6 Ways to Maximize Digital Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic
blog post | news + business

6 Ways to Maximize Digital Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Arsham Mirshah Team Photo
Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” —Warren Buffett

These days, life can seem like it’s at a scary standstill. The COVID-19 virus has forced many businesses to either shut down or have employees work from home. While the future may seem uncertain, we firmly believe that the crisis has created opportunities and that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Luckily, working remotely comes naturally to digital marketers. Your top priority should still be to drive value, even if it means doing so from your living room. Here are the top six ways a digital marketer can still help crush their goals while we all try to help flatten the curve. You can watch our LinkedIn video or read the article below.

1. Create Some Fresh Ads to Increase Click-Through Rate

As you can see from the chart below, CPMs for Facebook Ads have dropped as much as 30% after COVID-19 went global toward the start of March 2020:

CPM trends

This is an opportunity for marketers like you—if you can increase your CTR while CPM’s are low, you’ll get a compounding effect by doubling your results. To do that, get your creative team to create the best imagery and videos as possible for these times.

The #1 Opportunity: Retargeting Ads

Chris Mechanic, co-founder and CEO of WebMechanix, is known for his love of retargeting. In one of his past videos, he discussed how much you can spend productively on retargeting. Based on his insight, when CPMs drop like this, it’s a good time to:

  • Increase your retargeting list length. By default they’re set to 30 days, but you can get to 540 or 180 days depending on the platform.
  • Introduce new retargeting ads, angles, and sequential retargeting (watch the video linked above to learn how).
  • Consider using these audiences for surveys and polls.
  • Turn on other networks for retargeting. If you’re only doing Google, try Bing/Yahoo. Not hitting Facebook yet? Now’s the time to do so.

2. Play the Long Game

This COVID-19 crisis WILL go away, and we’ll return to normal at some point. The question is whether you’ll come out better or worse. Will you have more or fewer social media followers? Will you be more or less prepared for the future?

Now is the time to focus on upper-funnel nurturing. Consider it an investment for when we come out of the crisis and when people want to return to their normal buying habits.

Lots of people are hurting (or bored) right now. Keep on marketing and get creative (but always with integrity). This is a time to be greedy and courageous since most people are fearful. CPMs are down. Use that to your advantage. There are lots of opportunities and sales to be made. The next strategy is a great example of that…

3. Partner with Event Organizers

Ask yourself this question: “Who has access to my target audience?”

Those who traditionally put on networking and in-person events can’t do them right now. But they still have access to their audience. You can reach out to partner with them to do virtual events and roundtables. They might be hurting for cash, so it’s a good time to  help them out and get access to their audience in return.

We’re using this strategy ourselves, and it’s proving fruitful. One event hosting firm offered an 80% discount off of its normal prices.

It shouldn’t take a global pandemic for people to start thinking about this. You should be doing this all the time. You can help event organizers and get outsized returns in exchange. Plus, you’re helping people whose lives are turned upside down. Ethically and financially, it can help you and them in the future.

There are plenty of opportunities. Small media outlets and vendors offer something similar, like content syndication.

4. Zoom in and Get Close to Your Customers

Marketers sometimes get flack for being disconnected from their business at large. This crisis is a great time for chief marketing officers (CMOs) to show that they’re business savvy. Most executives think marketers are a waste of money rather than a contributor to revenue, so there’s no better time than now to prove executives wrong. Zoom into your customers, demonstrate empathy, and introduce innovative techniques and tactics.

Our very own Chris Mechanic asked a client recently if their customers were freaking out or sitting at home bored due to the COVID-19 crisis. The client didn’t know the answer.

We should be talking to our customers so that we do know. But we sometimes forget to do so because we’re too tied up with chasing leads.

There are tools out there that help you get in touch with your customers and understand them better. These include Hotjar (which we personally recommend), Kissmetrics, and Crazy Egg.

The consumer’s mindset has shifted because of the coronavirus. It could be the case that features of your product that didn’t matter before are important to your users now. Help your customers in their time of need, and you’ll see returns on your investments.

5. Do Some Spring Cleaning

Look under the hood of your advertising to see where you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Take stock of what’s working and double down on those efforts. This period of uncertainty is a great time to zoom out and look at the big picture. Identify long-term strategies that will help you better achieve your goals. Most importantly, maintain an optimistic yet healthy outlook on the future. This period of fear will pass in due time—and those who weather the storm will prevail.

This Harvard Business Review article offers some good tips on how to tweak your marketing in a recession. It’s worth checking out since the global economy may face similar times. If there’s anything important that you’ve been putting off, like marketing ideas or other initiatives, now is the time to get on it.

6. Continue Marketing & Advertising

While your competitors may decide to stop advertising because they fear the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, you certainly shouldn’t—there are still opportunities for you to pursue despite this period of uncertainty.

Get forensic—dig deep to find the combinations of channels, audiences, creatives, and targeting that are working right now and double down on them.

You can use this time to gain some market share, which will pay dividends in the long term. And in some industries, advertising will be cheaper since you’ll be bidding against fewer competitors. Find the margins and use them to your advantage. Look for media bargains. The world is a traffic store; ad platforms are losing customers to the fear of the coronavirus and are likely willing to make deals.

WebMechanix’s COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

Given the current situation, we think that global commerce and digital advertising platforms are in a fluid state. We’ve thought swiftly about mitigating volatility while protecting our return on investment and brand.

Here are the specific things we’re already doing to mitigate performance volatility:

  1. Actively blocking ad placements surrounding virus and news topics as a whole. People are less likely to show interest in ads when they’re reading about COVID-19 news. There are exceptions, but news placements tend to do poorly.
  2. Recognizing that a sudden burst of data in the short term—especially in these unique circumstances—does not necessarily reflect the long-term trends.
  3. Pulling back from automation and algorithmic functions because they were not trained to handle or anticipate moments like this. This period requires significantly more manual effort in the short term, but it’s worth it. Continuing to automate processes during such an unstable time could lead to costs increasing dramatically, to the tune of 2x or more. We won’t let that happen.
  4. Keeping a closer eye on ad delivery to avoid unexpected spikes or dips.
  5. Monitoring competition. Many clients have seen performance improvements due to competitors pulling out and making the marketplace cheaper.
  6. Considering opportunities up the marketing funnel. While our customers or prospects may be less likely to do business right now, we can prepare to come out of this stronger by nurturing them at this time.

What We’re Seeing

Based on data that we’re seeing from our own agency and our professional contacts, it looks like the impact of the current economy and pandemic varies greatly with the vertical of each client.

Marketing investment in tourism and travel is down to a fraction of its February levels. At the other end of the spectrum, marketing investment in health and online collaboration and learning is up, elevating competitive pressures as more players jump in.

What You Should Do

The short answer is, unfortunately, not one you want to hear: It depends.

You’ve probably noticed the vast number of emails that brands are sending you in light of COVID-19. Almost everybody has, or plans to, account for the recent events in their marketing and outreach. While we need to do the same, we must avoid creating more noise without adding any value.

To do that, brainstorm what you can do that’s compelling, valuable, and unique.

We’ll get through this period—and in the end, we’ll come out stronger, just like we always have. Reach out to us if you need any help or ideas. We don’t have all the answers. But we see a lot and know a lot with 70+ clients.

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