With more than half of the United States reopening or relaxing stay-at-home restrictions, everyone’s gaze is looking toward the end of the global pandemic. While there is no true “end” in sight (many businesses will still enforce social distancing and masked attendance), there will be a loosening of restrictions and a universal move toward normality. Many brick and mortar stores will reopen. Some employees will go back to work. However, the world and how we do business will be forever changed.
For businesses already thinking of how they will recoup their losses and ramp-up (or restart) their marketing efforts, now is a great time to plan out those efforts. It’s also a great time to take the learnings you’ve gained from the past 6 to 8 weeks and devise a newer, better strategy.
But here’s the truth: The world is not going to instantly snap back to normal. Consumer behavior has changed and perception of what is acceptable will need time to expand. Shipping companies are still seeing backlogs and fast shipping may be delayed for another few weeks, if not months. Social Media, Organic Search, and Streaming usage are way up. Travel, in-person entertainment, and discretionary spending are way down.
WHEN IS “AFTER COVID-19”
What will constitute “business as usual” will vary widely depending on your business and industry. When we think “After COVID-19” we are not thinking of a definitive date but a series of observational data to show when engagement across marketing channels begins to rebound. Much like the strategy to reopen the U.S., your business should take a phased approach to kickstart your marketing. Here are the phases we recommend:
PHASE 1: WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
Monitor your Current Performance:
With slowdowns across the board, now is the time to monitor your digital performance across channels. Many companies have slashed PPC and digital advertising budgets while ramping up on Content Marketing and Paid Social.
- What has it netted you?
- What is performance MoM? WoW?
- What trends or new engagement behaviors have emerged?
Ideally, your team is closely monitoring performance and spend. It’s important now more than ever to have a full picture of how all channels are working together or against each other. Do a quick audit or all up review of your COVID-19 Marketing efforts. Things to include:
- What channels have you reduced spend or paused?
- Reduced Spend: Note the reduction and when it went into effect
- Paused: Note any paused campaigns and when the stops went into effect
- Increased Spend: Note any increases or shifts in budget
- How are channels performing?
- Pre: All of Q4 2019 can be considered Pre-COVID-19. While in the U.S. news started to increase around early March, there were instances of the virus around January which were beginning to impact public opinion.
- Present: Noting any changes in spend or flight, how are your channels currently performing? How is this compared to the pre-COVID-19 numbers? Which channels are well underperformance? What surprises are your company seeing?
- Post: There is no true “Post”, but for sake of argument, once all 50 states reopen (partially or fully) we can begin to look at behavior and buying habits. Ideally, if your industry has not been grounded, you will have lots of data from before and during COVID-19 to compare to the new world.
Revise Strategy with Emphasis on Performance Right now
- Throw Away Assumptions: PPC may have previously been too expensive, but the decreased competition at the moment may increase its ROI. Ask yourself: What other paid markets can yield similar cost-pers? Paid Social? Don’t assume that what used to work will continue to work or what didn’t work before won’t work now.
- Adapt to Consumer Behavior: Consumer behavior is changing as information comes out. In certain states, markets have reopened but consumers may still be skeptical to branch outside fully. Online shopping may be the norm for longer than anticipated. Keep a close eye on how your customers’ behaviors are fluctuating.
- Continue to Communicate: Pausing or stopping all marketing efforts is not wise. Companies should continue to flight campaigns, promote content, and optimize each stream to increased conversions.
- Optimize, Optimize, Optimize: Optimizing to your current performance will prove amazing insights for a post-COVID-19 world. Consumer response will likely stay the same for some time, and whatever incremental gains you have now can be rolled over into your continued marketing efforts.
PHASE 2: REALIGN BUSINESS GOALS & PRIORITIES
However, due to the stoppage of things, it’s likely your business goals and priorities have shifted. Performance data from the last few months may have uncovered new information about your business and consumers.
Some things to factor into evolving business goals are:
- Errant Consumer Demand Due to Pandemic: What engagement metrics has your company seen that are purely driven by the pandemic? These are things like cancellations, delivery inquiries, customer complaints, high cart abandonment, bulk shopping, etc.
- Emerging or High Performing Products/Services: What products/services/pages have your business seen emerge as the pandemic continues? These are things like refinance rates, home fitness equipment, delivery tracking, and travel information.
- Forecasting & Predicting: Since the country is opening in phases, the newly opened states will be great tests to see how consumer behavior adapts or adheres. What will consumers need once the world reopens fully and how can you factor that need into business goals and priorities?
These shifts may put the lens on another line of business or service offering entirely. By quickly aligning to the new priorities and consumer demand, you will be able to shift your marketing focus as well and capitalize.
PHASE 3: REENGAGE BY CHANNEL
So pending you have maintained some version of your marketing mix and are adapting to meet present consumer demand, once your company feels comfortable it will need to bring past performing channels back into the game.
Here are some ways to approach ramping up your marketing efforts once it is “business as usual”.
Organic Search is one channel that has seen tremendous growth, primarily due to the rapidly changing global landscape.
- If the bulk of your optimization efforts have been around emerging trends and queries, plan to transition back products and services that your customers will need & want post-pandemic.
- Perform preliminary keyword research looking for emerging questions in GSC, perform any audits of existing pages, and dust off those technical specifications.
- Having outstanding SEO issues fixed will give your company a leg up when previous search behavior resumes.
One of the biggest marketing responses to COVID-19 has been through content marketing. Businesses are staying in touch with consumers by providing E-A-T content. Content takes resources and if your dedicated team is focusing on publishing much needed COVID information your always-on content may have taken a back seat.
- Review and revamp your pre-existing content plans. Based on what we know, new service lines and behaviors will emerge post-pandemic.
- Work with your agency partner to keep always-on efforts going and get them prepared for launch.
- Be diligent with QA and tailor any messages to remain sensitive to the ongoing crisis.
Brands have shifted budgets across channels and products due to the national crisis. In order to re-engage, they should look at spend and performance to date to see what those shifts have netted.
- Tailor messaging and CTAs to the current climate. Language around social distancing, perfect for home, essential is what is resonating. Contrarily, CTAs that prompt to in-person engagement is a big No.
- Use advanced targeting & keyword bidding. With less competition, now might be the time to test into more expensive keywords, granular targeting like geo-targeting or new add-ons like Google Shopping.
- Assess channel selection. Depending on whether your products/services translate to captive audiences or works against them, your advertising budget may need to be re-routed to another channel.
- Test into previously performing channels. If Paid Social worked before flipping the campaign switch may not net the same results. Instead of turning campaigns back on, develop test-in campaigns to test the waters of the post-COVID market.
Email is another channel that has survived relatively unscathed. While many industries have paused email campaigns, brands that are still doing eCommerce are continuing on. In ramping up email campaigns
- Begin planning post-COVID-19 messaging. For industries grounded, post-COVID messaging will need to be sensitive and on par with consumer interest. Winter travel, reopening brick and mortar, updated coronavirus protocols. What will the process be when it is time? Have those emails at ready.
- Email opens are up. Now it is the time to get relevant products and services in front of captive audiences. Be mindful of messaging but provide them with useful and engaging distractions.
Video marketing has blown up more than it already was. With streaming, web meetings, and social media usage up, now is the time to test into video marketing.
- Add a video component to always-on content. While COVID-19-related content is already in flight and time and restraints may prevent heavy video strategy, post-COVID will be a great time to test into video. People will likely still exhibit the same consumption habits with video. Your business can leverage that.
PHASE 4: INCORPORATE NEW TACTICS
This is a learning experience for everyone. We’re all in this together and the findings you gain will not be wasted. Agility and ingenuity have likely caused your business to try tactics that you would have never done or have previously ruled out. Maybe those tactics worked. Maybe they did not. Those are things you can roll into your digital marketing efforts once you’ve resumed.
- Emerging Channels
- Device Targeting
- Content Markup
Want to learn more about marketing during the COVID-19 crisis? Read about the latest marketing strategies, market research, and data-based predictions at our COVID-19 Resources. How has your business navigated marketing during a global pandemic? Please share below.
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- Captive Audiences? How to Pivot your Content Strategy during a Crisis - April 3, 2020