Six Inbound Marketing Best Practices to Combat the COVID-19 Outbreak
By Jonathan Ebenstein, Managing Director, Marcum Strategic Marketing
For many business owners, the idea of investing marketing dollars in the midst of all the fear and uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic is counter intuitive. The more common, and no doubt tempting, reaction is to press pause indefinitely or drastically reduce your marketing spend.
Resist that urge.
Be Afraid of the Dark
Now is not the time to go dark. Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” With social distancing in place, online engagement is surging. More people are spending more time than ever accessing online resources and social media. The opportunity to provide valuable information to your audience as well as to interact and deliver positive brand experiences still exists. It’s just the path to doing so that has changed. If your business has traditionally relied heavily on trade shows, event marketing and other traditional in-person sales strategies, you mustn’t cease all marketing. Instead, reallocate your marketing spend to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you online by adopting a strategic inbound marketing approach.
What’s Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is more than just editorial strategies and posting blogs. It’s a comprehensive approach that is centered on delivering solutions and opportunities to people and businesses. Inbound marketing integrates a wide range of digital marketing tactics such as email, social media, SEO and digital advertising. It serves to educate, inform and inspire customers and prospects while building positive brand awareness for businesses. Inbound marketing also creates and maintains ongoing engagement with both customers and prospects – something all businesses need, both during as well as after the coronavirus crisis.
Six Inbound Best Practices Your Business Should Be Doing
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your website’s content through its structuring so that search engines can find, read and index the pages on your website in the most effective manner. Properly implemented, SEO makes your website and its content attractive, relevant and visible to search engines and web searchers. Think of SEO as what creates the roads your customers and prospects need to take to get to your website.
Don’t just think of SEO as a way for new prospects to find you – consider how your search presence appears to existing customers and contacts as well. Are your storefront locations temporarily closed during the crisis? The easiest way to let people know is via Google My Business (GMB). Update your GMB profile to account for things such as temporary closures, reduced hours, canceled events, etc. And, if you’ve added services, such as delivery or online sales options, use a GMB post to let people know directly in the search results, before they even visit your site. By making these simple updates, you can save customers time and frustration as well as possibly uncover new sales opportunities.
2. Content Marketing
With the global cancellation of conferences, trade shows and other types of in-person events, including sales calls, content marketing offers your business the opportunity to stay engaged and interact with your audiences. Content marketing is a holistic approach that delivers relevant and timely information (e.g., educational articles, whitepapers, checklists, how-to-guides) directly to customers, prospects and key business contacts via email, social media, web content, SEO and paid media. An important distinction between content marketing and traditional marketing is that content marketing is not overtly promotional. It is most effective when it is used to educate, inform and inspire customers and prospects. And, it can be especially impactful during times of crisis.
In the absence of traditional event marketing and in-person sales during the coronavirus pandemic, content marketing becomes an extremely valuable and important lead generation and pipeline acceleration strategy. A very effective tactic to consider are webinars. Marcum has held a webinar on How to Access the SBA and Other Ways of Preserving Value in Your Business, which maxed out WebEx’s 1,000 person attendee allotment, causing us to add a second date, which was also “sold out.” To further take advantage of webinar content that attracts high levels of interest, be sure to record and post them to your website, just like we did.
Don’t be afraid to break from the traditional with your content marketing strategy. In times of isolation for many, people are looking to connect in more ways online. Perhaps hold a virtual networking “happy hour” for a small group of clients and contacts, or consider converting traditional text-based content into audio or video to further connect with your audience.
3. Social Media
If educational, informative and thought-provoking content is the fuel that drives the engine, social media is the vehicle that often best ensures the content is delivered to your target audience. Not only does social media help target and deliver your content to the people who are most interested in your brand, it also serves to subsidize your SEO efforts, especially if you are still building upon your search engine rankings. In concert with your content marketing efforts, be sure to develop a social media plan to promote and distribute your content to your audience. Along the way, be sure to also analyze your top-performing content to ensure that you continue to create and deliver information that is of the most value to your audience, which in turn will maximize lead generation.
In addition to promoting content and driving website traffic, social media provides an additional channel for staying connected to your audience, some of whom may be unable to reach you via the traditional methods (i.e., in-store or in office). Overall, and especially throughout the coronavirus outbreak, social media provides a great platform in which to respond quickly to messages or comments and post updates on your business’ status.
4. Digital Advertising
The outbreak of COVID-19 and the mandate of social distancing as the primary means for combating its spread has resulted in digital advertising (e.g., digital display ads, social media ads, online video) being consumed at a higher rate than ever. This is a trend that will undoubtedly continue, making digital advertising one of the most important and effective strategies for reaching your buyer during the coronavirus outbreak. Your ability to pivot and prioritize digital advertising to promote your business will become more important to your company’s survival than at any other time. Fortunately, with many businesses decreasing or pausing their marketing spends, you are likely to see a meaningful drop in CPM (i.e., impressions) and cost per click (CPC) costs. This will create an ideal opportunity to increase your share-of-voice and improve customer acquisition at a lower digital cost per sale than the pre-coronavirus period.
5. Landing Pages
Landing pages are part of the lead generation process and are used to increase conversion rates. They are tied to the targeted online and email promotions of your content development efforts (e.g., e-book) or special offers (e.g., web site audit report) and match the intent of the digital ad that a prospective customer clicked on to reach it. The landing page provides additional information (e.g., text copy or video) and a form for the prospective lead to fill out in exchange for receiving the advertised piece of content or special offer.
Because not everyone who visits your website will engage online and become a customer, there needs to be a tactic in place that keeps site visitors engaged with your brand after they leave your website. Remarketing helps to address this problem by installing cookies on site visitors’ web browsers that allows you to remarket to them with branded digital ads on websites they visit after exiting yours. Remarketing allows you to serve up custom ads specific to the product or service page(s) they visited. In the case of an e-commerce site, you can remarket ads specific to a product in their shopping cart that they haven’t yet purchased.
In the Middle of Difficulty Lies Opportunity
The opportunities that lie hidden during the difficult times ahead will require you to implement and rely on strategies and tactics that are likely outside your comfort zone. Ceasing all marketing communications should not be considered a viable strategy. Doing so will render your business invisible, making a bad situation worse. This will be especially true after the outbreak ends when you’ll find yourself starting from scratch and at a meaningful disadvantage against any competitors who didn’t go dark during the outbreak. Inbound marketing gives you the ability to interact with your audience and communicate your business’ brand identity and value. It allows you to control and easily change your message, ensuring it is always appropriate and timely during what is sure to be rapidly changing times and circumstances. Lastly, it allows you to deliver the message that you are still available and interested in your customers’ business, and isn’t that the most important message of all?
No matter what approach you decide on, please be safe and stay healthy.
We understand that these are difficult and stressful times and we’d like to help by offering you a free website audit report. If one of your main goals is to drive more relevant traffic and provide a better user-friendly experience for your visitors, a website audit is a good place to start as there are always ways you can improve your website, even if it was recently built.
Coronavirus Resource Center
Have more questions about the impact of the coronavirus on your business? Visit Marcum’s Coronavirus Resource Center for up-to-date information.