Get Your Online Presence Back On Track with these Tips

The COVID pandemic has led to a sharp increase in time spent online. With so much of the world actively engaged online, your brand should not be an exception. Many brands, however, are left wondering what kinds of messages they should be sending, and how to stay relevant when nearly every brand is fighting for attention in the virtual space?

Building your online presence during a pandemic is no easy feat, but with the right tools and perspective you can develop a genuine connection with your customers that leads to increased online interaction even as consumer purchasing patterns fluctuate.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategies for Today’s Circumstances

If you’re looking for a roadmap to guide you through this unfamiliar environment, we can help. 

Here are our tips for maintaining your brand’s image and connecting with customers in the current climate of uncertainty.

Tip #1: Focus on Delivering Value

Be sure any message you send is one that contains some kind of value for the customer. With so many brands taking the “we’re in this together”, it’s no surprise that many consumers are starting to feel a little skeptical or even cynical about these kinds of messages. 

Rather than putting all of your efforts into projecting positive vibes, focus on serving your target audience in concrete ways. It’s through action, not just words, that you will build trust and retain attention.

Tip #2: Understand that Mistakes Happen 

We’re all new to this, and no one has a degree in marketing during a pandemic. If you do get started off on the wrong foot or find that your messages aren’t generating the positive reaction you hoped for, don’t be afraid to apologize. Listening to your audience and acknowledging that you’ve made an error is the best way to move forward.

Tip #3: Cater Content to Consumers’ Current Needs

Right now, it may be best to emphasize qualitative over quantitative data. You may need to focus on creating content that doesn’t necessarily generate the kind of outcomes you’re used to.

Instead of producing content meant to increase your ROI, you may want to ask yourself how you can provide consumers with a positive experience they’ll remember in more stable times. This could involve putting out some kind of “infotainment” that helps customers fill their time in a constructive way, or other types of creative content that are relevant to your industry but don’t necessarily promote your product or service outright.

Tip #4: Take Advantage of PPC Marketing

With fewer people out and about, more and more individuals have taken up residence in front of their screens. This means more Google searches and more eyeballs on pay-per-click (PPC) ads. 

If you’re not already using PPC marketing, there’s never been a better time to start. Thanks to a decrease in cost-per-click and increase in viewership, you’ll get the best bang for your buck with this digital marketing strategy.

Tip #5: Put an Emphasis on SEO

Don’t consider this lull a time to pull back on your SEO efforts. Instead, you should be optimizing your website and content on a very frequent basis to remain on the front page of Google SERPs.

Implementing local SEO strategies is also more crucial than ever as many families are sticking to their local neighborhoods for supplies and services. Local SEO can help ensure your website appears in “near me” searches and makes it easier for customers in your area to find your information. Not only can local SEO drive new customers to your business, but it can also help you be there for your community when they need you most.

Tip #6: Use Social Media for Its Intended Purpose

Connecting with others has always been the main goal of social media. Now is the time to take a moment to connect with your audience over the shared experience of the pandemic. 

There will be time for sales pitches and marketing pushes in the future. However, as we all begin to embrace a new normal, you have the chance to tap into the emotions your audience is feeling and let them know they’re not alone.

Video Marketing In The Time Of Covid-19

If you’ve been spending more time than ever in front of a screen, you’re not alone. The COVID pandemic has us reaching for our devices for current health and safety information, updates from our favorite businesses, and details about how to do things we’ve never attempted before, from baking bread to cutting hair to replacing an air filter. In order to consume all of this information in an easy-to-digest and time-efficient manner, many of us have been choosing video over text whenever possible.

That’s why video marketing is such an important strategy to leverage at this unique moment in time. If your business hasn’t been utilizing video as part of your digital marketing strategy, it’s never too late to start. 

Not only does video have the capacity to be more engaging than text, but it can also be more instructive and personal. All of these factors make your business a helpful resource for your target audience. It will also give you a leg up in gaining their business both now and when the shutdowns are a distant memory.

Tips for Using Video Marketing During the Pandemic

Since video is such an open and creative tool, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the possibilities it offers. To help you focus on the opportunities that are most relevant to your business, we’ve detailed a few tips below. 

Tip #1: Start with Safety

Let’s face it, safety is on all of our minds right now and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Your customers are probably wondering what you’re doing to promote safety at your business, and with video, you can show them. From how you’re helping your employees take social distancing measures to how you’re making deliveries safer and more efficient, there are plenty of safety procedures to highlight. 

Being transparent about how you’re going about business in this new reality will put your customers’ minds at ease and keep them from being distracted by these types of questions as they consume your future video content.

Tip #2: Get Personal

Video allows you to provide a personal touch that doesn’t always come through in text. Because we are all seeing fewer friendly faces than normal, video has become a comfort in moments of loneliness. Take advantage of this ease of connection by sharing your experiences with your audience and giving them a behind-the-scenes look at how your business is being run in this challenging climate.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are where people expect to view videos that feel more personal, so don’t be afraid to lean into social media as you ramp up your video marketing campaign.

Tip #3: Share Your Expertise

Do-it-yourself projects once used to be a fun hobby. In the era of social distancing, they’ve often become essential. Searches for how-to content are surging as consumers’ access to expert services has declined, so now is the time to figure out how you can share your expertise through video. 

Whether you operate a cleaning company and want to show viewers how to remove soap scum from their shower, or you run a bakery and can provide beginner cake decorating tips, chances are your help will be greatly appreciated.

Tip #4: Maximize Your Exposure

Investing in your advertising budget can help promote your videos and increase the likelihood they’ll be viewed by a larger audience. With paid ads, your videos will have greater exposure than relying on organic traffic. 

However, if expanding your advertising budget is not an option right now, you can still strive to increase views by engaging with your audience as much as possible and consistently producing content that’s valuable to them.

In order to get the most bang for your buck out of your marketing budget, you’ll want to know which platforms are working best for your brand. Try out a handful – Tik-Tok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are the most popular – and measure the engagement you’re generating to determine where you should focus your energy in the future.

IFA Releases Franchise Reopening Blueprint

The IFA’s mission is to protect, promote, and enhance franchising. The current COVID pandemic has made this mission more urgent than ever. As part of their ongoing efforts to ensure the viability of franchise businesses, the IFA has recently released a Franchise Reopening Blueprint.

According to Robert Cresanti, CFE, President and CEO of the International Franchise Association, this Blueprint was created to provide “contextual practices for how franchise businesses can mitigate risk through education and practices necessary to protect the health of their employees, customers, and communities.”

The Blueprint was created after conducting interviews with franchisors, franchisees, and professional advisors across a variety of franchise sectors. It provides recommendations for opening and maintaining business as reopening begins to take place across the country and around the world. 

Recommendations are provided for Cross-Industry, Consumer-Facing, and Legislative actions. Additionally, because reopening and operational challenges will vary by sector, customized recommendations have been created for the following franchise sectors:

  • Automotive Industry
  • Commercial Cleaning Services
  • Education
  • Fitness
  • Hotel
  • Residential Services
  • Restaurant
  • Salon/Personal Care Services 
  • Senior Care Services

The IFA believes that these guidelines, when put into practice, will help to “instill confidence in businesses and rapidly restore our nation’s economy.”

Click here to view the full report

More Information Regarding Google Ads Credits Released

In March, Google announced it would be supporting small and medium-sized businesses with more than $300 million in ad credits. This week, they announced additional information regarding eligibility and other common questions around the program.

Some of the questions answered include:

  • Who can qualify for the ad credit?
    Any small and medium-sized business with ad spend through Google in 10 out of the past 12 months AND in January and/or February of 2020 will be eligible.
  • How can I use the ad credit?
    Ad credits can be applied to future Google Ads spend in 2020. Ad credits cannot be applied to billed or past invoices, nor can it be applied to current spend. Ad credits can be used on any Google Ads platform including Search, Display, and YouTube.
  • When can I expect to see my ad credit?
    Ad credits will be rolled out in phases beginning in late May of 2020. Ad credits will be applied directly to the Google Ad account at which time eligible customers will be notified. 
  • How much credit can I expect?
    The amount of ad credit will vary by customer based on past Google Ads spend, the country of origin, and the currency where the business is established.
  • How long do I have to use my credit?
    Ad credits will expire on December 31, 2020. Any unused credits will be removed from the Google Ads account at that time.

You can find additional information on the Google Ad Credits here.

Facebook Grants & Ad Credit Updates: How to Apply and What to Expect

In March, Facebook announced it’s plan to award $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to help small businesses struggling due to COVID-19 and its effect on the economy. In the original announcement, Facebook said the goal was to help small businesses offset costs including rent, operational costs, workforce retention, and connecting with their customer base.

They’ve just recently released more information on these programs and how small businesses can participate. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect.

Who is Eligible?

The program is open to up to 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries. To qualify, each business must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a for-profit company
  • Employ between 2 and 50 people
  • Been in business for over a year
  • Experienced challenges related to COVID-19
  • Be in or near a location where Facebook operates

Facebook is currently doing a rolling release for applications across the U.S.  New York City and Seattle were the first to be eligible starting on April 18. Companies in San Francisco were eligible to begin the application process on April 20. On April, 22, more areas of the county will be opened to eligibility. 

Businesses will have 2 weeks to send in their applications. Decisions will be made within a few weeks after the application window closes. Facebook has not released a guideline on how long decisions will take to be made.

You can check to see if your local area is now eligible, by clicking the See Available Locations link in the Who’s Eligible section.

If you are in an area that is eligible to apply, you’ll be directed to a new page to begin the application process. For those located in areas not yet eligible, you’ll have the option to enter your email address to receive future updates.

How Can Funds be Used?

If you are eligible for the cash grants and/or ad credits, you may be wondering how you can utilize these funds. Facebook has created this program to assist with a variety of costs and expenses. Just a few of the ways you can use funds include:

  • Assist with rent
  • Cover operational expenses
  • Keep workers employed
  • Connect with customers

How to Get Started

Even if these grants and ad credits are not available in your area today, it’s a good idea to start planning ahead and gathering the information you’ll need for the application. Here’s how the process will work.

Step 1: Check to see if grants are available in your area by clicking here.

Step 2: Verify your business is eligible and meets the guidelines listed above.

Step 3: To apply, you’ll need to supply at least one of the following documents:

  • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
  • Business license
  • Official registration
  • Proof of incorporation
  • Partnership documents
  • Contact information 
  • A brief summary of your company

Step 4: Prepare a short write statement on how the funds will be used.

Step 5: Submit the application.

Following application submission, Facebook may reach out for additional information or to have various questions answered before notifying grant recipients that they have been award funds. You can find more information about the application process here.

Rethinking Your Digital Marketing Through COVID-19

With the news of the impact of COVID-19 changing every day, it can be tough to grasp how all of these new changes will affect your business overall, not to mention what the situation signals for your digital marketing campaign. While there are many uncertainties that lie ahead, there are still concrete steps you can take to maintain a marketing strategy that makes sense for your brand.

In normal times, marketing is all about adaptation – to new trends, new data, and changing consumer behaviors. Now more than ever, that ability to remain fluid through changing circumstances is key.

Your team should be thinking on its feet, while also being sure that any and all decisions are made in a spirit of compassion. This is the time to invest in long-term consumer trust and loyalty, keeping your brand in a positive light throughout the ups and downs that the future holds.

Adjusting Your Digital Marketing Approach During Uncertain Times

Here are our suggestions for maintaining a strategic approach to digital marketing while navigating this uncharted territory:

Aim to pivot, not pause.

While in-store traffic is being curtailed in the wake of the pandemic, TV usage, and at-home online activity are skyrocketing. This presents an opportunity for advertisers to reach their target audience through more targeted investments in different forms of advertising. Rather than pausing your campaign altogether, you can pivot your digital marketing strategy to comprise platforms that are most relevant to the here and now. 

OTT-CTV is one example that shouldn’t be overlooked. OTT-CTV advertising combines the impact of traditional TV advertising with the precise targeting capabilities of a digital campaign, including addressable targeting, behavioral targeting, and demographic targeting. 

The use of Social Media in the United States is up 30% in recent weeks. This is the time to make sure you’re staying in front of your audience and reminding them of your services. It’s also a great way to provide thoughtful content and share supportive resources with your audience.

By taking into account how your customers’ consumption of media is changing as their daily lives are altered, you can be sure to reach them as they embrace different platforms. 

Take a leadership role.

Customers may not know how the pandemic is changing how your industry operates, and providing them with more information can help them see you as an authority in your industry. From a quick email blast to social media posts or an informative banner on your website, there are many ways to go about getting clear information out there concerning any processing changes or limitations that are affecting the way your business normally runs.

Ask the right questions.

What do customers need from your brand right now? How can you adjust your services to make them more viable as self-isolation and social distancing measures become necessary? 

Many of these questions can be difficult to answer. Make sure you’re communicating with your digital marketing partner to help you navigate the right path you should be on during these uncertain times.

Strive to stay tonally on point.

In this day and age, certain subjects, images, and types of humor aren’t going to be perceived in the same way as they would have been even just a few weeks ago. Take the initiative to reassess all aspects of your digital campaign, from keywords and copy to visuals and other creative elements, in light of the current situation. Being proactive about tweaking these aspects of your digital marketing creative now can mean the difference between running an effective campaign and running one that is seen as being tone-deaf.

Trying times often call for creative thinking and a willingness to adapt. By taking things one day at a time while also keeping an eye on what the future holds, your team can make digital marketing decisions that give your customers confidence, shine a positive light on your brand, and help make the future a little brighter. 

Google To Support SMB with Ad Credits

On Friday, Google announced it will pledge $340 million to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with Google Ads credits. This represents just a portion of an overall $800+ million plus effort to support SMBs, health organizations and governments, healthcare workers, academia, and other organizations worldwide during this difficult time.

Google is committed to helping SMBs weather this difficult time. Providing support in the form of Google Ads credits allows many businesses to continue advertising even as they may be seeing a need to cut back on expenses. 

Continuing with a digital advertising program helps businesses to ensure their funnel of potential sales does not dry up during this difficult time, thereby putting them in a positive position for the future. Ongoing advertising also helps to ensure there is little to no “ramp up” period on the other side of this crisis.

Google will be communicating with advertisers who have had active accounts over the past year via their Google Ads account. Credit notifications will appear there and can be used throughout 2020 on any Google advertising platform.

More information on the ad credits for SMBs can be found here.

Google’s full commitment is made up of the following additional components:

  • Support for Health-Related Organizations. Google will support a wide variety of healthcare organizations including the WHO, NGS, community financial institutions, and government agencies through $270 million in ad grants.
  • Providing Access to Capital. An additional $200 million investment is being made to fund NGOs and other financial institutions that will provide support for small businesses around the world by providing access to capital.
  • Support for Academia and Research. A $20 million pool has been set aside to provide Google Cloud credits for researches and academic institutions pursuing potential therapies, vaccines, and other research related to COVID-19.

Funding for PPEs and Medical Devices. Google will be offering “financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and life saving medical devices.”

Support for Business Affected by COVID-19

Both the US Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association have released information for small businesses affected by COVID-19.

Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Applications

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that small businesses owners across the U.S. are now eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000.

This program is designed to provide businesses with working capital to help them overcome temporary losses to revenue due to COVID-19. Funds can be made available within 3 days and the loan advance does not have to be repaid.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program can also provide working capital loans for up to $2 million.

More information and links to apply for loans and loan advances can be found here.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans

The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to support small businesses during this time. Designed to help keep workers employed, the Paycheck Protection Program provides 100% federally guaranteed loans.

Businesses who accept these loans and who maintain their payroll during the crisis or restore their payroll after this has passed will have their loans forgiven.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has provided this document with detailed information about eligibility, what information will need to be provided to qualify, how much can be borrowed, and more details on the forgiveness program.

Facebook Grant Supports Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

As thousands of small businesses across the country are being impacted by the spread of COVID-19, Facebook has announced a new grant to help support these companies.

Today, Facebook announced a $100 million program to provide cash grants and ad credits to those small businesses affected. The announcement said, “We know that your business may be experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve heard that a little financial support can go a long way, so we are offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time.”

Available for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses across 30 countries, the grants would average $3,333 per business. More information is forthcoming along with information on how to submit applications. 

Facebook says its goal is to help small businesses offset costs including rent, operational costs, workforce retention, and connecting with their customer base.

You can find more information about this grant program here.

Additionally, Facebook has put together additional resource tools that you may find valuable as you move through this challenging time.