Digital marketing during a downturn: how to market during COVID-19

Posted on 18/03/2020 by Team Hallam

The impact of COVID-19 is a concern to all of us, for health and for business. Here are 5 steps you can take for your business to thrive when times get tough.

The dreaded COVID-19 is causing panic, and as digital marketers, we may be facing leaner times as our businesses are putting a laser focus on profitability, and ensuring every cost gives the great return on investment.

The 5 steps you can take:

  1. Work smart to retain your existing customer base
  2. Get even more visible in front of your target market
  3. Focus on driving conversions
  4. Measure, measure, measure
  5. Test, learn, test

The 5 top digital marketing techniques to power your way through COVID-19

Businesses are looking more carefully at budgets, making sure we can squeeze every penny of profit out of our investments, and looking for the most cost-effective ways of delivering our products and services.

Marketing budgets may appear to be a soft target for businesses looking to make budget cuts. But a cut in marketing activity is a short term fix that is sure to have long term consequences. Maintaining visibility in your market is essential for long term profitability and continued investment.

And our customers are also watching the pennies, but they are still spending money. They may be spending less, but we need to figure out what they’re spending their money on. And they don’t want to risk wasting a penny. They want to buy the right products, from companies they can trust.


1.  Work Smart to Retain your Existing Customer Base

Out of sight means out of mind.  You need to keep in touch with your customers or you risk losing them.  And it is always cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.

  • Marketing automation is the lowest cost, easiest, and most effective way of keeping in touch with your customers.  I’m not talking sending automated email marketing spam, nor am I talking about broadcasting cold calling messages to get new customers.  You need to be sending out personalised, contextualised, targeted messages to existing customers who want to hear your news.  You need to be keeping in touch with your customers at every touchpoint in their digital journey through social channels, through exploring the web. And doing this systematically and automatically will ensure the job gets done, and will free up your more expensive human talents to deliver creative campaigns that will add even more ROI.
  • Content production is an essential ingredient for your tactical marketing campaigns for keeping in touch with your existing customers. Share the innovations that you are currently making that differentiates your offering from your competitors, and promote your good news stories in terms of awards and client wins. If you need inspiration for a B2B content marketing campaign, take a look here.
  • Getting more social means engaging in conversations with your existing customers.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook: these are places where you customers are reviewing your products, discussing their purchasing decisions, exchanging views on your business.  Create a low-cost plan for reaching customers at every point in the social media funnel. Use these tools to listen to your customers, hear what they’re talking about, learn more about your market.  And remember it isn’t about advertising – your contributions to the conversation need to be valuable and appropriate.

2.  Get Even More Visible in Front of Your Potential Clients

You have to build your brand awareness and get more visibility, which means driving visitors to your website to make the sales.  And one of the best times to get found by potential clients is when they’re searching for what you’re selling.  You need to get found at every stage of the purchasing lifecycle, from exploring new suppliers to evaluating specific offerings.

    • The Mere Exposure Effect is the marketing phenomenon by which consumers develop a preference for your products or services merely because they are familiar with them. Now is the time to explore low-cost techniques that will keep your brand visible in front of potential clients on a steady basis.  It may feel counter-intuitive, but setting aside an advertising budget for keeping your brand visible will deliver long term benefits. Focus on creating high-quality content that is going to get shared, and reduce your budget for generating low value, low impact content.
    • Update your evergreen content.  Your business has an archive of perennially relevant, interesting content that does not become dated and is still of value to your customers… and the search engines. Revisit your content, update it, give it a spring clean, with the objective of improving your rankings in the search engines.
    • What other people say about you is more important than what you say about yourself. Another low-cost way of getting visible in front of a larger pool of potential clients is to leverage the authority of other respected experts.

3.  Focus on driving conversions

A low cost, high impact digital marketing technique to focus on is conversion rate optimisation. Small incremental changes to the user journey will turn more of your website visitors into customers.

  • Social proof and positive stories about your business form an essential part of the content on your website. Revisit how you are using your cases studies, recommendations and reviews at every touchpoint in your marketing, and take the time to weave this content throughout your website, and share actively on social media.
  • Customer experience is king. Invest in your website to ensure you are giving a fast, personalised experience. And in terms of keeping costs down, remember that small changes on your website will have an outweighed impact on the final results.
  • Leverage artificial intelligence.   Now is the time to get up to speed on the latest developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence that will give your business a competitive advantage and access to the right prospective customers at the right time. Taking advantage of current developments in AI will drive down your cost per acquisition of new clients by ensuring you are getting the right message to the right person at the right time, and reducing waste.

4. Measure, Measure, Measure

If you don’t measure, then you can’t manage.  And if you’re not managing, then you could be pouring money down the drain.

Measuring means accountability for your marketing spend.  You need to be measuring against your success criteria.  You may want to measure sales, numbers of lead generated, upsells, or referrals. Now is the time to ensure you have defined your key performance indicators.

  • Configure your Google Analytics correctly. Ensure you are covering all the basics, and you are using the data to drive your marketing efficiencies. Do you have goals set up correctly? Have you connected your Search Console? Have you defined what you are measuring? Are you taking advantage of all the free data that Google Analytics provides to you that can shape your strategy?
  • Measure your social media ROI. When budgets get tight, you may need to make tough decisions on how you are going to spend your resources. One soft option might be to put the breaks on your social media activity. Social media can appear to be very time consuming and an optional non-essential activity. But before you make that decision, ensure you have explored how social media is contributing to your bottom line in terms of engagement, visibility, and profitability.

If marketing budgets are tight, then knowing what works makes it easier to make the decisions of where to invest your cash.

5. Test, Learn, Test

And finally, there is no one size fits all answer to the digital marketing puzzle.

You will need to be nimble and creative.  Measure your success, and learn from the experiment.

  • Experiments should be quick, cheap, and easy to deliver.
  • If it works, then well done, and more of the same, please.
  • And if it doesn’t work so well, then kill the experiment and move on.  No harm done.  Be quick and be ruthless.  You will have tested something, learned from it, and moving on to test something new.

Need more ideas for updating your digital strategies?

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Digital marketing during a downturn: how to market during COVID-19

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