The COVID-19 virus is a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the planet. The virus, which was originally believed to only affect humans, has latched onto the digital advertising ecosystem and is rapidly spreading its deadly intent.
Marketers are struggling to keep their campaigns going without COVID-19 affecting their stats but it’s been a losing battle People are hurting and businesses are suffering. Only essential businesses are operating as normal (if you can use that word). The rest have either cut back operations, mandated remote working, or both. We need to rethink our digital marketing strategies and recalibrate just in time for COVID-19.
COVID-19 has become a pandemic that’s a threat to our way of life.
In a time of crisis, digital strategy is key. Whether it’s an unexpected event like a natural disaster or the loss of an important industry like coal, companies need to be ready to respond quickly and effectively in order to remain competitive.
Digital strategy can be used to help companies increase revenue and decrease costs. Our team at BlueSky Marketing uses SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing, and more to help clients build their digital reputation. Contact us today if you need help building your digital strategy in a time of crisis.
A crisis has the potential to create, or break, a brand. When faced with one, organizations need to have a plan in place to safeguard their reputation and prepare for the worst.
The first step is to assess risk and be ready for a crisis. This can be done by looking at the vulnerabilities of your company and understanding what it takes to respond. Recently, Domino’s Pizza had an interesting approach to social media during the crisis phase. They posted on Twitter that they were “deeply sorry” for the debacle and encouraged people to send pictures of their pizzas with comments about how they were making.
Adjusting your course
It is important to adjust your digital strategy when things change. This was the case for a small business, which had just opened its doors in the wake of Covid-19. The Covid-19 had badly affected their town and many of their customers were hospitalized.
Their social media strategy before the pandemic was to promote their products, which they no longer had. Instead of giving up, they changed tactics and began sharing images of items from other stores that people in the area could purchase. They also shared information about shelters, food banks, and other resources for people in need.
When the world is in crisis and you have a digital strategy, how do you adjust your course?
The key question is what are you trying to achieve with your digital strategy? If there is an objective that can still be achieved, then it’s time to make a few adjustments. If your original goal can’t be met, it’s time for a total overhaul.
If you are trying to increase brand awareness and/or customer base, then it might be time to switch from social media to email marketing. If the goal is to generate leads and conversions, then it might be time to switch to paid advertising.
So, how are responsible marketers responding to these trends?
Listen for changes in customer sentiment and behavior
Long before the coronavirus emerged, consumer trust in both government and large brands had eroded. People now align more closely with family, friends, and local businesses. The current crisis seems poised to amplify the distrust customers have of brands. Brands can push against that wave by rising to the occasion to re-establish trust through customer-centric actions. For example:
- Listen. Now more than ever, it’s important to know what customers feel and do, and why. Set voice of the customer (VoC) programs to listen for references to COVID-19 or other shifts. Use social listening to monitor customer discussions about health concerns or information needs relevant to your brand. Ask sales and account management teams what they hear from the front lines. Monitor customer care emails, phone calls and service chats for changes in concerns or sentiment.
- Balance your response. Marketers must support customers and protect customer relationships while staying honest about what the firm can and cannot deliver at this time. Be careful about taking actions that provide short-term stability (or gain) for the firm at the expense of customer trust.
Anticipate operational impacts
Challenges to product and service delivery abound during this crisis. Closed factories and disrupted supply chains create reduced supply on one side of the business, while customer questions create rising service demand on the other. Marketers must adapt their messages to reflect the on-the-ground realities while staying true to the brand’s values. Some steps to take include:
- Manage your promises. Set realistic expectations about service levels, product launch dates, product availability, and so on. Consider pulling ad campaigns for products you can’t be sure you can produce and deliver. Evaluate current policies and consider rational changes — for example, allowing cancellations or extending payment terms.
- Create capacity to address customer service volumes. Craft proactive messages to distribute via email, social media and the web to answer common questions. Also draft reactive scripts to help customer service reps handle sensitive one-on-one interactions. Train qualified team members in functions with lower volume to help manage demand from customer service channels.
- Ramp up digital delivery. Promote apps and other mobile tools and services. Ramp up capacity for online transactions and digital interactions. Innovate ways to deliver your product or aspects of it online, like telemedicine for routine doctor visits or online learning for the millions of students who will be out of school. Yet, even as you enable digital options, understand that some people will always need to hear an empathetic human voice, especially now, and be prepared to offer it.
- Optimize the marketing budget. All organizational functions will be called on to prioritize spending. Try to avoid across-the-board cuts. Look instead for ways to drive efficiency (for example, by looking for overlap in agency or marketing technology contracts), and to reduce or postpone obligations that won’t bring value — and may even come off as tone-deaf — in the current environment.
Adapt the marketing plan
The next three to six months will bring many societal changes that trickle down to the marketing plan. Use the best-, worst- and moderate-case scenarios to anticipate possible and likely changes and take alternative actions. Some areas of focus include:
- Event-based programs. Restrictions on large gatherings are cutting into the businesses that serve these events and the marketers that theme their campaigns around them. Develop alternative marketing ideas now for physical events planned for spring and summer. Sports events may move to streaming delivery; conference expos may move online, and so on. Don’t wait until an event is canceled to develop a plan. Learn instead from the experience of HIMSS20, a health IT conference usually held in early March: The organization canceled and promised to hold a virtual event at some point in the future; one day later, 1upHealth announced its own virtual event for the following week.
- Deliver compelling content. More people will be spending time at home over the coming months. Brands can provide lighthearted and uplifting or informative and encouraging content to people looking for support. This may also be a good time to relaunch or bring out escapist experiments such as VR content.
- Secure media early. Everyone is in the same boat, and everyone is looking to secure key spots to replace lost opportunities. In the U.S. in particular, brands will have to compete with the U.S. presidential political campaigns for key media placement. Work with media planners and publishers to secure access before you’re crowded out.