Marketing Your Business During COVID-19

I originally wrote this article in the Business Journal about marketing your business during COVID-19. Yet, one thing I didn’t address is how the needs of your potential customers have changed in the new economy, and how pivoting to meet their needs can establish your business as a market leader.

So I’ve updated this article, below:

These are some challenging times. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of consumers have stopped buying nonessential products and services, impacting tens of thousands of businesses. In addition, any advertising a company is running that’s asking for a sale can appear callous and insensitive.  

While the above may be true, your business still needs to survive!  

So the issue many companies are currently wrestling with is how to pivot their marketing strategy to be more reflective of the times.

Reduce your marketing budget?

As a business owner, one of the worst feelings is when you realize you’ve wasted money on something. This can be especially true for companies that offer nonessential services and continue to spend a lot of money trying to gain customers. In other words, why continue to advertise if no one is buying?  

Many of these kinds of businesses have asked themselves this same question, and as a result, they either reduced their marketing budget or eliminated it.  

However, by severely cutting your marketing budget, you will miss out on one of the most significant opportunities to earn future customers!

Opportunity 1: People Are Online More Than Ever

Hootsuite, a popular social media management tool, recently did a survey that found the average person spends 6 hours and 42 minutes online every day. With the majority of Americans now spending more time at home, they inevitably are going to spend more time on their devices. This can potentially increase the amount of time they spend online by as much as 50%!  

The issue is, fewer people are looking to buy right now. So your marketing strategy needs to appeal to your potential customers that will need your product or service in the future.

Top of the sales funnel

When advertising to potential customers, you should consider their stage in the sales funnel. Potential customers at the top of your funnel usually haven’t heard of your product or aren’t very familiar with it. So the primary goal of marketing at the top of the funnel is brand awareness. Top-of-funnel marketing channels include traditional outreach like TV, radio, and billboards; and also generally-targeted digital banner ads, Facebook, and Instagram ads as well.  

Middle of the sales funnel

Potential clients that make it to the middle of your funnel have heard of your company or the product you sell, and they’re doing research, comparing you to your competitors. So the goal to reach potential clients in the middle of the sales funnel is to educate and persuade them – but not yet ask for the sale. Targeted ads on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are great middle-of-funnel marketing channels enabling you to reach potential customers.

Bottom of the sales funnel

Finally, the bottom of the funnel is where someone is ready to purchase; they’ve done their research, and they are focused on getting the best deal—this where your company asks for the sale. Popular bottom-of-funnel channels include Google Search Ads and Bing Search Ads. Ads on these channels can appear when your potential customer is ready to buy based on their search query’s intent.

To make the most of your target audience spending more time on their devices, your marketing strategies must focus on building brand awareness at the top of your funnel and educating your potential customers in the middle of your funnel.   

Here’s a video we created that highlights this strategy:

Importance of building trust

No matter how you’re reaching your target audience, people prefer to do business with companies they trust. This is why focusing on top and middle of the sales funnel strategies is so important because once you’ve built trust, your marketing will produce more customers.  

As an example, Google “Los Angeles personal injury attorney,” click on a few of the Google Ads, then take a look at the websites those ads are promoting. Most of the sites won’t win any design awards, and yet those attorneys are gaining a lot of clients with Google Ads because they’ve taken the time to build trust among their target audience with top and middle of the funnel strategies.

What do you promote?

During the pandemic, people aren’t buying as many products or services right now. But they’re still online and still looking for ways to improve their lives and their careers.  

So to appeal to potential customers tastefully at the top of your sales funnel, consider the following strategy:

  1. Write a blog post or a new web page on how your industry is affected by COVID-19 and the specific steps people are taking.  
  2. Then create Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads around this blog post to inform your target audience, but not selling them. This could even become a series of blog posts, depending on how long the pandemic and its effects last. It could first discuss who/what is affected by the virus, and then, later blog posts could explain how your industry is recovering from it. 
  3. You will also want to install a remarketing pixel that enables you to stay in front of your potential customers throughout the sales funnel.
  4. Now that your audience is aware of your business, develop middle of your sales funnel ads (both static and video ads) that detail your company’s value, experience, some case studies, and further industry insights. The goal of these ads is to only appear to people that have seen your COVID-19 related ads and have read your content.  
  5. Over time, as your potential customers consume your content, your company will become an industry expert in their eyes.

Trust = New Customers

After three to six months of running your top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel ads and reaching thousands of people multiple times with timely and helpful messaging, you’ve finally created some powerful brand awareness and trust.  

Then, once the COVID-19 pandemic has receded, you can then target all of these potential customers with bottom-of-funnel channels like Google Search & Bing Ads. These search ads will be even more effective because you’ve educated your potential clients, so they’re now aware of your product or service, they’ve already compared you against your competition, and many of them are ready to buy.

Opportunity 2: Thriving in Our New Reality

While economists’ opinions vary greatly on how quickly our economy will recover, many agree there will be a partial bounceback as people return to work. 

The issue is, the needs of your potential customers might have changed. Sure, they’re still price and value-conscious, but many of them won’t buy from your company unless you can prove you’ve taken all the proper health precautions to ensure their safety.  

Then once these precautions are installed, the next step is to “out-precaution” your competitors. Many of your customers will pay more for this increased level of vigilance.  

Like it or not, this is our new reality. This is also your biggest opportunity.

To date, most businesses have taken all of the necessary steps to ensure the health of their customers. Yet, very few of these companies have done a great job communicating this on their website and their marketing outreach. And still, even fewer of those businesses recognize the potential of their precaution protocol as a customer acquisition channel.

For these reasons above, it’s a great time to pivot your current marketing strategy to meet this current and future need.

Creating a Post-pandemic Marketing Strategy

For companies with an established marketing strategy, the good news is they don’t need to start over. And for companies without a plan in place, it’s the best time in the last 50 years to create a marketing strategy!

When companies hire us as their CMO (chief marketing officer), we always start with a competitor analysis and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to understand our clients’ services, products, values, goals, and competitors. So this will also be an excellent place for your company to begin, in light of our new economic realities.

After gaining a better understanding of how your company is positioning itself and where your competitors stand, it’s time to assess every available customer outreach channel to determine the best ways to convey your message.

There are twenty client acquisition channels to consider:

  1. Business development
  2. Referral programs
  3. Public relations
  4. Unconventional public relations
  5. Content marketing: blog posts, social media ads, display ads, video ads
  6. Search engine marketing: Google, Bing, and Yahoo ads
  7. Offline/traditional advertising: TV, radio, billboards, newspaper, direct mail, etc.
  8. SEO (search engine optimization)
  9. Email marketing/marketing automation
  10. Viral marketing
  11. Engineering as marketing (ex: creating lead capture forms)
  12. Hiring a sales force
  13. Blogger targeting
  14. Trade shows
  15. Offline events: meet up’s
  16. Swag products: branded promotional material 
  17. Webinars
  18. Influencer marketing: hiring a brand spokesperson
  19. Networking 
  20. Guerilla tactics

Here’s a more in-depth description of every customer acquisition channel.

When going through every channel, we create one to three ideas for each. Once they’ve been recorded, we grade them based on their ICE score, which rates the idea’s impact, confidence, and ease of implementation, on a scale of 1-10. The top-scoring ideas then become phase one of the new marketing strategy.

This pragmatic approach to growth requires a company’s stakeholders to all contribute to the formulation and ranking of each idea. It’s only when there’s complete buy-in by every department head that the best ideas can be identified and implemented.

After managing thousands of marketing campaigns and over $19m on the Facebook and Google advertising platforms, we’ve learned the hard way how to ensure a successful campaign. So by employing the same measures we use above, your business can be confidently positioned as a market leader in the new economy.

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