Considering your marketing content in these COVID times

We’re a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic – how’s your business holding up? If you’re only now beginning to slowly re-open the doors, first among your many uncertainties may be “how do I get my customers back”?

No question, COVID-19 changed many of the ways we do things – especially things like shopping. With all but essential business forced to shut their doors, consumers had no place to go, not physically, anyway. Many people who had been laid off didn’t have the money to shop. And others came to the new realization that they actually didn’t really need to shop, at least, not like they used to. 

As businesses finally begin to cautiously re-open, they’re doing so in a very different marketplace. Months of physical distancing and isolation changed many habits, including consumer habits, and businesses are going to have to adapt if they’re going to succeed in the new marketplace. 

Search Engine Journal looked at online traffic for retailers in 2019 and compared it to the same time period in 2020. It found that essential retailers like grocery stores saw an increase in organic traffic (traffic that comes via a search engine instead of directly using the URL) while retailers like clothing stores saw their traffic drop. 

The struggle is real. In terms of reaching your customers, it might feel a bit like you’re back at square one, trying to build up a customer base. As you consider your marketing plan in this next phase of COVID-19, here are some things you could consider.

DO market. In tough financial times, many business owners’ first instinct is to cut the marketing budget. Some long-term studies, however, show that the right approach to economic uncertainty is to increase marketing spending, not decrease. You don’t want to become invisible – because you risk staying that way once the economy gets moving again. 

Provide good, relevant content. In a study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 43 per cent of respondents found it reassuring when they heard from brands.  Of course, during times as serious as a pandemic, what you say to your audience is going to say a lot about you. 

For many people, life is still in a very slow process of getting back to normal. Your marketing content should reflect this, and provide customers information that’s relevant and even helpful. YouTube, for example, directed people to disease control resources on its homepage. In a more local example, an Alberta car dealership used its TV ads to show someone properly washing their hands for the entire ad (while humming the company’s jingle.) 

Be more human. Of course, you want to sell flooring, or laptops or whatever your product or service is. And selling will be easier now that customers can finally come back to your actual business. But if you want to bring them back for the long term, promote goodwill along with your products. That same advertising study found that 56 per cent of consumers like to hear how brands are helping their communities. So be a good citizen. Use social media to promote a local food drive. Give kudos to health care workers on Facebook. Or donate a percentage of sales to a homeless shelter or some charitable organization that really felt the crunch during COVID-19.

Be ready for change. Then change again. Life now is not the life it was in February. Things have also changed since March. And April. October will not be the same as today. Stay alert. Do not rely on outdated data when planning your marketing and don’t make assumptions about the future. Stay in touch with your customers, listen to them and let them be your guide. These unprecedented times are nowhere near over, so be sure your business is ready for anything.


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