Morgan Flores, Search Marketing Manager
Are we going to be okay? A common thought as we face these uncertain times and most unusual challenges. Should we double down on our marketing budget or gut it entirely? Let’s be honest, the marketing budget is typically first on the chopping block. When faced with such tumultuous times business owners and executive leadership are forced to make some very difficult decisions. Get rid of this, cut that—we don’t know what tomorrow brings and therefore we should ‘err on the side of caution.’ Not so fast, the decisions you are making, are they backed by data or are they a knee-jerk reaction to the uncertainty that awaits? If your answer is the latter, consider this; how many successful businesses operate by a system of purely gut feelings? While intuition certainly has its place, you should always have baseline data to defer to.
MARKETING IN A DOWNTURN
Adapt to survive. While wise to contain certain costs, failing to examine core customers’ changing needs can jeopardize performance over the long-term. Take a scalpel, not a cleaver or a sledgehammer to the marketing budget. Recognize the need to adjust strategies and product/service offerings in order to not only survive but thrive in times of an opaque future. While this particular health crisis may be new, this isn’t the first or last time the world will face an economic downturn or volatility in the market. One thing remains the same, customer psychology. Businesses that aim to survive a crisis will focus on customer needs and position themselves as helpers, not opportunists.
PIVOT, PIVOT, PIVOT.
Imagine you’re moving a couch up several flights of stairs. The elevator is out. Left. Left. You’re lifting the couch over your head. You’re turning, turning, turning. Then, along with a couple of your friends you pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Nope, won’t fit. Things don’t always go according to plan. You may even cut the couch in half or scrap the idea entirely.
So, how should you pivot your search initiatives? Where do you begin?
TAKE A MICROSCOPE TO YOUR DATA
If you’ve been paying attention to the shift from print to digital, your website should have a Google Analytics account (at minimum). Print media is declining—that’s an indisputable fact. What is your business doing to shift to expanding consumer behaviors and what mechanisms do you have in place to track success? A perq of digital marketing is that you can effectively track conversions and engagement, it’s not some antiquated estimation built on counting new paper clippings or media impressions.
Let’s begin with the basics. The OG (original), no I don’t mean wading through server logs, I’m referring to Google Analytics. Consider viewing not just overall conversions or users, but also cost per conversion and conversion rates, broken down by campaign. If you're noticing conversion rates falling by 10% or more when looking at the same campaign performance, start digging deeper and determine if that's a campaign that should be paused or funds can be allocated in different directions. Consider the audience being targeted, the amount of users, and other on-page characteristics.
Every phone number clicked, every email address, every form filled out on your website must be tracked. Analyzing your conversion tracking, making informed decisions using data, and specifically honing in on key performance indicators will guide this decision making. Just counting the number of sessions or users year over year is not an efficient measurement of achievement nor does it allow you to strategically plan for the next few months or years. For example, it is critical that you view CAMPAIGN v CAMPAIGN, not just overall spend when analyzing paid ad success so you’re comparing the same audience performance.
Read, ‘Top 5 Takeaways on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Communications.’
EXAMINE PAID EFFORTS
If you’re running any pay-per-click (PPC) ads, now is the time to review them. Is the ad copy still relevant to your audience and sensitive to the current situation? Are you able to fulfill orders or deliver services that you’re advertising? If the answer is no, then turn off those ads immediately. Determine what products or services you can deliver. For example, if you’re a hair salon, shift to online product sales. Build your messaging around how these products solve an immediate problem. With salons shuttered across the nation, many individuals will be forced to perform their own haircuts and manicures at home.
REVISIT THE BLOG CONTENT CALENDAR
Much like with your email campaigns, evaluate the content you are pushing out on your blog. To quote one of the most influential hip-hop artists of our time, Ice Cube, ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself.’ And to quote another famous figure, the legendary investor Warren Buffet, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.’
Is your message commiserate with the current climate? The blog posts you had scheduled to promote, are they still relevant although many businesses are closed? Take this opportunity to generate new blog posts that your target audience will connect with and find valuable. A successful blog post will engage your target audience online through multiple mediums. Your blog content should function as an anchor pulling people from various channels online back to your website.
HAVE A PLAN
It is imperative that you have a two-month flexible plan for future messaging given the pandemic. While COVID-19 is a fluid situation, you should plan for this time of isolation to go through the end of May and have tertiary plans just in case stay-at-home orders extend past then (in many states this is quite possible). If you did not have a business continuity plan previous to this, consider reaching out to a local company near you for guidance.
SEARCH MARKETING, CUT OR NOT TO CUT?
There are winners and there are losers. Many of the winners will double down on search engine optimization (SEO). Thinking about creating a lead-generating download enticing visitors to give their email for a case study, white paper, ebook, template, or guide? That’s a great idea! But how are you going to drive demand? The users that were once searching for you by brand name are now occupied with other activities at the moment. Creating a profitable demand on an opt-in email list or lead-gen download is dependent on organic and paid strategies led by the needs of consumers. People still need products and services, the key is to understand how your products/services can fulfill an immediate need, articulate that need, and package it in a friction-free way for mass consumption.
As a business owner or executive leader, you are forced to get creative with tackling new obstacles and your employees look for you to lead the charge. The critical component is to know when to shift strategies and to do so with conviction. One thing to remember as you remain nimble is that SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. Stay true to strategies that are working, laying the foundation for future success, and focusing on conversions at all levels of the funnel.
You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” -- Michelle Obama
If you find yourself in need of a gut check on your current marketing strategy, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to help.