In recent weeks, the United States has faced incredible adversity as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. We’ve seen heroism from doctors, nurses, medical researchers and other healthcare workers who are at the forefront of providing essential care and medical innovation. In many cases, state and national legislators have stepped up to promote public health and provide critical support resources for those must vulnerable in our communities.
While businesses of all sizes and in all industries are facing unprecedented challenges during this time, many small business owners are uniquely feeling the pressure of the economic and social storm. As an Account Executive on the ChoiceLocal team, it is my responsibility to help our franchise and small business partners find cost-efficient, creative and effective ways to grow their businesses through digital marketing — even during a downturn.
Creating and implementing the best ways to connect with current customers, reach and convert prospects and increase your market share may seem daunting right now, but it is still possible. So, here’s why digital marketing is more important right now more than ever.
Life is Still Moving Online
Chances are you’ve adopted some new vocabulary recently. Terms like social distancing, community spread and flattening the curve fill our news reports, Twitter feeds and dinner conversations.
Have you tried teaching an elderly parent how to use FaceTime? You aren’t alone! Please add “Virtual Happy Hour” to one of my new favorite activities. No wait time at “the bar” (my refrigerator) and unlimited snacks!
Personally, the last few weeks have involved a ton of online content consumption. From checking out the virtual class schedule at my local yoga studio to panic buying beauty essentials, and, yes, watching YouTube videos on the best sourdough starters. Not only am I searching for news related to the COVID-19 situation, but I want to see if my favorite Thai place will deliver and might consider buying those running shoes if I can just find that discount code in my email.
Turns out I’m not the only one:
- Internet Traffic is up 50% according to Akamai, a real-time web monitor [Source]
- Twitter’s monthly active users and time spent are up 23% [Source]
- Leaders in online search traffic are sites that sold accessories, clothing and home goods [Source]
As a general trend, we’re spending more time surfing the web, scrolling through our social media feeds, and seeking our meaningful, helpful and engaging digital content.
Many people have found themselves in an entirely new situation — they are at home full-time with young children who needs educational activities and fun games to keep them occupied; they have aging parents who need to be kept safe, but who also need help getting dressed, making dinner or picking up prescriptions. They have new problems, question and needs, and they’re turning to the Internet for answers.
Adaptation Supports Growth
COVID-19 has affected the way we talk, the way we live, and – perhaps most notably – the way we work. For some industries, working from home has been a well-established and cherished perk of the job.
But what about those who rely on going into the restaurant, retail store-front, or homes of their clients to serve customers? In an environment where all “non-essential” industries are encouraged (or in some cases required) to work remotely, what does business look like for those who need foot-traffic and face-to-face interaction to do business?
Your customer-base and target audience are likely spending more time online than ever (see above) so moving traditional marketing efforts into a digital format is a good place to start. Here are a few important items to prioritize:
- Your website. First of all, make sure your business has a professional website that can be indexed by Google. From there, you will want to regularly add keyword optimized content that is relevant, answers the questions your customers are asking, and looks awesome on mobile.
- Your local listings. An updated Google My Business listing is key here. Have your hours of operation changed? Are you offering new services such as delivery or virtual consultations? Are you an essential business who is fully operating as normal? Ensuring your business listings are correct is essential to digital marketing success!
- Your social media profiles. Connect with and grow your customer base using social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow you to share important updates while keeping your audience interested in your products or services.
Preparing for the New Normal
Eventually, our collective lives will return to normal. We will take vacations, go to concerts and embrace our friends. There will be weddings, graduations and birthday parties. Eventually, those kiddos will be back at school. However, there will likely be some aspects of our work and how we do business that will be forever changed.
In this time of uncertainty and social distancing, we’re turning to the internet for information, assistance, goods, services, social connection — all of it. That will continue to be our new normal.
Some industries may have gotten away with little to no online presence before, but those days will be long gone. In order to thrive, especially as a small or local business, a well-crafted, thoughtfully executed and consistently managed digital marketing strategy will be essential.
About the author: Maggie Rodriguez is an Account Executive for ChoiceLocal. With a background in sports communication and event planning, she is interested in enhancing client experience through quality interactions and content. Outside of the office, Maggie enjoys reading, going to spin class and watching Cleveland Indians baseball.