If you were to pick up your phone and call me to discuss your specific digital challenge right now in these testing times, what would that be?
Would it be: how to sell more, earn more, go crazy looking at your stock being sold at sky-high prices? Because you’ve waited long for the situations in which people would not really mind buying whatever is available. Because you have only one product/service to sell and you want to capitalize on it right now.
Or, would it be: how to give people what they want without taking advantage of them? Because you could have never imagined that demand and supply would reach such a pathetic state. Because you have only a product/service to offer to people but they are going to need a lot more than this one thing.
General Advice — the Starting Point
The pandemic has drawn different responses from different brands. Some are offering people a few means to feel lighter, to help them smile a little more. That’s needed when people are very stressed.
Some have announced that they are going off-air for a while so that the money they pay for advertising can be diverted to real medical aid.
Some have been playing with their logos and identity — a dangerous game to play in normal times.
You must have seen already several ad campaigns along these lines. A lot of them have been shared and analyzed in several blogs.
In this guide, I’ve focused on business challenges other than that of creatives, copy, and advertising.
A Larger Guide for Marketers
Because business challenges emerge from all aspects of the business. While sensitive messaging is one challenge, there are larger marketing decisions remaining to be taken.
How to go beyond sensitive messaging and offer genuine help? That’s one question.
How to help the team stay together? That’s another.
Taking Marketing Decisions
- Take marketing and management decisions in real-time in order to make the best use of digital media. According to this article by HBR, one marketer in China “tilted its focus away from offline, large retail channels to O2O (online-to-offline), e-commerce, and smaller stores” in the process of recovering from the losses.
- If your product/service doesn’t fall into the essential services category, rethink how to position yourself. Nobody can ever be indispensable. There will always be people who don’t have any need for you or you might be a luxury many can’t afford. Use this time to think about your identity, your position in your buyer personas’ needs, pain areas, challenges, frustrations, and goals. The same HBR article discusses a Chinese insurance company adding coronavirus-related illnesses to its coverage.
- “Double down” on all your online marketing efforts. Neil Patel says it too in his recent blog. If digital marketing has never convinced you about its potential, it has definitely made you rethink your position these last few weeks. Please don’t fall for Adwords again!
Managing Human Resources
- Hold your team very dear. Adapt to virtual meetings. Create your own communication channels.
- Collaborate with peer companies, even competitors to manage human resources. Let others borrow your employees when you are short of funds to pay them yourself.
- Take your offline process online. If you’ve only depended on sales executives, make them the faces of your social media accounts. Let them interact with the people. They already have knowledge about what people look for and ask about while interacting with them.
- Let your employees use this time to learn new skills, and pass new courses.
- Your team could be enthusiastic about doing whatever they can, especially when they are working remotely. But do take care not to invade their personal space and freedom. Marketing Week reports that marketers are worried that remote working could compromise their business and intrude on their personal lives. Instead of being scared about how the teams will not be the same again, think about how to mitigate the negativity.
- Neil Patel gives a detailed breakdown of which industries are worst hit in terms of website traffic due to the pandemic. Study his chart to understand where you stand. It also includes data about conversion and pay-per-click. You’ll know you are not alone. And the numbers will give you some perspective.
- Rethink your keyword strategy accordingly. How is your product/service related to questions people have about the pandemic?
- Try including FAQs on your websites — related to the pandemic or the way your supply of products/services has got impacted by it.
Reaching Out by Extending Help
- Check how your product/service fits into the supplies needed right now. Perfume brands are switching to making sanitizers, according to this article in Vogue. Google is unlocking advanced access to its video-conferencing app Hangouts. Brands are funding ICUs in hospitals or donating money directly.
- Do what you can to help people. Neil Patel freed up Ubersuggest to help people save a bit on their marketing: “To help out a bit, I’ve opened up the keyword ideas report onUbersuggest as well as historical keyword data. I know many of you may be facing financial difficulty, so hopefully having the data helps you save a bit of money on marketing.” And the best part? He writes this at the end, without screaming about it in the body of his blog!
- Use AI seriously if you haven’t been using it already. You’ll need all the data to make communication decisions. Even other ones: production, logistics, etc.
- Adapt your communication to the analytics emerging in real time. Observe consumer sentiment and responses while crafting new messages.
Crafting Brand Communication
- Reach out to customers. Offer them opportunities to help you. Remind them they can buy gift cards and vouchers. Get inspired by: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/15/success/small-businesses-coronavirus/index.html.
- A lot is said about being sensitive — not exploiting the scare to sell goods. FOMO is not going to apply when everyone is scared about something else.
- Spend some time optimizing your old content.
- Communicate clearly with your audiences online regarding your logistics and supply chain. They shouldn’t be in the dark about what to expect from you and when.
- Rethink your messaging. Don’t say anything that makes you appear exploiting the emergency situation. Stay relevant to your audiences too at the same time. Or stay silent.
Memes will come and go. Remember the Internet breaking over Rahul Bose’s bananas?
The long-term survival of a business can get seriously affected by decisions that target only making memes as solutions to business problems.
The content that goes viral or makes it to trending topics on a social network definitely brings happiness. But having well-defined expectations from certain decisions, especially in times of urgency helps in the long run.
Most businesses have been using social media to show solidarity with healthcare workers. They’ve correctly grabbed likes and shares. My worry is that the smaller businesses which don’t have access to business intelligence will turn this phase into a routine they were otherwise following — of extending festive greetings. Because not many SMEs understand the strategy behind social media marketing.
They might be completely ignoring SEO. Something I tried to cover here.
I hope these pointers towards looking at a business as a whole have been helpful. I also hope they help you think beyond advertising.