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How Digital Marketing is Flexing its Muscles During a Global Pandemic

Apr 20th, 2020 Advertising, Marketing

Last week, our Marketing Director, Josh Donelson, and I gave a talk to the Indiana Arts Commission. Watch here. The premise of our conversation was, “Digital Marketing and Communications in the Days of COVID.” 

Has the digital marketing landscape changed that much in a month? 

Hmmm... yes, and no. 

As the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases climbed and state-mandated stay-in-place orders took effect, the U.S. economy took a nosedive. Companies, and therefore people went into crisis management mode. Yet, when it comes to marketing (and other primary functions of business) decisions are best made when cooler heads prevail. The knee-jerk reaction when sales come to a screeching halt is to reduce expenses. Naturally. However, indiscriminate cost-cutting, particularly as it relates to consumers’ evolving needs, has negative long-term implications. 

The good news is that we do have historical data that can help guide our decisions as we navigate this time. The even better news is that our technology and ability to analyze data in real-time is better than ever! So, while we’re all navigating something unprecedented, we’re not doing it totally blind. Harvard Business Review published an article that examines companies in downturns since the 70s, and what they determined is that the companies who continued to invest in brand awareness and kept a pulse on changing consumer behavior not only were able to sustain during the downturn, but rebounded more quickly when the economy recovered. 

Let’s take a look at our own clients. 

Of our existing clients, we’ve had people fall into one of two camps relative to ad spend. Those who’ve forgone the ad budgets altogether and those who’ve maintained the status quo (with some extra COVID related messaging). Note: In general, ad costs have decreased. 

The clients who’ve eliminated or reduced their ad budgets have fallen off the map, while those who’ve maintained have continued to see growth. And, they’re experiencing that growth at a lower cost than before.

Based on our clients who have continued to maintain their current budgets, specifically speaking to home service-based in the few weeks following stay home announcements, we saw positive trends on activity and conversion rates. After the end of month figures we analyzed, we found an average of 20-25% increases in conversions from previous month figures. 

We are happy to see the continued trend comparing data on the first two weeks of April vs March with 2-5% additional increases across the board on activity and conversions. While this sample size is small, it certainly supports the larger data suggested in the findings by the Harvard Business Review. 

Chopping off an entire marketing arm is one of the worst things that you can do if you want your company to sustain a downturn. Digital marketing can be divided into two parts: paid, or targeted efforts, and organic. Yet, most businesses see them as a whole and not the sum of all parts. A good example of this is on the downturn during the weeks following the initial stay home order, clients we apt to nix their organic media completely losing social media coverage and ongoing content campaigns like gated content or educational posts. 

In doing so, if the client, who exchanges money for time, cannot adapt and run platforms or generate content have now effectively lost their audience as we know algorithms favor activity and quality content. 

Respecting the notion that businesses must mind every dollar being spent,  it’s important to turn inward and evaluate where you should focus your attention. 

Companies should address these topics: 

  1. Are we committed to our brand narrative? And, what’s the evidence that supports the notation that you’re leaning toward it during this time? 
  2. When it comes to social media platforms, think before acting. Think through the following questions: 
    • Is this in our wheelhouse?
    • Can we scale this? 
    • Can we generate enough quality content to stay relevant?

Hone in on channels that are yielding the most return on engagement for now and add-on when the time is right. 

  1. Is there a part of the business that can be monetized online? 

Think about leveraging smart eCommerce tools like WooCommerce or Shopify. 

  1. Administratively, are you being efficient? 

Scheduling platforms like Calendly are easy to use, time saving and inexpensive. Invoicing, Email Workflows and CRM integrations with your website provide a better user experience. Remember, people are online now more than ever. 

  1. Are you focusing your spending appropriately? 

Don’t eliminate spend everywhere. Reduce it where you have to. Our data suggest that focusing spends on Google Ads and other pay per click platforms is still fruitful, while a smaller budget of paid social campaigns makes sense for some brands (for now). 

While much has changed, much has stayed the same. We’re lucky to have communicative technology affordably at our fingertips. If you’re not sure how to navigate this terrain, and you have more time on your hands than usual, now might be a great time to find an agency partner. We’d love to hear from you

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