Practical tips and advice from industry experts and our own specialists on positive actions marketers can take throughout the Coronavirus period.
The economic impact of Coronavirus is already being felt and a drastic change in consumer behaviour is unfolding. Marketers are understandably concerned about the months ahead but we have a collective responsibility to think long-term and do the best for our businesses and customers.
While an outbreak of this proportion is unprecedented, economic crises are a vocational hazard for marketers. In good times, we aim to maximise growth and when things aren’t looking so good we do everything we can to steady the ship.
This affects everyone, but in different ways
The scale of the coronavirus means every business is going to be affected, but the story is going to vary for different industries and individual brands. Overcoming an event like this starts with understanding how it affects your target audience and how their consumer behaviour is going to change over the months ahead.
While supermarkets and toilet roll manufacturers are set for an impressive Q2 2020, many companies in other industries have been told to close. Spending on non-essentials is almost certain to decline and the travel industry is facing its biggest crisis since 9/11.
Some industries are going to be hit worse than others. A few will even benefit.
As Mark Ritson explains in an article for Marketing Week, brands need to focus on the long-term and resist the urge to buy into quick fixes. In his own words, “this virus, too, shall pass” and, “at some point, consumers will return to the streets, the cafes and the various other activities that they have been denied during the dark days ahead.”
He urges marketers to, “keep the brand light burning, because the cost of snuffing it out for the rest of 2020 and then trying to reignite it next year is gigantic.”
Position yourself for the rebound
Mark Ritson is right, this virus will pass and markets will ultimately rebound. So brands need to focus on putting themselves in the best position to benefit from market corrections once this crisis is over – and be ready to react when the time is right.
A lot of businesses will be slow to act to a sudden surge in demand – this will represent a major opportunity for early movers.
Our own Head of Services, Lee Wilson, agrees; “In time, businesses will be looking to ramp up marketing spend to regain any lost ground towards 2020 objectives related to the Coronavirus. It’s imperative to be early to market to avoid getting lost in this expected increased brand noise, and that means progressing activities now. Practical tips include creating the content needed for marketing campaigns, running paid experiments, and increasing the focus on earned media such as SEO and social media.”
Organic search is an always-on strategy
One thing marketers should try to avoid if possible during this period is hitting the pause button on SEO campaigns. Organic search is an always-on strategy that needs a constant flow of content to keep your online presence alive. It can take months or years to build a strong search ranking but it’s amazing how quickly it can disappear.
Maintaining search visibility is vital so that when this crisis does end, your brand is there as demand increases. Those companies that do take their foot off the pedal during this time will be fighting to rebuild their search presence while you’re sitting in pole position.
There’s an important brand image aspect to maintaining your search presence during a crisis. As Lee says; “Brands want to be visible to ease any perceptions that if they’re not ranking then they’re likely struggling, as we’re seeing with many businesses going under in the news.”
Dave Colgate, Head of Enterprise SEO at Vertical Leap, also gives this advice; “Although things are very unclear at the moment and we’re taking each day as it comes, it’s important not to lose focus of the future. Google is still working as it always does and ensuring your website is technically sound is key over this period so that when things do end, and they will, getting back up to speed isn’t hindered by technical faults and other technical SEO issues that otherwise went under the radar.”
To keep your organic presence in good health, use Google Trends and other search insights tools to pinpoint opportunities, update your old content to maintain/boost performance and take this opportunity to fix any UX issues that could be dragging your rankings down.
Invest in window shoppers (for now)
Ginny Marvin touches on the Coronavirus outbreak her article, How to optimize paid search and Amazon campaigns for seasonality success, for Search Engine Land. One of the key points in her article is the importance of targeting leads at the early stages of the consumer journey during off-peak periods and uncertain times like these.
As Ginny puts it, you want to “invest in window shoppers” and she cites some timely advice from Metric Theory’s Genevieve Head-Gordon, who spoke at SMX West 2020 in February.
“You want to make sure that you’re bidding and budgeting early,” she said at the conference. “Get in front of people and fill remarketing lists. If you wait to start prospecting until the beginning of your peak period, you will have missed a valuable window to gain awareness and loyalty.”
And during this time, you’re going to be monitoring search volumes for peaks in interest and make sure you’re ready to hike up those PPC bids when demand surges. Better yet, you can use custom, automated bid adjustments to react to market trends so you’re instantly there when consumer demand rises.
Make the most of higher traffic levels
With many people spending unprecedented amounts of time at home, users will be online more than usual which means you may well see increases in web traffic. This is a great time to run testing on your site, as Billy Farrroll, Head of Performance UX at Vertical Leap explains; “Your remote teams should be ramping up their analysis and monitoring efforts now more than ever, to review your business KPIs, goals and user engagements across your digital products.
“It is also a great time to identify optimisation opportunities and run testing on your site. By testing and optimising with these higher traffic levels, you will be able to get valuable and reliable insights and knowledge quicker than before.”
Content marketing takes a front seat
The thing with window shoppers is they need a little nudge before they’re going to make a purchase decision. Many will need a few nudges at various stages of the consumer journey before they commit to buying anything and this is where content marketing takes the front seat.
The Coronavirus outbreak is going to have a real impact on the needs and interests of your target audiences and your content strategy needs to address these. People’s priorities are different right now and messages that resonated a few weeks ago aren’t going to have the same effect now.
Nurturing this relationship will require a different tone for the immediate future.
Jo Littlechild, Head of Content at Vertical Leap, says; “My advice would be to keep thinking about your customers and what is important to them, ensuring you are listening and adapting to the challenges they face. By continuing to provide good quality content and engaging them in conversation you can help them through this tough period and remain part of their consumer journey in the future.”
This is also an opportunity for you to show to existing customers and new prospects what kind of brand you really are when times are tough. We’ve seen major brands like Adobe offer free services to students during the Coronavirus outbreak but we’ve also seen Virgin Atlantic ask 8,500 employees to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave, despite the personal net worth of owner Sir Richard Branson being around £3 billion.
“There is a great opportunity for brands to educate, inform and apply a value-based proposition to their audience based on helping them in a credible way while this challenge is happening.” – Lee Wilson, Head of SEO at Vertical Leap
Take this chance to engage with people, build a sense of community and show individuals they’re not alone, even as social distancing and self-isolation become the norm.
Today’s data will help you fight tomorrow’s battles
While the Coronavirus outbreak is an extreme event, health officials have been warning for years that we were overdue a health crisis of this nature. Now, we find ourselves in the biggest global pandemic since the 1918 flu outbreak.
The outbreak itself isn’t the only issue either.
The economic ramifications are going to last long after the initial peak of the pandemic and this is a far more common kind of crisis. The last global recession started in 2009, which was preceded by crashes in 1991, 1982 and 1975. Likewise, economists have been warning that we were heading into another global recession in 2020 before there were any signs of a health crisis.
The point is, markets are shaken on a regular basis and brands need to adapt to fluctuating economies. The difference in 2020 is that most brands now have the capability of tracking consumer data during this health crisis and the economic downturn that’s almost certain to follow – and this data will be crucial in dealing with market turmoil in the future.
With today’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, the data collected now may save thousands of businesses in future economic crises.
If you need help throughout this challenging period, we are happy to give free advice – just call us on 02392 830281 or send us your details and we’ll call you.