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Richard Kimber
April 21, 2020

What to do now: The digital marketer’s guide to the near term

The world right now is change-a-minute. We won't dwell on that here. We know a little more since our last post, so we're back with an update. In this post we're looking to the coming weeks and what negatively affected brands can do right now with their digital marketing to have the best chance of success.

Last time we focused on travel, but the advice we’re offering this time is valid for businesses in many industries currently experiencing a major reduction in demand, whether it’s hospitality, events or retail.

We’re not here to sugar-coat the reality. We’re also not here to debate the relative merits of marketing – we’re just here to offer practical advice for marketers facing a tough time at work. Because if you are still working, there’s plenty you can focus on. The situation means you just have to be adaptable and ready to react quickly once demand returns to your market.

Above all, the best way any digital marketer in a distressed industry can spend their time right now is simple: getting ready for when demand returns. Because it will – we just don’t know when. Readiness when it does will, unfortunately, be make or break for a lot of businesses.

With all that in mind, here’s our take on the near term for digital marketers.

What we know: Demand isn’t in sight – yet

With lockdown measures extended to at least 7 May in the UK and minimal signs of travel restrictions easing in Europe, there’s still little sign of demand returning in the very near future.

In the Government press conference of 29 March, deputy chief medical officer for England, Jenny Harries, suggested that social distancing measures were likely to last for between three and six months: “Over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review, we will see where we are going.”

Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. We don’t think it’s useful to speculate, so we’re focusing on what we know now and how that should shape your marketing approach.

What to do now: April to May

The New Normal seems to be here for at least the rest of April and first week of May, so here’s where the next few weeks could be best spent. In short: getting your house in order.

SEO: Keep on keepin’ on

SEO is inherently a long-term activity. No one likes to hear that there are no quick wins or immediate results, but that’s very often the case with organic SEO. But here’s the upside: as ever, that means that there is plenty you can be doing now to set yourself up for success in the future.

So the bottom line: keep at it. You need to continue with your organic strategy. Frankly, even if you’re in an industry experiencing zero demand and you’re tempted to switch off every other part of your marketing operation, you should keep organic activity ticking along.

That doesn’t mean you need to be pouring budget into huge landing page rollouts or logging tickets for swingeing technical changes. But it does mean you should be investing some time now to make sure that:

  • Your site is in the possible shape it can be in technically
  • You have some kind of strategy for when demand returns
  • You have the content you need to target keywords related to last-minute booking and cancellation behaviours
  • Ditto for any products that will see an immediate surge in demand
  • You’re properly optimised for those keywords.

That first point is covered by a range of activities that we don’t need to cover here, but a general technical SEO health-check should be the minimum and a good starting point for most sites.

SEO action plan for April into May

  • Do targeted keyword research planning on terms related to last-minute booking, cancellation, and any products that are currently scarce and that you’ll be able to fulfil
  • Keep reviewing your traffic and prioritise your focus according to trends and your product
  • Work with your product team to identify suitable products for last-minute deals; in travel, for example, this could be viable destinations
  • If you have the resource, produce landing pages now that you can deploy quickly as and when you need them to target demand
  • You should already have reduced your PPC spend on keywords where you rank well; now use your research to get ready to switch it back on for key destinations – potentially domestic ones if you have product

Digital PR: Look for reactive opportunities and plan, plan, plan

With few exceptions, you’ll have paused any digital PR activity you had planned. Understandably and quite rightly, there’s considerably less appetite among journalists for inspirational content at the moment.

That’s not to say there are absolutely no column inches for anything with a hint of fun or whimsy about it, but it should go without saying that anything you’re outreaching needs to be even more carefully thought through and appropriate than ever.

If you’re struggling for ideas, look to your primary audience – research what journalists are looking for, and even ask them directly. Use any relationships you have with press contacts, keep a close eye on Twitter and monitor coverage everywhere you can. Not only will you get ideas for proactive campaigns, you may also find opportunities for reactive PR, whether it’s in the form of a quick-and-dirty campaign or simply a comment.

As well as campaign content, it might also be time to revise your approach to outreach. You may find that regional publications are more receptive to outreach at the moment – especially if you have a local angle on an interesting good news topic.

Content: Don’t stop publishing, do be prepared to change tack

Brands that already have a well-thought-out approach to publishing and a real editorial strategy will be well-served by them now. Even if no one’s buying from you (or if they simply can’t), you can still be relevant.

While it might be tempting to switch off content, we’d advise simply being more judicious about what you publish and continuing to produce content if you have any resource. You should, obviously, be sensitive, sensible and appropriate. But your customers are more online than ever. Internet use is up by 50% in some territories. There’s very likely something that they’re looking for that you can publish about.

If you’re a DIY brand, then there may be a huge section of your usual product range that you can’t offer at the moment. But just because people can’t buy paint doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about redecorating. Understand what they’re looking for and help them out. When they can buy again, they’ll remember you were there.

In brief, just use common sense. If you don’t already know what your brand is qualified to talk about and how you can contribute to any given conversation without simply adding to the noise, then now is the time to figure it out. The starting point for that is understanding the complete search landscape for your sector – more on that in a future post.

June to August

The medium term is where the ifs and buts really come in. It’s probably a decent guess that relatively little is going to change in most markets – particularly travel – before this point. But beyond June things are much less clear.

Most models suggest that the UK will be beyond the initial peak of COVID-19’s spread by this point. However, it’s hard to predict what the country’s course of action will look like in trying to prevent a second wave. Remembering we’re not here to speculate, we’ll post an update nearer the time.

Do the groundwork now – you’ll be glad you did

This is the bit with clichés about failing to prepare. Like lots of clichés, it was true once and it’s true now. The bottom line: be ready to move.

Prepare now – get your site’s SEO health in good shape, prepare post-lockdown digital PR campaigns, and have the content you’ll need ready to publish.

Whatever your market or sector, as soon as it looks like some kind of demand is going to return, brands are going to be scrambling to capitalise on it with every ounce of marketing strength they have left.

That rush is going to see a whole heap of ill-advised, badly thought-out campaigns and content. Get ready now and you can rise above it.

If you’d like more specific advice on your business or your sector, we’d be happy to have a chat (no obligations – really).

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