There is little doubt that we are entering a steep, significant recession.
And with the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 infections, limits to any type of face-to-face business will continue. This presents a BIG challenge to any business.
People will have less money to spend and with COVID-19 looming over us, small businesses will be more dependent than ever on marketing.
And digital marketing might be the key element needed to make sure your small business makes it through the difficult times ahead.
This is especially true for small businesses that have until now been getting customers through in-person networking and are behind the curve on digital marketing practices.
What does this mean?
Businesses will need to strategically move into digital marketing strategies like SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and video marketing.
According to Forbes, “Digital is likely to be the clear winner here, and companies – including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into social marketing, content marketing, SEO and influencer-led campaigns.”
- Adaptability is required to persevere.
- In the months ahead, there will continue to be barriers when meeting with prospective clients.
- And nobody knows if social distancing will be the “new normal.”
I continue to look at the one-two gut-punch of the global pandemic and recession from a marketing standpoint.
What’s a marketer to do? How can I help small business owners cope with what is going on? To not only survive but come out on the other end of this thing in a better position?
To change practices, find new ways to serve, and make it work with a sustained digital marketing strategy?
We are all pivoting in this crisis. But we need to do so in a smart, pragmatic, and thoughtful way. And with the economy starting to reopen, it’s time for you to take control of your marketing.
As a marketer, I want to help you reset your marketing and possibly reinvent the way you approach business.
Below are three ideas to help you implement a focused digital marketing strategy to see you through the tough times ahead…
1. Push your creative boundaries
Critical moments require clear thinking.
When business is booming, inactivity sets in and it’s easy to cruise along with little change. But during a crisis, the rules change quickly and things that worked in the past are off-limits or don’t work any longer.
The survival of your business depends on fortitude, creativity, and planning. And if you’re to readjust and recalibrate effectively, mindset is everything.
Instead of obsessing over the grave consequences of this situation look at it as a short moment in time.
Things will get back to normal and spending will resume. So an effective first step is to turn off the panic button and instead, look for opportunities. But how?
You must examine the tough process of how you’re going to put your business in a better position.
To look at where you are now, ask yourself the following: How is fear influencing my decision-making process at the moment?
What worst-case scenarios consume you?
Instead of obsessing over barriers, create a plan to get past them.
Shift your focus from these unhelpful thoughts and focus on your priorities for today.
Consider what you want, and follow these three steps to improve your situation:
- Find the holes in your marketing approach.
- Educate yourself on how to fix these gaps (I have a bonus suggestion on how to do this).
- Work on improving the weak spots.
Don’t let fear slow you down. Make friends with fear so you can start doing what needs to get done.
Lead your business to the light through a well thought out plan to promote.
See light, not darkness. And plan as you’ve never planned before…
2. Embrace a strategy-first mindset
Critical moments require strategic thinking.
In essence, marketing is a series of strategies to help you achieve specific business goals.
So strategy-first thinking means you need to clearly define the business objectives your marketing strategy will support.
This is because when the worst of the Coronavirus is behind us there will be better times.
In a recent MOZ Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fishkin spoke about preparing for the second and third waves that typically follow periods of recession and fear. He described how we’ll go through several waves with this crisis:
Wave 1: Nothing but COVID-19
Wave 2: We transition to a life online
Wave 3: The post-crisis “new normal.”
When these waves come you’ll want to have items in your marketing inventory ready to go. To prepare now for the post-crisis “new normal.”
This is why it’s important to make marketing investments in your business now (while your competitors are pulling back).
Research shows the businesses that invest in marketing during a recession tend to quickly outperform the competition as markets reopen.
So, how do you get started?
Carefully examine your current marketing efforts. Are there weak spots? Gaps that you can fill? Are you focusing on your buyer’s needs first?
I like to look at marketing as three distinct phases.
1. Research and Discovery
2. Consideration and Purchase
3. Repeat Business and Referrals
The phases are based on your ideal customer and how they search.
You need to think through how you’re moving people through these stages.
To build marketing that guides potential customers on their journey.
To improve your marketing take a close look at each step:
Research and Discovery
You could also refer to this as the know, like, and trust phase. It might include advertising, networking, referrals, website content, customer reviews, social media, blog content, SEO, and marketing materials.
As I mentioned earlier, research shows if you invest in marketing during a recession you have a better chance of outperforming the competition as markets resume.
So ask yourself the following to effectively plan for the second and third waves:
How do people discover my business?
How can I ensure they stick around and want to learn more?
Are blog posts enough? What about instructional videos? A helpful PDF checklist?
What about ads? Social media ads are at historically low prices. So, maybe now is a time to ramp up your ad spend.
How do we tweak our content so that after they discover our business, they like and trust us?
Consideration and Purchase
This is the try, decide, and buy phase and could include the following: Workshops, demos, training, eBooks, your service team, welcome kit, video training.
Remember with each of these phases you are looking to find the gaps in your marketing approach.
All marketing stages are crucial but this phase is especially important because it’s the point where they are thinking about becoming your customer.
Have you set up a way for them to try your offering?
If you provide services, have you made it clear to them what it will be like working with you?
If you have a product, are you providing a demo or trial version?
If they decide to buy is there a new customer onboarding process? Initial training? A welcome guide?
You want to provide a great customer experience early in their journey.
Teach. Help. Guide.
Repeat Business and Referrals
This is the stage many businesses omit. But it might just be the most important step in marketing.
What is your strategy for repeat business and referrals?
How are you serving your current customers? Ask yourself the following:
Have we made it easy for our customers to buy from us again?
Do we make it easy for customers to leave online reviews?
Are we actively engaging with them on social media?
And what about referral partners? Who can we collaborate with? How can we create mutually beneficial partnerships?
Don’t drop the ball when it comes to the following:
• After-sales service
• Satisfaction surveys
• Post project reviews
• Customer loyalty programs
• Online reviews
With each phase ask: How are we moving our ideal customer through the journey in a clear, thoughtful, and helpful way?
3. Act now
Critical moments require action.
It’s pointless to market your business without specific goals but without action you have nothing.
And now is a clear time for action. Think about this from your prospective clients’ point of view. Do you think they might be wary of a face-to-face meeting?
Probably, and who knows how long this will last. And if COVID unease will lead to longer-term change.
Years ago salespeople were the trust builders. Now, trust starts on a search results page. And with the strange new world we find ourselves in, this is more true than ever.
The face of your business is a Google search result, a helpful blog post, a glowing online review.
So, clarify, strategize, and set forth a plan of action to win in the digital space.
A good way to spark action is to visualize what you want at the end—happy customers.
Envision that last phase—a happy customer who will gladly leave a review and work with you again.
What if that was your goal?
What do you need to do to make THAT happen?
That’s how you start at the end and get moving.
Marketing will help your business survive (and thrive) but you need to drive it.
- Push your creative boundaries. (Critical moments require clear thinking.)
- Embrace a strategy-first mindset. (Critical moments require strategic thinking.)
- Act now. (Critical moments require action.)
I recently read a post by Joe Pulizzi, the founder of The Content Marketing Institute. The article was about our new normal and he wrote, “success later means dancing now”, and I completely agree.
Now is your time to dance with Clarity, Strategy, and Action.
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