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How to Grow Your Sales and Leads During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This article has been contributed by Natalya Diatko.

Up to 25% of small businesses in the US may fail because of the coronavirus. But your business doesn’t have to be among them — as long as you change your approach to marketing right now.

  • First rule of the pandemic: don’t panic.
  • Second rule of the pandemic: rethink your marketing.

You are probably as cash-strapped right now as millions of other entrepreneurs and companies across the globe. You don’t have the money to run Google or Facebook ad campaigns or pay for influencer endorsement and press releases.

But marketing isn’t just about paid promotion. In fact, there are many highly effective techniques out there you probably never stopped to think about because you were too focused on context ads.

If you play your cards right, you can come out on the other side of the epidemic stronger than you were before. Read on for 10 actionable steps to streamlined, cost-effective marketing that will drive your leads and sales, even during the lockdown.

1) Adjust Your Messaging

In the past few months, our lifestyle has changed completely — and the way you address your customers will need to change, too.

But it’s a very fine balance. On the one hand, you can’t be too cheerful, as if nothing has happened. On the other hand, you shouldn’t sound too anxious, sad, or unnaturally concerned.

  • Start with a full audit of your social media, emails and website content. Remove anything that can seem insensitive or inappropriate.
  • Explain to your customers exactly what your company can and cannot offer during the lockdown. For example, do you still deliver orders? Will it take longer to ship an item than normal?
  • Prioritize what’s important to the client. It’s great to let your audience know that all your employees are now working safely from home. But first the customer wants to know when their order or refund will arrive.
  • Don’t pretend that nothing has changed or that we’ll all soon go back to normal. We won’t, and your audience knows that.
  • Find the right tone of voice: not too cheerful (because people are dying), not too anxious or sad.
  • Aim for the messages of hope, support, safety, comfort and well-being.
  • Encourage your audience to stay at home if that’s the general guideline in your area. Avoid using images and messages that go against this message — such as hanging out in a bar, crowd gatherings, etc.
  • Never let it seem like you’re trying to benefit from the disaster. If you’re launching a new product or service, highlight how it will help your customers to cope. A good example is Mattel Playroom: a space that teaches parents to play with their kids — and Mattel toys.
Mattel Playroom marketing products during lockdown

Image source: mattel.com

2) Rethink Your Social Media Strategy

According to a constantly updated study by Rival IQ, brands have been posting less frequently on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — 3 times a week instead of 4. But at the same time, engagement rates are going through the roof. There are 2 reasons for this:

  • Post quality is higher: marketers try to come up with relevant and authentic content instead of the usual ‘hey, our company is great’.
  • Algorithms: the way Facebook and other platforms work, more users will see each of your posts if there are fewer of them.

How can you use this data to increase your social media engagement?

  • Put a lot of thought into everything you write.
  • Work on every visual.
  • Add some interactivity, like quizzes or polls.
  • Tell your audience about the anti-COVID19 measures you’re taking.
  • Offer some inspirational messages or science-based advice.

For example, Gucci regularly posts quotes and life stories that inspire hope and creativity:

Gucci Instagram hope post during COVID-19

Image source: instagram.com/Gucci

3) Get Creative with Your Visuals

The pandemic has given us many memorable images and concepts. The spiky virus itself, face masks, social distancing, empty streets, staying home — all these ideas are already being used in creative campaigns by big brands.

You can also spruce up your ads, social media and website by using coronavirus-related symbols. It’s ok to add some humor: people need a smile in these hard times. Make sure to do it appropriately and tactfully — remember that thousands of people have lost their loved ones.

Think of a creative way to integrate the theme of distancing and keeping your loved ones safe into your brand logo, banner ads or Instagram posts.

Here are a couple of successful recent campaigns, from McDonalds Brazil and Hyundai.

McDonalds social distancing logo during COVID-19 lockdown

Image source: thedrum.com

Hyundai social distancing ad during coronavirus lockdown

Image source: thedrum.com

4) Play with the Video Format

According to some data, customers are 144% more likely to buy after watching a product video. Over 80% of brands already use videos in their marketing strategy. Plus, videos can be great for your SEO.

There are many types of video content that you can experiment with:

  • Product demos, like the CNET demo of the Motorola Razr below.
  • Product reviews and presentations.
  • Tutorials and life hacks.
  • Live webinars and Q&A sessions with your team.
  • Interviews with your executives, clients and partners.
  • Live streams — it can be anything, from a product tutorial to your CEO cooking an omelette (provided that’s gels with your brand). The important thing is that it’s live.
CNET Motorola Razr marketing product demo

Image source: CNET YouTube channel

5) Speed Up Your Website

Internet networks are currently experiencing a tremenrzdous surge in traffic. This results in slow internet speeds in big cities.

You can’t control global network speed. But you can make your own site load faster than those of your competitors. Data shows that every additional second that a page takes to load causes a 7% drop in conversions. Scary, right?

Improving page load speed isn’t a marketing technique in the strict sense. But it’s a fantastic way to increase your conversions without spending (almost) anything.

Start with these steps:

GTMetrix.com page speed performance report

Image source: GTMetrix.com

6) Design Better Emails

Your customers and leads are being bombarded by marketing emails. There are so many that the majority go straight into the bin. If you don’t want your emails to end up in the trash folder, you have to make them stand out.

I’ve already talked about adapting your message and tone of voice. But in marketing emails, design is just as important as what you say.

If you are still sending emails with simple black text on white background, STOP NOW.

The best free email marketing services, such as SendInBlue, MailerLite, and Mailchimp, all include drag-and-drop template editors that let you easily design beautiful emails. I’ll just give you 5 basic tips to set you on the right path:

  1. Use a clean, single-column layout.
  2. Include an attractive CTA button.
  3. Break up the text with shapes, pictures and dividers.
  4. Use the same color scheme and fonts as on your site.
  5. Include embedded videos and imagery, like the high-impact image in Flume’s email below.
Flume email marketing image during coronavirus pandemic

Image source: flumemusic.com

7) Join Online Events

Offline conferences and industry fairs are all cancelled or postponed until August at least. But the online event space is booming — and that’s your chance to shine.

If you were already registered for a conference or fair this year, double-check it will still take place virtually. Global events like EMERGE Startup Conference and Mare Balticum gaming summit will experiment with the online format this year.

For you as a participant, an online conference can actually be much better than offline — for 2 reasons:

  1. Low cost: you don’t have to pay for a plane ticket and accommodation. Plus, the participation fee itself is usually lower.
  2. If you are a speaker, or a panel discussion member, you’ll probably feel more comfortable and relaxed speaking from your home office rather than in a huge hall filled with strangers.

If you are worried that you won’t find a relevant virtual event, don’t be. Hundreds of thousands of professionals and entrepreneurs are in the same position as you, so the market of virtual conferences is exploding. You can browse events on websites like Online.Marketing and Eventbrite.

Online Marketing event listing

Image source: Online.Marketing

8) Use Online Networking Tricks

Speaking of cancelled events, you probably hoped to do some networking during coffee breaks and perhaps get new leads. Good news: you can still do that — though in a new, post-coronavirus way.

If you were registered for a conference that has been cancelled or postponed until next year, try to seek out other attendees. The event website should have a full list, including the people who were supposed to participate in panel discussions. They are probably just as disappointed as you are!

Chances are you’ll find all the participants on Linkedin. If you don’t have a detailed Linkedin profile yet, create one — it’s essential in the times of online networking. Here’s an example:

Detailed LinkedIn profile for networking opportunities during pandemic

Image source: Linkedin.com

Next, send personalized invitations to the event participants. Explain that you wanted to meet them at the event and suggest a one-on-one online meeting or even a virtual meetup.

Who knows — you might be able to have a much more detailed conversation than during a conference coffee break!

9) Boost Your SEO

Even if you are forced to slash your marketing budget, you can still promote your site — for free! SEO is a magic weapon that can increase your search rankings and attract thousands of new visitors.

Google’s algorithm includes hundreds of ranking signals, and you simply can’t tackle them all on your own. But here are 9 actionable SEO tips:

  1. Publish different types of content, such as videos, images, blog posts, testimonials, podcasts
  2. Research keywords and write quality content about those topics. Include them (sparingly!) in your site copy and blog posts
  3. Drive user-generated content, such as reviews
  4. Add meta tags to your pages, posts and images
  5. Make sure all pages on your site are 100% responsive
  6. Build a backlink profile by guest-posting on other sites
  7. Optimize your images
  8. Create a sitemap and a txt file
  9. Use descriptive URLs

I could go on and on about the benefits of SEO. But this subject is so huge that you’d better refer to a detailed SEO checklist.

10) Join the Fight Against COVID-19

Every business, no matter how small, can make an impact. Brainstorm with your team and come up with initiatives that won’t be too costly but can really help someone in need.

Here are just a few options:

  • Work with a local support group for people under quarantine
  • Help students who are struggling with virtual learning through a mentoring program;
  • Become a telephone volunteer and talk to people who are quarantined alone
  • Volunteer to bring food and supplies to old people
  • Donate the revenue from a particular product to a coronavirus-related charity

For instance, the latter approach was used by Razer, which sells gaming accessories. The company designed a special poster and donated the proceeds to help fight the pandemic.

Razer Instagram post displaying COVID-19 poster

Image source: instagram.com/razer/

By participating in the battle against the virus, you’re also helping your brand. It’s fine to write about your charity initiative in your social media. Your customers will appreciate your integrity and concern. In fact, brand integrity is becoming ever more important to attracting clients.

But be careful not to come off as self-centered and vain. If your effort is comparatively small, be honest about it. Remember: it’s not about you, it’s about the whole world.

A few final words

Let me stress this again: the COVID-19 pandemic is NOT a marketing opportunity. It’s a human and economic tragedy on a scale never seen before. So don’t try to exploit it.

Rather, you should use the situation as an opportunity to make your business better: more efficient, customer-oriented and data-driven. Marketing and sales will never be the same after coronavirus — so don’t hold on to the past. Instead, it’s time to shed the unnecessary costs and embrace innovative marketing tools.

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About the author: Natalya Diatko uses advanced technologies to find new business tactics and highlight new trends.

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Design & business blog focused on branding, logo design, web design, content marketing, social media & more.

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Jacob Cass

Jacob Cass

Helping brands grow & get results with strategic branding & distinctive design. Founder of agency, JUSTCreative.com — Clients: Nike, Disney. TEDx speaker. Dad.

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