With the world-wide Coronavirus epidemic slowing down everyday life, it’s a challenging time for many small businesses. The restaurant industry suffers as it experiences a strange shift in operations, being forced to exclusively offer pick-up and delivery options. Department stores, gyms, malls, venues and all other non-essential businesses are also closing their doors to promote social distancing and abiding by recent closures set forth by their state governments across the nation. It’s a strange time, and a lot of businesses are asking if marketing during a crisis is ethically accepted.
Marketing during a crisis poses so many challenges. With consumers buckling down on their spending and staying at home, there’s a limit on what type of industries can profit and reach out to their customers. The service and construction industries continue to push forward. They have been deemed essential. The reality of it is these businesses have always been essential, except now it’s critical.
What about the service-based industry? Construction website traffic, according to Neil Patel (digital marketing guru), his agency is noting a 20% decline in website traffic and a 50% decline in visitor conversions (Patel, 2020). That means less people are visiting websites as they gravitate towards social media apps and news outlets.
A lot of these businesses are considered essential, and continue to serve their customers. The blanket industry that covers many service-based businesses is construction. Plumbing, HVAC+R, electricians, general contractors and others are still out there doing what they do best. When it comes to getting your service-based business out there, in terms of marketing, a slight shift continues to be experienced across the industry.
Many companies resort to billboards and signage advertising. Since there aren’t as many customers riding the roads and are staying home to combat the spread of the virus, this isn’t as effective as before. A lot of people are home and are using utilities and HVAC equipment more. The use of cell phones is also increasing as the world slows down and bandwidth needs continue to increase. Working from home has exploded in numbers and Americans are simply online at an even higher rate than before.
How can marketing efforts shift in a manner that better suits the current situation? Digital marketing. Running more ads on popular platforms such as Instagram and Facebook will build brand awareness and put your company on their radar. Letting customers know more that you’re here for them at such a critical time can potentially boost your business. As we enter the hotter months, there a chance the virus won’t slow down as expected, and the need to have a reliable, trustworthy HVAC company is more critical than ever. Popular search terms such as “air conditioning contractor” and “hvac company near me” will hit Google search hard. This applies to both residential and commercial service types. This also applies to the need for plumbing, electricians and general contractors.
Are you experiencing a slow time right now? This could be the normal early spring occurrence, but also contributes to the current COVID-19 epidemic. It’s a great time to start thinking of an effective marketing strategy that will help accelerate your customer reach for the upcoming season. Home builders aren’t slowing down now either. But have you created and activated your crisis management strategy? Marketing will need to be a critical topic to cover. When things occur that negatively impact a business, either from self-infliction or unforeseen events, you have to activate the secret plan. Right now, shifting your current marketing strategy over to a positive, informative and hopeful direction will let others know you are aware of the crisis and doing whatever it takes to serve them.
No matter the size of your online presence, providing updates to followers and customers is a great way to let others know how your business is doing. It will demonstrate a leadership role that you take with your organization and how you continue to support what you offer to your customers during such a challenging time. Marketing during a crisis can only be effective if you’re constantly keeping customers, employees and Google informed of company updates and news. Marketing right now is more about building your brand.
Marketing = connections
When marketing comes to mind, it seems like something that just won’t be as effective as it once was. People aren’t scrolling Facebook or Instagram to see advertisements about buying things that aren’t exactly priority. As a service company, the line between essential and non-essential quickly becomes clear. Plumbing, HVAC, repair, general contractors, electricians, they all have a very important role during these tough times that Americans are experiencing. When approaching marketing with this mind, it is not really about beating out the competition at this point. It’s about getting your message out to your customers both old and new to let them know you are here and will help them get through this situation. Marketing right now is about creating relationships and rebuilding the community, one job at a time. When this epidemic clears up and American life starts to normalize, your customers will remember that you were there. Your company, your logo was on-site to fix something that they needed fixed during a time of uncertainty. As an essential business, you can market your work with brand in mind, and gear your strategy towards being there for customers when they need it most. The following are some examples of the platforms that can really boost your presence.
1. Facebook Ads
Scrolling Facebook has always been something that people do in their free time. They use this app to connect with family, see news updates, watch videos and more. When creating a targeted campaign to reach these users with honest and straight-forward marketing, your business can benefit from having a positive reach. Marketing during a crisis carries a certain level of sensitivity that all businesses must be aware of. Right now, there are people scrolling their FB feeds in search of comfort, news, communication and updates from their favorite businesses.
Don’t have a business page? Learn more on how to create one here
2. Instagram Ads
Instagram is a great way to grow your brand as a service-based company. Posting pictures of jobs and staying connected with other businesses like yours will promote awareness. The good thing is when running ads on Facebook, you can run the same ad on Instagram simultaneously. This image-based platform has a large reach and is a great place to show images of the work and services you offer.
3. Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is an excellent way to get your business on top of desktop and phone search results of relevant search results. Taking some time to optimize your GMB listing will prove beneficial over time and will propel your listing to the top of the results. This is on one of the greatest ways to organically (free) grow your local reach in the Google local search pack. Learn more about GMB here.
The issue right now with GMB is there is limited features. Google is even impacted by this crisis and the platform isn’t performing at 100%. This doesn’t affect the way you can reach your audience, so feel free to get started or optimize an existing listing.
Learn more about Google My Business
4. Google Guaranteed
Google Guaranteed is now something that Google offers to certify a service business. This program is considered an advanced verification program and is something Google created to fight against fraudulent companies. There’s a whole process that goes into getting verified, which includes:
Proof of license
Screening of employees
Google will also analyze your GMB account listing and look for the strength of its structure. This includes reviews, the quality of the reviews and the content. Want to learn more about the Google Guaranteed program? Click here.
What we are all experiencing is surreal. Across the globe small businesses are suffering and industries are hurting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully everyone is on the same page regarding social distancing and staying clean. When it comes to marketing, market with the intent to help more than ever, and let customers know you’re the one they can depend on now, and in the future. Now isn’t the time to focus on metrics such as likes, shares and reviews. It’s imperative that you focus on helping in the unique way that only your service company can.
Do you need any advice regarding your current marketing strategy?
Give us a call and we’ll happy to help in anyway we can. Marketing during a crisis can be, if anything, a way to show your potential customers that you’re here for them.
Patel, N. (n.d.). What The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Means For Marketers. Retrieved April 4, 2020, from https://neilpatel.com/blog/coronavirus/