Welcome to day 317 of March. It certainly feels like that, doesn’t it?. March Madness took on a new meaning this year with the shutdown in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while it sometimes feels as if time has stopped, for many it has all accelerated at warp speed.
Entire industries have had to adapt overnight. Realtors needed to go from open houses and showings with clients to virtual Open Houses and virtual walkthroughs. Restaurants from pubs to fine dining went from dine-in service to curbside pick up and delivery. Local retail stores shuttered and needed to use online media to continue to sell. Nonprofits gearing up for a busy year of in-person fund-raising events had to get very creative turning bike rides, 5Ks and auctions into virtual events.
If you’re still trying to figure it all out for your business, let’s take a minute to analyze the situation. Then we will discuss the online marketing tools that can help you.
What Hasn’t Changed
For many years we marketers have been telling organizations that they need to get set up online with a website, social media accounts, and at the very least, email marketing. We reminded them to claim their online business listings, especially Google. All of this remains true. If you are not currently doing these things, you are behind the eight ball and need to get caught up quickly if your business is going to survive.
The reason is simple. In a world where people are asked to stay at home but for essential outings, how will your customers know if you are open, offering curbside pick up, changing hours or altering event plans if you have no presence online?
Customers, clients and donors want to hear from you. You need to engage with them and Email Marketing remains the most effective ways to do so. There has been an overall increase in open rates and click rates during the shutdown. This is a sure sign that people remain interested in hearing from businesses and organizations they care about.
What has changed since the lockdown
The biggest change is that every business is learning quickly how to function almost entirely online. In some cases that means creating a whole new e-ommerce website from a static site. In other cases, they are learning how to hold entire conferences using applications such as Zoom, GoToWebinar, and WebEx. Sales meetings once held in an office have given way to Google Team, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime and Zoom calls. Others have turned to mobile apps. Toast is an app for restaurants for online ordering, taking credit card payments for curbside pickup, and gathering delivery information.
Small businesses and nonprofit organizations are built on relationships. It’s now more important than ever to utilize online marketing tools to sustain and strengthen your relationships with current and potential clients, customers and donors.
Social Media, Email Marketing Vital
With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, people are more engaged online than ever before. And while Facebook has seen up to 70 percent more time spent across their apps (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), the overall cost per click for advertising has dropped. This is, of course, due to the fact that many businesses have cut their marketing budgets back in order to save money.
However, now is not the time to stop marketing your business. In fact, with lower cost-per-click rates, it means that you can reach more people through social advertising without spending more money. So, if you can take advantage of the lower rates, do it. Ads aren’t the only way to market your business on social media platforms and if your business truly can’t afford ads right now, do not stress over it.
Producing and posting informative, helpful content on your business pages is probably even more important right now than ads and should be done regularly. But the key to using social media to market your business is to be authentic, relatable, and not overly sale-sy unless you are a restaurant or retail store.
Online Marketing Frequency, Consistency
Maybe in the past, you sent out an email once a month to let your contacts know about that month’s specials, events, tips or other news. But with circumstances changing by the minute, you will likely need to change how often you communicate with your contacts.
Think about switching your monthly newsletter to a bi-monthly or a weekly newsletter. Keep them a little shorter and more direct (but still friendly) than normal. And don’t hesitate to send out a quick-hit email campaign on the fly if something important happens in between your regularly scheduled emails.
If you were posting to your social media three times a week before, you should update that to once a day. Even if you don’t have daily operational changes, it’s good to post a little something every day, just to assure your audience that you’re there. Keep them posted on reopening and what that will look like to them.
Increasing the frequency is great, but you also need to be consistent. Send your email campaigns out at a consistent time of day, and post to your social media platforms in a regular fashion as well. This way, both you and your customers get used to the new routine. And if something urgent comes up and you need to break your routine, that email or post will stand out because it’s posted at an odd time or sent on an odd day. And, by the way, there are tools available to help. In fact, Constant Contact has free tools that allow you to set up and schedule both email campaigns and social media posts.
Show Your Humanity
When you reach out to your contacts, be yourself. Share your struggles and your triumphs. Share your ideas, your knowledge, and your sense of humor. In other words, be human.
If you have not done a video or a FaceTime Live before, now is a great time to start. People are looking for human interaction. The best part is that they don’t expect or even care if it is “perfect.” They just want signs of normalcy in a time of high anxiety.
As you communicate with your audience, be sensitive to the fact that everyone is affected by this pandemic in different ways, and while things may be hard for you, they may be even harder for someone else. When responding to comments on your social media posts, be sure to be both sensible and sensitive. And most importantly — Be humble, gracious, and kind.
Amy Dowd is owner and Chief Geek at Coastal Marketing Solutions in Dennis and a Certified Solution Provider with Constant Contact. She can be reached at www.CoastalMarketingGeek.com.