To say that times are tough seems trite, at this point. For the last six weeks, if not longer in some places, people have been living in a “new” reality where shelter-in-place orders, face masks, and grim medical statistics are the norm. Businesses (of any size) aren’t immune to this pandemic, either: the Atlantic reports that 30% of small businesses have shut down, and CNBC reports that 57% of businesses saw revenues drop by 75% or more due to Covid-19. In every corner of the world, there is bad news.
For businesses that are struggling, though—big and small—a slight pivot in their business model could reveal a silver lining in all this madness. In fact, there are opportunities for all organizations willing to put in a little time and elbow grease. Why? With the tough and challenging times, people are flocking online. They’re looking to be distracted, entertained, informed, and connected. If your business is online, you can fulfill the needs of these potential customers, setting you up to be part of online conversations during Covid-19 that keep you top of mind afterward.
Sound a little too good to be true? The facts speak for themselves.
With the tough times, people are flocking online. They’re looking to be distracted, informed & connected. As a business you can fulfill these needs, setting you up to be part of online conversations during and after Covid-19.
People are online now more than ever. TechCrunch reported that Facebook and Instagram usage amongst millennials spiked 40% during the last few weeks of March. In April, We Are Social surveyed internet users aged 16 to 64, and 47% of respondents claimed to be spending more time on social networks, 39% increased the time spent listening to streaming services, and 36% accessed mobile phone apps more often. Video streaming is up nearly 60% since March 2019.
People are looking for different things “to do” online like never before. Google searches for online exercise content, digital classes, and tutorials are up 100% from this time last year (thanks, Google Trends, for the info). Big brands are rushing to meet these consumer needs. There are the creative attempts, such as Netflix’s bonus episode of its blockbuster documentary Tiger King, as well as more utilitarian offerings, such as free access to all classes in Moz’s SEO Academy and discounts on Khan Academy courses.
People are looking to brands for all matter of digital content. In fact, a Kantar survey from April 2020 showed that 92% of people think brands should keep marketing, while 78% of them want brands to help them during this time. Whatever your business, there have never been opportunities like those today to reach and engage with people online. You just have to make sure that your efforts are authentic and acknowledge consumer behavior and opinion, which is obviously in a different place than it was a few months ago.
So, on to the next step: use the online space to connect with all these people, and give them the content they’re looking for. As always, that’s easier said than done. But here are a few tips to get you started.
● Ask yourself, what’s your secret sauce? Chances are, whatever your business, you have competitors. What differentiates you from others in your niche? Why is your brand and business the best one to meet client challenges? You may already have this formalized, but if you don’t, it is worth reviewing why clients would choose your business over the rest. Get really specific. Is it some kind of background experience you have? Your unique approach?
● Craft your business story. Storytelling compels people to act, whether it’s binging on episodes of a great tv show or reading a book in one sitting. You can borrow the same mentality when it comes to marketing your business. If you have a great brand story, it acts as a hook that gets people invested in what you offer and why they should choose your business. We’ve written some great posts on storytelling for business if you want to get started with or improve your business storytelling skills—especially great if you have a secret sauce element to thread in!
● Be aware of customer pain points, and know them better than your customers. If you can speak to the challenges and difficulties your customers are experiencing, you can address why your business meets those needs. It also gives you clarity on why your secret sauce is so important, and adds to the customer experience in a way that differentiates you from the competition. Finally, recognizing customer challenges gives you all types of fodder for content creation. Knowing your customers well means knowing what motivates and interests them, even if it is ancillary (but still related to) your brand. For example, if you’re a travel agency, but can’t operate right now, you can still post tips on social media for those struggling to understand the ins and outs of their travel insurance policies, or create a blog post about the top 10 destinations visitors will visit post-Covid restrictions. This type of content may not be 100% aligned with your sales strategy, but it offers great value and is aligned with your overall brand—and addresses customer behavior directly.
● Do a little competitor research. This phrase often strikes fear into the hearts of marketers. But competitor research doesn’t need to be daunting. A quick analysis of what your known competitors are up to, or those in potential customers’ likely consideration sets, is sufficient. Review what they’re doing and note what works, what doesn’t, and why the approaches they are taking could use some tweaking. If there are things they’re doing that need improvement, or that aren’t yielding results, take note—there may be opportunities to beat the competition at their own game.
● Map out current touchpoints and digital alternatives. Do you normally work out of a physical location, such as a salon, yoga studio, or art gallery? Map out the typical touchpoints you have with customers, from before they hear about you to when they come in and purchase a service or product. At each stage, think about your client and what you know about them, and determine if you can perhaps digitize that step. If you map out your customer journey, you’ll start to get some ideas of how you can meet customers and potential clients online, from working on your organic search presence, creating a Google My Business profile, starting a vlog or blog, getting active on social media, or even digitizing a product or service.
● Meet people where they are. The best marketers are ones who know their customers so well they don’t really have to market—they meet them where they are with a solution to their problems. For example, if you’re a nutritionist who’s sharing recipes on LinkedIn, think again. Consider revising your approach, sharing recipes on platforms where people would be in the right mental space to embrace cooking ideas, such as Pinterest or Instagram. Even simple tweaks in where you place your content can help your message resonate more broadly with clients.
● Create great content that offers high value. If you have a clear why, know your customer’s challenges, and have an idea of where to put your best content, you’re well on your way to offering value and getting new eyeballs on your material. Just remember to be authentic, true to your brand, and most importantly, offer high-quality information to people who are likely just trying to get by every day right now.
Still wondering how to get started? If you’re struggling to get inspiration on what content to create that offers value during this time, but is still aligned to your brand, flip the tables and put yourself in the customer’s position: if you were your customer, what would you want to see from your brand? If you’re a nutritionist, what about healthy recipes with long-forgotten food that might have been hiding in the back of your pantry? If you’re a financial services firm, what about ideas for budgeting and saving money during this financially uncertain time? If you’re a consulting firm, what about information on grants and loans businesses can get right now? Anything that resonates with your brand, addresses the pain points your customers have, and is of value will do the trick—and get you in on conversations that then keep you relevant when things calm down.
Tweet us @sparkingbrands to share with us how you’re joining conversations and offering value throughout this time. We look forward to seeing what you’re up to!