I would like to not talk about the negativity surrounding us right now. I strongly believe that the best thing about the human race is how fast we learn to adapt to new conditions. And it’s this survival instinct that will help us come out of the other end of this pandemic. In the world of business, it’s a time for do or die. And when you come to that situation, you are more open to trying out things which you probably would have never thought of doing otherwise.
As the coronavirus rages across the world, businesses and brands across the world are scrambling to find new ways to find their audiences. And in search of that audience, which is now held up in confined territories, brands are finding alternative ways to fill their pipeline. And that is where content marketing and the digital space comes into the picture. With the virus blowing up all large-scale events and trade shows, marketers are now looking at content marketing more than ever.
In the past 10 days, I have talked to atleast 5 business owners who have had to shut down their operations (mostly because of the industry they work in) and were now starting to build new streams of business that reach out to the audience digitally. They mostly wanted to know how they could improve their reach through their website? This trend has also been confirmed by the leads on our website. There have been businesses owners calling me to know how they could build a better website and attract more customers online, marketing heads looking for more content and brands looking for a stronger digital presence through content marketing.
So, what is content marketing?
According to Content Marketing Institute,
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Simply said, content marketing is a part of digital marketing where content plays the lead role in building connections with the audience. Content marketing relies on an ongoing relationship with the customer by creating trust and loyalty and imparting value at every stage. Over the years, content marketing has moved beyond just writing blogs and content pieces to encompassing SEO, social media, email and content distribution.
See this infographic on exactly why content marketing works.
Why does this make sense now?
The graph below gives a bird’s eye view on how conversion rates have been declining across industries since COVID-19.
As you can see, apart from industries like Food, Pharma, Media, and Healthcare, everything else has seen a massive dip. But there’s a silver lining through this whole situation.
According to eMarketer, consumers spent 6.1 hours a day online on average in early January. This number has spiked to 7.3 hours in February and March since many parts of the world went into isolation and lockdown.
Which means that online marketers have a more captive audience than ever before. And this could hold the key to recovering some lost business and powering through the crisis.
At Justwords, we’ve been observing this very closely as we help our clients navigate this very challenging time. In the last month or so, we’ve devised our own playbook.
This playbook is all about using digital marketing, particularly content marketing, as an anchor to tide through these times.
Here are some of the most important steps:
1. Use online marketing tools to retain existing customers
Needless to say, you will lose some customers as people lose their jobs and businesses start scaling back. Having said that, this is the time to make sure you’re communicating the value you’re delivering to existing customers so that yours is the last product/service that gets hacked. Here are some simple tools you can use:
If you’ve always planned to set up personalized, targeted ways of reaching out to existing customers, this is the time to do it. Use a strong marketing automation platform (WebEngage, MoEngage etc) to find the perfect way to communicate with your customers — through a combination of emails, push notifications, app/web content, chat, and so on. Make sure that you’re staying with them through the user journey, communicating about the extraordinary situation, how you’re adapting to it, extra services, etc. Delivering a superlative customer experience at this point will go a long way to retain customers. It’s also a great long-term strategy because your staff will now have free time to focus on content creation and ROI-generating activities.
Generating success-based content
It’s really important to share stories about your success and effectiveness at this time. If you’re a B2B company, creating compelling case studies and whitepapers is a great idea, as are video testimonials. Of course, it’s important to be mindful in your messaging — make sure your content reflects the fact that we are in the midst of an extraordinary crisis that we need to come together to beat. Don’t allow your content to ignore the ground reality.
Stay on top of social
This is the time to really up your social media game when it comes to existing customers. Create a low-cost plan to reach out to customers at every stage of the social media funnel. Use monitoring tools like Hootsuite and Brandwatch to keep a firm eye on what customers are talking about — whether it’s your brand in particular or the industry in general. Also, make sure you add to the conversation — in a way that’s respectful and appropriate, but also adds real value.
2. Leverage dirt-cheap advertising
You may be tempted to pull out all your money from online advertising. But think twice before you take this step. Online engagement is at an all-time high as people are spending more time indoors and on their devices. At the same time, many businesses are withdrawing ad spends which means that the auctioning system is resulting in lower CPCs (Cost-per-click).
Given how low the CPCs have become, and the fact that there is an amazing captive audience, think about refocussing your ad spend instead of cutting it down or scaling back. Instead of focussing on short-term, conversion focussed campaigns, this might be a good time to focus on long-term, brand awareness campaigns instead. As the China experience shows, Coronavirus has a peak followed by a strong recovery period. Having top-of-the-mind recall will go a long way as the economy starts to reset.
3. Shift SEO targeting
There are two ways of doing this. The first is that you go more local. Businesses in retail, investment, and even hospitality have realigned their SEO strategy to target more local customers. They have reduced their target area to a couple of sq km or even less — and this narrower, more focussed approach is helping them zone in on the customers that have higher conversion rates during this lockdown period.
On the other hand, if you’re a business with an online product that has a global market, this could be the time to shift focus in your international strategy. For instance, with over 30000 COVID-19 cases being reported every day in the United States as of now, chances are the American demand is dropping off. However, other markets such as Brazil are actually increasing demand for certain online (especially B2B) products. An SEO strategy that looks at shifting focus from underperforming markets to markets that are still thriving is really useful.
You can implement this shift immediately in your Google Ads campaigns, but also in the long term by focussing on location-specific keywords in your SEO strategy.
4. Think long-term
Like we just said, the Coronavirus has a definite curve. China’s experience with the disease has proved this. Which means that at some point in the near future, the economy will kick start once again. While this will take a lot of time and effort, it’s important to stay prepared. Research from previous recessions shows that the companies that exchanged short-term profitability for long-term gains by refocusing spending instead of cutting it altogether, recovered from the recession much faster. Here are some ways you can take a longer-term approach with this situation:
Update evergreen content
Every industry has certain content that stays relevant and valuable, irrespective of the circumstances. If your marketing team has some extra time on their hands, you can focus on revisiting this content, updating it, and revamping it to improve search engine rankings. You can even create some evergreen content from scratch — that long-overdue ebook, a 3000-word how-to article, or a detailed infographic around industry insights.
Establish thought leadership
This is a great time to establish thought leadership. With more time to go around, your senior leadership can take time to put together valuable content on where the industry is headed, how it will navigate this downturn, where the future lies, and so on. At this time, more than ever, people are looking for experts with insightful opinions to help them make sense of all the uncertainty.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that this is the perfect time to leverage industry experts, even those who aren’t a part of your company. Being confined to their homes, people have a lot more time on their hands. Chances are that you’ll find it much easier to schedule an interview with these experts now. Use this opportunity to create in-depth interviews (whether it’s via a video call or a written piece) that add value for everyone in the industry.
The bottom line
Of course, things are going to get worse before they get better. But it’s important to remember that they will get better eventually — and probably sooner than later. Keeping the panic at bay and sticking to a long-term approach will help you tide over the crisis much sooner than you might expect.