Digital marketing in the coronavirus lockdown

07.05.20 02:02 PM By Sonia Kisbee

Our guide to using digital marketing to help your online business during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown

For many companies, the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed their world of business. Building brands and putting out positive messages are still important, but dwindling demand for products and services and declining marketing budgets mean companies need to find the most cost-effective ways to keep customers informed about new and useful innovations. So how can you use digital marketing to help your online business during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown?

For many who operate a public-facing business, the current shutdown has also meant looking to a more online-focused business strategy, that being the only way in which to pull in much-needed revenue.

But how you go about managing your brand’s reputation throughout this pandemic is vital – how you communicate will be judged, because it goes without saying you want to be informative and helpful but avoid the opportunistic and insensitive. Getting it wrong could prove costly, with a recent survey by Edelman stating that 65% of their respondents agreeing that a brands response during this crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of purchasing from them in the future.

What can you do to market your business online more effectively?

As you know, marketing is about connecting with your audience in the right place at the right time and digital marketing is simply any form of marketing that exists online. This can be done through search engines, social media, email or online directories – so with that in mind, we’ve got some tips to help you continue operating online throughout the crisis.

Understanding your audience
It is important to understand who your potential customers are and what their challenges might be. To consider what might motivate them to choose you over a competitor and what value you can bring to their business. In the current climate, taking the time to do some research in order to create buyer personas can be useful in defining both your existing and your potential target markets.

Supply and demand
In this time of lockdown, the needs of people have changed, whether they want home entertainment or fitness solutions, new health-care equipment or online education solutions – products and services such as these are all in higher demand. Some businesses have repurposed to help their community and key workers during the crisis, from the car hire company offering free cars to NHS workers, gin distilleries switching to production of much-sought-after hand sanitiser or the pub that has turned into a foodbank.

For other companies, it has been more a case of adapting their usual day-to-day activities to keep the money coming in. Building DIY kits (when products lend themselves to being made by the consumer) or creating product bundles that might appeal. Using discount codes or free shipping offers can also be very effective. Changing to a B2C model and promoting directly to the consumer can also be an effective option if you have only dealt on a retail or B2B basis previously.

Tools such as Google Trends can also be very useful when it comes to understanding which phrases are being searched for and their popularity. With better insight into demand, you don’t need to change your products or services completely but can refocus your efforts on promoting those that are more popular.

Using social media platforms to your advantage
You can promote your business free on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and for the small business, they are a great way to stay in touch regularly with both existing and potential customers. In these strangest of times, think about your tone and content. Acknowledging the situation we are all in and showing the human side behind your brand will always be effective and of course, a little humour goes a long way!

Collaborating with other brands to share their posts can help build your social presence. Creating a positive local community focus, through donations such as buy-one/donate-one is a great way to raise up others. Promoting a specific charity cause if you are in a position to do so or running competitions that involve users liking or sharing your content.

You can use free image tools like Canva or royalty-free photo resources like Unsplash to create banners and images. There are also free video tools like Biteable or maybe you can record videos on your phone to upload onto social media.

Paid social media ads can be very effective at boosting a popular post you’ve made to reach a wider audience or to promote your products or services. With more people on social media than ever, you can target audiences based on their interest, location or demographic, so you are likely to reach the most relevant users.

The benefits online directories bring to your business
Online business directories have been around for many years and offer companies a way of marketing their products and services by categories such as activity, location and size, to help directory users find the right companies to do business with. Of course, you also have search engines like Google which use AI to return targeted search results, but often for the user, the sheer number of those results can be overwhelming.

So why should your business be listed in an online directory? – well, the real benefit of a B2B directory can be described in two words…relevance and traffic.

With millions of visitors every month, think of them as a conduit to your website – using the power of their traffic and structured design that help to ensure your company is found by the right audience – buyers and suppliers who are looking to do business. Uploading your company onto a tried and tested global directory such as Kompass will undoubtedly help you attract new business leads as well as build awareness of your brand both locally and overseas.

Making the most of your website
When it comes to building a successful online advertising strategy your website should be considered as your shop window and will be key to ensuring you attract as many visitors as possible. This can be helped along by using more effective SEO and those search engines can help whether this by generating free organic traffic or going down the PPC (pay-per-click) route.

Whilst you can work on getting the right sort of visitors to your website, are you also making the most of those visits?

It is important to remember that it is likely that 98% will depart without giving any contact details, making it hard to recognize potential sales leads. With IP website tracking in place, this can also be a really effective way to make the most of those visitors to your website.

Email marketing
Many e-commerce companies rely on email marketing, but email frequency and tone throughout this pandemic needs care and consideration to avoid the crass, opportunistic, and “sales speak”. Monitor your engagement rates to determine email frequency and focus on what you can do to help your customers – if you are in a position to help, then it is entirely appropriate to email them accordingly.

You could make use of the downtime, perhaps through feedback surveys, by using A/B testing and taking the opportunity to update your email list, because GDPR compliant and accurate data is essential to successful email marketing.

Whatever is good advice today could change in a week, so at the moment, email marketing is somewhat of an etiquette minefield if you don’t know individual circumstances. Faux concern is beyond insensitive, so avoid the immediate obligatory enquiry into the recipient’s health that jumps straight into your agenda. Just keep it straightforward and considerate and be mindful of the fact that everyone has a different perspective on this unique situation we find ourselves in.

Looking ahead to the future
The pandemic has brought about the most challenging economic situation for every business in living memory. Meeting the 5 government tests that will start to see a gradual way out of lockdown, remains somewhat of a moving target, but at some point will be achievable and hopefully, we can all start to see a return to normality.

Use this time to make connections with relevant users through social media by starting conversations, whether you need help or can offer to help yourself. Join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn with the same interests or in the same business sectors, such as LinkedIn. Taking the time to build business relationships through social networks can be a really helpful way to develop new business opportunities and to help you plan and look ahead more positively to the future.

Disclaimer: Please note that this blog only contains general information and insights about legal matters. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.