There is no denying that we’re living in very turbulent times, perhaps one of the most difficult in human history. Only a few sectors of the economy can boast of not being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent report from KPMG further confirmed that 94% of the Fortune 1000 across the globe are already seeing COVID-19 disruptions, with small businesses suffering an even worse fate since the relief efforts in most jurisdictions focus on large corporations and households.
Interestingly, though, the COVID-19 led lockdown around the globe has forced many businesses to explore online marketing solutions.
The major switch explains why the number of Zoom users skyrocketed from 10 million users to over 200 million users in March, while the average time users spend on social media platforms continues to rise in recent months.
The big question, then for SMEs, would be how to get the best out of online marketing solutions during COVID-19. The reason is not far-fetched for this question is not far-fetched.
Due to the coronavirus, marketing online represents one of the only channels for these businesses to continue existing; otherwise, they would lose customers by the time they re-open after the pandemic.
With that in mind, let’s now discuss how affected businesses can get the best out of online marketing solutions.
How to Maximize Online Marketing Solutions During COVID-19
1. Work With An Online Marketing Agency
If you’re a business that has primarily thrived under the brick-and-mortar model, and switching to the internet for the first time, then you probably need the assistance of an online marketing agency to get the best results.
A good example is how Intername Media, an Israeli-based online marketing agency, is assisting its clients around the world to raise their digital exposure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The startup offers a wide range of online marketing services, including online reputation management, website development, pay per click advertising, lead generation, email marketing, mobile marketing, etc.
Ido Fishman Fitness Trainer
Among a long list of businesses benefiting from Intername’s expertise, Ido Fishman Fitness Trainer, a personal trainer, is reaching out to its clients, who at this time can only train from their respective homes.
With the help of Intername, Ido Fishman has plugged into the leading video conferencing application, Zoom, conducting personal training and organized group training via the platform.
Personal trainers can as well advertise themselves online and then attend the customers without ever needing to meet them physically.
Bringing an online marketing agency on board would allow your business to figure out the best online marketing solutions that meet your clients and business model. A perfect execution plan can also be crafted to ensure that you bring in the best results.
In the end, you can cut costs and time that you would have spent on trial-and-error processes that may end up hurting your revenue sources more than it enhances it.
2. Train Employees to Make The Switch
If the only thing your marketing team has known until now is how to sell offline, then it could be disheartening to know that your decision to getting the best out of online marketing solutions could be an uphill battle.
But that doesn’t mean it is an impossible task. For one thing, you could get started by hiring an online marketing agency to grow your marketing team’s interest and knowledge about online marketing.
The use of an online conferencing tool like Zoom for such training is vital since it will allow the team to get a first-hand experience of one of the most used online tools at this time.
While you may want to ensure you get the best online marketing training based on your company’s budget, also remember that the results of such training will later reflect on your revenue and not just an increase in traffic or social media audience.
Alternatively, businesses with a tight budget may want to consider using a wide range of free educational materials about online marketing available on the internet. The only disadvantage would be that the process of getting the right results could take a little longer, even though the lockdown seems to provide just enough opportunity to conduct such an experiment.
3. Develop an Online Marketing Strategy
If you already have online marketing personnel on your team but haven’t taken the concept of selling online seriously, then now may be the time to rethink your approach.
Instead of merely treating selling online as just another approach to selling, you may want to make it a priority by drafting a full-blown marketing strategy for your online marketing efforts.
Among the things to review before drafting an online marketing strategy includes a clear definition of who your existing and potential customers are, as well as the online platforms that they use most often.
For instance, while clothing brands record larger success of picture-centric platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, business-to-business (B2B) companies thrive on less noisy social platforms including Twitter and LinkedIn.
Another core component of an efficient online marketing strategy is increased focus on mobile users since this demography of internet surfers contributed up to 52% of web traffic worldwide in 2019.
A further study while developing a marketing strategy could also reveal whether or not your business would need a mobile app to stay in touch with customers or launch an eCommerce store (we will discuss this in the next subheading).
4. Build an eCommerce Store
Remember, when we mentioned that there are a few sectors of the economy that has profited from the COVID-19 situation? eCommerce businesses belong to that category as the majority of people are now shopping from home to practice social distancing.
According to a study by eMarketer, consumer spending is shifting to eCommerce, with 43% of eCommerce merchants reporting increased sales since the onset of the lockdown in most regions around the world.
What does this mean for you as a business looking to pivot to online marketing at this time? You could consult with an online marketing agency like Intername or your in-house marketing team to decide whether or not now would be the right time to launch an eCommerce store.
You can choose to use pre-built eCommerce solutions such as Magento or Shopify to launch your eCommerce store while moving to a fully-developed version. Note, however, that using these solutions could slightly reduce the number of features you can incorporate on your eCommerce store.
If your budget, however, does not allow you to carry out the development of an online store, you may want to consider partnering with an already existing eCommerce business to sell your inventory at this time. At the same time, you share a portion of profits with them using a pre-defined affiliate marketing ratio.
Beyond the obvious benefit of helping your business survive the COVID-19 pandemic without losing its customer base, here are some other benefits of setting up an online store:
Breaking Down Geographical Barriers: With an online store, your business can sell to an international audience and acquire new customers via search engines and other marketing channels.
Offer a Wider Range of Products: With dropshipping, you can offer certain products without maintaining an inventory, thus, increasing your revenue while also minimizing operational costs to a significant extent.
Provide More Information: Offline shoppers are often starved of the abundant information about products that online shoppers have access to. Armed with this information, you allow your customers to make the best purchasing decisions.
Increased Revenue: Owning an eCommerce store could serve as another revenue channel for your business since it can exist alongside your physical structures.
5. Retain Employee and Customer Trust
With unemployment rates tripling around the world, an excellent way to tap into online marketing solutions could be to retain employee and customer trust.
This approach is essential even if you’re preparing for a layoff, downsizing, or pay cuts. Remember that you may need to bring back some former employees when this craze is over.
What are some ways that you can retain employee trust?
The most practical ways could be by making video-conferencing and integral part of your communication tools, and also writing emails to reassure employees that they’re highly appreciated.
Attaining such a level of trust and remaining transparent about how the business stands would be essential if eventually, you have to discuss other future developments such as a lower paycheck or reduced roles.
What about customers?
A new Forrester research shows that 52% of more customers are open buying from brands who reveal the strategies they’re taking to protect customers at this time. The same could be said of how such brands are contributing to community efforts to ameliorate the sad effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, you can tap online marketing solutions to write an email to customers just like Amazon did, create a video to explain your safety strategies, and then distribute this content via social media channels.
Alternatively, businesses with a larger budget can try influencer marketing to reach their customers further and potentially acquire new leads.
6. Organize Meeting With Prospects Via Video Conferencing
Some of the world’s biggest brands understood even before the outbreak of COVID-19 that they could save more time and money by organizing clients’ meetings with the aid of video-conferencing tools.
Therefore, if your business hasn’t been taking advantage of online conferencing to meet with prospective clients, then the current times provides an excellent opportunity for you to adopt the technology.
Here are some tips to help you organize a successful online meeting with clients and business prospects:
● Provide all the information that the client needs, including the meeting agenda, and attach it to the meeting invite.
● Invite only essential persons to the meeting and avoid overcrowding.
● Run an internal test with your in-house team before bringing external persons onboard.
● Since it’s a virtual meeting, use visual aids and screen sharing tools to create an engaging experience
● Use notes to remember pen down vital agendas discussed during the session and review afterward. Records may include information about what the client requested as well as concerns that they expressed at the meeting.
Interestingly, experts already believe that video-conferencing will be among the trends that would become more prominent post-COVID-19, meaning that you could also be preparing for the future work economy by tapping into the opportunity at this time.
7. Invest in Online Advertising
The COVID-19 lockdown and the low marketing budget at most SMEs have adversely affected advertising revenue generated by leading social platforms, with Facebook openly admitting this in a recent statement.
However, it is pertinent to note that the low revenue for social media platforms and small marketing budgets at most startups presents an opportunity for those who still have a larger marketing budget.
As we mentioned earlier, engagements on these platforms are hitting new all-time highs with more users spending time with their devices. Additionally, there is slightly less competition for consumer interest leaving the door open for businesses that have extra cash to spend on online advertising campaigns.
The only hurdle than would be to bring onboard an online marketing expert or agency with a proven track record in setting up high converting online ads on the platform that your organization chooses to run the campaign.
You can run online ad campaigns to boost followership, sell products and traffic, send traffic to your website, generate leads, or build an email list.
Also, beyond the most apparent method of running ads on social media platforms, display advertising via Google Ads or other platforms like Adblade is another approach that your business can explore.
Alternatively, you may contact site owners directly to place ads about your products or service at strategic locations on their website, including the header or bottom of articles that are ranking high on search engine result pages (SERPs).
8. Get Featured in Articles and News Stories
Another way to get the best out of online marketing solutions at this time is to liaise with a public relations professional to subtly promote your business in articles and news reports covering developments in your industry.
Such exposure would help assert your position as an expert in your industry and help you attract potential clients who form the readership for the article where your comments are published.
Alternatively, if your business already has a website, you can use this period to focus on writing guest content for websites that share similar demography of visitors.
By doing so, you generate more exposure and also boost your site’s SEO performance since most guest posting sites allow for a do-follow link to the contributor’s website.
Another approach that you can still try out at this time is offering exclusive interviews to news publications in your industry, either for free or a fee if it is in line with your company values.
In the end, what matters is the exposure and being able to acquire new prospects that can turn to clients when COVID-19 finally loses its grip on the global economy.
9. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is another popular form of marketing that takes on increased significance as long as the internet is concerned. In every industry, there are people who have large followers that contain your business’s prospective customers.
Either for a fee or a favor in return, you can contact these persons to promote your product or service to their followers while you share a portion of your business profits with them.
Interestingly, influencers may also lower their fees for such promotions as they also need to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
10. Host or Participate in Online Conferences
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, many events across different industries were postponed to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus. In recent times, however, most organizers are realizing that they can also host these events online and are readily adopting this approach.
Similarly, your company can choose to either host an online conference, attend one, or at least sponsor such an event. At the same time, you can choose to organize an online contest and giveaways, using this opportunity to reward loyal customers.
Many businesses are also taking part in industry efforts to donate towards COVID-19 relief efforts either locally or internationally. Such participation often results in media exposure as most publications carry the story of how organizations in the industry are assisting communities affected by COVID-19.
Another big advantage of doing so is that customers, competitors, and investors will remember your business when they make a list of businesses that stuck around during these turbulent times.
And who says you can’t raise funds in a recession?
As we’ve uncovered so far, a lot of opportunities exist for businesses that choose to take advantage of online marketing solutions for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the economy.
Organizations can choose to work with online marketing agencies like Intername Media, set up an in-house online marketing team, develop an online marketing strategy, or try another of the other options that we discussed in this article.
By doing so, there is almost a guarantee that they can get on the path to surviving these turbulent times and building a business that will not only retain customers but have a very formidable foundation to stand any such wave in the future.
First published: 21:16, 05.03.20