As the COVID-19 pandemic continues—albeit with a flattened curve across many U.S. states—businesses have been increasingly branching out and navigating new marketing strategies.
As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, small businesses across the globe have been struggling to keep up with key performance metrics, engage their audience, and retain customers.
While these businesses previously relied on local offline marketing strategies rather than internet marketing for long-term growth, the new wave of lockdown-induced digitalization has made it increasingly difficult to engage with customers without using technology.
According to Forbes, over 30 million small businesses have suffered unprecedented customer attrition and revenue loss. With approximately 6.6 million U.S. workers losing their jobs each week, nationwide unemployment is rising at alarming rates.
The increasing use of social media and online browsing has necessitated the transition from offline marketing to strong online digital marketing that encompasses PPC marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, web design and development, and reputation management.
There is a dire need for innovation in marketing practices, especially for small businesses, and those who are innovating right now are indeed finding success.
Small businesses that leverage the best online marketing tips and tricks during 2021 in this ongoing period of uncertainty witness increases in conversion rates, brand growth, and revenue.
To help you discover the realm of digital marketing and how you can immediately use it to benefit your small business, we’ve rounded up our top eight Online and Digital Marketing tips.
Using these, you can not only climb out of the COVID-19 abyss but have your business sustain and thrive both during and following lockdown.
1. Create an Engaging, Interactive, and User-Friendly Website
The ongoing pandemic has increased internet use by a whopping 70%.
In fact, the surge in web browsing is expected to continue once the lockdown restrictions are eased.
Companies with a strong online presence have leveraged this boost in web traffic and have sustained revenues despite the nationwide lockdown.
However, many small businesses have been apprehensive about transitioning from tried-and-trusted offline marketing strategies to web marketing.
While the change may seem challenging at first, you’ll immediately notice a boost in audience engagement and retention.
According to research, over 92% of small business owners believe that having a user-friendly, engaging, and interactive website is the most powerful digital marketing strategy available to them.
The imperativeness of this has doubled over the past few months as the lockdown continues to boost web browsing.
Improve search rankings, local reach, and traffic by creating a comprehensive and fully-customized website. As more people gain easy access to your products and services, your business will expand organically.
Over time, you’ll manage to counteract the damage sustained during the initial months of the lockdown.
Now that you understand the importance of having a solidly engaging, interactive, and user-friendly website, you may be wondering how to go about accomplishing solid digital marketing for your small business’ website.
Here are some best practices for you to follow:
- Keep your layout simple. Figure out what the absolute essentials of your website are and draw focus to that. This helps your website have a “clean” aesthetic that is also functional.
Having a clean and functional approach also helps to reduce your load times and make it easier for users to navigate on multiple devices.
- Speaking of multiple devices, make absolutely sure that your website is designed to work in a mobile and tablet format as well as the traditional desktop format.
Not only does this make life far easier for a customer who wants to check out your site on their phone/tablet, but it also improves your search rankings.
This is because recently, Google has had a Mobilegeddon tweak to its search algorithm. Basically, if your website does not have a mobile-friendly interface, Google will punish your website by reducing your rankings.
So don’t forget mobile device compatibility because it can make or break your site’s rankings.
- Make your site’s navigation features easy to follow.
As a business, your goal is to have a customer stay on your website.
The way that they stay is by clicking around.
Therefore, since you want them to stay on your site for longer periods, you need to make the navigation easy.
- Make use of highlighted calls to action.
To do this effectively, you need to ask yourself what you want your customer to do when they are on your site. Do you want them to buy products, book a phone call, call your business…?
Figure out your calls to action and slap them on your site.
Highlight and design them in such a way that the user can’t miss them without being obnoxiously sales-y. Simple buttons work just fine for this.
In addition to your web pages and outside content, you can also use calls to action throughout your content when they become relevant.
- Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of simple, good-looking, and easy-to-read font.
2. Leverage Social Media for Increased Customer Engagement and Retention
With a sleek and interactive website, you should take advantage of social media to engage customers and send them to your site.
This is because, according to research, the ongoing lockdown has increased social media use by 20%.
As people transition to working and studying from home, there has been a 15–40% increase in popular social media applications like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
While focusing on powerful web design and development is imperative, it’s equally important to leverage social media for increased customer engagement and retention.
Here’s what you can do to establish a strong social media presence:
- Actively interact with customers. By doing so, you are building relationships with them. This is key because customers are far more likely to purchase from a brand they have had a positive social media interaction with.
Helpfulness, kindness, positivity, and a well-phrased joke can go a long way.
- Optimize your content stream. What can help you immensely if you’ve already been doing social media for your business is to do an audit of your content.
Use this audit to see what is working, gaining traction, performing well, starting conversations, and building relationships with your customers.
Based on this audit, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work well. Tweak what doesn’t work and execute new ideas.
- Use rich images and videos. Especially during the pandemic, people’s online appetite for video has increased immensely.
You don’t have to break the bank to make videos and can very much do it yourself.
You can do so by making sure your video content is in line with your business goals/objectives, keeping it short, writing a script, optimizing messaging, and paying attention to your videos’ analytics.
We will delve deeper into video marketing later in this blog post.
- Check out your competitors.
It’s definitely frowned upon to copy strategies, but there’s nothing wrong with looking through your competitor’s posts to see what their strategy is and take inspiration from it.
It might spark some awesome content ideas for your own business and, in turn, help you drive engagement.
- Set goals and key objectives for your social media efforts.
A great framework for goal setting that is also applicable to goal setting outside of social media is the SMART framework.
In this, you define your goal by making it specific, measurable, achievable/realistic, relevant, and time-bound.
- Take advantage of “social media listening.”
Suppose you run a bakery and you go to Twitter. If you look into conversations people are having about your bakery, you might come across some valuable feedback that you might have missed because the customers were saying it to each other as opposed to you directly.
This is social media listening.
You now have the opportunity to take the feedback, explore if others feel similarly on social media, and make adjustments to your products (e.g., cake moisture levels) accordingly.
You can do this effectively by monitoring social media platforms actively for mentions of your products, brand, competitors, and even keywords relevant to your business.
The first step to good communication is to listen carefully.
Not only will this help you redirect customers to your website, but you’ll also notice an increase in direct orders for your products/services.
Also known as social selling, social media selling helps small businesses boost revenue by doubling or even tripling online transactions. As your brand successfully taps into the digital realm, you’ll manage to generate more leads and expand your business.
3. Develop an Empathetic and Crisis-Friendly Digital Marketing Approach
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many brands have been called out for insensitive marketing campaigns. As small businesses transition to the digital landscape, it’s essential to tread with care and avoid developing an excessively promotional marketing strategy.
Instead, develop an empathetic and crisis-friendly approach to ensure customers feel comforted, motivated, and inspired during a time of global chaos and uncertainty.
Starbucks’ thoughtful and empowering posts are a great example of putting your customers first instead of capitalizing on a global pandemic:
Not only will empathetic messages help customers feel reassured, but they’ll also improve your brand reputation and identity. As you continue to engage with your audience in a supportive and encouraging manner, you’ll notice an increase in audience engagement, retention, and growth.
Here are some great examples by Chick-fil-A and Starbucks:
While we recommend using digital platforms to share your products/services, take strict measures to avoid blurring the lines between blatant promotion and crisis-friendly branding.
Demarcating each category will help you avoid overstepping, thereby connecting with your customers without overselling or capitalizing on the ongoing crisis.
4. Focus on Reputation Management
While you may feel compelled to manage your web presence and social media accounts yourself, asking for help is crucial.
As small business owners adopt digital marketing strategies, they’re largely unfamiliar with the subtleties of managing a strong digital reputation.
While increased web activity and social media use are extremely beneficial, it can also backfire in some instances.
Receiving negative feedback and false reviews is a common occurrence. However, leaving them unattended could harm your brand in the long run.
As potential customers interact with the negative content, they’re likely to change their minds and look for a competitor who offers similar products/services. In addition, you run the risk of losing unsatisfied customers by leaving their complaints unattended.
This is where reputation management experts step in.
They help brands detect and respond to negative feedback in an empathetic, polite, and remedial manner. Moreover, business reputation monitoring and management agents also help remove the factually incorrect information, cyber-attacks, and intentional public vitriol that could cost your brand in the long run.
5. Create Powerful Web Content
You may have accomplished the feat of creating a visually dynamic, informative, and immersive website.
But this doesn’t mean that you now get to drop the metaphorical mic and let your social media run itself.
It’s important to maintain this strong web presence (read: stay relevant) by continuing to share high-quality blogs, articles, press releases, infographics, and other promotional media because these methods maximize audience retention.
As preexisting customers engage with your content, they’ll be redirected to your products/services, thereby minimizing customer attrition and ensuring long-term brand growth. Sharing promotional web content also helps attract new audiences.
We recommend developing a crisis-sensitive approach to ensure customers feel acknowledged instead of overwhelmed. Include a powerful yet empathetic CTA to redirect them to your product/service pages and/or social media accounts.
6. Leverage Local SEO Strategies for Higher Rankings
Focusing on local SEO is a powerful way to target local audiences and receive higher rankings on SERPs. As people spend more time indoors, they’re actively seeking products/services that can be delivered to their doorstep.
As you optimize your website for local searches, you’ll successfully increase your local customer base.
Claim your free Google My Business listing to enhance visibility and relevance. We recommend updating the page and sharing posts to receive a higher ranking on Google. Maintain NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency to improve credibility.
We also suggest optimizing web content—including web copy, blogs, articles, and press releases—based on region-specific keywords. This strategy will help your business climb SERPs and attract more customers.
Use title tags, meta description, header tags, and additional on-page SEO elements to give Google a clear idea of the regional availability of your products/services.
7. Leverage Video Marketing
As one of the most effective digital marketing tools, video marketing helps brands share their products/services with customers without losing their attention.
As the average human attention span drops to 8 seconds, keeping audiences engaged has become more challenging than ever. While text and image-based content is powerful in its own right, video content has proven to be more impactful.
According to research, 90% of customers admit that product/service videos play a big role in finalizing their buying decision. In addition, brands that use video content enjoy over 41% more web traffic than their competitors.
As video emerges at the forefront of marketing, creating engaging, entertaining, and empathetic video content has become more important than ever.
Whether you create an explainer video that educates your audience about your products/services or a company culture video that briefly outlines your work-from-home adaptation strategy, video marketing will help build a strong customer base.
We recommend posting the video content on your website and social media pages for better reach.
8. Keep Up With Your Competitors!
Monitor successful local competitors’ websites to develop an idea of different strategies that you could potentially try in the future. While you may have utilized powerful digital marketing tactics, there’s always room for improvement.
We also recommend keeping up with industry trends to stay on top of the competition and sneak in some much-needed inspiration when needed.
Browse through your competitors’ social media pages to review their engagement and customer response strategy. This will help you determine lapses in your audience engagement strategy and update tactics if needed.
Now you have learned everything you need to: optimize your social media approach for engagement, update your brand voice for crisis time, creating important and powerful content that helps and resonates with your audience, performing basic SEO practices, and keeping on top of your competitive research.
While this provides you with a strong foundation to help your small business stabilize and even thrive, remember that the work doesn’t end here, and researching best practices is an ongoing process that evolves just as the pandemic does.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone.
You can improve your brand visibility and growth by browsing through our expert digital marketing services for small businesses.
Our social media management, reputation management, content marketing, web design and development, and Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing services are tailored according to cutting-edge SEO trends to ensure better sales and traffic for clients.
As one of the leading award-winning SEO agencies in the U.S., we help small businesses get started at as little as $200.
As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues, businesses have been adopting digitalization in droves to maintain high-level KPIs and metrics, ensure audience engagement and retention, and reduce customer attrition rates.
Not only has the lockdown vitiated local offline businesses, but it has also impacted the performance of online businesses with weak or nonexistent SEO practices.
According to the United Nations, COVID-19 has impacted over 482 million workers in the retail and wholesale industries, 463 million workers in the manufacturing industry, and over 157 million workers in the business services and administration sectors.
While many brands across the U.S. have digitalized their business by adopting strong online selling and marketing strategies, the large majority is still struggling to navigate this complex and foreign transition. Despite the astounding 50% increase in digital sales, over 51% of Americans admitted to delaying digital adoption despite its exigency.
In addition, brands that are new to digital marketing are struggling to familiarize themselves with—and consequently utilize—indispensable marketing tools and best practices like social media management, content marketing, web design and development, and online reputation management.
The fact is, though, that those brands which are learning how to manage and improve their online reputation effectively are performing far better, even during COVID 19.
It is thus integral to monitor one’s brand reputation because it helps in maintaining, increasing, and enhancing brand visibility and perception, customer reach, sales revenue, and net profit margins during this ongoing period of rapid flux and uncertainty.
What Is Reputation Management and Why Does It Matter?
As online brand presence emerges at the forefront of establishing strong customer relationships and ensuring successful sales, reputation management has become a vital tool that brands can’t afford to sideline.
Reputation management services are designed to help businesses detect, process, and effectively respond to negative allegations and damaging misinformation.
Let’s circle back to why this is crucial during the ongoing crisis. Over the past few weeks, COVID-19 has caused:
- A 20% increase in social media usage
- A 40%+ increase in Facebook usage
- A 22% increase in Instagram usage
- A 23% increase in Twitter usage
- A 15%+ increase in YouTube usage
Leaving reviews that could negatively impact brand identity unaddressed not only leaves customers dissatisfied but also results in more people expressing their discontent. As people engage with the review, they’re also more likely to form a negative opinion about the brand, thereby feeling less inclined to invest in their products/services in the future.
However, timely detection and a tactful response by the brand can undo a lot of potential damage.
For instance, Apple’s assiduous and prompt response resulted in the customer following up their tweet with:
While the aforementioned interaction is a great way to strengthen brand identity and appease customers, most brands remain in the dark about negative reviews, thereby running the risk of damaging brand reputation.
This is where reputation management services step in.
By conscientiously examining a brand’s digital presence, reputation repair experts ensure timely remedial action. As a fundamental component of reputation management, social media monitoring increases conversion rates, audience retention, revenue growth, net promoter score, website traffic, and customer satisfaction.
Still skeptical about leveraging reputation management to boost your business?
We’ve rounded up eight reasons to benefit from reputation management services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Reduce Customer Attrition
With social media usage expected to hit an all-time high in the following months, people are increasingly sharing reviews on personal and professional platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Google My Business. Messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have also increased in popularity owing to the ongoing lockdown.
The consequent increase in negative reviews, false allegations, and factually inaccurate information can increase customer attrition rates, thereby affecting sales and diminishing brand credibility.
Reputation repair and management services play a fundamental role in improving brand perception by suppressing damaging and unfavorable content, thereby preventing customers from seeking competitors instead.
By concurrently utilizing response and removal strategies, reputation management services also help brands reduce the chances of an expansive digital altercation that could potentially attract attention for undesirable reasons.
Response strategies focus on crafting an empathetic, apologetic, and remedial response to the customer’s concerns.
Nike’s timely response—within the same day—is a great example of a strong reputation management response strategy. Instead of drafting an objectively remedial response, they engage with the customer subjectively, thereby establishing a virtual connection.
Not only does this rectify the customer’s concerns, but it gives potential customers a glimpse of the brand’s empathetic and prompt engagement.
While many brands tend to conflate customer service with reputation management, the latter undertakes an exhaustive and all-encompassing digital search to identify negative reviews on:
- Social networks (Twitter, et al.)
- Search engines (Google, et al.)
- Review sites (Google My Business, Yelp, et al.)
- Online video-sharing platforms (YouTube, et al.)
The methodical comprehensiveness ensures maximum engagement, thereby generating a positive brand reputation.
Collectively, these measures minimize customer attrition at the height of digital interaction.
2. Build Customer Trust, Credibility, and Loyalty during a Period of Uncertainty and Anxiety
The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped people with fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. As the situation continues to deteriorate across the nation, people are actively seeking support, motivation, and encouragement from friends, family, and brands.
Trusted brands have some key traits, including:
- Empathy – They even go as far as rather than having an us vs. them approach, they adopt the opposite: an us = them approach. Because of this approach on the brand’s part, customers find it easy to think of themselves as aligned with the values and priorities of a company.
- Transparency – This consists not only of sharing information accurately and in the right amount but also phrasing said messages in an appropriate manner for the subject matter.
- They connect through shared values – Shared values indicate a level of consistency in the brand’s approach. The content may change, the pandemic may evolve, and time may bring new challenges every passing day, but the morals of the company will stay consistent. This consistency builds trust with a customer.
When trust is in this way built at the highest of levels between the customer and the brand, there are strong emotions tied to the customer’s investment into the company.
Lending your support by engaging with not-so-great reviews and comments in a friendly and empathetic manner will help customers feel positive and affirmed during a period of increasing chaos.
Building customer trust, credibility, and loyalty will also strengthen your brand identity.
3. Boost Digital Lead Generation (and Sales!)
Struggling to generate more leads for your business amid the ongoing pandemic?
You can boost your lead generation efforts using reputation management. Since reputation management allows you to stay in the loop on what conversations are being had about your brand on social media, use this knowledge.
Using active social listening, you can identify:
- People that are seeking product/service recommendations akin to what you are offering. Then, very simply, recommend your product to them in a way that shows them it meets their needs.
- Unsatisfied customers who have used your competitor’s product/service. If you’re aware that your product instead can actually help them, directly engage with them in conversation and tell them why. You can also share a useful blog post you made that helps them with their specific or even a lead magnet with good information, which would lead them into your sales funnel.
- People who are intrigued by your product or service specifically. Finding consumer questions and inquiries as soon as they appear on the internet and responding to them helps you provide a very streamlined and high-quality customer experience, both for potential and current customers. This service incentivizes them to go on to or to continue using your product or service.
- Relevant influencers who can help you attract more customers. Many are surprised that it’s not necessarily the biggest influencer that can help your brand but the one with the most relevance to your product/service. By interacting with such influencers, not only do you discover them but also figure out how you can work together to promote your brand.
Reputation management companies also offer SEO services, paid search marketing, and social media marketing, thereby maximizing lead generation. As your Google rankings are improved, you’ll notice an increase in customer attraction, engagement, and retention.
While most businesses initially consult reputation management services to strengthen their online presence, this synchronous benefit ends up ensuring long-term holistic business growth.
4. Improve Search Engine Rankings
Online reviews play a significant role in SEO.
This enhances customer experience and increases sales, especially during a period when most brands are struggling to maintain KPIs.
5. Understand Evolving Customer Needs and Expectations
COVID-19 has caused a massive shift in customer needs and expectations. While brands were previously focused on engaging with audiences through their products and services, there has been an increase in the need to establish customer relations by lending support during the ongoing crisis.
Instead of circling back to marketing and selling, more and more businesses are helping customers feel acknowledged and validated as the lockdown, and consequent fear surrounding COVID-19 continue.
Utilizing reputation management tools is a great way to establish meaningful connections with customers, thereby understanding their evolving needs and expectations. For instance, most travel businesses understand that their customers aren’t seeking their services at the moment.
However, this shouldn’t halt customer communication in the least. Instead, reorienting strategies in accordance with the changes helps customers feel comforted, thereby increasing the likelihood of a positive customer-business relationship in the future.
Reputation management services play a foundational role in responding to negative and positive feedback alike, thereby cultivating a genuine connection with the customer that goes beyond a temporary transaction.
6. Develop an Empathetic, Responsible, and Crisis-Sensitive Digital Customer Communication Strategy
While some brands have struck a fine balance between retaining metrics and engaging with customers in a responsible manner, there are many others that are struggling to traverse this tricky terrain.
While you may feel tempted to give in to a company’s capitalist roots and create solely promotional and/or sales-y content, you might want to reevaluate this decision.
The COVID 19 crisis demands that we move away from unadulterated branding and instead prioritize a more empathetic, human tone to brand messaging.
Providing helpful and supportive messages can… well, help an audience feel supported! Especially in this time of immense uncertainty and chaos.
Try to remember, people’s lives have been turned upside down. So they might view an overly promotional post as downright insensitive of a brand.
Change your messaging to reflect this shift towards a more “humanized marketing approach,” centering on the health of your audience. Showing that you care about holistically supporting your audience’s physical, social and mental health will place you as a thought leader and will ultimately serve to help build wider trust with your brand.
If you’re unsure about how to draft an effective and crisis-sensitive digital customer communication strategy, it may be best to consult professionals. Responding to customers in an unsupportive and dismissive manner can cause long-term damage to your brand’s reputation, especially given the sensitivity of the ongoing pandemic.
7. Strengthen Brand Visibility and Identity
One of the most favorable benefits of protecting and managing your brand’s online reputation, especially during COVID 19, is ensuring strong brand visibility and identity. This is especially important if your company has run into issues with customers, clients, and employees in the past.
If these issues become public, reputation management is imperative.
By taking strong measures to correct past explosive blunders and meticulously protecting present brand identity, reputation repair experts help businesses avoid stagnancy, or even their downfall. Companies like Equifax and Sears are still notorious for their abysmal reputation because they couldn’t save face and put up a strong front.
Remedial measures can go a long way in helping brands stay afloat and tackle the damage—especially if it was caused by an online smear campaign.
8. Increase Chances of Remotely Recruiting Top-Tier Candidates
While the pandemic is preventing companies from hiring new talent, it’s been especially harmful to businesses with reputational inconsistencies and flaws. As candidates actively research potential workplaces, they’re very likely to stumble upon unanswered customer complaints, disconcerting interactions, and an unfriendly brand demeanor.
This could easily take your company off the map, thereby further reducing the chances of successful remote recruitment. To ensure a seamless online presence for potential employees, clients, and customers alike, take strong measures to reduce negative media coverage, take down hate sites, and respond to negative reviews in a corrective, assistive, and cheerful manner.
In case of a serious attack on your brand reputation, we recommend consulting professionals to undertake an online investigation. In addition, false reviews with improper language or misleading information can be easily taken down.
Actively monitor the online comments being made about your brand—the good and the bad. This strategy will also help you familiarize yourself with prominent brand weaknesses that are being brought up by multiple customers.
Instead of taking strict measures to take constructive criticism down, engaging with it in a thoughtful manner and learning from it to better your brand can go a long way in ensuring customer satisfaction.
As one of the leading digital marketing service providers across the U.S., we offer expert reputation management services—including new domain and platform creation for link suppression, Google-friendly link building, and active response and removal.
Browse through our award-winning PPC marketing, social media management, content marketing, and web design and development services to choose the best package for your business. We’ve helped countless brands shift towards digitalization during the ongoing pandemic, thereby retaining metrics, boosting online sales, and increasing audience engagement and retention.
By completing our 20,000th project in 2019, we’ve established ourselves as one of the leading SEO companies across the U.S.
We offer the following reputation management packages:
- Personal Reputation Management: An effective best practice to repair, revamp, and boost online reputation for entrepreneurs and business individuals. Our team works assiduously to monitor online profiles and pages, portfolios, and relevant industry-related platforms to respond to or remove discrediting information. Our strategies are in conformance with Google guidelines to ensure optimal results.
- Business Reputation Management: An ideal best practice for small businesses, startups, and large-scale organizations interested in protecting, maintaining, and managing their online reputation. We undergo elaborate searches to detect, scrutinize, and remove false information, thereby reducing the risk of negative SEO and publicity.
For more information about our services, call 855-444-4777.