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There’s better places to communicate with your customers during a crisis

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the common flu (influenza) claims the lives of an estimated 61,000 Americans per year. That’s the population of Santa Fe NM and greater than Port Coquitlam here in BC. That statistic puts reporting of the coronavirus in perspective. If media headlined every case of the flu the nation would be whipped into a frenzy around the clock. Yes, the current health crisis is certainly serious and all steps must be taken to contain it, but is media fueling the fire more than the flu bug itself? 

No matter your take on the matter, the epidemic/pandemic is having a major impact on businesses. Yes, the DOW and TSX are tumbling but that’s because large enterprises have neglected to hedge their risk. SMBs however, do not need to meet the same fate. In response, major adjustments must be made to marketing strategies to capitalize on one simple fact – during a health scare people spend significantly more time online. Your marketing budget must follow.

Some critics say it’s crass to encourage aggressive marketing spending during a crisis, but we ask that they answer this – should small-to-medium businesses (the lifeblood of the economy) roll over and close up shop? Don’t be ridiculous. 

As the owner of an SMB you must move forward to acquire new customers, and there’s only one path that leads in that direction – online marketing. That said, the move must be more strategic than ever before to account for the unique climate that we all find ourselves in. The following tips will help you get ahead of the competition, those who are adopting nothing more than a wait-and-see stance.

5 Tips to Sustaining Revenue While Growing Your Online Business During a Major Health Crisis

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Address the Concern – Customers Appreciate It!

If you’re like most frequent travelers your inbox has probably been littered with offers from major hoteliers and airlines over the last two weeks. But these communications include nothing more than large discounts to destinations, which during normal times would be great. But amidst a health crisis, it’s being taken as a panic move and can have a reverse impact on consumer psyche. Recipients think, “Why is Air Canada dropping flights by 30% during Spring Break? Things must be dire!” and close the email as if it was a phishing scheme. If instead the hotels/airlines addressed consumer health concerns head-on, and noted that in addition to the offer they are taking prevention methods to the extreme, consumers may feel more comfortable.

Take a recent email I received from an LAX shuttle service as an example of the right way to do things. The email subject line read: NEW In-Style Transportation HEALTH AND SAFETY Procedures. They didn’t hit me with a 20% discount offer. Instead, they tackled my concern about taking a shuttle from LAX, a major international airport. The email led with the following paragraph:

“The health and safety of our drivers and clients is of the utmost importance to us.  As concerns of COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) continue to grow, we are taking some proactive and precautionary measures to provide the highest level of protection to our customers and staff.”

They even included the following image, which made the whole thing feel more tangible: 

Marketing During a Crisis

Fantastic. Shuttle service, booked.

2. Promote Complementary Products and Services

All SMBs should increase their digital marketing spend during a health crisis to account for the fact that current and prospective customers/clients are online at a greater rate. But some of you are in a more unique position and may offer a product or service that relates to health and wellness in some shape or form. Take to AdWords, social media, and email to market it with fervor. 

Why not? During a health crisis people demand health and wellness products and services more than ever. If you’re in a position to fill this demand then be there for them. 

Every SMB should be thinking outside of the box at this juncture. Private health service providers and supplement retailers (etc.) have an obvious connection, but a wide variety of businesses may be sitting on an opportunity to feature a product/service. For instance, a restaurant could promote delivery discounts to increase business from patrons who choose to dine at home during the health scare. Just remember to keep them informed about proactive and precautionary measures taken in the kitchen and delivery vehicles (as per item #1).

3. Start (or Increase) Selling Online if You Don’t Already

If you’ve been on the fence about taking a portion of your brick and mortar offering off the shelf to sell it online, now is the time to get started. Whether you sell t-shirts, toys, pet supplies, or furniture and decor, you need to start or increase your eCommerce capabilities. This will likely demand investment in a new website to allow for online sales, along with search engine optimization services to ensure your products are discovered on Google. 

You’re also encouraged to think outside of the box here too. You may add online services you never before considered. For example, as a response to the health crisis, one popular dating site is developing an initiative to facilitate virtual dates for marriage-minded singles across the globe. Nightclub and event promoters are now looking to the cloud as a new venue to host online parties. Never mind necessity, it seems a crisis is the new mother of invention.

This epidemic/pandemic will pass, but the spurred consumer adoption of online shopping, browsing, and even consumption for products and services will stay. Your investment in eCommerce and corresponding SEO will not be a short-lived revenue strategy.

4. Quadruple Your Social Media Efforts

People aren’t just shopping online at a far greater rate than before the health scare, they are on social media more too in search of news updates and to gauge reactions from friends/followers in their network. They are also on social media more given that their leisure and entertainment time is no longer spent amongst crowds. Be there, be seen, and be present through both organic engagement and promoted/sponsored posts.

5. Don’t Gouge – Social Media Will Call You Out

Promote, promote, promote, but never ever price gouge for products/services that are in demand during a health crisis. There is certainly a moral case for this, but it goes deeper. Unless you’re a brand new business there is a digital footprint of your pricing structure for products and services and significant price increases will be transparent. With local governments and consumer watchdogs calling out companies for price-gouging practices consumers are highly vigilant at this time. They will take to social media and will call you out. Once the crisis has been contained, many will remember and spend their money with a competitor instead. 

Gain peace of mind during this uncertain time by turning to Strategis Consulting Group. We will help with your digital marketing strategy to ensure that you not only weather the storm, but move forward to grow your business in a sustainable manner that considers not only today, but the brighter future tomorrow. Contact us today for a friendly consultation. 

Guest Post By: Marcus Maraih – SEO Consultant