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Blog & News

Marketing During Uncertain Times

By Lindsey LaMair | VP of Strategy, Head of Marketing & Small/Medium Business
A woman sits at her home office desk stressed out

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’re well aware that the world has almost completely turned upside down. Whether you’re a business owner or not, we’re all facing a new normal. In times of uncertainty, it’s hard to know what to do next when it comes to your marketing. Do you pull back and conserve cash or do you hit your marketing efforts harder to capture a new customer base and keep cash flowing in? With the market changing constantly and how we’re being forced to adapt to new conditions for working, shopping, and living, the question becomes: where do we go from here?

What strategies can I use to redefine my marketing strategy?

There are hundreds of different things you can test out with your marketing right now, and ultimately it’s going to look different for every business depending on your industry, target market, and cash flow.

Whatever you decide to do with your marketing, there are a few strategies you can look to help guide your decision making process.

  • Connect with your current customers
  • Maximize your time when it comes to marketing
  • Don’t be afraid to capitalize on the new normal
  • Continue to keep your future goals in mind

Should you decrease your marketing spend?

This really depends on your business. Keep an eye on incoming revenue—obviously you don’t want to overspend if there’s nothing coming in— but if you believe there’s a good ROI, continue advertising. With fewer people out, and more people online, emphasize digital ad spend as much as possible to reach customers where they are for most of their day.

Connect with your current customers

Whether or not things are still business as usual for your organization, the most important thing right now is communicating with your customers. If you are still open for business or if you are closed completely, letting your current customers know what’s going on will help you maintain those customers through this difficult time.

What kind of updates are they looking for?

It doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, the simpler the better right now. Communicating what you are doing and communicating that often will allow you to share updates, specials, and changes to your business as they develop in real time. When it comes to planning content to share with current customers, here are a few things you can ask yourself to get started:

  • Are you still conducting business? How has your process changed?
  • Are there any disruptions to normal business they need to be aware of?
  • How are you taking care of your customers & employees?
  • What is your core call to action for customers right now?

If we have to be closed, how can I still conduct business?

A lot of you are probably wondering how you can redefine your processes to continue to work with your customers right now. For some industries, closing completely is unavoidable, but for others, you might be able to use this time to make some significant advances in using technology to connect with customers in ways you haven’t thought of before. While normally you might not consider doing virtual events, local delivery, or curbside appointments, now might be the time to try some new things.

E-commerce, online payments, or virtual consultations are also great ways to continue working with customers while we’re socially distancing. Chances are that even without a full-fledged e-commerce site you can still feature some of your products online and offer phone orders, virtual consultations, or sales meetings.

Use Your Time Wisely

One of the strangest changes that has come with this pandemic is the composition of our time. Some of us feel busier, some of us have a lot more free time, and we can switch back and forth between the two fairly quickly. Regardless of which category you fall into right now, it’s still important to work smarter, not harder, when it comes to your marketing during this time.

Meet your customers where they’re at

The one constant with the majority of consumers now is they are at home. Because of this, you have more of their attention than ever. If you’re struggling to figure out where to start with marketing during this time, focus on connecting with your customers at home, using social media and email to your advantage.

Social Media

Consumers are using their mobile phones for everything now, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether it’s scheduling online delivery, video calling friends or family, or getting updates from social media, you can guarantee that mobile phone usage for your target audience is on the rise.

Email Marketing

If you don’t have an email list yet, now is the time to put one together. If you have started to dabble in email marketing, this is also a good time to take your strategy to the next level. Email marketing takes some upfront time investment to get started, but once you have a strong grasp on your email list and customer segments, you can do a lot of different things with it.

Using your existing email list, you can segment out your lists and create labels to send out different messaging to different groups of people. Some good segment examples include:

  • One-time customers
  • Repeat customers
  • Potential customers
  • Customer birthdays and anniversaries

Start collecting followers now and reap the benefits of a consumer base who is likely working from home and communicating heavily over email.

What’s next?

If you already have a strong strategy through social media and email marketing, you may be asking yourself what the next step is to continue to expand your reach.

  • Text Messaging—If users are communicating more over email than they normally do, chances are they aren’t going to mind getting updates or offers through text messaging either.
  • Search and Display Ads—If you haven’t taken the jump to try advertising on search engines or through display and remarketing, now may be the time to do it. We know that times of uncertainty shake up the market place. Depending on your industry, you may be able to get clicks for far cheaper than normal with a less competitive market. This also focuses on meeting consumers where they’re at: on their devices. This strategy gives you a chance to reach customers while they are searching for keywords related to what you do or displaying image ads on websites and apps they visit most.
  • Video Ads—Similar to search and display ads, video advertising is another great way to gather a lot of impressions for a relatively low cost. With so many people at home looking for content, YouTube and YouTube TV as well as other streaming services are on the rise. Producing some usable video content during this time is a great investment of both time and money.

Capitalize on “the new normal”

One thing we know for certain is that we may never fully come back to normal after this is over. Your time is going to look different and that’s something you can embrace rather than avoid.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try with your marketing but have never had the time to devote to it? Uncertain times can give you a chance to take risks. You can be bold and try out new strategies that you would normally push to the back burner—it will likely make less of an impact if it fails.

Take a look at your brand presence. Is it time for a refresh or even a rebrand? Is it time to introduce a new product or service you’ve been putting off? Is your website doing what you need it to? Now’s the time. You’ll likely be as busy as ever catching up when things return to normal. Better to adapt to this “new abnormal” now and exploring what it can do to transform your business.

Keep your future goals in mind

So far, we’ve talked about easy ways to adjust your marketing strategy while we’re in the thick of uncertainty, but what happens as we start to return to “business as usual?” Historically speaking, one of the best ways to weather the storm when it comes to times of uncertainty or economic stress is to continue to market your business. It sounds counterintuitive to spend money, but if we know one thing for certain about coming out of this pandemic it’s that advertising is going to pick up.

Website Revamp

Refreshing your website can sometimes be fairly straightforward, other times it requires you to throw out everything and rebuild from the ground up. Using this time to invest in your website will have benefits now and in the long run. If you’re not sure if now is the time for a website change, ask yourself these questions to start:

  • Are you happy with your content management system?
  • Can you add and edit the content your customers need to see?
  • Does your website reflect your brand and your goals?
  • Is it secure and mobile-friendly?
  • Are you ready to add a shopping cart or a new feature to take your business online?

Consider your timeline, budget, and how quickly you need these changes before getting started. Know that investing in your website is a long-term strategy but one that has the capacity to completely change how you do business.

Content Marketing & SEO

Between trying to reach your customers as quickly and frequently as possible and changes to your business in general, it can be difficult to continue working on your SEO at the same time. SEO is a long-term strategy, but now is not the time to completely abandon your efforts. If you haven’t taken a look at it in a while, or haven’t gotten started yet, here are a few places to start:

Build your keyword list

The most important thing to do before you get started on your SEO is figuring out where to channel your energy. Where do you want to show up? What key phrases are important to you? You might not know every single keyword phrase or query you want to rank for when you start this process, but giving yourself a starting point keeps things from getting too overwhelming. Start by making a list of what’s important to you—the most common queries that you think (or know) are driving traffic to your business.

A good old fashioned brain dump into a spreadsheet is a great way to start, but you can also use some free tools to build your list. Installing Google Search Console on your site allows you to see what keywords are driving traffic to your site, and utilizing Google Ads Keyword Planner helps to build a list of keywords based on what people are bidding on for ads. Both of these tools require a Google account, but that’s a small price to pay for some free marketing knowledge.

Look at your current keyword rankings

Once you have a keyword list, you can start looking at where your website ranks. The easiest way to test this is to get on a few different search engines (you can use Google Analytics to determine where your top traffic is coming from) and search for your services or products and service area. A good example of this is “fresh flower delivery in des moines” or even just “flower delivery” (Google knows where you’re located).

For all of your top keyword phrases, make a list of where your business appears and what other sites show up. You might find out you’re in a better position than you thought or you have national competition you weren’t aware of.

Be sure to search for a wide range of keyword phrases and question-based queries. Questions are becoming increasingly more common as the popularity of voice search ramps up. And if you really want to get a good idea of where you show up for local searches, have your whole team do these searches from home on a private browser and on their phones; Google uses your location and past search history to tailor your results specifically to you rather than mimicking what searches might look like for your customers.

Identify where you need to improve

With an average of 600 algorithm updates each year, you can guarantee that you’re never going to be 100% perfect in your search engine rankings. This is a long term strategy that takes years of consistent effort and adjustments, so why not work on it now.

If there are keywords where you want to rank better, you can work on this with some on-site SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Take those target keywords and start to naturally work them into your website. Update your headings, meta titles, and meta descriptions on every page to help users and search engines understand what you do, and remember that the most important thing you can do to invest in your website is create original, high-quality content. Posting regular blog articles, updating your static content, or creating FAQ sections to answer more specific questions is a great way to keep your content fresh, relevant, and centered around your top keywords.

Google My Business & Listing Optimization

Claim Your Listing

Do you have ownership of your Google My Business listing? Is it filled out with updated information?
Your listing is how you get on Google Maps and it requires you to verify that you work at or own the business. You can verify via business phone line or postcard.

Once your listing is claimed, you can update all your business information including:

  • Amenities
  • Hours
  • Categories
  • Service Area(s)
  • Special circumstances or temporary information

Have you added temporary information?

If your business information has changed during this time, you can update your listing to reflect that. If you have different hours or are closed to the public, update it as often as you can to keep that information current and accurate. Add “Special Hours” if your business hours have changed, change your listing to “temporarily closed” if you aren’t serving the public, or let customers know that you are open and offering delivery or pick up at your location. You can do this outside of COVID-19 too; Google My Business also

offers special hours for holidays and announcements for new service offerings.

Encourage Customer Reviews

Saying this is a crazy time is an understatement, but the key to remember is we are all in this together. Whether you are a business owner or a consumer, or both, finding ways to support each other is more important than ever. If you’re adjusting your service or going out of your way to continue to serve your customers, can you get reviews from customers who are happy with the changes? It’s a good time to collect reviews from customers because most of the time people are just so thankful to still be able to buy things, get service, or continue working on projects. Even if you’re B2B, reviews are still very important to help boost the relevancy of your Google My Business listing and let customers know you are still open and working. A simple ask for a review when people complete a purchase or communicating with your regular clients is all it takes.

What’s next for marketing in 2020?

Whether your business is closed or beginning to think about reopening, it’s important to communicate what you are doing to respond to the current circumstances as much as possible. As we begin to define the new normal, trying out new things with your business strategy and marketing are going to be an integral part in the difference of surviving or thriving for the rest of 2020.

If you aren’t sure where to start, feel free to reach out to the Webspec digital marketing team. We’re happy to have a consultation to get you on the right path:

Lindsey LaMair

When Lindsey graduated from Iowa State with a degree in English, she had no idea that it would actually lead her to a career in digital marketing—especially since web design ended up being her least favorite class in college. Her background in technical communication serves her well when creating digital marketing campaigns for the wide range of industries that we see at Webspec. Since she joined the team in 2013, she’s seen her career in SEO grow into a passion. Her skills and love for search marketing eventually led to a selection as a finalist for Young Search Professional of the Year at the 2015 US Search Awards. When she’s not managing the creative side of the business, Lindsey loves teaching fitness classes at Power Life, traveling around the world, and cheering for the Cyclones.