Digital Marketing Strategies for Business Recovery

What are the digital marketing strategies for coronavirus pandemic survival? The year was off to a great start. Then came Friday March 13th 2020. That day our Prime Minister held a press conference outside his home with a message that meant each of us would experience huge transformations in our daily lives over the following days and weeks…maybe months.

We face a chilling reality that the coronavirus outbreak has paused our economy and portions of our lives. We live in confinement world now. Our bodies and minds are processing the shock.  We take steps each day to cope with the invisible killer amongst us. Can we hope that this will be all behind us by the next Friday the thirteenth, in November?

As business professionals we are navigating the immediate risks posed by the COVID-19 crisis, cautiously and intelligently. We carry a responsibility to emerge with minimal damage to the business affairs we manage. However there is an equal opportunity to identify the opportunities at hand, and capitalize on them.

Putting this into perspective as a marketer, it is exactly during a crisis, fear, uncertainty and disorder that there is also an opportunity to strengthen your marketing efforts. There is a great time to re-work your business development and marketing tactics.

Digital marketing for the pandemic means capitalizing on the best current opportunities while preparing for the coming recovery. Sales may be down at the moment, reflecting cancellation or postponement of business. But demand is not gone. It’s latent, and will present later.

Whether those dormant sales opportunities come to you will be defined by how well you prepare for them now. What are you doing to make sure that delayed demand flows to you?

“Recessionary periods provide fertile grounds for marketers to grow their brand’s market share if they’re prepared to think long-term”  (Mark Ritson award winning columnist and brand consultant)

Pandemic and Consumer Behaviour Today

There has been a monumental impact on consumer behaviour.  We’ve witnessed the surge in demand for food and household items.  What has happened to our media consumption?

Here are survey data from  Comscore and eMarketer, two leading sources media measurement:

We Are Consuming More News

People Want To Stay Connected

People more connected than ever

We Are On Social Media More

These surveys tell us what we already suspect. We are consuming more news. We are spending more time reading email and messenging each other. The big winner is Social Media, with an increase of 36% in time spent on the social platforms.

As marketers, are we processing this statistic? This is the best time for your brand to be on social, with content that is context and tone-appropriate. This is the best time for your brand to display its brand values (integrity, empathy, trustworthiness) on your best social channels.

Ad Spending is Down, But Not Paid Search

Advertising expenditures are down overall, with less money being spent on display ads, paid social, and TV. However paid search has not seen a similar decline. Businesses are continuing to leave their PPC advertising campaigns in place, choosing to bid and compete for active online sales opportunities.

Marketing During A Pandemic

1)  Focus on Customer Retention

Your customers have made an investment in you. This is a time to develop communications strategies and marketing programs to maintain, build and grow these customer relationships.  The first step is revisiting how you are communicating with them.

Pushing sales risks your brand appearing tone deaf in the light of the pandemic. 

Revise your current campaigns, implementing significant revisions to reassure your customers, communicate empathy and focus on building trust in your brand.

Successful Strategy:

LA Fitness was obliged to close their doors in March. With rapid-fire speed, they issued an announcement on March 16th that they were closing all their clubs to keep everyone safe, were maintain the cleaning staff for member peace of mind when the doors re-opened and suspended billings.

In early April, when it became apparent that they would not be able to re-open their doors for a while, they recognized that some members billing period caused them to be billed for time the gym was closed. They offered a membership extension to cover the paid and unused period PLUS other benefits. In other words they made their members “whole” and more.

LA Fitness understand people’s fears and frustrations, and showed empathy and accountability. And their actions strengthened their brand equity.

Strategy Blunder:

Regus offers short-term rental offices spaces, and co-working spaces to businesses and professionals who need the amenities of a professional working space, without the commitment and lease cost of a large commercial office space.

Their bread and butter are small businesses, solo-preneurs and start-ups. They have maintained a business as usual policy, enforcing the 30-day notice on contract cancellations. At a time when the large majority of their customers were facing lay-offs, the loss of business and associated financial peril, Regis has continued to bill everyone who did not see the Pandemic coming and submit a request to cancel their contracts prior to March 13th when social distancing measures were taken by the province.

They are not deemed an essential service, yet they remain open, and continue to bill their customers credit cards into April. Regus has been silent on the pandemic, behaving seemingly like it’s not happening.

Regus missed an opportunity to build brand equity by offering their clients options similar to LA Fitness.

2) Revise your New Business Development Strategy

If your business can continue to operate, consider arming your sales reps with virtual tools such as video conferencing for normally in-person presentations and meetings. If you have products or services that could be ordered online, this is the perfect time to get e-commerce implemented or upgraded on your website.

There are a growing number of Virtual Reality solutions for many industries. The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry is moving rapidly to employ VR tools.  VR has become a valuable design review tool and coordination resource that saves large firms both time and money. In a recent survey of larger AEC firms, of those responding, they report that 73% of their teams are using VR for design review and presentations.

3) Develop a Delayed Demand Sales Strategy 

Many businesses have seen the cancellation or postponement of sales contracts.  Think of the recovery period that is coming as when delayed demand will finally flow in. But in a competitive environment, what are the things you can be doing now to garner your fair share, and more, of that delayed demand?

This is where a creative new landing page, and promotional offers crafted for this period can help you stand out from the crowd.  One of the most powerful things you can do is to maintain a strong presence on social media.  Social ads with a targeted offer can help you connect and grow your online follower base, and build your leads pipeline.

4) Revise your Communications Strategy

We have seen a glut of pandemic related emails and content, and much of it is “ho-hum”.  Your communications strategy will benefit from an intensive overhaul, including pulling out those marketing persona and re-imagining their world now. The quality of this creative analysis then sets the framework for your new content.

5) Increase your Social Media Presence

The increase we see in time that people are spending on social media now means you have an audience just waiting for something worth their time…from you.

Now is the time to go big on social with relevant, shareable content that delivers value to your follower base.

6) Maintain or increase your advertising

As certain as the economy is on hold, this pandemic will move to the recovery stage. The economy will recover. Pent up demand will be expressed and there will be a surge of business in many sectors. You can wait or you can organize to capture that delayed demand now.

While sales may have slowed or stopped, your online presence should not. What is the one thing that businesses do when there is an economic downturn: cut their marketing budget. This is your opportunity to advance, gain market share. The drop in advertising spend means that some ad inventory is less expensive right now.

Position Your Business For The Long Game Win

While businesses are either closed, or striving bring in whatever sales they can right now, this is also right time to look inward.

Prepare and organise for the recovery with better marketing now, coupled with capacity building strategies to not only improve your chances to survive the pandemic, indeed to come out of it stronger than ever, ready to capture significant marketing share gains. Now doesn’t that make you feel better?