How to Manage Your Digital Marketing During a Pandemic?

We are all dealing with unfolding changes to our daily lives that are not familiar to any of us.

Many of those changes require us to consider implications for the way we do our jobs that we have never considered before.

Firstly, we are all in this together, and we want to come out the other side together. That is one message that we can hopefully all jump on. That may mean making some sacrifices to our normal way of life to look after the health of our colleagues, customers, friends and loved ones.

While all businesses will hopefully prioritise that, we also have a responsibility to continue to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Like us, working conditions have probably changed for many of you, and all sorts of other challenges may have been thrown your way too - not least of all in how you approach your marketing in upcoming months.

There is no one size fits all guide to digital marketing at the best of times and given the unknowns of upcoming months that is even more the case now. It would be mighty presumptuous for us to spell out exactly what marketing decisions your business should take in 2020… and we are not going to try to do that.

However, there are some general principles that will apply to many businesses. Our hope for this article is that you get some positive ideas that inspire you to continue to approach your marketing with enthusiasm. What unfolds in 2020 may actually present some fantastic opportunities to share what your brand is really about and what your company really stands for. 

Team Health

Many of our natural rhythms of connection have been disrupted in the past couple of weeks with the risk of disconnection and isolation.

The new heroes in this fragmented environment are the people connectors; the leaders of small groups, the project managers and others who are natural social glue for our teams.

Connection is part of the new currency. It comes at a cost to those who are working hard at connecting so we will need to give them extra resources and appreciation.

Client Communication

Keep communicating with your clients and remember that communicating is something that happens in both directions. Being a good listener is as important now as ever. Being able to listen effectively might require adapting to new channels of communications that your clients are using. Or perhaps even helping your clients get set up on those channels.

If required, explore new methods to communicate with your clients, via chat tools like Slack, or video conferencing tools like Tandem. For transparency on the progress of projects, consider management tools like Asana and Monday.com. 

We need to make sure that lines of communication in both directions remain open.

Need assistance setting up new lines of communication with your clients? Get some personalised tips and recommendations for doing that 

SEO

SEO is not an overnight thing and never has been. So this is one area that is particularly important to maintain a long term outlook. If you try to get by without SEO for 6 months or more then it will mean a long, a very long term recovery is required after that. 

An excellent analogy for SEO is that it’s a lot like exercise. You don’t always see the benefits of exercise overnight but if you keep at it you do see the benefits. You could stop exercising and not notice much difference in a few days or even a couple of weeks. However, the amount of effort it takes to get fit again after a long period of inactivity is much harder than maintaining fitness over the same period of time.

It may be that over the next few months there are competitors that drop the ball in this department. For those that keep at it the rewards could be even greater than usual when a recovery period happens. 

Making Notes in Analytics

When we are impacted by unforeseen events there is a very high chance that typical website data is being impacted as well. It’s natural to check graphs now and notice drops or spikes associated with the current circumstances. The question is, how will you look at that in 3 months time? Or 6? Or 12?

Google Analytics is a widely used tool that allows you to track your website traffic and measure user behaviour in many different ways. It is a resource that provides useful insights that help shape digital strategy and to educate decisions based on real data instead of gut feeling.

By creating annotations in Google Analytics you will be able to look back and analyse how your website performed during the year. If there was a major announcement by your company, make a note in analytics. If you send out a newsletter, make a note.

If the government makes an announcement related to your industry, make a note.

There may be some great opportunities to learn valuable insights about your customers and your website interactions in the coming months. The task of understanding all of that can be much easier when you have a thorough timeline of notes in your Analytics. 

Using annotations to mark any important dates or events will help you give your reports better context and give you a better perspective and understanding of how your audience interacted with your brand throughout the year.

Building Your Team

Dealing with a crisis can be incredibly hard, even harder when you have no control over the circumstances - the situation moves very fast and everything seemingly becomes increasingly uncertain. As much as you feel it, others in your team may feel it even more acutely. One of the best things you can do is provide stability for your team and that will in turn build stability for your customers. But how do you provide stability in a situation that by definition is inherently unstable?

Firstly, have a plan. It needs to be clear, simple but most importantly flexible. People often confuse stability with a lack of change. However, if you can hold fast to your cultural core values, and can execute a plan, you have a very good chance at controlling your outcomes. Don’t wait for things to happen to you, be proactive and role play all the potential circumstances that may impact your business and build your plan around that.

Once you have a plan it is crucial your people know about it. You don’t need to pretend to have all the answers but you can keep your team up to date on why certain decisions are being made.

Email & Newsletter Communication

By now your inbox has no doubt been flooded with updates from businesses regarding changes to their operations during the current pandemic. It can feel a little overwhelming. However, I encourage you to look at it from a different perspective - it can be reassuring to know how quickly everyone is adapting to the situation and showing genuine care and concern for the wellbeing of others. 

If care and concern for others is a genuine position of your company then there is very little brand messaging that needs ‘crafting’. Just let people know what your company would like to do to help out during challenging times.
Emails are one of the best communication channels to leverage during this time as a way to keep your customers informed of any changes to your business operations i.e. a change in business hours, staff working remotely, changes in communication methods, online options to access your service, increased hygiene and social distancing measures.

Perhaps you could also take this opportunity to share content within your emails that brings your readers some joy; a work-from-home tip, brain teaser, or something to make their day a little easier. 

Continue to keep your brand alive and continue talking to your connections during this time. This is a challenging time and as more changes unfold, keeping the lines of communication open is vital.

Innovative Thinking

One of the core values which had been central to our identity at Orange Digital is Outsmart the Impossible (another value is Infectious but let’s talk about that one another time). Right now businesses and organisations across the globe are being forced to outsmart the impossible or consider the real possibility of going out of business. 

The good news is that with discipline, innovative thinking can be practiced. One fun technique we use to challenge the status quo and kickstart creative thinking is Making It Ridiculous. The goal isn’t to jump to solutions immediately, but go through a thinking exercise to break down barriers and broaden thinking. It can be harder than it sounds to share your most imaginative ideas, but once you get the hang of it you may start seeing everything in a new light. 

A great way to use this technique is once a week as part of team standup. Start by putting forward one assumption about your business – this can be anything… about your customers, your offerings, or even the way you work etc. Then, person by person, go around and Make It Ridiculous by using the phrase “What if ________”.

Let's outsmart the impossible together Contact us to get some ideas flowing 

Social Media

Be sure you’re going viral for the right reasons.

As businesses continue to implement social distancing and other measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to rethink the content you are putting in front of the eyes of your customers and potential customers.

Social media can have an important role to play for remaining in touch with your customers during this time. Be prepared to engage in conversations with your customers or clients online and listen to what they’re talking about and what their real needs are. In response, provide valuable content that answers their questions and/or needs.

Google Ads

For many businesses the initial reaction to paid advertising might be “That’s it! Pause EVERYTHING”, because it’s an immediate cost cutting measure which can be tempting.

However, it is also important to understand there may be other associated costs if that is done.

At the very least it is important to ensure that your Google Ads are properly reflecting your business’s actual products and services available at this time. Edit your ads to let customers know whether you’re open for business and if there are changes to your usual delivery or supply. Now might not be the time to promote “free express shipping” if that is not realistically available. 

If your product is temporarily unavailable, it doesn’t necessarily mean pausing all ads, but instead be transparent in your ad copy. One option might be to encourage people to join a waiting list and be notified when the products become available again. Inaccurate ad copy that causes frustration leads to a poor customer experience, and that is true at any given time. 

Depending on what services or products your company supplies, also remember that your search ads only continue to serve if someone is still looking for them. So be creative about how you entice that person to become a customer even if it means inviting them to come back to you in the future. 

Thinking about the future, if things are slowing down and you are trimming down on your campaigns, now might be an excellent time to shift your resources to an account clean up. 

Here are a few things you may like to review over the coming months: 

  • Have you been spending money on unnecessary keywords (e.g. new search terms coming through that could be added as negative keywords)? 
  • Does it make sense your ads stay the same as they have been for the last few months? 
  • Are you following Google Best practices with bidding strategies? 
  • How are current landing pages performing? 
  • Could you invest in building landing pages now? 

When business starts to kick back up, knowing you have a clean and fresh Google Ads account could be in your best interest. That way you are well positioned to capture increasing search volumes when that time comes.

General Marketing

Just because you are faced with a crisis or constantly changing situation doesn’t mean your existing marketing strategy must go out the door. A good marketing strategy should always be flexible enough to adjust and tweak to your current environment. Fair enough, that what we are seeing happen in 2020 might call for some bigger adjustments and tweaking than usual. Take a few minutes though to have a breather and work out what could stay.

Having a long term / big picture strategy is important, but dividing it into those smaller quarterly focuses is also key. You might need to revisit your strategy and check that what you have planned for this financial quarter and possibly even the next is still the right fit. 

For instance, if your strategy was around increasing sales, then you might need to review the tactics and channels used, and work with your team to review your offering - do you need to tweak/revise your product/service? Are there new product and service opportunities in your industry that are now available?  

This is also a great opportunity to explore marketing ideas that you wouldn’t normally consider. For example, there was a recent story about a florist who was offering free hand sanitizer bottles to everyone who ordered a bouquet - definitely thinking out-of-the-box for their industry. A short time ago, this would have been weird, however now, those flowers are walking out the door (in the hands of a courier anyway)!

It is those businesses that don’t stop trying, who constantly keep evolving and trialling new products, services, marketing tactics, that are the ones who will come out of a crisis stronger. 

Feeling stuck for ideas? Use the form at the bottom of this page for a helping hand 

Google My Business Pages

Your Google My Business (GMB) page/s can often be an overlooked channel of communication with clients and potential clients.

If search terms for your brand name on Google return a GMB page in the search results then this is of particular importance.

If there are changes to your opening hours, service availability, or appointment requirements, be sure to update that information on your GMB Page.

Here are a few quick links from Google on communicating with your customers:

Google announced in recent days that due to their own staffing limitations, reviews and Q&A will be unavailable for an indefinite period. So if you have a proactive campaign encouraging Google reviews (generally an excellent idea) just note that new reviews won’t be approved in the immediate future (and may never be), so probably best pausing those initiatives for the time being.

However, other updates to your GMB page will still apply. If you haven’t posted to your GMB Page before, it’s quite simple and it’s a handy place to update any relevant news about your brand. There is even an option to post a Covid-19 specific post. When we updated that post for Orange Digital the info was reflected in online search on the live GMB page within 15 mins. 

If you are feeling really adventurous you can even upload a video message to post to your GMB page. Perhaps now is a great time to get familiar and in the habit of updating your GMB page.

Share Your Challenges, Ideas & More

As mentioned at the start of this article, we are all in this together, and we want to come out the other side together. Health for sure, but businesses too.

At Orange Digital we would like to offer our support to other businesses where we can.

Let us know what challenges you are facing now or you think might be coming your way. 

We may be able to offer support with a brainstorming session, or offer other resources, tips and ideas that you could use for approaching those challenges.

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It's true that everything is easier when we work together. Like writing this article, which was a collaborative work featuring contributions from the following superstars at Orange Digital:

Mike Woodrow - CEO
Thays Travaglia - Project Manager
Scott Peers - Search Manager
Cintia Souza - SEM/SEO Manager
Matt Pfeffer - Team & Operations
Isabelle Debnam - Marketing Lead
Gavin Brodie - Team Culture & Product Innovation
Shae Haddow - Marketing Coordinator
Jamie Cuskelly - Search Marketing
Liz Ballantyne - Senior Marketing Manager