The COVID-19 pandemic has left marketers stumped. This is an unprecedented situation—we can’t consult digital marketing case studies that were conducted during global pandemics for data and guidance because there are none.
Businesses are left wondering how they should market themselves (if at all). While in most cases that answer is yes they should market themselves, there are some follow-up questions you should ask yourself to ensure your digital marketing strategy is still as solid as before the pandemic hit.
Is my brand’s messaging appropriate?
The fallout from tone-deaf marketing is amplified during a crisis such as COVID-19. For example, a healthcare provider who is still telling patients to come in for walk-in appointments is going to be unsuccessful at best and criticized for being irresponsible at worst.
To prevent untimely messaging, we’ve been taking inventory of our clients’ marketing communications across all mediums. We read it critically from the target audience’s perspective and rework anything that’s not appropriate or consumer-centric during this time. Messaging that centers on clients’ audiences (not their brands) resonates best.
How have conversion actions and values changed?
There’s no question: The ways in which customers interact with businesses have also evolved.
Consider the example of a small, local bank that previously saw high volumes of foot traffic on a daily basis. Since customers can no longer stroll into their local branch, they’re now likely to be more interested in online banking. As a result, there’s more emphasis on both promoting digital banking channels as well as applying for loans online, rather than in a branch.
For many other businesses, the value of the average online conversion is higher now than ever before.
What should I do with my paid ad budgets?
Ultimately, we recommend letting performance dictate the decisions you make regarding your paid ad budgets. Our decisions at Austin Williams are largely data-driven, and we’re not straying from that principle.
If your paid campaigns are still generating meaningful, valuable results at efficient costs, there’s no reason to panic and pause—although again, make sure you’re messaging is on-point for this climate. If conversion rates are plummeting and you’re not seeing a positive return on ad spend, it’s time to consider pausing or shifting spend to your best-performing campaigns.
Remember that other brands have pulled the plug on paid ads, which has resulted in lower costs per click and costs per impression in a wide variety of industries. Even for companies who are experiencing lower demand, this could be a prime opportunity to brand-build.
Are there any other ways that I can connect with my audience online?
There’s enormous potential for brands to engage in online initiatives in order to stay connected to their audiences. We’ve seen college clients conduct virtual open houses and video application appointments, apartment complexes host video tours, and healthcare providers ramp up telehealth offerings with tremendous success.
Brands have also been using their online platforms (particularly social media) to amplify charitable causes. We recently used our own social media platforms to promote an initiative by an Austin Williams employee, which donates all profits to Helping Patchogue Restaurants Feed Hospital Workers. (The initiative is linked here—buy an awesome t-shirt and help feed frontline hospital workers.) We encourage other brands to do the same.
How do I prepare for recovery?
The following are great projects to undertake during the COVID-forced marketing “downtime”:
- Greater focus on organic SEO, which takes time to build but ultimately offers huge potential return on investment
- Revisit revenue tracking approaches
- Upgrade reporting dashboards
- General housecleaning
When this crisis does come to pass (and it will), businesses who continued to market and build their digital strategies will find themselves in a better position than those who did not.