Online Marketing in Uncertain Times: How Do You Do It?

There is a lot of frustration, fear, and anxiety going around these days.

This is an extremely precarious time for businesses all over the world because there simply isn’t a single right answer for how they should react to the situation.

So, when things get tense and impossible to predict like this, it’s only natural to turtle up and try to weather the storm.

“Turtling up,” in a business sense, means pulling in on yourself and not reaching out for new opportunities. It means reducing as many costs as possible, including the marketing budget, and hoping that you can stick it out until everything returns to normal on its own.

This certainly seems to make sense on the surface, and, in some cases, the regulations and dictates of the state government may force you into this strategy.

However, even if it seems safe – or inevitable – it may not be the right strategy at this time.

To be clear: we are not advocating that any company ignore the health and safety measures that have been put in place.

We are, however, going to suggest some strategies, options, and opportunities that may prove more effective than the classic turtle strategy.

What Should Your Marketing Team Do?

Now is the time to exercise some flexibility and adapt your marketing efforts to address the current situation.

Now, obviously, we’re not here to tell you how you should use your budget in these challenging times.

However, we are here to suggest that cutting out your marketing efforts wholesale at this time could prove to be very detrimental for your long-term business health.

SEO has always been a long game, and profitability through excessive cost-cutting measures traditionally only provides a short-term gain. So, the question we would like to pose is: when this difficult time is behind us, will you find yourself in a strong position within the industry or rebuilding your online marketing foundation all over again?

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just keep doing the same things you’ve always done. The times and trends are changing every day, and the great part about online marketing is the ability to pivot and change strategies to keep up with them.

So, what can you do to keep your marketing on track during uncertain times? Consider the following:

1.  Double down on content marketing

People want to know that somewhere out there things are continuing normally (or at least relatively normally). They want to hear about more than just how the virus is affecting the world (and your business).

Now, more than ever, customers and clients need connection points to their favorite companies. You can create these points of contact by providing the most useful, fun, intriguing content you can.

As you shift your content marketing strategies to meet this demand, consider using different types of content and keep your messages empathetic and on-point. Videos, eBooks, presentations, podcasts, infographics, newsletters… anything is valid right now.

This is also a great time to look back at some of your previous content and find the most useful and popular pieces and think about ways to repurpose them and put them back into circulation.

2.  Relationships over links

This may be the perfect time to switch away from traditional link building tactics. After all, approaching another website with the request for a link on their blog may not seem very sensitive – especially if that website owner is currently struggling just to stay in business.

Their first priority is certainly not going to involve editing a year-old blog post to send some link authority your way.

However, if you approach those same websites with the intent to build a relationship – as in, you want to create a mutually beneficial relationship in which you can send real traffic or leads back and forth – then now is the time to really dive into that kind of “link building.”

3.  Retool Your Website

There’s a good chance that your website isn’t really ready to deal with the current crisis (after all, who could have predicted that this is what the world would look like even a few weeks ago).

Now, this isn’t to say that you need to change your website to include a statement about the effects of the virus and what your company is doing about it. However, this may be the perfect time to update your About Us page with relevant information, or to add disclaimers to the Contact Us page about working with a smaller staff, or information on any product or service page that may be relevant to people’s needs.

This is also a great time to go through the site and remove things that may not be appropriate at this time or to highlight those products or services that are in very high demand right now.

4.  Focus on Keeping Current Clients

Gaining new clients is going to be tough in a time when everyone is forced to pull back in on their budgets, hunker down, and try to wait it all out.

This means companies need to really focus on retention. If you can’t bring in new revenue, you’re going to have to be completely dedicated to keeping what you’ve got.

That does not, however, mean that you should pressure your current clients to stay on and take a hard-nosed stance on contracts and agreements. Be open and direct with them. More importantly, be empathetic to their needs. Even if they’re contracted to pay a certain amount each month, this is the time for flexibility.

What Should SMB/Local Businesses Do?

A lot of small businesses with a brick and mortar location rely on their Google Search and Map listings to inform and connect with their customers.

Unfortunately, the information that is currently listed on your company’s profile could be rendered outdated at the drop of a hat.

Things are changing every day, and that has led to business disruptions, forced shut downs, and more.

How is a local business to deal with these changes?

It is important to remain as flexible as possible and ready to respond to these changes. You need to make sure you keep your rankings and keep Google informed about what’s happening at your location.

To that end, Google recommends that businesses take the following steps:

  • Change your business hours – Make sure that your listing is displaying the proper hours if you have changed them to adapt to the situation.
  • Create an update post about COVID-19 – You can share posts about your company through Google My Business. Post an update about how the situation is affecting your company and what you’re doing to handle it.
  • Make yourself available to your customers – Use every means at your disposal to keep the lines of communication open. This includes using messaging on the Google My Business app.
  • Update your business description – Change your normal business description to provide more information about your current operations, how you are helping the community, and if you are experiencing significant delays with your ability to provide products or services.
  • Spot the disclaimer – Google is adding a disclaimer to company profiles to let searchers know that this information may not be up-to-date. If you are a verified business, you can remove this disclaimer when you update your business hours.

Now, what happens if your business has been shut down, either due to government mandate or a proactive choice to minimize health risks?

If you are closed down, Google wants to know this.

However, simply listing your business as closed could destroy the rankings you’ve worked so long to cultivate online.

This is why Google now allows companies to mark their businesses as “Temporarily closed.” The search engine wants you to rest assured that you will still be “treated similarly to open businesses and your local search rank won’t change.”

You can do this through a simple process:

  • Sign in to Google My Business.
  • In the menu on the left, click “Info”.
  • Point to the section on the right: “Close this business on Google.”
    • Click the arrow to expand this section if necessary.
  • Click “Mark as temporarily closed”.

How Are You Supposed to Sell Anything Not “Essential”?

It is possible for a company to market “too hard” during uncertain time. We’re all facing challenges in our lives, and we want to make sure the business keeps going, but the approach has to change.

The key to selling things that aren’t generally considered essential during a crisis is to face the situation head on and be as useful as possible.

Don’t exploit the crisis, but don’t ignore it either.

We are living through a historical event right now, and your tone and intention should reflect that fact.

Make sure your messaging shows understanding and empathy. Get rid of the old boilerplate stuff that may be inappropriate at this time.

Getting Through This

As concerned as you are about your own business, in this troubling time, the most important thing you can do is step away from the “business is business” mentality and be as empathetic as possible to the needs of your clients and customers.

And while there is no doubt that changes in marketing strategies and budgets are inevitable, we encourage every business to think strategically and not demolish an entire marketing strategy when a little precision pruning may be enough.

This is a difficult time right now, and fears and frustrations are influencing a lot of decision making in the business world – leading to a lot of turtling up in a lot of industries.

It can be hard to look forward to the time when the markets resume and start resembling normal activity, but if you continue to invest in yourself and your marketing efforts, you will have a better chance of getting back on track and even outperforming your competition when it’s all over.

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