How to Pivot Your Marketing Strategy During COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Emily Lutz
August 10, 2020

The outbreak of the COVID pandemic and the subsequent lockdown of many businesses, schools, and facilities led to a radical change in the advertising landscape starting in March 2020.

Both companies and their marketers had to be incredibly flexible and adapt to the changes in their industry. At Perfect Search Media, we worked closely with clients in different industries to change their messages, targeting, and strategy through the stages of the lockdown and back into the reopening phase.

Here’s what we’ve learned during this time of economic instability:

Be flexible with the messaging of ads

Be aware of quickly-evolving public sentiment. Emphasize safety, concern for businesses & clients, your employees, and customers in your ad copy. Pause or review the language of any ads pushing for a hard sell. Position yourself to help your customers in this time. 

Sell the products or services that clients need in the current times

If their businesses are closing, they don’t need business products. They need information on government programs and help with their businesses. If schools are closing, students don’t need in-person degree programs. They need online resources for learning.

Ads for needed products or information will get a huge response. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these relevant needs:

  • Online Courses/Education:
    • During the lockdown, there was a large increase in people searching for Online Courses & Education. They were out of work but wanted to learn and had time to pursue topics that interest them.
  • Resources:
    • Information and other resources for businesses and up-to-date information about COVID were also widely searched. COVID Resources ads did very well on social media advertising platforms.
    • To better serve the needs of this audience, make sure your strategy includes…
      • information on your website that is updated daily at the state and federal level.
      • advocacy efforts and anything that your company is proactively doing about the crisis.
      • social media & display campaigns that promote these resources throughout the crisis to the entire industry in cheap brand awareness campaigns.
      • an email newsletter signup to collect contact information to use later to get conversions when businesses re-open. During the crisis, the email list can be used for industry updates to get people to return to the website again and again and engage.

Advertising costs

Expect costs per click to lower on ad platforms as companies in many industries lower their advertising budgets or even stop advertising altogether. This will allow a smaller advertising budget to reach more people.

As re-opening begins, expect costs per click to rise quickly as businesses raise advertising budgets and aggressively target new customers to make up for lost revenue.

Additionally, it’s important to note that ad competition will lower during the lockdown but raise significantly immediately following re-opening.

Advertising platforms

People will spend more time on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Display (Internet sites), and YouTube while they are on lockdown. This is a great opportunity to reach your audience and engage them creatively by using video and promoting website resources.

These platforms are also naturally cheaper to advertise on than Google Search, which could help you save budget.  

Search volume considerations

Search volume for your main keywords may decrease dramatically, depending on your industry. Search volume for almost every industry will change.

Use this as an opportunity to shift budget elsewhere, like social media, display, and YouTube advertising for resources. However, you still want to have a presence for the people who are still searching and researching.

You don’t want to pause search advertising completely since those users are still the ones directly looking for your products and are the most likely to convert.

Plus, if you completely pause your search advertising, you’re giving competitors a chance to dominate the top of the search results and establish themselves as leaders in the field, making it harder to restart after the crisis.

Entering the re-opening phase

Search volume will surge as states start hinting about re-opening in the near future or as a timeline is published. Start to shift your advertising as people start thinking about re-opening––if you wait until actual re-opening, you are already late.

Make sure that you are ready to ramp up and rapidly shift your advertising to take advantage of customers’ needs at this time. This is a great time to advance in your industry if your competitors are slower to respond.

Some important things to consider when approaching re-opening:

  • Have extra advertising budget saved for this time period to make sure your ads can show at the top for as many searches as possible as search volume surges and people start to re-emerge from lockdown. This is the time where you get a surge in conversions if you are targeting and messaging your audience correctly.
  • If states are opening at radically different times, the surge may happen more slowly and over a longer period of time.
  • Customers will be doing the bulk of their research into things that they will need to re-start their businesses.
  • If states start re-opening businesses July 1, start increasing advertising around the products that business owners need to re-open by June 1.
  • Once people are signed up with a certain company, it is more difficult to get them to quit and sign with a new one. You want to catch their interest before they sign up with anyone for easier conversions.
  • Conversion volume and rate will increase during re-opening if you have been growing your brand presence and awareness during the crisis and providing valuable resources and engagement to your audience. If you were silent during the crisis, it looks odd when all of a sudden you are peppering them with purchase ads as things re-open.

Resources and recovery

There are excellent tools to help marketers and businesses stay on top of changes in their industry during uncertain times. It is important to stay on top of your own advertising metrics, like impressions, click-through rate, costs per click, and conversion rate on a daily and weekly basis. Tools like Google Trends can help you get a wider view of interest in your industry over longer periods of time.

Additionally, you always want to be listening to your customers and their needs by engaging with them on social media and your website. If you are flexible, keep track of your metrics, and have a wide view of marketing strategy, your business can come out of an economic crisis ahead. 

With the help of an agency, you can develop a detailed, flexible strategy as circumstances change. The experts at Perfect Search Media can help your business take advantage of opportunities in your industry. Contact us today.

Emily Lutz
Director of Strategy

Emily Lutz is from Kalispell, Montana and has been camping more times than she can count. She geeks out over musicals and the TV show Firefly (yes, she’s on some chat sites). Before joining Perfect Search, Emily was a zookeeper for ten years.

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