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Withstanding COVID-19’s Economic Impact with Marketing and SEO

March 31, 2020

We’re all coping with a new normal during the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And that means we’re all doing our part to stop the virus from spreading and keeping our families, friends and neighbors safe. We don’t know how long this will last, but we do know that it won’t last forever. So while this is a time to be vigilant about washing your hands, that doesn’t mean you should be sitting on them.

First, don’t panic
The sense of uncertainty is scary, but this is no time to panic. This is the time to fight the virus.

For many companies, business is going to be down for a while, but it will be back. It is important to stay top of mind now so you are first in line when your normal business cycles start to bounce back later. At the same time, some businesses have had no choice but to close. Restaurants, personal services, retailers (non-essential) have already started to make hard decisions.

Other businesses are still vital and needed, but paused for social distancing, such as dentists, non-essential health services and others. Shutting down marketing may feel like the right decision for some, but it is not right if you plan to survive the longer haul.

At the same time, there are industry segments that are growing, such as telehealth, video conferencing technologies and of course retailers like Walmart.

Position yourself for the recovery
The steps you take during this downturn will position you to be able to recapture market share as the restrictions open up. Strategic planning is critical, but disappearing is not an option. And, since so much is now moving to online business, digital search and display advertising is more important than ever to maintain your brand relevance, prospect potential customers and continue engaging existing ones. Here are some ideas that you should consider and some that you can implement right away:

Retain existing customers
Out of sight, out of mind. Keep in touch with your customers regularly or you may risk losing them. Remember, it costs more to acquire a new one. Investing in your current customers, doing more instead of less, is also a good thing.

Send tailored, contextualized, targeted messages to existing customers who want to hear from you. At the same time, avoid communications that are not meaningful or valuable. Stay engaged with topics of value during this unique time with unique challenges, and maintain an active presence on all social channels. Share knowledge, support, empathy and be available.

Above all, be sensitive in what you say. Many consumers are also sensitive now. So, it is that much more important for your messaging to be truly authentic. Do not play on fear for any kind of sales advantage. It is bad business. Any short-term gain from playing on fear can haunt you later.

Improve your content
Now is a great time to explore low-cost techniques to keep your brand in front of prospective clients with helpful information. A lot of people are at home spending time online for business, personal purchases, education and more. It’s likely that they are spending more time on social media, reading about how their friends are doing during this crisis. Many of us are researching topics, products and tools we’ve wanted or needed…and are taking time to do that now.

This is a genuine opportunity to create high-quality sharable content that meets your audience where they are, when they need you with relevant content about topics they are interested in. Engaging now with meaningful, helpful information will have the most impact, and it helps your brand be top of mind later. This can be assisted by targeted search engine optimization and search media strategies.

You can do fun things like create an infographic about something as simple as your business’s values…and share a story about a great example of something good someone did. You can also create helpful how-to’s to assist people with home projects, home schooling and even stress management. Of course you can still post about reviews from your customers that have received lots of engagement.

Your evergreen content is equally important and has value to your customers and search engines, but maybe it’s time for a spring cleaning on your SEO strategy.

Adapting your SEO strategy
As we continue to spend most of our day online for the coming weeks, search visibility is going to become a critical success factor in the new world. The importance of digital will only grow, so you need to optimize your SEO strategies to not only boost your search visibility but also reinforce your expertise, authority and trustworthiness to your customers.

We’re home, which means we’re hanging out with Alexa all day. Optimize your SEO for voice devices. This is a great time to turn our work-from-home culture into a voice-shopping powerhouse. Google’s new BERT, a natural language processing technique, can discern the context and nuances of words and phrases used in search to provide more relevant results more efficiently. Since people phrase questions or search queries much differently when they speak than when they type, a more strategic long-tail keyword strategy is a must for your SEO.

Looking ahead, Google’s switch to mobile-first indexing will be complete in September. This means that Google will be using the mobile version of your website to determine your search rankings. Your website should have responsive website design and your content should be optimized for the mobile platform. Check your load times too. If you have a separate mobile website with slightly different content, it might throw off your SEO so be sure to check out Google’s best practices for mobile-first indexing.

Drive conversions
Conversion-rate optimization is a high-impact digital marketing technique that turns more of your website visitors into customers. The move to digital media is more critical now than ever. This is a solid time to plan and execute improvements to your website sales funnel. Give people clear reasons to connect with your brand. Offer valuable information in exchange for an email. Data-driven, targeted, meaningful information to these early, even not-yet-qualified leads is your key to future success.

Drive awareness
Your potential customers may not need you right now but they will likely need you in the future. This is why it’s important to stay top of mind with helpful content that meets the user where they are now so they’ll think of your brand when looking to become a customer later. While this can be done organically, there are several ways to use a small amount of budget to target this content to just the right people. It’s important to think of awareness campaigns as an investment in the future–you may not see immediate returns in terms of new customers now but the return will be in the 3rd and 4th quarters when the economy is projected to pick back up. When those potential customers are ready to make their purchase, they’ll likely become your actual customers since you’ll already be at the top of their mind.

Measure and manage
Knowing what works and what doesn’t makes it easier to determine how to allocate your budget, especially a smaller one right now. Establish your key performance indicators and code all of your digital campaigns to track every major sales journey event. Again, leads and conversions may be slower right now, but they won’t be in future months. Make sure your Google Analytics is set up correctly. Are you using the data to drive your marketing efficiencies? Are your goals configured? Have you properly connected the Search Console? Take advantage of all the free Google Analytics data so you can adequately shape your strategy.

Expect the future to shift from what you expected
The current crisis has ramped up the need and speed of digital solutions. New innovations can be expected. There might be a lingering feeling that working remotely may be better, but there’s more to it than that.

Now is the time to get prepared with marketing that fuses the art of your powerful brand with the science of marketing and today’s technologies. For example, telehealth is already being approved by insurers and providers in great numbers. Think about it. It’s been used for a while now, but the growth over the past 2 weeks is exponential. This will continue. Insurers will get most of their conversions online. We should not expect these trends to retreat after the crisis is over. How does this new status quo affect your sales funnel?

Focus on the future
For the time being, we must hope that COVID-19 passes quickly and has a minimal impact on our lives, our family, friends and our businesses. Until we are through, follow the CDC rules, social distancing guidelines and avoid crowded places. As for your marketing plan, this is the time to double down on a strategic course of action that keeps your brand relevant in the moment and ready for the next phase where many businesses can resume more normally.

Paula Milam, Edwin Acevedo & Ben Hardt

TruStar Marketing fuses the art and science of marketing to improve your business. We specialize in health care, insurance and high-tech manufacturing industries. Digital marketing that works stars with a free introductory call.