Preparing a Smart Covid-19 Marketing Plan

Preparing a Smart Covid-19 Marketing Plan

By: Sarah Allworth

Before you put a full stop to your marketing plans in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, think long term. For the foreseeable future, you will need to connect with your customers entirely online. By maintaining your presence on a consistent basis with thoughtful, helpful and appropriate messaging throughout the crisis, you can avoid joining the rush of people trying to regain lost revenue, page rank, and sales traction down the road.

Does your business provide an essential service or service companies that are essential services? This likely means you have a lot to communicate and not a lot of time to spend doing it. Take a measured approach, keep the lights on and the information flowing, and give updates as things change over time.

Taking a Covid-19 Communication-first approach

1. Google My Business

One of the most useful tools to communicate how you are continuing to serve customers is through your Google My Business listing. If you have not claimed yours or updated it since the Covid-19 pandemic started, you should do so now. You can find details on how to claim your Google My Business listing here, and how to update it here.

This is where you should tell your customers you continue to serve them online, (or if your hours have changed), and what you are doing to help your community.

Your Google My Business listing should be updated regularly, daily even during this time. News changes fast and it’s reassuring to customers if your information is current.

2. Email Marketing

If you have a customer or prospect database, you can also use email to communicate information. Be aware of your message. Sales-y messages can sound tone-deaf to customers who are feeling worried about their financial security and well-being.

Demonstrate leadership by communicating well and often and by ensuring that all your channels have a consistent message.

The same goes for your workforce that may be working from home. Identify the messages you want them to share with your customers to ensure everyone is saying the same thing about your business. You’ll earn trust and confidence by being transparent about how your business is being conducted during this difficult time.

Can your company solve a unique Covid-19 problem?

While many industries such as travel and tourism are struggling due to increasingly strict social distancing measures, other companies are finding surprising ways to be more relevant than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are now many examples of companies finding ways to dedicate their resources to helping the community or by responding to the urgent need for medical supplies.

While so many people are distancing at home or in quarantine, all eyes are on companies that shine by selflessly helping others. Similarly, there’s plenty of backlashes, such as the one directed at Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson, who recently asked employees to take time off without pay while his net worth is estimated at $4 billion.

Companies profiting from the Covid-19 pandemic won’t be looked on favorably in history. Google, Facebook, and even Amazon are taking measures to ensure those in need are served, and those hoarding essential goods for profit are not given a platform.

3. Event Marketing – How do you replace business lost from canceled events?

While events are not taking place around the world, and for good reason, thank goodness we have the ability to turn to webinars and online events to reach customers. While deals may take longer as your prospects have the time to consider their options, use this time to demonstrate your willingness to serve their needs better.

Try promoting smaller and more frequent online events that give you an opportunity to engage with people individually, and to take feedback to truly understand their needs. This will help you make a personal impact with potential customers on a level you never would have had before. Google has stepped in to help make this a little easier for both businesses and the education sector by Extending Hangouts Meet premium features to all G Suite customers through July 1, 2020.

Marketing digitally allows you to react quickly to a changing situation

Many traditional offline marketing tactics won’t help you today. Out-of-home displays and signage, events and such just don’t make sense now, because your customer is at home. Further, digital marketing messaging can be quickly updated, so you’re always in tune with what’s happening in the world.

Marketing digitally means you’ll have the flexibility to invest in media with ROI you can prove, and immediately cut in areas which aren’t currently effective. Because many digital marketing tactics don’t require long-term contracts signed months in advance in order to secure your space, you’re not locked into failing media.

Before you re-deploy your marketing budget and make a new plan for 2020, look at where these digital marketing tactics can fit in to help you lessen the impact Covid-19 has on your business.

4. SEO – Don’t ignore SEO in favor of short-term exposure

SEO is a long-term play, and it’s important to continue this work for as long as you can or you will lose the rank you’ve acquired. Right now is a great time to invest time into a website audit to identify issues with discoverability, page speed, user journey or other factors that could be hurting your business.

Additionally, what new keywords such as ‘social distancing’ are emerging that you can create the content of value for? This kind of opportunity can positively affect your rank and position you for future success.

5. Advertising essential services

In all honesty, it may make sense to dial back your ad spend for the time being. Priorities are being re-established, and right now, health, family, safety and financial security are taking priority over whiter teeth. However, if your product continues to have relevance for consumers (a service or product deemed an essential) for a short while, you might have increased visibility as your competitors choose to wait things out.

6. Creating authentic content

Can you tackle your content to-do list? Or inform and educate your customers in a way that is useful right now?  Be sure to let your customers know how your business continues to serve them during the crisis and look for ways to put your product into context during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Look at whether or not your messaging fits with the new realities of 2020 and if you can better connect with your customers with a different language. Messages reflecting our new reality are going to come across as more authentic and trustworthy.

Great content improvements to tackle from your home office:

  • Devote time to creating visuals for your content pages. Can a video, slideshow or infographic say it better than words?
  • Can your content be made more ‘timeless’?
  • Are there linking opportunities within your own content or on other sites that will add depth or context?
  • Can you republish your newly enhanced content on relevant social channels, or pitch it to others who might do so?

7. Social – Don’t go completely silent on social

Think about what your prolonged silence tells your customer. In fact, think a little harder on what messages you want to put on your social channels. Ignoring the Covid-19 pandemic will make you appear tone-deaf.  Aim for sensitive, sensible commentary that shows your awareness of your customer’s new reality, and don’t give up on customers, because they are still out there and they are spending a lot more time online.

There are some shining examples of great social media during the Covid-19 pandemic, like MEC’s #goodtimesinside hashtag that supports their online business as their stores were among the first to respond to calls for non-essential businesses to close. The best examples of social media are demonstrating corporate responsibility and community stewardship with companies leading by example.

On a more practical note, people will often turn to your social media channels if they aren’t getting the information they are seeking from your website. Be sure to pin important messages about business hours or how you are operating to the top of your social media accounts. Aim for quality over quantity – say meaningful things that have value to your reader.

8. Branding – Use this time to reflect and re-imagine your brand

It’s quite likely that while the world may be fundamentally changed when the Covid-19 pandemic is finally under control. Will your brand be reflective of this new reality? Can you improve upon it to have more impact with a customer that might require more nurturing to make a purchase decision?

During times of plenty, businesses often put off-brand foundation work in favor of projects that generate sales. But during a downswing, you’ll need to work a little harder to win business. Investing time into persona development, buyer journeys and key messaging may give you an edge over the competition. You will want to address your key messaging more than once as this changing situation evolves.

Look at the competitive landscape now, and determine where the potential gaps are, and how your business can fill it – and realize this may change as the situation evolves.

Find partners. Engage with other businesses that you are aligned with and identify ways you can help one another, through creative collaborations, content, social, or by augmenting each other’s service offerings.

9. Optimization – Tune-up your web presence

No doubt your website is overdue for a tune-up that will improve the customer’s experience.

Examine your website from a user’s perspective:

  • How quickly do your pages load, and are there plug-ins, slow themes or other impediments to fast load times?
  • Does your website function well on mobile?
  • Is it easy to find the information they are looking for?
  • Do all pages have proper page titles and meta descriptions in place and do each page deliver the content promised in your page title and meta description?
  • Are your pages optimized with a key phrase and are there other key phrases you should optimize content around?
  • Does your website have a logical navigation structure? Does it make use of breadcrumb navigation?
  • Does your website have an effective offsite strategy with continuity of brand messaging?

Investing in digital marketing for future success

If you can identify areas requiring improvement, don’t be shy in tackling the work to set yourself up for success. In fact, because other companies are currently pulling back from investing in themselves, now is a good time to lock-in extended free trials, competitive rates for software and services as businesses look to help one another.


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