Lessons Learned – A COVID Marketing Story

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one—”Few things have impacted our world on so many levels like the great COVID pandemic of 2020 . . .”—You’ve heard it, right? Everyone and their dog has taken the pandemic and spun it to their own devices, shedding constant light on the fact that it is impactful and that it did cause an abundance of change in our lives and how we conduct business. So let’s move past what we all know to have happened and instead look at what we learned. 

As a marketing agency, we found ourselves in the unique position of helping clients to make decisions regarding their business practices and advising as to avenues they could take during a time when people could no longer visit physical stores and businesses. This being a ‘first time for everything’ type situation, there was hesitation by some, and a knee jerk reaction to batten down the hatches, cancel everything, and hide until it was all over by others. When faced with the unknown, everyone reacts differently. 

Here we could prattle on at length about how the release of information through the media caused blind panic one day and relief the next in the form of government funded support, followed by more blind panic, and then a brief moment when we all admired Justin Trudeau’s new hair style. But we were all there so we don’t need to reiterate it for the purpose of this article. 

Instead let’s look at the present and the future, and more importantly, let’s look at what we learned and what we can expect to see in the coming year, which brings us to . . . 

. . . Marketing Lessons Learned During a Pandemic!

1) Ecommerce is the Future

With so many businesses switching to an online marketplace, simply out of necessity, many quickly came to realize the value of ecommerce solutions as online purchases skyrocketed. 

*Source: Commonthreadco.com

The tools to set up ecommerce solutions (e.g. Woocomerce) for any website have been around for quite some time and have proved to be a smart addition to any business selling a product or offering a service. The companies that didn’t have an ecommerce platform on their website pre-COVID likely relied mostly on in-person sales of goods and services. If COVID made us realize anything, it’s that we still like to shop even when we can’t go to a store. 

Buying trends during the pandemic showed increased sales across popular online marketplaces like Amazon ( over 26% increase in sales over the previous year) and through curbside ordering at department stores like WalMart, Save-On, and Superstore. Now almost every business with a storefront has come to realize just how valuable their website can be and how adding an ecommerce component can impact the bottom line. If anything, the pandemic left a lot of businesses wondering why they waited so long before going online.

2) Communication is Key

Communication with consumers is often where a lot of companies fall flat. Many hold onto the archaic notion that ‘if you build it, they will come’. Sure, it worked in a Kevin Costner movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s how you should run your business. Several things quickly became obvious to us throughout the pandemic; changes in how you should communicate with customers, clients, stakeholders, and your audience at large. And these changes will continue on through the crisis and into the ‘new normal’ (whatever that is): 

Email Marketing has seen a decline in recent years with current average open rates sitting at around 17.8%. Most inboxes are inundated with email junk every day. The pandemic introduced a new concept that had companies rethinking their strategy. If you’ve been laid off, undergoing stress due to quarantine or lockdown, it’s unlikely that you want to open your inbox to have a sale shoved down your throat. Communication switched from a sales pitch to an offering of support and a reminder that ‘we’re here when you need us’, essentially communicating value rather than empty sales-speak.

Social Media Communication also shifted away from the general noise that we’re all used to and began to focus more on offering support, providing promotional pricing, and offering incentives designed to help. Khan Academy and Epic, both online hubs for educators and students, provided free resources and courses for school-aged children and teachers. 

As people flocked to social media, companies also realized the value of encouraging communication via social media instead of by phone or email. As always, social media tends to humanize a company, so it proved to be the perfect platform to reach potential and existing customers throughout COVID as everyone was hanging out there anyway.

3) Pay-Per-Click 

With COVID came sensitivities, and with sensitivities comes a change in messaging as it relates to advertising. You may have noticed a serious decline in big, loud, ads, and increase in softer messages designed to show a more caring and nurturing side. Special care was taken across all advertising platforms to not be exploitive of the situation. Unless you were selling toilet paper. In which case all rules went out the window. 

Paid campaigns switched from a selling mentality to promoting more discounts and promotions centered around solving problems that clients and customers may be experiencing. They did it by not taking advantage of a situation, but making the best of a situation. Advertisers also quickly realized that more people were spending time on social media (Facebook alone encountered a 10% increase in monthly active users when COVID began) and could capitalize by placing ads in front of a hyper engaged audience. 

The Obvious Conclusion

What do these changes during COVID mean for the future? How will it impact the upcoming holidays? What will 2021 hold for how we do business?

We don’t have all the answers (if we did, this article would be written from a gold-plated private jet). However, based on tactics we employed and found successful throughout COVID, we can draw the following conclusions to help your business move forward, gain traction, and grow into the future. 

  1. Accept the Paradigm Shift – When normal arrives, it won’t be the normal we’re used to, so don’t wait for things to go back to the way they were. Embrace the changes and don’t be afraid to forge a new way of doing things. For a business, this means creating a communication plan, looking at the results from your advertising efforts, and shifting those tactics accordingly to meet the needs of your target audience. Maybe you need to advertise on a different platform, or maybe your messaging needs an overhaul. If you’re a small business, it’s certainly time to add ecommerce to your website.

  2. A Marketing Agency Can Make This Transition Easier – In short ‘we can help’. Many are wondering how to market during the holidays this year and if you haven’t started thinking about this already, you should. Others who geared down during COVID are learning a new way to advertise. There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of people asking ‘What should we do next?’ 

As a marketing agency, we’re uniquely positioned to properly leverage your marketing dollars, to offer different opportunities to meet your marketing goals, and to help guide and grow your business into 2021 and beyond.

Book a 30 minute consultation so we can learn more about you and your business and determine if and how we can help you. With an uncertain future laid before us, it’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss. 

So what are you waiting for? Contact us today!

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