The pandemic has taken its toll on businesses across the globe, particularly local businesses that rely on regular footfall. During this time, it’s been more important than ever to have a solid digital strategy and gain visibility online. Here, Jonathan Birch, Creative Director at Glass Digital, shares six ways local businesses can ensure they’re seen online and excel at marketing during Covid-19.
With Covid-19 driving businesses into online-only approaches, it’s vital for local businesses to use digital channels to keep their audiences in the know. But, as well as keeping the discussion open, it’s also important that local businesses prepare to make the changes needed to compete in this quickly changing new landscape.
While for some that means making a totally new move to selling online, for others it may mean tweaking their SEO strategy to adapt to customers’ current needs and wants as driven by the pandemic.
In this article I will be sharing six of the top ways your local business can gain online visibility during uncertain times, including how to market during Covid-19, outside of the usual local SEO tactics.
1. React quickly to the changing landscape
The start of the pandemic saw businesses thrown into uncertainty, unsure of what would be the best action for their company and whether they would be able to tackle the obstacles to come.
Fast forward to a year of living with Covid-19 restrictions, at least to some extent, and businesses are still having to react quickly to the changing landscape in order to keep afloat. And, doing so is never simple.
The lifecycle of the pandemic can be confusing, and with rules and regulations always shifting, it can be hard to keep up — but you need to! Thinking about what worked before Covid-19 won’t guarantee you success now, and even trying to replicate something that was successful at a different time within the pandemic might also fail. Instead, pay attention to the wants and needs of your existing and potential customers.
For example, if your previous site was used to advertise products that you only sold in store, you might now want to make the move to selling them online instead. For example, Geppetto’s — a California-based toy store — tweaked their website to offer both online ordering and click and collect options for the first time ever in order to compete. Although selling online hasn’t brought the company back to its original selling volume, they reported a click-and-collect service helped them a lot. The use of this service has doubled every month since rolling it out last August.
2. Partner with other local businesses
Times are tough for many local businesses right now, so why not show your support and team up with another local company? As well as lending a hand to a team that may be struggling, multiple minds mean an extended pool of ideas, access to more contacts, and more customers. So, both you and the other businesses can thrive.
How you choose to form the partnership is totally up to you and what functions for your particular line of work. But you’ll want to make sure any business you partner with has values that align with yours. Otherwise you risk sending mixed messages to your customers or putting them off. For example, if you are a small shop specializing in selling eco-friendly gifts, partnering with brands that create a lot of waste and use harmful materials could land you with some online backlash, pushing your business success further away. Instead, you could partner with a like-minded local company to organize for your deliveries to go out together, halving your combined carbon footprint.
You might also want to join forces with local businesses that sell the same category of items as you do, whether that’s food, drinks, gifts, or something else. For example, if you own a local greengrocer, you could partner with the butchers round the corner to host a social media competition where the winner can receive the ingredients for a grand roast dinner. Whatever you do, make sure you’re taking your customers’ desires into account, whether that’s to treat them to a little luxury or help them with the essentials when times are hard.
If you’re keen to partner with other businesses, here are some ways you can get started:
- Run a competition online together: Make sure you both promote the competition on your socials and website to attract a richer pool of people.
- Host a joint event: Introduce yourselves to each other’s audiences by holding a joint online event or masterclass where you can both show off your specialism and let others get to know you. For example, if you both specialize in organic produce, you could cook one element of a dish and they could do the other.
- Offer product bundles and service packages together: Combining your products and services and offering them as a more comprehensive package is sure to attract more customers, especially if you’re able to offer a good discount for the bundle.
- Create a collaborative product range: Take the time to think about how you can combine your expertise and products and use this to make a collaborative product range. For example, if you own a dress company and you’re wanting to join with another clothing business, you could come up with your own line that integrates the look of both companies.
- Generate an interesting social campaign together: Social media is the quickest and cheapest way of getting news out about your businesses. Perhaps you’ll conduct some research together around how the pandemic has affected certain aspects of life, or you’ll predict trends and create product launches around this.
This can pay dividends in terms of boosting conversion rates and increasing engagement online with your businesses, especially if you partner up around peak periods. For example, two local Charleston restaurants, Lewis Barbecue and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, joined forces around Labor Day last year to offer two curated packages of their best sellers at an affordable price.
3. Focus on re-marketing
It often takes a change of circumstance to alter things for the better, and the pandemic has certainly turned many business processes on their heads and made owners rethink their online marketing strategy. In particular, remarketing has become much more helpful in identifying what customers are actually looking for during these uncertain times, and focusing on it can help you to make more conversions.
This digital marketing strategy is a much savvier alternative to trying to target people who have no interest in or use for, the product or service you’re selling. Instead, maximizing your media spends to re-target a user who has already engaged with an advertisement or has at least left an indication that they were interested, is sure to be much more beneficial.
Plus, with the pandemic leaving so many businesses with a tight marketing budget, it’ll be a much more suitable technique rather than trying something completely new and not reaching the right people.
There are several tools that can help you to identify where these customers are. For example, Facebook Pixel is a handy application that you can use if you use Facebook as one of your main advertising channels. It has the ability to measure cross-device conversions and optimize ad delivery to people likely to engage. Plus, the dynamic ads feature means Facebook will automatically show your site users the products they’ve already viewed on your website or related ones they may like. All of this can lead to increased conversion rates.
4. Refresh your optimized elements
We all know how important it is to have a well-optimized website. By targeting relevant keywords in your product descriptions, guides, and all other content on your site, you’re helping it to gain the attention it needs.
However, it’s important to regularly look at your analytics to see if your conversion rates are as you hoped and, if they’re not, it might be time to refresh your optimized elements to see if there’s anything new you should be targeted.
On top of this, you may also need to temporarily optimize your site for keywords that are on the rise due to Covid-19 to ensure your site is up to date. For example, diners might want to know if your restaurant offers curbside delivery, so you could create an FAQ on this.
To do this, it’ll be helpful to use a keyword research tool like SEMrush or Google Keyword Planner. You can enter specific page URLs into these tools to see what the pages are ranking for, and you will then be able to assess whether there are any new words to target or whether your pages are accidentally ranking for the wrong thing, which could be why there are bounce backs.
For guides, you’re sure to have included plenty of inbound links to help users navigate their way around the site with ease. But, you’ll also need to double-check that you have optimized anchor texts to improve their rankings.
5. Host live or virtual events
Both you and your customers are likely to feel quite out of touch with reality given the current situation, but you can make sure they know you’re there for them by hosting live or virtual events. This will be a great opportunity to chat with your customers, find out what kinds of products or services would be helpful for them right now, and also share any business news.
Your customers are sure to appreciate having a little time to escape from our new normal and focus on something they love doing. So, get creative with it. For example, if you own a small local gym that has been forced to close temporarily, you could host workouts or some relaxing yoga classes to help your customers to unwind. If your restaurant has been unable to open its doors for a while now, why not host a live cooking class? You could show people how to create some of their favorite dishes or share your Head Chef’s favorite cooking tips and tricks.
We’ve even seen garden and homeware specialists, like Molbak’s Garden + Home, take to Facebook Live to do virtual gardening tutorials, so the possibilities really are endless and don’t require high-end software.
6. Create a knowledge hub of shareable information
If you don’t already have a knowledge hub of evergreen content as part of your content strategy, now is a great time to get it done. With a little more downtime and reduced operating hours for many businesses, you can dedicate the time to being productive in other ways, and creating shareable information is a great place to start.
Using the keyword tools mentioned previously as well as Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ feature can help you to assess what questions users are asking, so you can create meaningful content. Just remember that for anything that’s time-sensitive or seasonal, you’ll want to place those onto the blog and save the hub for content that will always be needed.
All businesses will have their own idea of content they want to create, but if you’re unsure where to start you might want to consider the following:
- Manuals on how to use specific products (especially if they are multi-use items).
- Guides on topics relevant to the industry your business is in. For example, if you’re a car parts company, you could create evergreen guides about how to check and repair your vehicle.
- Inspiration pieces around certain events and trends. For example, a Mother’s Day gift guide or an interior guide based around the Pantone Color of the Year.
The pandemic has forced us all to think a little differently when it comes to business. So, taking the time to adjust your strategy to the current crisis and your customers’ new wants and needs will help to keep you afloat. Take my top six tips on how to market during Covid-19 on board and you should see your online visibility increasing.