemented but extremely powerful “Google Posts” feature for GMB.
Essentially “Google Posts” allows businesses to share mini blog posts which show up in the right panel on Google searches. Each Post can be up to 300 words in length and include a photo, as well as a clickable call to action button and a date range (for businesses promoting events and special offers).
These posts sit somewhere between a Tweet, a landing page and a blog post, but come with the added benefit of an instant SEO boost and very prominent placement.
Social Media Marketing
If you’ve exhausted your advertising budget and you’re willing to commit the time, social media marketing can be powerful, but needs to be treated with care and a very light touch.
Rules of the Game:
1. Keep a Strict Posting Schedule
The number one rule of social media is to keep the accounts manned, and keep them current. If your Facebook or Twitter feed looks deserted, and you rarely respond to queries, you’re doing your brand more harm than good. If you don’t think you can commit to regular social media interaction, it’s actually best to drop the idea completely and concentrate on your company website.
Stay Away From Health and Politics
This might be the most controversial piece of advice in this guide, but hear us out:
You’re probably not a virologist, so stay well clear of reposting COVID-19 health advice. If a customer directly asks you about your implementation of social distancing rules or your hygiene policy, by all means gently reassure them. Just make sure you don’t get into heated debates about COVID-19 best practice.
Whatever advice applies to COVID-19 posting applies triple to political discourse: You’ve been warned. Just stay quiet.
We live in turbulent times. It doesn’t matter what cause you do or don’t endorse, stick to the business of selling products and leave the politics at home.
Concentrate on Being Helpful
If you can’t give health advice or show political support, what can you use your Twitter or Facebook feed for?
Simple! Give great advice and answer customer queries.
Be warm, honest and caring and engage with your local community. Get back to the roots of what made social media so great in its formative years.
Handling Postponed Events
Were you using digital marketing to promote an event before the lockdowns and social distancing rules came into force?
How are you planning to bring your event back to life?
Know When to Pivot
None of us can truly gauge when life will return to normal. Especially when discussing any kind of event where a crowd will gather.
In this situation, the best advice is to keep your powder dry, keep the budget tightly constrained and learn how to read the social media queues and analytics to keep abreast of the situation.
When marketing during uncertain times, it’s important to be able to pivot on a dime. If you need to move from a national to a more regional event, so be it.
Are you worried the event will get the go-ahead just in time for bad winter weather? Don’t rush to reschedule if the event would be more successful next spring.
We’re living through unprecedented times. If all of the major international events have been cancelled for 2020, then there’s no shame in holding off your own event until next year either. Be patient, stay active on social media and think about free marketing channels like blogging until the time is right to start spending your ad budget.
Consider Taking Your Business Online
If there’s one final piece of advice we’d give to businesses looking to keep their heads above water during these crazy times, it would be this:
During the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns, some businesses saw increases in web traffic of up to 150%. That means loyal customers are more than willing to keep shopping at their favorite stores despite the logistical issues.
If you have the ability to open an online store, do it already! If you’re in a B2B niche, consider offering free Skype consultations.
COVID-19 might have been the most unprecedented event in a generation, but with a little marketing savvy and the determination to succeed, you can also uncover some of the biggest money making opportunities of your lifetime!