There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic effects. Not only has it changed the way we interact with others on a daily basis, but it’s also forced us to grapple with the massive inequities of our world and the ideologies that differ wildly from our own.
When we were all asked to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it seemed like everything came to a screeching halt. But the need for products and services didn’t actually stop; it merely transformed in a whole new way.
That forced business owners to get creative in how they promote their organizations. And as we prepare to enter a post-pandemic world, it’s essential to take what we’ve learned while marketing during coronavirus to inform our future strategies.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s happened over the last year, as well as how you can implement some simple digital marketing tips to use in 2021 and beyond.
How did marketing change during COVID-19?
At the very beginning of the pandemic, many business owners were understandably scared to continue spending money on marketing. We now know that marketing during a pandemic or other crisis tends to be scaled back, as cutting costs right away seems like one of the best ways to maximize your odds of survival.
Postponed events, canceled flights, and supply chain problems made it nearly impossible for many organizations to keep doing business as usual. Companies scrambled to ensure their strategies were aligned with a rapidly-changing reality, while a report from Business Insider published in October 2020 revealed that 75% of companies planned to significantly cut their ad budgets.
That said, there is a valid argument for staying the course. During times of economic uncertainty, the businesses that tend to fare best are the ones who don’t shy away from continuing their ad spend.
According to data compiled by Forbes, the 2008 recession came with a 13% decrease in U.S. ad spending. But studies that go back nearly a whole century reveal that maintaining (or even increasing) advertising spend can help businesses come out on top later on. That data shows that companies able to continue spending money on their marketing end up increasing their sales and overall market share once the economy has recovered.
No one ever claimed that marketing during a pandemic would be easy. Some even believed it wasn’t wise (or even possible) to do so. As such, marketing and advertising were among the first things to go. But as the months went by, business owners realized that this wasn’t a suitable plan for the long term – especially because consumers were still ready and willing to spend their hard-earned money.
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Although e-commerce was already doing quite well before the pandemic, supply chain challenges and widespread lockdowns impacted the customers’ ability to buy locally and in person. As such, consumers turned to the internet en masse. U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that e-commerce transactions increased by 32.4% from 2019 figures, meaning that Americans spent a staggering $791.7 billion on their online purchases during 2020. As a result, many a business owners realized that it might be time to quickly rethink their pandemic marketing strategy.
Not surprisingly, e-commerce businesses increased their online promotional efforts in order to meet customers where they already were. Once business owners realized that they were missing out, they were largely eager to get back to advertising. In fact, digital ad spend grew by 12.2% year over year in 2020. Additionally, an eMarketer forecast suggested that U.S. marketers would spend $17.37 billion in advertising that would be displayed on e-commerce sites and apps in 2020. This gave way to a whole new line of thinking in regards to marketing pandemic strategy.
In other words, the way businesses promoted themselves evolved rapidly during the first year of the pandemic. Conservative cost-cutting quickly gave way to highly effective ad maneuvers that actually allowed many businesses to thrive during an international crisis.
Now that you have a better understanding of how marketing has changed in just the last year or so, it’s time to take a closer look at the strategies you could be using to promote your own business in our post-pandemic world.
Which post-pandemic marketing tips should you try?
Marketing during a pandemic was challenging enough. But figuring out a post-pandemic marketing strategy might seem even more difficult.
After all, our post-pandemic world will be quite a bit different from the one we knew before we had ever heard of COVID-19. When looking for tips to market your small business, you’ll want to use what we’ve learned during the pandemic and pay attention to the trends we’re still seeing in 2021. Here are just a few post-pandemic marketing tips you’ll want to consider adding to your strategy now and in the future.
Put your values front and center
For years, brands were often afraid to express a stance on any socio-political issue. But during the pandemic, it became clearer than ever that consumers want the brands they support to be clear about their values.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should embrace controversy (as there is such a thing as bad press!), but it does mean that you can’t afford to go silent when issues like gender and racial equality, public health, and environmental responsibility come up. At a minimum, you’ll need to lead with transparency and compassion.
Once consumers realized which brands weren’t doing this during the pandemic, they let their money do the talking. Even in a post-pandemic reality, you must continue to be forthcoming and empathetic in your marketing and in all customer communications.
Get even more active on social
Speaking of customer communications, you’ll need to double down on your social media strategy post-pandemic. Social media use reached new heights during 2020, but it’s likely that our obsession with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn won’t fade any time soon.
Being active on these platforms provides you with a more meaningful way to connect with your audience, create brand buzz, and promote your products or services. Along with ample opportunities for digital ad placements, influencer partnerships on these platforms are also picking up again as the world opens up.
With in-app features now being released to connect brands with creators, you’ll want to consider how these tools can help you grow your business post-pandemic.
Invest in search engine optimization
SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways to market your small business. When marketing during coronavirus, many organizations smartly chose to continue with SEO because of the affordable cost (and because you can’t stop SEO like you would with a digital ad).
On-site and off-site optimizations can allow you to reach your target audience and build brand visibility over time. And as customers look for valuable information from brands they can trust, search engine optimization will fit in perfectly with your content marketing strategy.
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Appeal to mobile and local customers
If you’re looking for tips to market your small business post-pandemic, you’ll want to figure out precisely who your customers are. When your target audience is largely local, you’ll still need to embrace digital marketing techniques rather than rely on traditional marketing methods.
The difference is that you’ll want to focus on local SEO, as well as mobile-friendly web design and optimizing for voice search technology. Be sure to claim and complete your Google My Business (GMB) profile, generate positive reviews on trusted platforms, create FAQ and local landing pages, and ensure your site is accessible on all devices.
While it might not seem like this should be among the top marketing tips for small businesses, these steps will support your efforts by widening your reach and removing barriers to your success.
Don’t miss out on e-commerce
As we mentioned earlier, the e-commerce sector experienced massive growth during the pandemic. Although traditional retail locations have largely reopened, that doesn’t mean that customers are going to give up their online shopping habits.
If you run a business that sells products or services that can be purchased via the internet, you’ll want to make sure your website is able to keep up with demand (and you’ll want to highlight that in your marketing!). If you can’t provide customers with quick solutions to their problems, it’s likely that they’ll look elsewhere. Be sure to troubleshoot your checkout process to eliminate abandoned carts and to make it easy for consumers to make a purchase.
When developing your post-pandemic marketing strategy, you may quickly become overwhelmed with information. But with these digital marketing tips, you’ll be able to navigate our post-pandemic world and ensure your business will thrive.
Jeff Shipman is the Director of Marketing Innovation at Semify, based in Rochester, New York. At Semify, we focus on scaling, are US-based, and a white label SEO solution that helps digital marketing agencies achieve dreams through on-time delivery and SEO fulfillment. Before moving to Western New York, he earned a BA in History and an MBA at St. Bonaventure University. Go Bonnies!