To say that 2020 has been a tough year would be an understatement. If you own a small/medium-sized business, chances are that you’ve had to make cutbacks to conserve cash and ensure your survival. If you’re like most businesses out there, you’ve probably lowered your marketing budgets for the rest of 2020 and possibly 2021 too.
A lot of SMEs are procrastinating putting time and money into digital marketing, because they feel it’s too expensive and even if they do spend money right now, customers won’t buy anyway.
Is that the right approach though?
Maybe the demand for your products/services has dropped during the pandemic, but does that mean you should stop marketing?
Absolutely not! On the contrary, this is the time when you should be investing more in marketing, particularly online. Here’s why:
1) The pandemic is temporary. Your brand isn’t
If you’re not spending money on marketing because you feel you won’t get immediate results, think again. Marketing is an investment. Maybe your target customers aren’t spending as much as they used to pre-COVID, but they are still looking for solutions to their problems.
This pandemic will end eventually, and spending will increase, but maybe the buying patterns will change, which is why you need to remain agile and respond to changes with smarter marketing in order to remain relevant when things normalize.
Study the buying behavior of your customers. Find out what their biggest pain points are now. Match your offerings and messaging to their ‘new’ challenges. Ask them to participate in online surveys. Revisit your pricing if necessary. See if you can offer them some discounts, or run other forms of promotions to spur demand. If you are a B2B business, highlight how you can help them save money.
All these are aspects of your brand’s marketing that you can control to ensure you come out stronger on the other side.
2) Your target customers are spending more time online than ever before
Just let this sink in: The average user spends 2 hours 24 minutes on social media every day! As per a study, 72% of respondents reported an increase in their social media consumption during quarantine, while 43% reported that they are posting more.
It’s clear that as a result of global lockdowns and quarantine, people are spending a lot more time looking at screens in 2020 than they did in 2019, which was already a lot. That’s a huge opportunity for you to be seen and heard by your target audience, and build meaningful connections with them online.
Here are some things you can do:
Optimize your site to rank for the most searched queries (93% of all online experiences begin with a search after all)
Create a content calendar and stick to it by regularly posting a wide variety of content on your blog and key social media accounts
Send periodic newsletters and other relevant updates to your mailing list
Connect with your audience directly through DMs on Facebook/Instagram/Linkedin
Make it a point to reply to any messages or comments in time
Engage with other members on key Facebook and Linkedin groups
Run polls, quizzes and interactive campaigns on social media to increase engagement
Post stories on Facebook and Instagram to show what you and your staff are up to
There’s so much you can do to boost brand awareness and connection in these times. The key is to do it strategically so you don’t waste time and money on the wrong activities.
Here’s how you can optimize your efforts:
Target them on those platforms with high-value content related to topics they’re interested in
By being active on online platforms where your customers spend the most time, you can ensure your target customers don’t forget about you.
That brings us to our next point.
3) Out of sight, out of mind
As a business, you need to try and stay optimistic and consider the long-term benefits of marketing. Whether you like it or not, we’re living through the most competitive age in the history of our planet. It is not about who’s the fittest anymore (sorry Mr. Darwin!). It’s about who’s the most active.
You may have the most amazing products/services in the world, but if your target audience has never heard about you, it’s no good. And with the amount of noise out there, merely getting in front of your audience is not enough. You need to hold their attention. You need to keep them engaged, solve their day-to-day problems (even if they are not your customers yet), so that when they are ready to buy, you’re their first choice.
How do you achieve this? Through kickass content marketing and smart retargeting. By regularly posting killer content that solves problems or adds value to their lives, you can ensure high visibility and engagement among your target customers.
Create different pieces of content for different stages of the buyer’s journey, from awareness, to consideration to decision/purchase, so that regardless of the stage the prospect is in, you capture their attention and move them down the funnel until they are ready to buy.
This is where retargeting also comes in really handy. Retargeting (or remarketing) is a form of paid advertising where you target users who have visited your site, following them across the web with relevant ads with the aim of driving them back to your site and complete a conversion goal (sign-up/download/purchase/inquiry etc).
There are plenty of retargeting platforms out there such as Google, Facebook, Adroll and Perfect Audience, that serve highly targeted ads to your web and mobile audiences. These platforms also build custom audiences based on certain demographic criteria or your existing email lists. Retargeting offers excellent ROI and is one of the best tools for brand awareness, recall and conversions.
4) It’s far less expensive than you think
The pandemic has affected everyone, including marketing professionals, agencies and MarTech companies. Many agencies have dropped their rates. So have MarTech companies, many of which are offering big discounts on their annual and monthly subscriptions. They also realize that businesses don’t have the same budgets right now that they used to before the pandemic. Everyone’s in the same proverbial boat, trying to ride out the storm.
This means that digital marketing is a lot more affordable right now than you think. And as described earlier in this post, when it comes to marketing, you should always take a long-term view, and look at it as an investment into your building your brand, rather than a cost center.
The beauty of digital marketing is that there are so many ways in which you could leverage it. Don’t have the budget for paid ads? No problem, focus on content marketing and SEO! Don’t want to hire designers right now? Use free design tools like Canva, Pablo, or Pixlr. You can create amazing visual content with these tools, distribute it through social media, and drive traffic to your website – without spending a dime!
While you’re at it, why don’t you tell the story of your brand through blogging? Just create a free account on WordPress and start publishing interesting content around your business! If you don’t have the time to write all the articles yourself, and don’t want to hire a full-time writer, work with freelancers! You can find them on platforms like Fiverr, Behance, Upwork or even Linkedin. You can also repurpose your best-performing blog posts into infographics, ebooks, or videos to get more out of your existing content.
One area you definitely shouldn’t ignore is your website. It's your biggest digital asset, especially in these times. If you already have a website, great! Use this time to review and update your website copy. If you don’t have a website or a domain yet, invest in them. There are plenty of affordable CMSs and Website Builders, like WordPress, Wix and Squarespace. If you want to build your own online storefront, try Shopify or WooCommerce. Domain providers are also running some amazing promotions so get yourself a custom domain and before somebody else buys it!
Whatever the nature of your business or your goals, there are so many channels and tools you can use to reach your audience, keep them engaged with your brand, and build long term relationships cost-effectively.
5) Your competitors are doing it…actively
So, you’re postponing your marketing efforts, but that does that mean that your competitors are doing the same? No! They are actively marketing to your target audience and in doing so gaining impressions, likes, traffic, and clients, all while you’re sitting there and thinking – “Now is probably not the best time. I’ll start investing in digital marketing when things get better.”
As we mentioned in our previous article, the online world is a battlefield, and while you may think that it’s become less competitive during the pandemic, that’s not the case. In fact, the competition has only increased, as the survival of hundreds and thousands of businesses is on the line. They need to do everything they can to keep making money or else risk shutting down/get acquired by a large corporation.
Your audience is spending more time online than ever. If you’re not investing in digital marketing, you will not be visible on search engines, or Facebook, or Instagram, or Linkedin, or email. And if your target clients can’t see you, they can’t choose you. So what will they do? They will choose your competitors instead!