Navigating Marketing in the Time of COVID-19

Google continues broadening keyword targeting

As the world at large is dealing with unprecedented changes to daily life, consumerism, and market conditions caused by COVID-19, all brands are facing unique challenges with no playbook or guidelines to follow. While some industries are expecting major booms (grocery, delivery services, telecommunications), others have had to shut down completely (hospitality, travel, events). However, many industries and brands fall somewhere in the middle, still able to operate in some capacity but experiencing sales declines as consumers are uncertain of the future.

This leaves many marketers wondering, “Where do we go from here?” There’s a lot to consider when going to market in the current global environment; adjusting marketing goals, understanding shifts in media consumption, and being mindful of messaging can help marketers to adapt their strategies to more effectively connect with consumers. 

RE-EVALUATE GOALS AND KPIS

The first thing for marketers to understand is that consumer behavior is going to change for the foreseeable future and no amount of marketing will stop that. Job security concerns and steep stock market drops will undoubtedly impact consumerism and your marketing performance. In the past 3 weeks, Google has reported an average 21% drop in PPC conversion rates. However, there are ways to go to market effectively and to proactively address the changes COVID-19 will have on your brand in the coming weeks and months.

Instead of clinging to historical benchmarks and sales goals, now is the time to build awareness, grow brand equity, and maintain relationships with your customers. Focusing on historical ROI goals will set many brands up for failure while diminishing the brand’s visibility in the marketplace. Instead, shifting your goalposts towards awareness and brand perception will help keep your brand in front of audiences and maintain – or even grow – your brand equity while your sales goals are adjusted. Now is also the time to drive site traffic and build up your retargeting pools and email database so you have a robust and qualified audience to engage with when the market begins to turn around. 

ADJUST YOUR MEDIA MIX TO ALIGN WITH SHIFTING MEDIA CONSUMPTION HABITS

As Americans self-isolate in their homes for the foreseeable future, time spent online is expected to skyrocket. Nielsen has reported that “when consumers stay at home amid broadly disruptive events, their media consumption rises nearly 60%.” In particular, we can expect to see an increase in video streaming views, social media usage, traffic to news sites, and search activity as people seek entertainment, social connection, and up-to-date information. 

This change in media consumption in the coming weeks and months gives brands ample opportunity to get their message in front of target audiences. Conveniently, media channels seeing the most growth in usage align perfectly with the goals of driving awareness and brand equity, which are now more important than ever. By increasing ad spend in awareness-driving channels like online video, connected TV, social media, and streaming audio, brands can take advantage of the shifting media consumption habits and stay connected to audiences during the pandemic. However, it’s very important to make sure your messaging and content are appropriate and helpful for your audiences as their priorities and needs change. 

ADAPT MESSAGING TO ADDRESS THE CHANGING NEEDS OF YOUR AUDIENCE

It’s important to be mindful of your messaging at this time to avoid coming off as exploitative or insensitive. Messaging that has been historically successful, such as promotions or hard selling, will likely no longer resonate with audiences. As feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and boredom become more prevalent, people are seeking uplifting and quality content. Brands who take the time to alter messaging in an effort to connect with audiences in meaningful and positive ways will come out on top. 

Messaging that features leadership and promotes your company’s response will help maintain trust, especially in this uncertain time. So, now is a good time to make sure your site’s content is in an ideal state – update your content to clearly outline how COVID-19 has impacted your business and what that means for consumers (longer wait times for deliveries or responses, new disinfectant policies, new hours of operations, shortages in products, etc.). Remember: managing expectations is crucial to keeping users calm and satisfied, so focus on making it as easy as possible for consumers to get the answers they need. For example:

  • If you provide healthcare, have easy-to-find pages that outline help for members and the general public, which are linked to from the homepage for easy findability. If your company doesn’t have the answer, link to a site that does, like the CDC.
  • If you provide delivery services, update your homepage to clearly outline zip codes you deliver to (if you’re a local company) and make it clear on your site and social media if you are or are not delivering during social distancing. Include information about cleanliness protocols the company is taking, even if these were your processes well before the virus.
  • If you provide tech solutions, audit and update your FAQs with a focus on remote troubleshooting and to make sure you have answers to recent questions from internal site search or social channels. Consider posting an expected wait time on tech tickets with a note about increases. 

Regardless of industry, COVID-19 will likely disrupt your consumer journey as everyone’s priorities and needs change. Focusing on lead nurture, helpful content, and a premium site experience will keep your audiences engaged and can set you up for success when life begins to return to normal. 

NOW IS THE TIME TO EVOLVE YOUR MARKETING STRATEGIES

It’s pretty clear at this point that COVID-19 will be a major aspect of our lives for a long time to come and will cause many disruptions along the way. It’s an unprecedented time for marketers and we are all trying to navigate how best to evolve in a way that benefits our brands and consumers alike. Although information and predictions are changing on an hourly basis, here are some strategies that can be put in place now to proactively address the changes that COVID-19 will have on your business: 

  • Re-evaluate your goals and KPIs to be realistic in today’s environment and focus on awareness and brand building while we have the time
  • Be aware of the changes in media consumption among your target audience and leverage the increased time spent online
  • Adapt your messaging to the changing needs of your audience and provide useful and helpful content to maintain strong relationships 

In the meantime, Nina Hale will be keeping a close eye on relevant industry news, emerging trends, and media performance to ensure our clients are informed and ahead of the curve.

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