Your Old Plan is Not Useless, But it Must be Re-examined
Chances are, you had a marketing plan before COVID-19. If you didn’t, that’s okay too. Whether you’re needing to tweak your marketing strategy or create one entirely from scratch, the following Guide to Marketing After COVID-19 will assist you with key elements to consider when it’s time to start advertising your business again.
User Behavior Has Changed
The world you advertised in before does not exist anymore. People are not going to snap back into the exact same place before Coronavirus. We have been through a trauma and this will affect how we return to daily life. We will continue to go about our lives, but there will be a mindfulness that didn’t exist before and it will change how we behave. Take something as innocent as a birthday party. There will no longer be someone blowing on a cake just before it’s served. We will adapt, however, and continue the tradition. There will be a similar routine with the birthday song and cupcakes. Our lives will return but we will adapt to new circumstances. It’s these nuances that you’ll need to consider when developing your messaging and honing your new strategy.
The experience we have been through and the awareness we now have on how quickly germs can spread will create a deep-seated impact on our daily lives; therefore, every message you send and keyword you bid on must be rethought. During quarantine, we learned new behaviors either by choice or necessity and will bring these new behaviors with us into the new world. The boomer who was skeptical of online shopping is now getting her groceries delivered and enjoys the time savings it allows her. The parent who has never walked their kids around the block before COVID-19 may have found the act therapeutic.
As our behaviors change, the way we search and consume media will also change. When designing your Marketing Plan, you’ll need to re-examine your basics: Price, Product, Place and Promotion. If you’re a restaurant and you found success offering family take-out meals during the quarantine, you should consider keeping that product on your menu. As such, people may continue to search online for “family take-out meals”, so you’ll need to optimize your website for that term and make sure it’s included in your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. Don’t have a website or run PPC? You need to take a step to change that, today. In the world we now live in, the average person spends over four hours a day on their smartphones. Your business MUST be accessible to them on that device.
Social Trends Change Even Quicker
With the time we spend online and on social media amplified, trends pop up and gain traction at record speed. If you had an organized social media regimen before COVID-19, where you scheduled content for the week or even month in advance, you’ll need to rethink that or at the very least be flexible.
New trends appear and fade out quicker than ever before. Even though your business isn’t on TikTok, you’ll need to know what’s relevant on that platform this morning because by 11 a.m. it’s all over Instagram, then an hour later on Facebook. Before you know it, the message you had scheduled today at 2 p.m. now comes across as “tone deaf” because there is a taco challenge trending right now and you just posted about burgers.
You can learn to use these trends to your advantage. If there’s a taco challenge trending right now and you sell tacos, then everyone is going to be in the mood to order tacos for dinner. Make a taco special, post about it and boost that post so more people see it. The internet has basically already initiated the desire and brought people into your sales funnel. It’s your turn to make the close.
Riding these trends is sort of like surfing, you get to choose your wave. Go with the flow and let the trend do most of the hard work. While surfing you would never paddle out expecting to catch every single wave. You get into position and wait for the right one. Watch the trends, get into position and choose the right ones for your business to ride.
Social Media is an excellent place to reach new customers and build your business. However, you have to “live and breathe it” to keep up with the trends and keep your messaging relevant. If you still don’t have social media accounts, make that a goal this week.
Speed is Everything
People are looking for information on their phones, and their attention spans have become even shorter. The good news is that publishers such as Google and Facebook understand this and make it easy for you to provide critical information and updates to your customers online.
Make use of the features available to you. Things like “pinning comments” to the top of your Facebook feed or updating your Google listing will make important information about your business easily visible online.
Once your off-site profiles have been updated, take stock of your website. There is no excuse for a slow website; beware of overdesigning. All of the cool animations and huge images can take a toll on how quickly your website loads online. Images are very important for your website but they must be saved in the correct format and have “alt tags” behind them.
With only two months of 2020 under our belts we’ve already seen quite a bit of changes on the SEO front as Google has released and taken back several updates both affecting the way the algorithms evaluate pages and the way the ranked results are displayed to users. Although Google maintains that they have not released any core updates following the January core update, reports suggest that smaller updates have been rolled out and tweaked on an ongoing basis- an approach Google confirmed we will see continue via Twitter:
“Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week [in November]. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis.” – Google comments following the November Update.
With many websites throughout the internet feeling the impact of the updates released so far this year, we at Strategic Marketing are stepping back to review the past two months of changes, big and small, in order to adjust our strategies as these small updates shed light on what types of website formatting and content Google shifts are assigning value to.
Shifts:January 13th and Beyond
Following Google’s twitter announcement, there was the usual commotion in the SEO community with experts reporting large swings in traffic. Although there was no consensus on exactly the impact of the update, the fluctuations were observed in the health sectors and on dictionary websites.
January 13th also marked the roll out of the new Search Engine Results Page (SERP) layout which included each website’s favicon and replaced the URL with the page’s breadcrumb.
So two things to note here:
1- Don’t forget to upload a custom favicon
2- Keep your website’s content organized in a way that makes it easy for users, and search engines, to understand.
An obvious tell of a lazy developer is that standard wordpress favicon. You know what I’m talking about. That grey globe-looking thing at the top of your website’s browser tab. Hopefully you didn’t hire one of those lazy developers or your QA process was detailed enough to catch that missed opportunity.
Not to worry lazy developers, on January 24th, Google rolled back the favicon and stated that they are testing different favicon layouts. Although today the SERPs are sans favicon, I suspect the icon will make an appearance and advise that you shouldn’t overlook yours.
As far as the URL being replaced by the breadcrumb, this was long overdue. For years Google has been deenfisizing the use of keywords within the url and placing value on a logical, well organized website taxonomy. If you have been following best practices in this area all along, you have nothing to worry about. However, if you have not put effort into organizing your blog posts and landing pages, well, you better start.
Concurrent to the changes in the organic section, Google tweaked how the paid ads appear by placing a bold “Ad” in front for the web address. Based on feedback from AdWords advertisers, they have since changed this back to the green box with Ad in the middle and are still experimenting with different design variations to delineate these snippets as paid placements.
E-A-T Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthines
No matter the google shifts that occur, following SEO best practices will always work out in the long run. We know mobile usability and page speed are critical but above all, the Google Algorithms seek to reward websites offering the best content possible. Does your content display expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness? If your website experiences a downward shift in traffic, reevaluate the content of your site. A great place to start is Google’s blog on the topic: What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates which offers a list of questions designed to advise you on what exactly quality content means to them.
Staying up to date with your marketing strategies is not an easy task, especially if you want to stay ahead of your competitors. In this technology driven social environment, you need to be able to keep up with shifting consumer interests by incorporating unique and effective digital marketing strategies. However, identifying the successful tactics and platforms out of the plethora of ineffective technologies claiming to be the “best” can be a full-time job. Put more resources towards product development instead of the time-consuming vetting process warranted by budding digital marketing proposals by staying on top of the latest trends. We’ve compiled five marketing trends to keep an eye on in 2020 and where we believe our partners should be investing their marketing budgets next year.
1. Influencer Marketing
You have probably heard about famous YouTubers like Logan Paul and Ryan’s Toys Review, as well as Instagrammer Kylie Jenner. These are monumental voices in the current social world with a following so large, that their simple endorsement can cause notable shifts in consumer behavior. Although getting one of these personalities to endorse your brand would be an incredible amount of money, a more affordable option is available. For those with more modest budgets, a micro-influencer may be able to give you results on a smaller, more local scale. You might be asking yourself “Why should I invest in a social media influencer?” The answer is simple: it gets results.
Micro-influencers may not have the clout of the big names above, but still entertain audiences between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. Followers of influencers tend to want, or already have, values and beliefs similar to the influencer. So, finding influencer support consistent with your brand image will draw similar consumers to your offerings. Word-of-mouth has always been a strong contributor to sales and a mere suggestion, whether from a close friend or social influencer, is often enough to merit a purchase decision. Our own client, BigShots Golf, has taken advantage of this tactic! The Pittman ladies of the “Wherever I May Roam Blog” created content for the recreational golf local and shared it on their Instagram feed which has over 13k followers. This has immediate brand awareness benefits to our client and adds instant credibility-backed by the simple support of a popular local blog.
2. Voice Search
Since 2018 voice search has been a trend on the rise, and in 2020 it’s going to be crucial to have content optimized for this capability. The way we search for content online is changing! Voice-only search effectively removes the screen from the equation, allowing desktop and mobile users to bypass scrolling and clicking in favor of simple verbal commands. Google (and many others) has already made substantial updates on its search engine algorithm, focusing on NLP’s (Natural Language Processing). With over 20% of Google’s searches currently coming from mobile, it’s easy to understand why this is getting a lot of attention from search engine platforms.
Users are looking for quick answers and a better user experience so ignoring this particular trend may actually have a negative impact to your bottom line. If your consumers have trouble finding you or your products/services through their preferred method of search, it is likely they will find someone else who facilitates that process for them. For next year, focus on making sure your website is compatible with this new age user by having your SEO team optimize its content for voice search.
Chatbots allow for seamless communication between two parties in order to accomplish some sort of action. Many chatbots have a structure similar to a search engine, filtering and combining keywords in an attempt to understand what the user is asking. Chatbots are used for a variety of functions like scheduling appointments, answering customer questions or requests, and aiding in the sales process. Having a “trained” chatbot is crucial for brands that offer online customer support. Your website may have a “Frequently Asked Questions” page, however, the user often has unique questions that warrant additional support. In a time of abundant competition, it is critical your company is prepared to address customer concerns in a timely manner or you risk losing the business to your direct competitor in mere seconds. In cases that an FAQ page is unsatisfactory, a chatbot can be programmed to answer questions and make logical decisions on the fly. In 2020, assess how you communicate with customers digitally, and perhaps a chatbot may be a simple solution to streamline your communication process.
4. Micro Moments
Do you know that moment when you reach for your phone to answer a message, turn on music, or Google something? That’s called a micro moment. This is the term for the few brief seconds in time where a decision is made to act on something and where preferences are shaped by the experience you have performing the action. What happens in these micro moments is a unique and assessable exchange of human and technological interactions and brands need to be ready to deliver what’s expected from them in those specific moments. In recent years, mobile usage has increased. Google even has a whole library dedicated to the subject, which means this trend is going to be more and more significant in the near future. How can we leverage these moments to learn more about how our customers interact with our digital marketing? This is why it’s so important to have your brand’s points of contact sharp and concise in every digital channel.
5. Social Commerce
Social commerce is a technique allowing retailers to sell products on social media platforms and therefore connecting the voices of the people directly to the products they love to share. With Instagram planning to hide likes in the near future, brands will start linking influencer content to shopping tools as a way to measure ROI. Besides that, having fewer steps to make a purchase is a no brainer. Users can buy products or services without even leaving the social channel. For example, they can swipe up inside Instagram Stories for access to affiliate stores, or use Facebook Marketplace for local deals and offers. Not only are social channels focused on growing audience numbers, but also building awareness and engagement, which increases the desire to make in-app purchases. This is certainly something that will be growing and being refined in 2020, and could be a way for you to reach your customers where they already spend their time.
As an agency that keeps up to date with digital trends, Strategic Marketing can provide you with solutions that have stood the test of time, as well as the emerging successful strategies that will help brand growth. If you believe any of these trends could be in your marketing plan for next year, don’t hesitate to contact Strategic Marketing so we can show you how to leverage these new tactics for actual results.