The New Guidelines for Online Marketing During COVID-19

Time moves differently now, and so should your marketing.

At the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some people worried that marketing their business was in bad taste, and at one point, that might have been true — depending on the nature of your business. However, things have changed and we don’t know how long things will go on like this. So for now, this is our new normal.

In this article, I’m going to talk about what’s changed in online marketing and how to make sure that you’re handling your new marketing with sensitivity as well as sensibility.

With all the changes that are happening in our lives and our businesses thanks to the coronavirus, I want to give us all some normalcy before we jump into talking about more changes. So, let’s talk about…

What hasn’t changed

For years, we’ve been talking about the importance of online marketing, about email and social media campaigns, your website, online listings, and how to create content. That hasn’t changed. It’s only intensified now that the internet has become our main conduit for interacting with each other.

And email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Bar none. Even in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an overall increase in email open rates, which indicates that people are still interested in hearing from the businesses and organizations they care about.

So, don’t stop what you’ve been doing. It works.

What has changed for online marketing during COVID-19

The biggest change is that every business, everywhere, is having to find ways to function online. From creating new online stores and shoppable landing pages to updating websites on a moment’s notice and being more engaged on social media platforms and listing sites.

And since small businesses are built on relationships, it’s now imperative that you use online marketing tools to build and strengthen relationships with current and potential customers.

Social media

With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, people are more engaged online than ever before. And while Facebook has seen up to 70% more time spent across [their] apps, the 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. But ads aren’t the only way to market your business on social media platforms.

Producing and posting content on your business pages is key to using social media to market your business. So, make sure that:

You’ve claimed your business listings and that you’re keeping them up to date
Your business profiles are filled out — completely
All of your imagery is clear and up to date
You’re regularly posting content and responding to comments in a timely manner

Online marketing frequency

Previously, you may have sent out an email once a month to let your contacts know about that month’s specials, events, or news. But with circumstances changing at an unprecedented rate, how often you communicate with your contacts has to change as well.

Think about switching your monthly newsletter to a weekly newsletter, and don’t hesitate to send out short email campaigns on the fly if something important happens or changes in between your regularly scheduled emails.

When it comes to social media marketing, posting three times a week might have been enough, but now once a day isn’t too much — especially if you’re changing what you have to offer on a daily basis (such as restaurants that now have limited menus or occasions where stock can not be replenished due to shortages). Even if you don’t have daily operational changes, it’s good to post a little something every day right now, just to assure your audience that you’re there, and you’re still ready to do business.

Even though the frequency of your communications has changed, you still need to maintain your consistency. 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.

Collaboration and cooperation

Everyone is being impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another but there’s power in numbers. And while it may feel like you’re all by yourself in trying to adapt and overcome the challenges you’re facing right now, it’s important to remember that you are not alone.

You’ve got fellow small business owners

Be a good neighbor. Reach out to support your neighboring small business owners. Share information. Share each other’s social media posts. Engage with each other on social media. Maybe you can even pool resources to share social media advertisements and budgets.

You never know what you might come up with together. Perhaps you can create care packages or gift baskets using items from each of your stores and create a totally new online business collaboration. Think about buying gift cards from each other and then running joint online marketing campaigns to give them away, promote buy-one-get-one’s, or something else that will help not only your business but your neighbor’s business as well.

Sensitivity and sensibility

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of receiving emails from big businesses telling me about how they’re here for me during this pandemic. And at this point, if I receive one, I basically think about how they’re behind the eight ball with their messaging. So don’t be like them. Be different. Be bold. Be funny. But more than anything…

Be human

There’s a time and place for everything, and now is the time to be human and to show your humanity.

When you reach out to your contacts, be yourself. Everyone wants to connect, and your customers and contacts want to connect with you in particular. So, share your humanity. Share your struggles and your triumphs. Share your ideas, your knowledge, and your sense of humor.

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. So, when responding to comments on your social media platforms, make sure to be sensible and sensitive.

Most importantly — When it comes to communicating during COVID-19: Be humble. Be gracious. And be kind.

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