As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to keep business premises closed down and people locked in their houses, it is time for businesses to adopt new ways of operations. Every aspect of life is not as we used to know it. Parents have become teachers, Monday morning staff meetings have become conference calls, trade shows have gone virtual – everything has gone remote.
The lockdowns and curfews across the world have sparked a global economic shift from the usual ways of operation to digital. Physical business-customer interactions have been completely cut off. Many people have had to make online purchases for the first time in their entire life. Italy, for example, has seen a sudden boom in e-commerce sales in the past few months.
The demand for app-enabled home delivery service providers is increasing by the day. Taxis and other transportation companies have shifted to offering home delivery services since people have shut themselves in their houses. While the established e-commerce companies like Amazon and Jumia are the primary beneficiaries of these changes, supermarkets, and other retailers across the world have had to adopt new ways to continue serving their customers from their homes. Food and alcohol supplying stores have had to introduce home delivery services.
For companies that are already using digital marketing strategies, it is hard not to note that these are times that need to be approached and handled with a lot of caution. And for the companies that are trying to find their place on the internet, it is essential to note that every crisis presents opportunities for growth. Brand strategy is still crucial – messaging, and constant communication with customers is vital during these times.
While enterprises are turning to digital solutions, and data analytics to help them survive through this crisis, it is imperative to know that some of these things are not going to go away. The physical to digital economic shift is here to stay. So, companies ought not to just think about how to survive through the crisis. New ways of operating and marketing have to be in place, ready to effect once we reach the other side.
Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst for the digital marketing shift. After this pandemic is dealt with, only companies that have digital marketing strategies in place are going to remain in business.
Readying Your Organization for The Normal
With the uncertainty we are living in today, the main concern for many business owners is, "the business has to move forward, now and afterward." What many people do not know or understand is how that shift looks like and how it works.
What is digital marketing?
In simple terms, digital marketing means any online marketing strategy or assets that a company employs to increase brand awareness and sales. You can call it internet marketing, online marketing, digital marketing – all of them say the same thing, the opposite of traditional marketing. Some of the primary examples of digital marketing include social media marketing, email marketing, pay per click marketing, blogging, and other ways of marketing that involve the internet.
In readiness for the digital marketing shift, companies need to have both short term and long-term digital marketing strategies in place. The effects of the epidemic will not strike companies that have the right digital and data analysis strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, at least not as much as companies that do not have any digital marketing strategies in place. The same applies to companies that will not just look at the digital marketing strategies as a short-term remedy to stay in business during the lockdowns.
If any business will have a chance of staying in operation now and after, understanding that there is never going back to traditional marketing is of utmost importance.
Let us look at some of the short-term digital marketing plans that can be effective during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Understanding seasons is critical for all business owners and marketing executives. These are the times that your customers need you the most, whether you are a B2B or B2C business. Taking the time to follow up on your customers, and trying to reach new ones is a brilliant move. During bad times and economic downturns, organizations that take the right approach to advertise their products and services turn out to get a significant market share than those who sit and wait.
A large part of the world is locked indoors. And even those states and countries that have not enacted total lockdown, social amenities like bars and restaurants are still not operational. People are left with nowhere to go. This has increased screen time for almost everybody in the world. People are either on the TV or on the phone. This is an opportunity for marketers looking for an audience to present to. This is a time for digital marketers, established and beginners, to try out new strategies and be ready to move with the shift. Try to invest in platforms like connected TV, social media platforms, YouTube, or Google Ads.
One significant difference between digital and traditional marketing is that, with digital, you can adjust in an instant. Marketing executives and business owners can use the readily available data analysis and social media marketing and management tools to change based on real-time information, messaging, and product or service promotion. This is the best time to engage your customers online; they are there, and they are connected. They are streaming and consuming content via different devices. You can reach them, and with the right strategy, you can drive some very significant results in your business.
With the social distancing advisory, social connecting is critical. Use your social media platforms now more than ever. Show your customers that you are there, you remember them, and you care for them. Regular Posting can increase SEO, and make you more visible to your customers – if they can't come to your business premises, go to their homes.
While some companies are canceling or reducing their paid Ads spending during this pandemic, increasing that budget is the smart move. Paid ads, especially on social media, could grow your business reach tremendously. Premium subscriptions like on LinkedIn could help your business reach new customers and increase sales.
Keep your paid ad budget in place. Stay vigilant. There could be lockdowns, but life goes on. Your customers' needs might change, but that is all they can do, change. They are still searching for products and services. Show them what you have, answer their questions in real-time, or near real-time; solving your customers' problems now will go way beyond surviving the pandemic.
Customers have more time online, which means they are exposed to a wide variety of choices. What you need to ask yourself is, given a chance to choose, could they choose your brand? Is your brand good enough, or can it be better still? The best way to know if your product or service is good enough for the market is to look within your organization. Look to find out whether your team happily supports what they are selling. If yes, keep pushing it to the market, if no, then it is time to improve on that brand. Inferior brands have no place in the digital world.
This is not just a short-term digital marketing strategy; a customer who buys the right product will always remember where they got it from.
Last, in the short-term digital marketing strategies is the way you deal with your customers. You could do everything right, but if a customer sends an inquiry and you respond three days later, you are killing your brand. You should have in place a system that helps you respond to inquiries in real-time. If you are doing home deliveries, make sure you deliver in good time. Deliver when the product can serve what the customer wanted it for, earlier is better, not later.
As you deploy these measures to stay in business, it is time to think outside the box. Go beyond Covid-19. Business enterprises are thinking strategically and planning on how to effectively use the internet and data as tools of success in their organizations to prepare for the marketing new normal. It is good to accept that coronavirus will pass, but marketing will never be the same again. Digital will now be the new normal in the marketing industry.
Here are some of the few areas that, as a business owner and a marketing executive, you should look into in order to put your organization in a better position for success for the longer term.
Come up with strategies that can easily be integrated with digital platforms. For example, if you are hiring a new marketing executive or an assistant, getting a person with skills and a perfect understanding of digital marketing would ease, and shorten your transitional period.
Use technology that increases transparency in your operations and your dealings with customers. Have a highly responsive and intuitive system that can process data in either real-time or near real-time for a better and quick decision-making process.
Identify and implement digital tools that can track your customers' behaviors and increase transparency in the supply chain. The right tools should also be able to increase responsiveness and replace outdated planning methods with more advanced and quick ones. Such tools will outlast the pandemic and remain useful in the long term.
The traditional market demand forecasts are long outdated and are no longer accurate. When we say that digital is the new way of marketing, it means that a lot is changing, not just in the marketing industry. Things have changed rapidly in the past few months, and looking at the old forecast methods, you can be sure that they are not cut for the more changes that are still underway. In readiness for the new normal in sales and marketing, we recommend tossing these old-fashioned methods and replacing them with more informed and data-driven scenario-planning techniques. Digital marketing cannot bring the indented results with the wrong market information.
You should incorporate a broad range of data sets than the ordinary to be able to build workable operations plans across a wide range of intended outcomes. Setting aside the traditional forecast will help you combat the market uncertainty during Covid-19. It will also help you to adapt to the complex reactions of your customers and the market at large. Having a sophisticated and data-driven forecast method will not only be helpful during the pandemic, but it can also go a long way to helping your organization to transit efficiently and effectively to the new ways of doing business.
We talked about this earlier, but only the short-term measures. Customer experience is very crucial. And during this time that people are quarantined in their homes, digital customer experience is the real deal – and it matters now more than ever. You should identify the most effective digital experiences for your organization, and use them as a foundation to build stronger customer relationships.
To do this the right way, you need a clear understanding of the sudden shift to digital marketing, sales tools, and communication channels. This involves all sectors – retail, banking, and insurance, as well as healthcare. As a market leader in your industry, you should focus on effecting a rapid improvement to your digital channels. Focus on the most critical customer episodes like delayed payments and cancelations.
By using the market demand data collected with the new methods discussed above, you can gather customer feedback and insights, test, and learn from them to build new stronger bonds with your customers. The whole idea is making sure that you follow your customer during these tough times and lead them out successfully.
I saw on LinkedIn, a user who was sharing her experience working from home since the outbreak. She said that her main challenge is power outages and system failure – the system provided by her employer for presentations. Now, this could not be a problem for all, but it sure is a challenge to many organizations that have their staff working from home during this season. Investing in a technology that has an eye for the future is the surest solution to this problem.
Most leading companies are already taking steps to ensure that their IT systems are as robust as they should and ready for effective remote working. They have also gone a step further to put in place protective measures against cyber threats that are rapidly emerging during this season. These are high priority measures. The world is experiencing a rapid change, and looking at it with the future in mind, we are confident that this is the new normal of operation. While working on effective digital marketing strategies, having a robust digital system for your organization is what will make your strategies to deliver.
As a market leader, you should have these measures in place for an effective digital marketing transformation. For example, if you are shifting all your products to online selling, you must also have in place a secure system of payment.
To have a valid digital system for now and the future:
Some of The Best Digital Marketing Platforms
Having taken all the steps in preparing your business for digital marketing and management, let us now have a look at some of the best digital marketing platforms. Every business is unique and has different needs and ways of operations. However, one common goal of them all is to minimize losses and maximize profits. Depending on what your company sells or does, here are five of the best digital marketing platforms. All these platforms can easily integrate with your website, your e-commerce shop, or any system that you have worked on in readiness for the physical-to-digital marketing shift.
LinkedIn is the best platform for B2B marketing and a place where professionals meet. A LinkedIn business page helps potential customers to know more about your company, your products or services, and job opportunities. While business is more about maximizing profits, it is also about creating connections that can lead to finding the best employees for your company. A LinkedIn business page will increase your opportunities for referrals, knowledge base, and opportunities to attract new business deals.
You must have an active LinkedIn personal account with a verified email address to be able to create a LinkedIn company page.
Google My Business is a free marketing tool that enables you to manage how your business appears on google search results and maps. You can add the name of your company, its location, and hours of operation. You can also add photos, learn when, how, and where people are searching for your business, and monitor and reply to your customer reviews. If you are new in digital marketing, Google My Business is an excellent place to start managing your business.
Facebook is one of the best social media platforms to increase brand awareness and increase sales for your products. Facebook Company Page has some of the best marketing tools you can use to increase sales; it also has a provision where you can create an e-commerce shop to list your products with full description and price. On the shop, you can add a checkout link to another e-commerce shop or your website.
Facebook page is easy to create and easy to navigate. If you want your brand to reach a large number of audiences, you can use Facebook paid Ads to expand the reach. All you need is an active Facebook personal account.
If you are already using Instagram for fun, you can now use it to increase leads and sales to your business. Instagram Business Account was introduced in 2016 and has so far helped over 25 million enterprises grow their online presence. Instagram for business is not very different from Instagram for personal use. However, an Instagram business Account has more added features like paid Ads, audience targeting, and a call to action button.
You can easily create and link your Instagram Business Account to your Facebook Business Page and post from one of the platforms. If you post on Facebook, the post appears as it on Instagram.
Digital transformation is not an easy task. For many companies, the conversion will be a multifaceted push, which is more complicated by the current remote working arrangements. Marketing executives would want to meet face to face with their juniors, and their clients as well – that is not happening now. Is your organization digital-marketing ready? Taking proactive actions on everything discussed in this article can boost your resilience, give you a deeper understanding of customer relationships, and help your organization to emerge better, and ready for the marketing new normal.