By Marina Milutinovic | April 14, 2020
A couple of months ago, as we entered 2020 and had our first team meeting, we were very excited to create new plans and strategies for our clients. Most of us felt this was going to be the best year ever. Little did we know that a new virus would appear – a virus that would basically turn the world upside down.
Two months later, the invisible enemy has spread to over 170 countries, changing everything. We’re staying home. Working from home. Socializing from home. Grocery shopping from home. To top it all off, financial uncertainty has knocked on the door and made itself at home.
Since our founding in 2001, we have helped many clients in different industries with their marketing, both organic and paid. We’ve seen businesses succeed and struggle and been there to celebrate and support them.
For CommonMind, the last couple of weeks have been really tough. Seeing some of the plans and strategies we set up for clients at the beginning of the year fall apart like houses of cards. We’ve seen some businesses cut their marketing budgets and others stop their marketing efforts entirely and indefinitely.
So what do we do? How do we help? We’ll try to explain why cutting your marketing budget during this challenging time, or any other tough time, may hurt your business in the long run and what you can do to stay visible when budgets are thin.
No Marketing, No Business
Most of the businesses in the world are not big brands like Nike, Coca Cola, or Apple. When all of this ends, big brands will NOT start from scratch. Sure, they‘ll also experience plummeting sales, but they’ll recover much faster.
Unfortunately, smaller businesses do not have that advantage. Once you stop marketing your products or services, you risk dropping off the radar. Although technology has made our lives easier, it has also changed the way we think and remember things. Simply put, if you’re not out there, there is a risk people will forget you or be tempted by a competing offer.
A lack of visibility also cuts down on word-of-mouth leads. People are less likely to talk about your brand if they’re not seeing it or hearing about it.
Most importantly, it’s difficult to maintain an emotional bond with your clients and prospects if you’re not communicating with them.
You have, by now, realized why stopping your marketing efforts is risky. So what can you do?
8 Low-Budget Marketing Activities During a Crisis
#1. Social Media
Now, more than ever, people are turning to social media. Social distancing is not necessary on social media channels: museums giving free virtual tours, bands hosting live gigs, cook shows – everyone is invited!
The best way to participate in social media without being inappropriate during this difficult crisis is to focus on your current customers’ needs. If what you are posting is truly helpful to your customers, then you can be assured it will be helpful to the wider audience you may reach via social media.
Also, consider using social media to share your own concerns and questions. We’re all vulnerable right now, and it’s OK to let that show on social media when done professionally.
Interview your employees and your customers. Make them the heros. Everybody can use a little extra love right now, and singing your customer’s or staff’s praises is one way to get more love out into the world.
You can even do these interviews over Zoom or Skype. They don’t have to be professional, but they do need to be earnest. Post the interviews to your blog or website, or give them to your customers to post on theirs.
#3. Audit the Existing Content on your Website
This is one of those tasks no one likes to do. Too often, we sweep it under the rug. Make a list of all your articles/posts. See whether any of them are outdated. You can either delete them or update the information. While you go through your content, you can also create a list of topics you want to cover in the future. Delegate the writing to your colleagues.
If you’re using an outside writer and can’t afford the expense right now, you’ll be ready to go as soon as cash flow improves.
#4. They Ask, You Answer
The ‘they ask, you answer’ principle was created by marketing expert Marcus Sheridan (and we’re huge fans of it). If your staff has any extra time on their hands, this can be a perfect opportunity for them to collaborate. Ask everyone to write down the questions that clients and prospects ask repeatedly.
Group the questions by similar topics and write down the answers. Each group can be a separate blog post. These posts become immediately useful: they help prospective customers research your company, and give your salespeople content they can use to streamline answering questions they receive.
#5. Check Your Website’s Functionality
Go through pages and see if anything’s broken. Are all the images displaying correctly? Are there any broken links? If you’re not tech savvy, you can create a list of things to be changed or improved and send it to your web developer. If you can’t afford to make those changes now, you’ll have your list in hand as soon as things pick up again.
#6. Create an Email Campaign
Emails are a great way to keep in touch, only this time, don’t sell your products or services. Be more personal, share your thoughts, share business updates or tips on how to overcome these times.
You have special insight that your customers may not. Share what you’re seeing among your clients or in the industry as a whole during these challenging times.
And always try to create a two-dialog when possible by including a question about how you can help.
#7. Local SEO Efforts
If COVID-19 changed hours of operation of your business or your business is temporarily closed, you should update your Google My Business listing to reflect the changes. Google recently posted guidelines on how to update your information and connect with your customers.
Do a Google search of your business and see what comes up in the results. The Internet is an endless place and chances are your details such as address, phone number or business name are not listed correctly on some websites. Take notes and contact local directories or site owners so they can edit the details.
No matter how much you buy into this philosophy of staying active, cash flow may be at a point where expending another dollar on advertising just isn’t possible. That’s understandable, in which case, please consider the no-cost strategies above.
However, if you need to scale back advertising without cutting it completely, consider focusing on remarketing. At the very least, it will keep you visible to prospects who have visited your site. It’s another way to keep your name fresh in people’s minds for when the economy picks back up again, and has the added benefit of generally being less expensive than paid search and other online advertising channels.
Pro tip: consider using a remarketing list with a longer membership duration than you typically would, to capture the attention of people who haven’t heard from you in a while.
Ready, Set, Go
An object in motion tends to stay in motion. Your marketing activity up until this point in time has helped keep your business in motion. Even if you can’t maintain the same speed, returning to a point of inertia will only make things harder, both now and when you’re ready to really restart things. Therefore, our best advice is to keep things moving.
We hope we’ve encouraged you to stay active and visible. None of these require expensive tools or big ad budgets, only good will.
If you, by any chance, feel stuck, feel free to contact the CommonMind team and we will be happy to help.