When you were planning your 2020 marketing goals and initiatives did you include what to do during a global pandemic? Probably not. No one saw this coming and yet here we are. 

While COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise and disrupted all of lives, this isn’t the end. There are tons of things that you can do to keep your marketing going and your business thriving.

With that said, we reached out to our community of industry experts with three questions to get their advice on what businesses can do right now to minimize the effects of COVID-19. Here is what they had to say:

 

Question 1: How have your marketing strategies changed since the outbreak of COVID-19? What are you doing to still connect and reach your target audience?

1.Steve Wiideman, Senior Search Strategist, Wiideman Consulting Group 

As a digital marketing community, it’s our responsibility to adapt and address this pandemic straight on, and not try to work around it or pretend that it is not happening. My advice to fellow consultants and agencies is to immediately pause on unnecessary ad spend and close call centers temporarily to focus marketing efforts on more direct channels that yield a higher ROI and are more likely to close. 

For example, we’re reaching out to current and past digital marketing directors/managers we’ve worked with and asking for online facetime introductions to other businesses. We’re offering additional services at a discounted rate or at “our cost” to keep team members employed. 

We’re also modifying our program cost structures to allow for “pay later” options and lower pricing. Our goal has shifted from Q2 growth to sustainability, understanding that it’s just short term.

2.  Steve Ryan , Founder & CEO,  RyTech, LLC

There was definitely a pause in marketing strategy as the outbreak really took hold in the United States. It was an important time to pause, assess, restrategize, and ensure that messaging was appropriate. However, it’s still important to communicate through COVID-19 and not in the blanket email approach with what a business is doing, but being real with your customers. We’re still leveraging our email list as well as our social channels to stay in front of our target audiences. Additionally, we’ve added a heavy emphasis on our own content strategy for various topics that COVID-19 has impacted social media, search engine optimization, email marketing, and content marketing.

3. Toby Danylchuk, Co-Founder, 39Celsius

Focusing on providing free resources that help businesses improve their presence – build goodwill and ask for nothing in return – people are desperate and need help and do not have the cash. We do quite a bit marketing for restaurants which have been particularly hit hard as an industry so wherever we can we are encouraging them to reach out to us with their questions, such as, how can I run Facebook ads to push my takeout business, or how do I update my Google My Business profile to reflect new hours, takeout only. We’ve included awareness of our free consulting on several blog pages that we are driving traffic to for those that are in a panic and need help now.

4. Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist, The Blogsmith

My marketing strategies haven’t changed fundamentally but I’ve definitely shifted the messaging. I think that’s the most important thing to do — keep consistent with your tactics but adjust campaigns to better reflect the current state of affairs and priorities.

5. Brock Murray, Co-Founder/ COO, SEO plus

First and foremost, this is a time to be thoughtful. We’re all human, so we need to understand that we need to help each other out during this challenging time. This isn’t the time for canned responses or automated follow-ups; this is a time to connect with your clients on a human level. Be clear with your communication and be transparent. In other words, take this opportunity to build and to strengthen your relationships. 

This also isn’t a time to sell; this is a time to guide and to help those in need of it. Host a free webinar or Facebook Live Q/A session, or just let your people know your calendar is open if they need to talk. If you have the means, consider making charitable donations to the organizations and people who need it most. 

6. Corey Northcutt , Founder & CEO, Northcutt

Our team is mainly doing two things.  First, we’re tracking thousands of Google Trends fluctuations.  The opportunity isn’t gone but all of the rules have changed for right now.  Problems are more immediate, like adapting to remote work, to unemployment, to healthcare worries.  Second, messaging needs to be empathetic and more value-added than the onslaught of glorified “COVID-19 sales” that we saw in the first few weeks. 

7. Brian Carter, CEO, Strategist & Keynote Speaker, Brian Carter Group 

What’s working depends on the client and their industry. Events have taken a huge hit, and many keynote speakers are not advertising right now, especially on Google, where we’re seeing slightly increased CPC’s in multiple industries. Restaurants have shifted to carryout and delivery, but we are driving very affordable carryout orders with Facebook ads. YouTube ads continue to be affordable as usual, and Facebook video ads are much more affordable than usual. Facebook CPM’s in general are as much as 78% more affordable right now. We’re helping clients try new offers and new content to address the changes in the marketplace. We’re helping companies get more job applications in the most urgently needed areas via Facebook, Google and YouTube ads.

8. Ben Fisher , Founder,  Steady Demand  

Like most, we have pulled back on a few marketing campaigns that were not delivering. We are still doing PPC and even hired a salesperson. We are fortunate in that our services are still desired. There is still a ton of spam/fake listings that companies are dealing with and our My Business Assurance package is in high demand as more people are realizing that they are not prepared for a GMB suspension. It may also sound a bit crazy, but we are even thinking about a mail campaign!

9. Marcus Miller, Digital Marketing Strategist, Bowler Hat 

The biggest general change is to focus on longer-term goals and what we would generally call top-of-the-funnel marketing. We want to help our customers stay in front of their audience and fill their pipelines but many of our customers simply can’t operate at the moment so whilst sales leads are nice, they are almost a secondary goal (which feels odd to even type). 

In many ways, it is like out of season marketing for summer businesses – build up awareness, build up leads, so when the time is right – we can strike. 

10. Patrick Coombe, Co-founder, Elite Strategies 

We haven’t changed any of our marketing strategies for now. People still need the same services that they did a month or 2 ago. We help websites gain visibility on Google, that is all.

This is a great question, tighten up! I have always been a proponent of minimalism, reducing waste, and running a lean ship. Cut out any unnecessary expenses. One thing I see a lot of SEO agencies waste money on is:

  •         Expensive office furniture
  •         Expensive laptops and PCs
  •         Outlandish meal services and lunches
  •         Over and above benefits like dog daycare

 

Question 2: What measures can businesses, small and large, take to minimize the impact of this global pandemic?

1.Steve Wiideman, Senior Search Strategist, Wiideman Consulting Group 

Businesses can survive through this short period of uncertainty by accepting the fact that they aren’t going to hit quarterly projections, and embrace the mentality of “do what needs to be done” until economic conditions improve.
Start by cutting back on anything that isn’t directly tied to revenue, leaving 5-10 percent of resources available to support the community and your industry (if your business can bear it). Liquidate anything you’ve been thinking about getting rid of that isn’t growing the business or valued by customers as a favorite attribute of your company. Plan a 3-6 month “survival budget”, which may result in needing to borrow money. The SBA has a program for businesses along with other Small Business Relief Programs you can find here.
Everyone becomes part of the sales team, from the dishwasher to the CEO, carrying coupons and promotional codes with them wherever they go, maintaining a state of mind that “this is just temporary.” Those not willing to participate are less concerned about their jobs and might be the right people to cut first.

2.  Steve Ryan , Founder & CEO,  RyTech, LLC

Spend smartly right now. Focus on developing ad spend and campaigns that will convert into 30 day revenue wins for your business. While you’re evaluating these campaigns, you also want to recognize the incredible amount of time consumers are spending on their phones, tablets, and computers and look at your digital efforts to capitalize and convert the target audience while they’re on social media, searching online, or going through their inbox. Finally, don’t forget about the mid-funnel touchpoints where you can focus your efforts and energy right now that might not convert immediately but will lay the foundation for when we emerge through this crisis.

3.  Toby Danylchuk, Co-Founder, 39Celsius

Cut all unnecessary business expenses – many businesses might have many different SaaS expenses – cut the ones that are not absolutely essential at helping you market your business or more efficiently run your business. Second, prepare to submit for the federal government’s Covid-19 relief act and its forgivable working capital loans – that starts Friday, April 3 and you have to apply via SBA approved lenders online. 

4. Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist, The Blogsmith

Flexibility is more key now than ever, now that local and international leaders alike create new regulations that affect business operations on a near daily basis. Have a backup plan, and a backup plan for your backup plan. Check out, or better yet, collaborate with your competitors. The businesses that survive the tough times to come will be those that look out for their team, customers, and community.

In times like these, you need to care about everyone else’s success as much as your own so that we can continue to prosper.

5. Brock Murray, Co-Founder/ COO, SEO plus

Whether you’re a small or large business, it’s critical to realize that this isn’t a time to relax. You might have fewer clients than you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean you have more downtime. Every day we lament about the lack of time we have in a day. This isn’t just an opportunity to catch up; this is an opportunity to get ahead. Use the time to work on your business systems and processes, conduct a nitty-gritty audit of your site architecture, build out evergreen content to be published at a later date, etc. Be strategic with the use of your time and make it count. 

6. Corey Northcutt , Founder & CEO, Northcutt

Remote work is the obvious answer.  There are also paid time off policies to consider.  Not just for sick leave, but for kids out of daycare.  Northcutt is a remote agency to begin with, though concentrated in Chicago. First, we ceased our occasional in-person gatherings.  Then, we added a credit to our sick leave policy for anybody needing to take care of not just their own health, but the general well-being of their family and mindfulness.

7. Brian Carter, CEO, Strategist & Keynote Speaker, Brian Carter Group 

If you are lucky enough to still be working, then work hard, adapt and innovate. If you need to pivot because of changes in marketplace demand, do it quickly. If you have clients and customers, work harder to keep them happy. If you’re marketing or selling for new customers, do it sensitively, or you may experience backlash from prospects.

8. Ben Fisher , Founder,  Steady Demand  

Most of us in the marketing space are virtual, but helping your staff cope with working from home is a priority.

For clients, anticipate the needs of your clients. Have alternatives ready to go and think about how you can help them through this tough time. Almost every industry is being affected.

Be nimble as well, try and come up with solutions that your customers will appreciate. A few examples: A self-storage company developed a contactless system for renting, paying and using their facility. A luxury vehicle repair company is offering free pickup in full hazmat suits with work being done in a sterile bay. Be creative, people still need services.

9. Marcus Miller, Digital Marketing Strategist, Bowler Hat 

That is a really tough question to answer as it depends on each and every business. We have some customers that can pivot towards services that are relevant now – for instance, cleaning companies can offer deep cleaning and decontamination services. We have other customers who work in the holiday industry in the UK who are expecting to see a spike in demand for UK holidays this year. So, there are some winners. Others, like us, will have to take advantage of the support offered by the government, do what we can to help our clients and keep marketing for when we come out the other side. We do have some customers, where the work is very seasonal, that are going to be hit hardest by this. So, it is very tough to provide a general answer here. 

10.Patrick Coombe, Co-founder, Elite Strategies 

Be there for the people that have been there for you. You have to take care of your people. Save! Look at what is happening in Fortune 500, all these companies that took huge bonuses instead. If they put a nest egg away, they would be able to pay all of their employees right now.

 

 

Question 3: Do you have any advice to industries whose workforce has been dramatically affected by COVID-19? 

 

1. Steve Wiideman, Senior Search Strategist, Wiideman Consulting Group 

While a furlough might not seem ideal, it might make the most sense for businesses significantly impacted by government ordered closures, at least as a starting point. The risk is the employee finding a new job opportunity and having to find new team members when things begin to normalize. Many states will still cover unemployment pay to these employees.

For everyone who stays with the business, the opportunity to start nurturing a strong digital marketing campaign. Assign content to various team members to write, create images and video and to compare with competing pages in search engine results. Turn employees into a content pool if the business has the resources to keep them going. When this is over, the phone will ring more than ever and inbound leads will be plentiful. 

A pool of digital marketers, me included, got together to help small businesses by offering free or discounted consulting, training and support at https://www.getremoteready.com/. If you’re unsure where to start, start here.

The most important way we can all make it through this pandemic is to stick together, help each other, and be kind to one another until things improve.

2.  Steve Ryan , Founder & CEO,  RyTech, LLC

For those businesses that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, you need to tell your customers and your audience what you need and how the audience can help. We’re seeing strong reactions to calls for support at restaurants, bars, nonprofits, and other businesses that are telling their audience how best to support them, even if it isn’t financial.

3.  Toby Danylchuk, Co-Founder, 39Celsius

If you’ve had to let people go and you plan on bringing them back, stay in contact frequently to keep them up-to-date and that your goal is to eventually bring them back.

4. Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist, The Blogsmith

Find creative ways to repackage your core offering. For example, restaurants and hospitality have been hit hard. A creative pivot I’ve enjoyed observing is restaurants that offer family-sized meal kits that parents and children can work together to assemble. For businesses that can no longer operate with physical storefronts, find a straightforward (no-frills) solution for bringing your offerings online as soon as possible. For businesses that can no longer operate at all, make sure that it’s easy for customers to buy gift cards to support you and help with cash flow.

Also, seek government assistance if you need it. In the US, the CARES Act provides several helpful and accessible options for forgivable loans.

5. Brock Murray, Co-Founder/ COO, SEO plus

Even though we’re facing unprecedented times, the one thing that will keep us together is teamwork. Teammates who come together, win together. Even though there are more hurdles than we’re used to, communication tools such as Slack and Google Meet are there to help us. Now more than ever, it’s essential to keep the mood light and fun when you can, so don’t neglect virtual team building activities. Our team is still doing our weekly #TrainingThursdays lunch-and-learn, and we’ve scheduled a virtual games night as well. 

6.  Corey Northcutt , Founder & CEO, Northcutt

If you’re located in the United States, look into the Paycheck Protection Program.  Keep forging ahead and keep focused. I’m biased, but the 2008 financial crisis made my first company very successful on the back of the long-term mindset that SEO provides.  If the leads aren’t rolling in this month, think about what you can do to strengthen your foundation and be ready to compete when the quarantine inevitably comes to an end.

7. Brian Carter, CEO, Strategist & Keynote Speaker, Brian Carter Group 

If you have great employees, do what you can to help them during this time- anything helps. Apply for the Paycheck Protection loans so that you can keep them around. First off, it’s the caring thing to do if you care about them at all, plus when the economy comes back, you’ll need them. If you need to hire more employees, use a marketing and advertising approach to get them. It gives you more control, helps you break through the noise, and compete for the best workers at a time when many industries are hiring more than normal.

8. Ben Fisher , Founder,  Steady Demand  

It’s hard, but be positive. Look into assistance from the CARE act, if you can. Join groups or set up slack channels to communicate with peers. No one is alone at this time. 

9. Marcus Miller, Digital Marketing Strategist, Bowler Hat 

This is a tough one – but really, demand is down in most industries so it is just a case of keeping calm and carrying on! 

10. Patrick Coombe, Co-founder, Elite Strategies 

Advice for industries whose workforce that have been affected by COVID-19 – look at history, and look all around you. Many industries during wartime changed their entire business or temporarily pivoted model to do something else, and even ended up profiting from it. Look at what distilleries are doing, they are making hand sanitizer right now.  Can your business pivot to help the cause right now? If not, can your business pivot in an opportunistic way?

Be safe everyone! 

 

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