Five ways you can use marketing to help your business survive the Coronavirus lockdown
Worried about the impact of Covid-19 on your business? We explain five ways you can use marketing to survive the lockdown.
The biggest fallout of the Coronavirus for most of us won’t be health-related. It’s far more likely to be financial. The current lockdown we’re experiencing is having a devastating effect on many businesses and freelancers, and as yet there’s no end in sight.
So what steps can you take to try to help your business or freelance work come through this period without taking too much of a hit? Or even losing everything?
As we shared last week, over a century of data shows that the businesses who continue to invest in marketing during difficult financial times, such as recessions and post-9/11, are the ones who continue to thrive. Not just through those tough times, but afterwards.
But exactly what kind of marketing should you be looking at right now? And if you don’t have any money to spend on marketing, what can you do?
To help you, here are five ways you can use marketing to help your business survive the Coronavirus lockdown.
1) Keep your existing customers with you – and happy
It’s much cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to gain a new one, so right now your key priority should be to keep your customers happy.
Not only does it make sense staying front of mind and letting them know you’re still open for business (and how to buy from you), but in times of uncertainty and crisis, we look for reassurance and stability.
So simply being there with a ‘business as usual’ type message will be a welcome sign of normality for your customers. It also builds trust that you’re a robust business who will be around for a while yet.
That said, simply ignoring what is happening and the impact on your customers’ lives will be tone deaf and unappreciated, so any messaging has to be reflective of the situation people are in, and how they’ll be feeling right now.
So how can you stay in touch? Here are some ideas.
Send out a Coronavirus announcement
If you haven’t done so already, prepare a formal announcement from your company about the Coronavirus. State how it has impacted your delivery of products or services (or not) and what you are doing to ensure you’re there for your customers.
Also explain how you are keeping your employees and customers safe (if relevant). The tone should be calm, confident, in control and reassuring. You can post the announcement on your website (perhaps as a blog) and share a link on social media, and send out by email.
Maintain your regular communications schedule
If appropriate, keep your messaging going out as normal. You may need to adjust the messaging, or frequency, but as far as possible, ensure that your business appears to be running unhindered by the pandemic, and ensure your customers remember you!
If you have any advice to help customers through this time, then share it in blogs, on social media and via email. Consider your target audience, the problems they may be facing right now, and your expertise.
Then offer up any wisdom or strategies that may help – whether they involve using your services or not. Being generous with your support now will earn greater loyalty in future.
Share your business innovations
You may well have needed to pivot your business to cope with the changed circumstances we find ourselves in right now. This could be by adapting delivery of your offering (many face-to-face classes, for example, are now talking place online) or by tweaking your entire business model slightly.
Whatever changes you have made, make sure you keep your customers updated through your usual channels. And also ensure that you highlight the benefit for them. Talk less about what you have done, and more about how you solve a problem for them.
Engage with your customers
Now is the time to make full use of social media to stay in touch with your customers. Not just to tell them about what you’re doing, but to listen to how they’re feeling and what they need right now, and respond appropriately.
Let them know you are there, that you care, and that you are running a business that genuinely wants to deliver value and solve their problems.
None of these ideas require any financial investment – just your time. And they are all things you can implement immediately using tools you already have.
2) Get in front of your target audience
Now, more than ever, it’s important to get in front of your target audience. After all, if people don’t know you exist, how can they buy from you? And right now, especially if there’s less business around, you need to make sure that customers are finding you.
It’s also important to do if you’re experiencing a business boom right now – if your business is more attractive right now then ride that wave as far as you can!
So what do you need to do? Put simply, you need to build awareness of your brand, and encourage potential customers to visit your website (or wherever they can learn more and sign up to or buy from you).
You need to ensure you are visible at each of the six stages of the buying process – from first discovering you, through to evaluating your offering, and finally to buying from you again.
One important reason why you need to remain as visible as possible right now, is the Mere Exposure Effect – the marketing phenomenon by which consumers develop a preference for your products or services merely because they are familiar with them.
So however you can get in front of your target audience – both new buyers and existing customers – make sure you do. Here are some suggestions to help you.
Run an ad campaign – even if your budget is tiny
If you have even a tiny budget, look at cost-effective ways you can keep your brand visible to potential customers. Think long-term; if you can get sales now, fantastic. But if all you do is add people to your mailing list via a freebie, or keep your message in front of people, then in the long run your investment will pay off.
You don’t need to spend a fortune, either. We run a high performing Facebook ad month in, month out for just £1 a day.
Work on your SEO
Make sure you work on your SEO too. Again, this isn’t likely to lead to a short term sales boost, but it’s a wise long term strategy that will help keep your brand visible in the right search results. (If you need help with SEO you can check out our SEO Kit for freelancers and small businesses here.)
Update your evergreen content
Update your evergreen content as well, and ensure that any valuable content is fresh and up to date. This can be shared on social media, in emails and newsletters and included in your SEO strategy (revisiting and updating content can help to improve your rankings in the search engines).
Consider guest blogging too. Can you get in front of someone else’s audience by contributing valuable content to their website, and vice versa? Invite people with a following of your ideal customers to write for you. They may well share their content with their followers, and lead them to your site.
Another good tactic to really leverage this is by collating an expert post with advice from several industry experts. Ask them all to share their best tips on a topic – like surviving the Coronavirus lockdown, for example!
These posts are popular and often get many shares on social media. Here’s an example of one we created with 16 quick small business marketing tips from the experts.
3) Focus on conversions
Whether you have fewer buyers right now, or are experiencing a boom (one business owner we spoke to has tripled her daily sales this month), it makes sense to maximise the conversions from any marketing efforts.
These conversions can be short term wins – as in more sales – or longer term activity, such as adding people to your mailing list.
So if this isn’t currently a focus, it’s a good time to make it one. Here are some ideas to try.
Plug any leaks in your user journey
Are you losing any buyers in your marketing journey? And if so, what’s the leak?
Consider the typical user journey:
- Awareness – They discover you exist.
- Interest – They find out more about you and what you do.
- Evaluation – They weigh you and your offering against other ways the might solve the same problem.
- Trial – They look for a low-risk way to get a sense of what it is like to be your customer.
- Adoption – They buy from you.
- Loyalty – They buy from you again and/or recommend you.
Do you have marketing activity for each stage? Are you successfully moving potential customers through the journey? Or are they falling out of huge gaps? You can read more about the journey, and what you need to do at each stage here.
Give excellent customer service
Now more than ever you need to ensure that your customer service is spot-on. You need to ensure that every interaction a customer, or potential customer, has with your company is as reassuring and positive as possible.
This means ensuring you are present and responsive, and putting out appropriate messages on social media.
It’s also important that you’ve tweaked your messaging to reflect the times we’re in, and make sure that your customers have the information they need. (Here are seven changes you should think about making to your website now.)
Check your bottom of the funnel activity
Have you given adequate thought to the bottom of your sales funnel? If people are ready, willing and able to buy, how easy are you making it for them to do so?
Is your purchase message and process easy to find and follow? Are you signposting customers appropriately?
And are you communicating with warm prospects and letting them know you’re still up and running, and how and when they can buy?
Have you tweaked your sales messaging to reflect the change in circumstances? Simply running old, pre-Coronavirus messaging won’t necessarily work right now.
So carefully consider what motivations your customers may have to buy right now, and alter your sales messaging to reflect it. (We show you how to build a complete sales funnel in our free business training.)
Do more of what works
If you haven’t done so already, review your conversions over the last few weeks, and work out what sales and marketing and activity and messaging is working best – and do more of it.
The key is to identify the activities that deliver the best return on investment (ROI). The less it costs to acquire a new customer, or the higher the lifetime value (LTV) of customers from a particular source, the better – and the more you need to focus on these areas.
It may seem obvious, but often we overlook the simple things!
4) Measure EVERYTHING
Which needs us nicely onto measuring. Every single thing you do in marketing – whether it’s paid advertising or organic social media posting – needs to be measured.
You need to know what is working, and what is not. Your resources are finite – not just your marketing budget, but your time, energy and attention – and you need to ensure that they’re focused on the areas that will give you the highest returns.
And not just marketing – every single thing you do in your business must contribute, however indirectly, to your bottom line. From the blogs you write, to the newsletters you send.
But you can’t measure in a vacuum. You need to know WHAT you are measuring against. This is why it’s essential to have clearly defined marketing targets and goals. KPIs that are aligned to your business goals, and will help you achieve the success you are working towards.
So how can you measure? Here are somethings to look at.
Have you set up Google Analytics for your website? If not, do it now. This will tell you how people are using your site, where they are coming from, and what content they are engaging with.
You can also set up Goals in Google Analytics that will follow and measure set journeys and results. You can find out how to set them up here.
Social media activity
What kind of impressions and engagement are your social media posts getting? Which platforms are delivering the best results? And what type (and time) of posts are working best?
This may change right now – the type of posts that are performing well now in lockdown may be different to those that people engaged with a month ago. So don’t assume that old data still holds.
If you’re investing in paid social media activity, check your ROI. Are you getting adequate value for money from your investment? In a tough market you need to ensure that your budget is spent as wisely as possible.
And this may seem obvious, but again it’s worth reinforcing: adjust your social media strategy to reflect any learnings you get from your measurements.
5) Experiment, test and learn
These are unprecedented times, and what previously may have worked for you may no longer still be as effective. There will also be new marketing opportunities to discover.
So now, more than ever, it’s important to experiment, test and learn. And when testing, think the minimum viable product approach (also known as fail fast, learn fast). That is, get a small test out quickly, learn, revise, and retest until you’re confident you’ve got a consistently successful strategy.
This is especially important now – our situation has changed fast, and may change quickly again. So it’s not time to ponder at length, and then construct a complex, lengthy marketing experiment that will yield results in six months. You need to act fast, learn quickly and adapt speedily.
Not sure what to test in your marketing? Here are 11 split tests you can try. The five key areas you traditionally test in marketing are:
- Calls to action (CTA)
The winners right now will be the cautious innovators – the businesses and freelancers who are brave enough to experiment and pivot if needed, but are also wise enough not to bet everything on a new ‘sure thing’.
So keep testing new ideas, learning from the results and implementing the strategies that work.
Keep calm and carry on marketing
The core message we hope you go away with from this article is that (as this data proves) now is not the time to stop all your marketing completely and hole up until the pandemic passes.
Your customers are still out there, and even if they’re not buying what you sell right now, they still want and need to see you. They’re also more likely to remember you once normal life returns if you’ve been consistently talking to them.
So you need to remain visible right now.
But ‘visible’ doesn’t have to mean spending money on advertising. As you can see from the ideas we’ve shared here, there’s much you can do to stay front of mind with your customers (and even reach new ones) without relying a big marketing budget – or indeed any marketing budget.
We hope you find this advice helpful. And if you’d love daily practical advice, join our free business training here.
Photo by Erik Mclean