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How to utilise your digital marketing agency for your COVID-19 response

1 May 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent national lockdown has highlighted the importance of businesses having a strong online presence. The inability for would-be customers to see physical storefronts in person and have face-to-face interactions has magnified holes in some companies’ online visibility — rendering them as good as invisible to the browsing masses.

That’s the sad side of the story. The happy side is that we’ve seen businesses really critique their digital marketing (DM) activities and their outward appearance to online users. This devastating global event has prompted business owners (especially SMB owners) to reassess their whole operation, how they present themselves to potential customers and how they approach their marketing.

Today we’re offering some advice about how to best utilise your digital marketing resources in this time — be they a digital marketing agency like Limelight Online, or an internal team or individual. This is designed to help you get the best bang for your buck in terms of both the relationship and the efficacy of your combined efforts.

 

It’s okay to ask a digital marketing agency for help

After an internal review of a company’s objectives, the direction they’re moving and any changes that need to be considered in light of COVID-19, the next move should be to contact their digital marketing agency (or in-house department). This call should cover what’s been raised in the review, any resulting potential initiatives and how the two parties can work together to help the business adapt to (and stay afloat in the wake of) the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re working through this stage, keep reminding yourself that digital marketers are professionals in their field and are experienced in understanding businesses objectives and putting personalised marketing strategies in place to help support them. They have specialist knowledge you don’t and want nothing more than to apply their skills and knowledge to make things happen for your business.

Be brave and extend your arm for help — if you approach good DM agencies, they will likely shake your hand (outside of lockdown, of course) and share fresh and well-informed ideas for your cause, explaining these in terms you can both understand and appreciate.

 

Share the game plan with your DM partner

Sharing information about your business to help your digital marketing team understand the industry and business landscape you operate in is essential. This ensures you’re on the same page and that they see the whole picture; what resources you have, what is most important to your business, challenges you face, etc, etc.

The best relationship with a DM agency is a reciprocal one in which the business owner keeps the agency informed about what’s happening on the ground at their end, while the agency keeps the business owner informed about what’s happening with their online audience and their digital assets. This is the best way to have the two working in harmony to improve your bottom line.

To put the alternative (i.e., having zero contact after services are set in motion) in perspective… keeping a digital marketing resource in the dark is like driving somewhere using a satnav, but not telling it where you want to go. Or, employing a team of astronauts to fly your spaceship, but not telling them which planet you want to visit.

 

Stay flexible with your digital assets and don’t be afraid of change

Digital marketing isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ space in which things are etched in stone. Often businesses are afraid to try something new with their marketing efforts because they’re unsure of how permanent the action or its results may be, and they worry that once a campaign is set in motion it will be an ordeal to alter or stop it.

Our work in the digital field is driven by data and results, so we are constantly evolving marketing campaigns based on search data and performance results that we process daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. We often suggest to clients that they trial new initiatives for a 1–3 months before assessing the impact it has made on their business and reacting accordingly.

Feedback between a business and their agency during this period can make or break a campaign’s success and keeping each other informed keeps positivity levels high. Even when something doesn’t have great results, both the client and the agency will have learned a valuable lesson about what does and doesn’t work along the way.

An honest agency hates to see a marketing budget allocated poorly and will be the first to sound the alarm if they think you’re throwing good money after bad. If you’re concerned this is what you’re doing currently, just ask them about it.

 

Don’t bury your head in the sand

Part of staying flexible and adapting to change is taking the bull by the horns and speaking up when things aren’t going so well — recognising the need to make changes and seeking the right help. This may sound a bit like a business mentor line but standing still might see your business get trampled as more dynamic competitors step boldly into the new operating environment.

Ignoring the changing landscape and burying your head in the sand will keep you and your digital marketing agency in the dark, and you can literally become invisible to your potential audience. In extreme cases, this can be the equivalent of driving nails into your business’s coffin.

 

How your digital marketing agency can help in these times

DM agencies are extremely plugged into online behaviour across a multitude of sectors and have their eyes on the dials, daily. This means while you have a great ‘seat of the pants’ read on what customers in your industry are doing, marketing agencies will likely have a better read of how your potential customers are behaving online.

With this intel, they can help advise you on where to focus your efforts, potentially pausing a campaign in one channel moving those funds to another, or taking on a secondary channel to push branding while a campaign in another channel chases conversions. Understanding all the angles and which ones are right for your business is what digital marketing specialists can bring to the table.

 

3 checks to assess your online visibility during COVID-19

Carry out these checks to see how well you’ve adapted your online presence to COVID-19 events. And remember — your digital marketing resource can help you put these points in place if you haven’t already.

 

1. Have you clearly communicated your business status where your audience will see it?

 

  • Updating opening hours via your Google My Business Listing to keep people in the loop.

 



  • Apply a ‘COVID-19 Update’ banner on your website homepage.

 

 

  • Create pinned posts on your social media accounts and offer updates as things change.

 

 

2. Assess your budget and weigh up the cost of becoming invisible. Right now, we’re seeing a number of clients across a variety of industries benefitting from less competition and subsequently lower click costs. Subsequently some smaller players that have ‘stayed the course’ are getting much more exposure than they would have previously.

 

However, if cutting costs is essential to business survival then some options include:

  • Considering reducing click budgets for products deemed less relevant in the current environment.

  • Considering pausing campaigns connected to services or products that aren’t deliverable under current restrictions.

  • Considering reallocating budgets to other more relevant products or services, or transition/innovate the types of services/products your business can offer now and promote those instead.

  • Considering increasing budgets for products or services that can be delivered under current restrictions, thereby taking advantage of the potentially lower levels of competition that exist and positioning your brand at the forefront of customers’ minds for when life returns to ‘normal’.

 

 3. Have you adjusted the messaging in your advertising material? Wording and imagery should be sensitive to the Alert Level we are currently in (i.e., no images of people in close quarters during Level 3).

This theatrical ‘perfect high five’ ad from a US insurance giant was released with unfortunate timing in March.

 

Playing as a team

If you’ve outsourced your digital marketing to an agency, the best way to get the most out of them is to treat them like an internal resource.

  • Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas of them. Use them as an extremely well-informed sounding board to discuss concepts and get their input before developing the idea further. A good digital agency will also be able to give you a clear picture of what your competitors are doing online right now. Use this to help understand the current market and potentially identify additional opportunities.

  • Think about lead times and plan accordingly. If you want a campaign to start on a Monday, don’t contact them about it on Friday. Of course, they’ll do whatever they can to help you out, but a digital agency’s best work is produced when there’s a good dose of planning and research applied up front.

  • Remember they’ve likely got a lot on their plate as a result of the increasing focus on digital at a time like this, so be kind and understanding when it comes to turnaround times and your expectations, as they will be in return.

 

Ask questions to get answers

Keep the lines of communication open with your digital marketing agency as time marches on and things change. Keep them in the loop about upcoming developments within your business and how this may impact the focus of your marketing. This allows them to offer up ideas about how best to communicate your news and developments to your audience.

You’ll want your agency to understand what it is you do and your marketing objectives, and in turn your agency should want you to have a suitable level of understanding when it comes to your marketing activities. Honest questions and digestible answers are the fastest route to this mutual understanding, and if you’re scouting for prospective DM agencies, the more of this that takes place in your initial meetings the better.

 

Don’t be shy…

I hope these points have been informative and given you plenty of food for thought. If you’re an existing Limelight Online client and we’ve raised more questions than answers, pick up the phone or drop us an email. If you’re seeking a digital marketing agency to help you navigate the murky, yet opportunity-rich times we now live in, we’d love a chat.

 

Written by
Josh Casserly is one of our Digital Marketers and, as a well-travelled wordsmith, Josh combines his aptitude for engaging content with his ever-expanding digital marketing skill set.

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