In the time between now and when COVID-19 first entered our lives, consumer social media usage has surged by over 50% across markets. So why do many brands say they are posting LESS on their company social media accounts than they were before the pandemic?
It’s not uncommon for businesses to cut marketing budgets amid an economic downfall. Especially in a rapidly changing situation like a global pandemic, finding a long-term marketing plan that can endure shifts in public focus is difficult. Surveys show that only one in four companies are expected to increase their marketing activities in the coming months, but here’s why you should: cutting marketing costs might have saved you money in the beginning of the pandemic, but COVID-19 is projected to impact us well into 2022 and beyond. Even after the bulk of the population is vaccinated, the lasting effects of it on our culture will prevail.
With the right long-term marketing plan, your business can get back on the path of growth and stability, and continue growing for years to come. Read on to discover how businesses can hone in on core markets, strategies and initiatives, and create effective long-term marketing plans during COVID-19.
Long-Term Marketing Plans During COVID-19: Focus in On Core Business
One mistake many businesses make is trying to be everything to everyone. The best strategy is to focus on the core of your business—this is the foundation that the rest of your business is built upon. This means figuring out what the main selling point is that defines your brand. To determine this, you’ll have to get to the nuts and bolts of your business, including its purpose, consumer-base, and central product.
Re-establish Core Purpose and Objectives
It’s challenging to plan for the long-term without a dependable vision of where you’re going, especially when COVID-19 means that nothing is predictable. Ground your marketing plan by remembering your business’s primary purpose, mission, core values, and key message. Do they still hold as true today as they did before COVID-19? The reality is that the way you think about the future of your brand may look very different now.
Recall some of the questions you and your company had to ask yourselves in the beginning of the pandemic and reassess your answers now. What are your long-term goals for the business? Where do you see the future of the business in 5 years? 10 years? What do you need to do to get it from here to there? Once you’ve re-evaluated your business goals and values and feel confident in them, you can start considering your concrete marketing goals. These should be specific to the times we’re facing during a pandemic, when many places of businesses are still not fully open and face restrictions. More than anything, you should be considering how to reach them digitally. Determine what your digital marketing focus should be, whether its increasing brand awareness, driving traffic to your website, expanding your audience, or otherwise. Remember, it’s not just about boosting sales, it’s about how you intend to boost sales.
For more tips on determining marketing goals for your advertising campaign, read: GUIDE TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL DIGITAL ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN
Focus on Core Market
Once you have your business and marketing goals, the next step is to hone in on your core market segment. Take an honest look and determine who your main customers still are. This doesn’t mean other markets are neglected, but you should identify your key market segment so you can build your core strategy around them. A good indication is who has still been spending during the past year of the pandemic.
Next, determine their long-term needs and how you can cater to them and retain their loyalty for the long run. Think solid customer service, listening to their needs, creating loyalty programs, and meeting them in the current moment, while embracing flexibility, since the needs of the current moment continue to change.
For more tips on targeting the right customers during COVID-19, read our blog post here: TARGETING THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS DURING COVID-19
Focus on Core Product
Your store may have 200 different products, but typically, people are coming for one or two specific products (or types of products). Instead of investing money into all your different items, pick the one (or two) main things that really define your business, and put your ad spend into selling those.
You might be thinking about how many great products or services you have to offer, and of course they are still valuable. However, customers typically come for one thing, and the important thing is to get them through the door (or to your website) and check out the others products along the way.
Sellers using Shopify, one of the top ecommerce sites in the nation, frequently say that they have the most success when their website’s front page has just one to three featured products. Of course, there’s a link to shop the entire store, but the first thing you see on their page is best-sellers. You can also highlight these products using referral programs and deals, or advertising special offers.
This strategy works because when you settle on a specific product, or type of product, at a time, you can define your core marketing around it and invest your messaging and money into that primary selling proposition. By identifying what your market is returning to over and over again, even during a recession, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding overall.
Long-Term Marketing Plans During COVID-19: Advertise Smarter, Not Less
We recommend that businesses and brands do not attempt to keep all of their marketing initiatives that they used pre-pandemic. However, we are also not suggesting that they reactively slash all budgets towards advertising.
Instead, our advice is to make informed decisions based on analysis of metrics data, and look for areas that are working well that you can invest more into, as well as aspects of your marketing plan that aren’t working well that can either be cut or revamped. How do you determine what parts of your marketing plan are successful or not? We’re glad you asked.
Which of your social media platforms are driving traffic? This is the first step to determining where to cut spending and where to invest more. To get a better sense of what’s working and what’s not, you should:
- Review metrics every week and/or month to see where traffic is coming from, what the conversion rate is, how many conversions come from each source.
- Look for channels that consistently generate leads and consider allocating more money into those to continue growing your business during COVID-19.
- Identify the channels that don’t tend to drive much traffic and determine whether to try a new strategy, add more budget, or cut those costs and reallocate the money to better-performing channels.
For example, if you run an equal amount of ads on Facebook and Instagram, but Facebook drives 90% of your traffic, analyze why this is (does your market simply not use Instagram, or do you just need a better Instagram marketing strategy?), and act accordingly.
For more tips on best practices for each social media platform read our blog post here: WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD BE USING DURING COVID-19 AND BEYOND
The benefit to blogging is that it drives traffic to your website and improves SEO. But in order for your blog posts to be successful, make sure you are using an optimal blog strategy. Here are the main things you should keep in mind:
- Choose interesting topics. Blogs drive traffic – but only if they are on topics that people are interested in. Don’t post blogs just for the sake of posting them. Find out what topics people in your market are curious about, and use your blog to meet your audience in the current moment. You can also use Google Analytics to analyze which of your blog posts drive the most traffic. This will help you to get an idea for what’s working well for you, and then invest your time into putting out more content like that.
- Choose useful topics. In addition to making sure you are writing posts that intrigue people, write about topics that provide value to your customers (and potential customers). This could be a step-by-step guide, a list of useful tips, or an opinion piece incorporating your knowledge as an industry leader. It should also speak to how your business is responding to COVID-19 and provide evidence of what sets you apart. Show your expertise to your customers and they will be more likely to choose you over a competitor.
- Promote blog posts with ads. While the above tips focus on how to organically generate more leads, you may still feel you aren’t getting the exposure you want. If you have great blog posts that aren’t getting seen, try running some ads for them. Google Ads and Facebook Ads are great places to start getting your content noticed.
- Promote blog posts with emails. Another tool you can use is the email list. Use your business’s email list to send emails to people who have either bought or looked at your products, and start sending them updates when a new blog post comes out. This is a great tool because this specifically targets people who have shown some interest in your brand already, and would be most likely to take interest in your blog.
For more tips on optimizing a blog post for SEO, read our blog post here: HOW TO OPTIMIZE A BLOG POST FOR SEO
Invest in SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. This includes using keyphrases consistently, balancing images with text, using outbound links, and more.
SEO is important during COVID-19 because it provides businesses with the online visibility they need to market to customers digitally. Since people have shifted significantly to online shopping and activities, SEO allows you to position your website high on search engines. When potential customers search related keywords or topics, you can ensure that your website is ranked highly in their results. In the long-term, this can help make up for lost foot traffic and engage some of those casual shoppers who are no longer visiting your store in person.
Long-Term Marketing Plans During COVID-19: Create a PR Plan
Advertising is only half of a great long-term marketing strategy–the other half is public relations. Part of being engaged with consumers during a crisis is sharing how your company is responding to changing needs and feelings of people. It also creates a strong brand image and shows your corporate social responsibility.
Most people believe that businesses have a duty to contribute to important causes, which is why crisis response is such an important part of business strategy.
Show You Care
When and where it’s appropriate throughout the duration of the crisis, share how your business is responding. During COVID-19, there will continue to be new updates, relevant news, and more information arising for many months. Continue to adjust and share your company’s response when this happens. This means releasing new or updated guidelines, safety procedures, services, offers, and more.
One example of a great PR response is Hewlett Packard, a software engineering company. They responded to the crisis by donating supercomputers, as well as their own engineers, to help the U.S. government make software for fighting the virus.
Ford also responded to the crisis in a timely manner. They partnered with other companies to help by contributing the air filtration system from one of their truck models and engineering it to be used in ventilators.
If you can invest in big causes for big changes, great, but it’s also just as important to be involved in your community and contribute to local causes, whether it’s fundraisers, special offers for healthcare workers, or simply meeting and contributing to this moment we’re all in. This will ultimately help show your customers that you care and create long-term trust and loyalty.
Be A Trusted Source
Overall, be a credible source for your customers who they can trust. When talking about the pandemic, keep it relevant to your industry. While contributing to the cause is important, make sure you are focusing, for the most part, on how it relates to and affects your industry, employees and customers. None of us are complete experts on COVID-19, but the key is to be credible. Stick to the facts, follow CDC guidelines, and make choices that are best for the safety of everyone involved.
The right digital marketing strategy in the age of COVID-19 makes a huge difference for businesses of all sizes. As a full-service digital marketing agency, we have seen firsthand these long-term marketing plans make a huge difference for our clients. These strategies allow businesses to continue growing throughout the pandemic and overcome challenges that come their way.
For more tips on how to successfully market during COVID-19, be sure to check out our other blog posts, and remember that SND Agency is an experienced, results-driven digital marketing agency who understands that many businesses need extra help during this time. If that sounds like you, we would love to hear from you about partnering with your business to leverage your social media presence for success now and in the future! Contact us today!