This article was updated in January 2022.
We’re all in lockdown now. Nobody knows how much longer prudence demands that we remain socially isolated. What we do know is that a lot of people are making some very tough decisions about their businesses and their livelihoods. But now is not the time to quarantine digital marketing efforts.
Our company, Coalition Technologies, was founded in the midst of the last global financial crisis. Since then, we’ve supported small and local businesses as they’ve pursued growth. Our mission and our focus hasn’t changed, even in the midst of the Covid-19 restrictions we’re seeing globally.
We’re confident that there is opportunity out there for every small business, and digital marketing lies at the heart of many of them. Here’s our list of 8 ways for small businesses to grow through Covid-19.
1. Optimize high-profile profiles.
If you haven’t really committed many resources to promoting a website in the past, not all digital marketing methods will provide timely enough opportunities to your business. Take a shortcut by leaning on profiles with social networks and other listing sites immediately.
Profiles or landing pages with sites like Facebook, Google My Business and Yelp often gain traction in digital marketing channels faster than your own website. Pick the ones most relevant to your customers and start optimizing there. Make sure you have a mix of content on each and try to incorporate images, text, and video. Ask frequent, loyal customers to leave reviews or comments and share your page with their friends. Don’t forget to have these profiles link back to your website!
2. Launch a digital product or transaction opportunity.
Just because people are at home and can’t make it to your store or restaurant doesn’t mean that you can’t bring in any revenue. There are dozens of models for online transacting now, many of which are easy to implement on an existing website.
Sell gift cards or dining bonds. Offer curbside pickup if you can maintain social distancing protocols. Set appointments for private shopping experiences if your region allows it. Launch paid-for webinars or consulting appointments. If you run a medical practice, consider telemedicine. Ecommerce offerings are a dime a dozen—just because you haven’t done it before, don’t shy away from doing it now.
3. Evaluate your digital conversion funnel.
If you have never really spent some time digging into your analytics and reporting data to figure out how customers find your business and make their purchasing decisions, there’s no time like the present. Online housekeeping is a lot easier to do than in-person housekeeping so take advantage of any time you’ve gained as a result of a store closure and apply it to gaining a better understanding of how you sell digitally.
Look at what keywords are driving traffic in Google Analytics. See what ad copy in Google Ads drives clicks or calls or conversions. Think about how the interests and engagement of those customers can be leveraged today. Take good notes! Usually the ideas you find will apply even when everything returns to our new normal.
4. Create SEO friendly copy on your website.
People are spending more time on the websites they choose to visit. Many brands resisted SEO friendly copy because it felt intrusive on their branding. However, most of that perception is tied to early 2000’s web design practices when the BFP (Big Freaking Photo) was the only way to make a website attractive.
Today, customers read engaging content and use it to inform their purchasing or hiring decisions. Add in SEO friendly copy that naturally describes your products or services in a way that a customer would. Put explanatory keywords in prominent parts of your navigation to boost your rankings and to make it easier for customers to navigate.
5. Learn how to do email marketing (or hire someone to do it).
Many businesses have built up email marketing lists that they either fail to engage or underutilize. Many customers are bored out of their minds and an insightful, funny, or thoughtful email from you will strike a chord. Be real, honest and transparent. Customers want to protect and support their small businesses as much as you do—just make sure they know how they can do it.
Test how many emails your customers open and engage with before they start to skip over them. In recent testing, we’ve found that customers are engaging with 2 to 3 times as many emails as they might normally. Mix the content type and purpose of emails up to avoid list exhaust and keep open rates high.
6. Run hyper-targeted PPC ads.
Cost per click (CPC) and cost per mille (CPM) prices are falling rapidly as advertisers pull back on knee jerk reactions. Rather than kill your ad spend, make it more targeted. Bidding on higher value clicks or placement right now will often net higher ROI due to decreased costs and more captive audiences. Consider narrowing your ad targets by reviewing publishing destinations, negative keyword lists, your ad scheduling, and geotargeting efforts. In the nexus of these things lies real opportunity.
7. Launch affiliate advertising campaigns.
Affiliate marketing has had exponentially increasing costs over the last few years, and many brands have pulled back on their affiliate spend. Combined with Covid-19 budget reductions, many affiliate advertisers are hungry for new partners to work with on collaborations and sponsored content. Pick ones that you have strong affinity audiences with and that already possess relevant clicks/views in your categories. Make sure to have carefully controlled terms on how they can generate traffic you’ll pay on.
8. Don’t quarantine digital marketing.
People are genuinely rooting for you. They want you, and your employees, and your families to be successful. Small business is a huge part of our economy, but it’s an even bigger part of life.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help or to look for free resources. We’ve participated in launching Offline2On, a community driven effort to help brick and mortar businesses get online. We also have a special free, no strings attached offer for businesses that need help in any of our specializations. You can find that here.
Many of our clients are seeing double digit growth by adopting these strategies and others. We’re in a brave new world, and the brands that innovate, and avoid quarantining creativity and good marketing, are the ones that will come out of lockdown with a lot of momentum!
Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema