How Digital Marketing Can Help Businesses During the Coronavirus Crisis
The rapid outbreak of COVID-19, the deadly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has rendered many traditional marketing methods useless, forcing businesses across all industries to leverage digital marketing channels in their fight for survival.
While some businesses are already skilled in digital marketing because they’ve been doing it for years, other businesses barely know what digital marketing is. Regardless of which group you belong to, this article will explain to you everything you need to know to effectively use digital marketing during these trying times.
What Is Digital Marketing?
The term digital marketing refers to all marketing efforts that utilize the internet or other digital technology to promote products and services. It was coined in the 1990s, and it didn’t take a long time for it to become the hottest topic in the marketing industry.
By the late 2000s, most major businesses had registered their own domain names and understood the role of digital marketing and digital technologies such as desktop computers and mobile phones. Today, businesses spend over $100 billion on digital marketing worldwide, and the figure is only expected to grow.
Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing includes marketing channels such as printed media, billboards, snail-mail, and trade shows. What traditional marketing channels have in common is their ability to convey a brand message loud and clear to a large audience in a non-interactive way.
Digital marketing channels, on the other hand, are inherently interactional because they produce instant feedback, which can take the form of views, clicks, likes, comments, retweets, and other actions.
They are also far more precise, allowing businesses to target each individual customer with a customized message that’s likely to produce the best marketing results. This is akin to printing a different magazine ad for each subscriber or airing a thousand versions of the same TV commercial.
When Traditional Marketing Channels Shut Down
Despite the numerous benefits of digital marketing, many businesses have until recently relied solely on traditional marketing channels.
In every town, there are mom and pop businesses whose customers know about them solely thanks to naturally occurring word-of-mouth referrals. On the other end of the spectrum are B2B companies that promote their products and services exclusively at trade shows and exhibitions attended by other companies operating in the same industry. Between these two extreme ends of the traditional marketing spectrum are countless small and medium-sized businesses that spend significant amounts of money on print advertising and billboards.
All businesses that have so far been faithful to traditional marketing channels are among those who are hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures implemented by countries around the world to slow down its spread.
With people sheltering in place and avoiding interaction with others as much as possible, even the most captivating billboards are next to useless, and the same goes for print ads in magazines no one’s buying because everyone can read the news on the internet without stepping a foot outside the door. Unsurprisingly, all large B2B events, such as Cisco Live and the Gartner Marketing Symposium, have already been canceled by their organizers, and nobody knows how long it will take for them to come back.
So, with all traditional marketing channels shut down, how can businesses communicate with existing and potential customers alike? The answer is, of course, digital marketing.
The Role of Digital Marketing in a Time of Crisis
Since the only way to fight the new virus at the moment is to hunker down at home, that’s what people around the world are doing. To entertain themselves, most individuals have been browsing the web, and this is evident from web usage statistics. Since the novel coronavirus crossed the borders of China, traffic to popular websites increased significantly, and so did mobile phone data usage.
To stay in touch with loved ones and connect with the outside world, many people have turned to social media platforms, virtually all of which have experienced a significant increase in user activity. Digitally savvy businesses have been quick to notice the opportunity to deliver the meaningful engagement digital users in a time of crisis crave.
“We have seen a real spike during the last few weeks from companies wishing to create or update websites, launch new e-commerce channels and create social media campaigns focused on home-workers and a real focus on using influencers and SEO to reach new audiences,” said Scott Jones, CEO of 123 Internet Group.
Businesses that have no previous experience with digital marketing should reallocate their marketing budgets and finally embrace the plethora of digital marketing channels that are available today. Getting started with it is nowhere near as complicated as it may seem, and the results can be nearly instantaneous.
Getting Started with Digital Marketing
In many ways, it has never been easier to get started with digital marketing because of the wide variety of digital marketing channels available:
- Paid search: Search engines like Google have become the entry points to the web, and any business can appear right at the top of the first search results page just by bidding on keywords relevant to the user’s search query. Paid search marketing delivers predictable results, and it can be easily scaled up or down to fit any digital marketing budget.
- SEO & content marketing: Instead of relying solely on paid search, businesses should also strive to increase their visibility by performing searching engine optimization, or just SEO for short. SEO is most effective when combined with content marketing, whose purpose is to attract and retain a clearly defined audience by targeting it with valuable, educational content. Unlike paid search, SEO and content marketing don’t produce immediate results, but their long-term impact can be massive. During the ongoing pandemic, many businesses have been educating their customers about its impact on their industry and helping them cope with the gloomy situation by publishing informative blog posts and sharing interesting content.
- Social media: With billions of users around the world, social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are among the most popular destinations on the web. Businesses can use them to engage their customers and share all kinds of content, ranging from behind-the-scenes pictures to lighthearted jokes intended to keep their spirits up.
- Webinars and podcasts: Live, virtual events are currently the only way for many businesses to engage potential customers face-to-face and provide them with informative content. For example, a local bike shop may host a public webinar to give helpful bike maintenance tips to essential workers whose only means of transportation is their bicycle. Podcasts are another effective marketing channel that can be used to engage customers who are stuck at home and don’t have much to do. If you have an interesting story to tell, you can appear as a guest on a podcast related to your niche, or you can simply advertise on any popular podcast whose audience will likely be receptive to your message.
- Email: Thanks to smartphones, email is, once again, one of the most effective digital marketing channels. If you already have an existing customer base, you can reach out to it with a personalized email campaign featuring coronavirus-related tips, special promotions, or any other engaging content.
Regardless of which digital marketing channel you decide to start with, you need to keep in mind what consumers expect from businesses during a crisis and adjust your digital marketing tactics accordingly.
First and foremost, be mindful of your tone and avoid being humorous or inappropriately casual. Even a well-meaning joke may offend consumers who have been hit by the pandemic hard. Instead, be positive, helpful, and inspirational.
Unless you’re one of the businesses that have been deemed essential, you should focus on providing value to your community. Simply seeking conversions is guaranteed to turn people against you and possibly even result in a massive online backlash.
Finally, don’t promise what you can’t deliver. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the entire global economy, so there’s no reason to hide the fact that you can deliver products or services as quickly as you can normally.
By keeping in mind these essential digital marketing tactics, you will be able to get your digital marketing campaign off to a great start and make the most out of the current situation.
The Future of Digital Marketing
The sad truth is that the novel coronavirus won’t disappear anytime soon. Leading experts estimate that life won’t get back to normal until 2021 because it takes some time to build herd immunity and develop an effective vaccine or cure.
For this reason alone, the role of digital marketing will only become more important. The global digital marketing software market size alone is expected to reach $151.8 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 17.4 percent from 2020 to 2027, according to research conducted by Grand View Research.
Businesses that had until recently relied exclusively on traditional marketing channels need to come to terms with the revelation that the future of marketing is digital and act before it’s too late. Those who do will have the best chance of surviving not only this crisis but also the next one.
The year 2020 will go down in history as the year the world changed. Many businesses will also remember it as the year when traditional marketing channels ceased being effective. If your business is among those that still rely on the old marketing tools, now is the time to start planning your digital marketing strategy and prepare yourself for doing business in the new, virus-conscious environment.
For a limited time ComboApp is offering free marketing strategy audits to businesses affected by COVID-19 crisis. We can help you navigate through this challenging time and come out stronger and more prepared for what comes next.