March 2020 represented one of the quickest and most drastic shifts in online behavior we’ve ever seen, and threw everyone into uncharted waters. How can you ensure that you are making changes that will set your business up for long-term success and not just temporary fixes? One day we will shift from the Reopening Phase to The New Normal – and every business will have to focus on growth. What can you do to provide transparency, authenticity, and optimism to your consumers?
Even as communities enter “Phase 1” of reopening, we know the COVID Pandemic will continue to affect industries and businesses all around the world for a long time to come. How does reopening impact marketing for businesses? There is no playbook on how to reopen during these times, so we have drafted up our best guidance for marketing through the pandemic.
Messaging and Content During COVID
- Don’t Follow the Leader
Focus on building a message that is based on your business’s values. If the business next door is opening up, but you don’t feel comfortable doing that, don’t put down that other business – just share why you are not doing that for you.
- Status Update
Make it easy for customers to know your status by posting on Google My Business and other social media channels on a regular basis. Make sure that your new operating days and hours are on your website. Share what safety procedures you are implementing at your business. Can customers shop your inventory online? How many people are allowed in your business at one time? Make this information easy for your customers to find.
- Take it Day by Day
Don’t pre-plan too many communications as the pandemic status can change day to day. You will need to be quick on your feet when it comes to messaging. At Arlington Strategy, we review our clients planned content daily and expect to make changes often as things evolve. During these times, your messaging NEEDS to resonate with your audience. For example, you may not want to post images on your social media that show people who are not practicing social distancing or not wearing masks.
The pandemic has affected shopping behavior, online and offline. If you are used to monitoring digital ads on a weekly or monthly basis you are going to need to assess these paid efforts daily.
- Video is (still) King
If you haven’t already, consider taking advantage of the heightened impressions on social media. Video content and live social media channels like Instagram Live are surging up. We have used Facebook and Instagram Live with our clients to host Qs and As about their businesses. For our education clients we discuss how distance learning looks like now and how they are planning for the fall semester. A home construction client interviewed trade partners to educate his audience on the industry and how people can still renovate, despite the stay at home orders.
- Be Creative!
Be creative in how you are offering your products or services during this time, online and offline. Many retailers are only offering curbside pickup and free delivery during this time but they make sure to post daily about their inventory. Share images of how you or your staff are operating despite restrictions. If you’ve pivoted to add something new to your business, this makes great content! Arlington Strategy recently rolled out a new service for our clients: branded zoom backgrounds, which are a great way to rep your company professionally while covering up a potentially messy background for video conferencing.
Oakwood School had to pivot from their hands on learning curriculum to distance learning overnight. Their teachers have done an amazing job teaching from home, or on occasion from the school. They are also offering virtual admissions tours where they are able to show the school through Zoom and parents can chat with staff and Oakwood parents.
Advertising During COVID
Historically, companies who have maintained or grew ad spending during times of economic downturns fared better during and after recessions than those who decreased their marketing budgets. Putting even a few dollars behind your digital efforts will pay off. Know your audience and tailor your message to show compassion and provide support.
- Top of Funnel
Many consumers are hesitant when it comes to shopping right now, especially on big purchases. Focus on reaching your target audience during the consideration phase, which will allow for retargeting campaigns in the future. While people may not be taking action and converting, they are still researching and consuming content. Focus on creating ads and content that leave a positive brand impression on people who may want to purchase in the future.
- Messaging in Sales
Sell on the value of your product, not the cost. Consider the messaging your ads promote and whether that will be more or less relevant in the next year, as the impact of the crisis will linger on buyer mentalities.
Search Engine Optimization
If you still have the budget for it, keep SEO efforts on track. Search demand and behavior are anticipated to skyrocket because people can no longer meet face to face nor shop in real life, and you can take advantage of that by keeping your site optimized by search with new content, targeted keywords and using on point page titles, H1 headers and meta descriptions. If this sounds like a foreign language, use a trusted vendor to make sure your website has been optimized for SEO and that your keywords and terms are accurate and up to date. Blog often to increase your SEO organically and optimize your Google My Business page. Good SEO helps people who are LOOKING for what you have to offer find YOU.
Brick and Mortar
- Protect your Employees + your Customers
COVID is more than a health and economic crisis, it’s a human one. The way companies take care of their employees, customers, and community now is critical, and will have a long term impact on trust. What is your business doing to protect the physical and psychological safety of employees? How are you doing in regards to internal communications and productivity? Are you evolving new ways to get work done?
Alair Homes Arlington are currently taking extra precautions to keep their clients safe while working in their homes. They have installed temporary stairs, allowing their crew to maintain separation from the family while completing their projects and they are using masks, gloves, and sanitizer throughout the day.
- The Consumer’s Experience
What does your consumer need right now? Note what questions are being asked the most. You may need to redesign the customer experience and make new offers based on new needs. For example, as a bakery you may be open but your customers are likely placing orders and picking them up at the curbside. They are not looking around your store as they used to. Considering up-selling on the phone: “You are placing an order for a birthday cake? Would you like to add candles to your order? Would you like to try our special for today?”
The Mother-Daughter team of The Urban Farmhouse are offering curbside pickup and free local delivery. They are regularly updating their social channels with inventory to maintain interest in their products. They also partnered with a local small business to sell masks.
If you are able to, ask yourself how your business can serve society through community work. How can you offer your companies resources to serve those in need? Can you offer to donate a percentage of your profits to a local non-profit organization? Can you organize a food drive within your community? Consumers are more apt to support businesses who can authentically engage with their communities.
Arlington Strategy recently participated in Arlington Chamber Volunteer Day with several other businesses. We had the pleasure of meeting with members of the Junior Achievement of Greater Washington to give feedback on their product pitch. While this annual event is typically in person, the organization did an amazing job of pivoting and recreating this event to work virtually. Lots of events are going digitally these days and there are many options to give back online or in person.
No matter how your business has been impacted by shutdowns, economic forces, illness or other difficult circumstances, your marketing can help you overcome the challenges and help your business thrive. If you are unsure of how to begin, contact us for a marketing check-up and let our team help your business get on a path to success.