Don’t Panic. Leverage Digital Marketing During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

By | 2020-03-23T08:27:03+00:00 March 23rd, 2020|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

Est. Reading Time: 7 minutes

Travel bans are in place. Restaurants are closed for dine-in service. Social distancing is the current collective mantra. As the world hermits itself, many brands are assessing what this means for their marketing budgets. With consumer spending pulling back and collective attention turned towards the continual flow of COVID-19 news updates, it may seem logical to spend less on marketing. But, for many companies, this may not be the best approach.

Not Spending is Not a Strategy

Marketing strategy is always about delivering the right message, at the right time, with the right medium, and to the right audience. This truth is consistent and enduring. Put into action, this also means that strategy must pivot anytime there’s a disruption – and the Coronavirus is certainly that disruption.

The knee-jerk reaction is to cut ad spend – and, if you are considering this, take a step back and breathe for a moment. Pulling back on ad spend isn’t a marketing strategy. Less marketing equals less sales and less visibility, which is the exact opposite of your goal and what you ultimately need for your business. And, considering no one knows how long this pandemic will last, ignoring the present climate will certainly make the road to recovery brutally long. After all, you can’t not market forever, can you? What’s your plan?

Our goal as marketers is to break through the noise and reach the customer. Just because this becomes more difficult, or “feels” fruitless, does not mean marketing is turned off. With recent reports stating that web usage is up 20-50%, it’s more important than ever to have a presence online and pivot your marketing plans. Rather than deciding how much to pull back, the focus should be on what medium to invest in and what message to deliver.  Seize the opportunity… wisely.

Even The Coronavirus Can Present Marketing Opportunities

Whether you’re 100% e-commerce, brick and mortar, or a little bit of both, you can still be successful with your digital spend. The key is to find the right mix and define a strategy rather than “click,” turning it off. Consider moving dollars from a direct response (lower funnel approach) to building brand awareness (top of funnel). This is true for the Ford Motor Company, who shelved ads for their new product launches and instead, redirected focus on new spots touting “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now.” The point here is to stay connected with your current audience and create new connections by showcasing your brand to the larger audience that is online because they are at home. Opportunity!

And yes, you may not be Ford, but you have options. Other brands are introducing new, timely calls-to-action. Dunkin Donuts is giving extra points to those in the DD Perks programs for on-the-go ordering. Sling TV is providing free access to news and entertainment. And, One Medical has offered 24/7 virtual care to its members. These are all great examples of marketable offers that pivot digital strategy to respond to today’s climate.  These ads shine to the online audience because they are different, they feel personalized and, consequently, keep conversions and awareness high.  Opportunity!

Pull Back on Ad Spend Only If You Must

Marketing strategies will vary during this period depending on the type of business. Some will choose to stay the course. Some will pull back partially, and yes, some may pull back completely. Before jumping to the latter, consider moving ad spend around to save where you can – but avoid completely disappearing.

Focus on your top awareness drivers. Invest in building your brand and conversions that are relationship builders. Spend where there’s still ROI, even if the benefit to your business takes a little longer. But, you really shouldn’t go dark. 87% of consumers who interact with a brand daily feel more loyal to them – and this number falls drastically as the length of time since last interaction increases.

Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Maintain your connection to some degree, particularly as your competitors dial back and cost goes down. This helps to bridge the gap and helps you get back to full speed when the time comes. Opportunity!

Also keep in mind that the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) projects a 7.1% increase in global media spend based on the expectation that marketers will simply withhold spend until later in the year. The surge in demand later in the year will drive up competition and prices, making acquiring (and reacquiring) customers potentially more expensive than ever before. Staying connected, even somewhat, will reduce the ramp up and deliver a lower blended ROI when compared to a stop-and-go approach.

In Summary: Adjust to the Coronavirus, Not Away From It.

Again, take a very deep breath. Let it out. And, maybe consider taking another one.

Now do what you always do.

Yes, disruption abounds. Resist the urge to throw in the towel. Adjust your strategy to keep your brand alive, visible and relevant to your audience with special messaging and/or new offers. Take advantage of the situation as your competitors panic and ad costs are driven down. Speak to your audience differently, showing that you are still here… and care… and ready when the pandemic clouds dissipate.

We know it’s difficult. Beacon recommends that you calmly assess your particular business’s situation and plan accordingly. Don’t go ALL-IN and don’t FOLD. Stay in the game. Now is the time to collaborate and brainstorm.  Assess the data, as customer visits are probably different. Pay attention to items being put in shopping carts without checking out, more browsing of your products (pageviews), an increase in virtual tours and other low-risk, stay-at-home activities. Opportunity!

And when the world returns to normalcy, and it will, you will be ready. As always, the Beacon Team is here and available if you need guidance.

About the Author:

Andrea Cole
With 13+ years of SEO, paid search and Google Analytics experience, Andrea is Beacon’s “chief digital strategist,” working directly with our Higher Education clients and large commercial accounts. Her in-depth review of Husson University’s website led to an overhaul of the keyword and content targets of 100+ pages within their degree and program content, significantly improving search visibility. Andrea earned a B.A. in Communication Studies from UNC Chapel Hill, is certified in Google Analytics and is invited annually to Google’s exclusive GA Summit. She recently served as an adjunct professor in Wake Forest University’s MSBA Program and led a conference seminar for improving site search and SEO in Higher Education. Andrea is also the author of The SEOptimist blog, which provides useful tips and informative articles on SEO, PPC and Web Marketing.