The fast-paced nature of digital marketing renders it an industry uniquely attuned to the need for constant adaptation in an ever-changing environment.
But in the last few months the world as we know it feels altered almost beyond recognition. While we adjust to these changes as individuals, so too do the needs and wants of consumers – meaning all types of businesses must evolve faster than ever
And as lockdown has forced many businesses to close their physical premises, there has been an inevitable spike in eCommerce that doesn’t look likely to slow down in the near future. Those businesses which were already prepared for online trading when the lockdown began are well placed to pivot as it begins to lift, but those who are not yet switched on to the digital world will have to get onboard and online as soon as possible.
The digital marketing industry has a valuable opportunity to lead the way into new forms of communication and connection, whether that is business to business, business to consumer, or even nurturing connections between individuals. But anyone looking to harness that power needs to understand how and where to start.
So what’s changing?
It might be more pertinent to ask what hasn’t changed?
But as we move forward and begin to leave lockdown, business owners need to understand what exactly will be different about the way we trade online as well as in the real world.
For instance, take a look at the ways in which a variety of industries and everyday practices have attempted to digitise themselves. From pubs hosting pub quizzes via Zoom, to events like food and music festivals taking place online, businesses are turning digital not just to make profit, but to build long-term relationships with their customers that secure the interest for the future.
Businesses that focus solely on profit will lose out on these relationships, and in turn will miss opportunities to build customer loyalty. And as online presence becomes ever more vital for communication, digital marketing is an opportunity not simply to sell your product or service, but to also connect with customers in more meaningful ways for the long-term.
For those looking to strike the right balance between the two, digital marketing will be the tool that drives your business post-pandemic for the short-term and long-term, allowing for adaptation, growth and ultimately, success.
So where do you start?
Developing brand recognition and accessibility
Achieving brand recognition through digital marketing may seem like a tactic better suited to large scale businesses.
But in fact, many small businesses can develop their image and raise brand awareness via digital marketing too and as it can be more affordable and accessible than traditional marketing and advertising, it contributes to levelling the playing field in many markets.
With hashtags like #SupportSmallBusiness trending on social media, it’s clear that not only are consumers relying on online sellers, but they’re actively seeking out small and often local businesses to support.
When raising your brand profile, you need to be certain about your brand image, and focus your digital marketing strategy on conveying that image to your customers. But bear in mind that your brand should not only be recognisable but accessible too – if your name is new to them, they need to be able to find out about you pretty quickly. Vital information such as operating hours, contact details and location are top priority, but the more information is available the better.
There are plenty of ways to make this information available that don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Start by claiming your Google My Business profile. It’s totally free, and will appear when customers search for you online, bringing all the information we mentioned to the top of the search engine. You can also include a link to your website, if you have one.
If you don’t have a website but you’re in a position to start one, it’s a worthy investment for a number of reasons. For a start, it collects all information about your business in one place and is a great chance to develop that brand image we discussed before. You can also share content that is relevant to your business, such as case studies and success stories, customer reviews, blogs relevant to your industry. You can even create an online inventory to allow customers to buy directly from your website – an invaluable opportunity in the eCommerce era.
Of course, not every business has the resources to start a website from scratch, in which case there are plenty of practical alternatives that are useful for getting your name out there, developing a brand profile, and ensuring that you are available and accessible to customers.
User Engagement & Social Media Strategy
It goes without saying that a social media presence is a necessity for any business operating in the 21st century.
And in the wake of social distancing, social media has become a crucial tool for unity, connection and communication. Therefore, your social media channels are the perfect platform to distinguish your brand by proving to your customers that you are invested in more than profit.
When considering social media content, remember to be constantly aware of your brand image and the way you wish to be perceived. If you’re proud to be a local brand and what customers to see that, advertise it! Getting involved with local issues such as charity campaigns proves to customers who are looking local that you are invested in your community.
Invest in positivity too, wherever you find it. It’s great to have content that’s directly related to your products and services but sharing non-business-related content such as positive news stories keeps your name appearing on people’s timelines and builds positive associations. Just be mindful not to share too much peripheral content, as people don’t like to feel spammed.
When selecting content for social media, it’s also important to consider that the tone is appropriate and timely. The unpredictable nature of the current circumstances means that your well thought out post created on a Monday might not respond well to Tuesday’s customer demands or social conversations.
Following people and brands on social media yourself will allow you to observe these changing needs, but don’t be afraid to ask directly! Use social media as a listening tool to ask your customers what content they want to see from you, what they think of your products, and what services they’d like to see.
Customer engagement of this nature is also valuable for another form of content, and that is user-generated content. If you have a strong customer base, some forms of user-generated content will appear organically without you having to ask – users posting pictures of products they’ve received from you, for instance. Sharing this type of content from satisfied customers is great, as it reassures them that you’re invested in their satisfaction once they’ve received the product, but it acts as a testimony to your reliability and quality too.
Again, don’t feel like you should sit and wait for this content to appear – ask customers to share their thoughts and opinions with you for maximum engagement. Not only does it help you appear tuned in and invested, but it will likely yield some valuable feedback too.
This blog has already referenced a number of great strategies for search engine optimisation (SEO), such as claiming your Google My Business profile, investing in a well-designed website that will ensure your availability on search engines, and investing your time into a social media strategy.
These will all increase traffic to your business on- and off-line, attracting high-intent customers (that is, customers with serious intentions to buy from you), and hopefully result in conversions – that is, users making contact, subscribing to a mailing list, or even making a purchase.
And while the time you invest in SEO won’t necessarily make changes overnight, it’s a highly effective long-term strategy for bringing your business to the forefront of its industry whether you’re looking to expand your business or target local customers.