The pandemic has completely rearranged the lives of millions of people. It has changed the way we spend our time and money, how we work, socialize, and what we do for fun. For many businesses this shift meant a major change in their business model and daily operations. Needless to add, some companies had to close, temporarily or permanently. On the other hand, businesses that rely on online distribution – ecommerce, SaaS, streaming platforms, delivery apps, still have the chance to endure through this crisis. Nevertheless, even the fortunate ones will have to review their spending and seek savings.
In the uncertain times, even the companies who haven’t recorded major losses yet, are are trying to save up in case of even bigger economic damage that is yet to come. As marketing tends to be one of the biggest upfront investments, companies decide to cut down on paid promotional activities first. For example, Airbnb froze their marketing spending, whereas Coca-Cola stopped all marketing in the UK. However, for small and medium businesses cutting down on marketing spend whatsoever translates into coming off the consumers’ radar. No spending means no new leads and, consequently, no new revenue.
So what can you do to reduce your marketing costs without harming your business results? Read our recommendations.
Start by reviewing your marketing data
First, study your marketing data. Choose a relatively early point in time, when the pandemic has already hit the country or region, where your business is active. From that point on until now, study what has changed in your ecommerce analytics, Google Analytics, social media, CRM or whatever data source is relevant for you. Take a closer look at what has changed in the consumer behavior:
- what products or services are still in demand and what became less popular,
- how has the traffic changed on your website, which sites are gaining popularity and which experience downturns,
- whether users are engaging in your social media content and whether your ads still bring the expected results,
- whether the CTRs of your mailings and newsletters have changed and if people are still engaging with them
After analyzing your data, you will see what activities and in what channels need to be re-optimized. Note that it’s too early to shut these activities off yet. Maybe you will be able to tweak your communication to fit the new market conditions.
In order to adapt your communication to the newly emerged needs and preferences of your audience, you will have to research their consumer behavior from scratch. It’s not an easy task, so we recommend leveraging professional analytics to support your decision-making process.
At Sotrender, we offer an Audience Interest analysis, which covers more data than Facebook Insights and Google Analytics combined. Our report will allow your brand to:
- Monitor audience groups and see the trends have changed.
- Learn how and where your brand’s content is consumed to adjust your current online strategy.
- See where and how your target audience responds to brand mentions with sentiment analysis (across platforms as well as the web).
- Acquire aggregate data from Google API, Facebook and all web sites, forums, blogs, and more.
If you would like to learn more about the Audience Interest analysis, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Review all spending in your marketing department
Make a list of all monthly spending in your marketing department. Determine which activities clearly drive revenue, and which can be put on hold. Below you will find examples of the costs that many marketing departments incur regularly, often without paying much thought as to whether these activities still bring profit.
Check whether you really need the subscription-based SaaS tools that you pay for every month. Remember that some tools follow a strategy whereby they want to be forgotten by their users, so that the user wouldn’t cancel the subscription, because after some time he simply forgets that he even bought it. Take a look at your bank account history to check if you are paying for something you no longer use or need.
Secondly, take a look at the SaaS tools that you use regularly. Decide which ones are absolutely necessary for you and your team, and which ones can be replaced by cheaper alternatives. For example, if you can’t imagine project management without Asana then stick to it or downgrade to a free version. If you are using a more advanced tool, like for example Hootsuite, check whether you are making full use of all the functionalities in your subscription plan. For example, if you manage only 2 or 3 social media profiles, you don’t need a content scheduling tool, because you can schedule your posts manually.
The good news is that some SaaS companies reduce their prices in the face of the COVID-19 crisis in an effort to keep their clients and acquire new ones. For example, HubSpot reduced all prices of their Growth Suites and informed their existing customers about it in a newsletter.
HubSpot is reducing prices during the pandemic
The same rule applies to paid newsletters or printed business magazines that are delivered to your office every month. Take into consideration whether you really need them, when so much information can be found online for free.
Many companies decide to implement Google Ads to their marketing strategy. This is because they consider it to be a quick fix to increase traffic and conversions on their websites. Indeed, Google Ads can bring you a great ROI – but it’s only a short-term solution. The moment you stop paying for your Google Ads, traffic to your website will plummet. Therefore, in the time of limited resources, we recommend to focus on organic traffic growth by means of SEO and content marketing.
It takes more time to fully experience the benefits of good content marketing, but when your content will start ranking on the first page of SERP, you can be sure to witness a steady inflow of new users to your website… for free. And don’t worry about the Google Ads – the campaigns can be easily relaunched when you will be back on your feet financially.
Many bricks-and-mortar companies, who suffer the most in the time of general quarantine, are still investing in advertisements in printed local newspapers. This strategy is ineffective for two reasons: (1) the declining readership stats and increasing banner blindness and (2) it’s expensive. Moreover, it has no measurable effects other than a rather indefinable brand awareness. Therefore, if you own a local business we would recommend you to:
- Cut off the printed advertising costs and focus on creating an attractive website
- Focus on good SEO, content marketing and social media presence.
Target your local market by ranking for keywords related to your business and location. Don’t forget to set a free Google My Business account, to be visible in Google Search and Maps.
At a certain point in business growth, most companies decide to delegate tasks to specialized subcontractors, whose commissions take up a substantial share of a company’s marketing budget. However, in the time of financial crisis, you need to reconsider your expenditure and stick to absolute necessities. You need to take on a self-sufficiency, start-up mindset and try to do certain things on your own. For example, managing social media channels is something that you can definitely handle on your own.
However, we are perfectly aware that some services offered by subcontractors require advanced skills, such as graphic design, accounting, website maintenance, technical SEO, etc. In such cases, we recommend that you try to come into agreement with your partners, as to how to reduce the costs.
Take into account that your partners are probably also stuck in a financial predicament due to the COVID-19 crisis. In order to protect your mutual long-term relationships, you should figure out a consensual temporary solution. Moreover, giving up on certain activities such as SEO and website maintenance can jeopardize your business, and can generate even bigger costs in the long term.
Manage your social media yourself
Choosing social media as a means of communication with your clients is a long-term commitment. If you want to reap the benefits of social media communication, you must publish new content regularly, and constantly look for new formats and topics to engage your audience.
Scenario 1: You are already active on social media
If you have been managing your social media channels for some time now, the worst thing that you can do is stop posting. Especially if you have gathered a considerable amount of followers and your posts keep receiving engagement.
If you are anxious about what to publish during a pandemic, we recommend that you read our guide on what content to publish in the time of crisis. We provide a comprehensive list of ideas, formats and examples, that will help you continue producing content, without ignoring or misusing the context of COVID-19.
Remember that social media management isn’t rocket science, and in case of many businesses it is something that can be done in-house. Assign this task to a person with relatively good copywriting skills and start making graphics in Canva. After some time you will learn as you go, and both your copy and visuals will become better. It’s important to analyze your social media performance and check what content is successful among your audience. Moreover, make sure that you keep a schedule of posts, so that you keep publishing content regularly and you have your content ready at least a week before. Again, you don’t need an external tool for that, an Excel sheet with color coding will do the job.
Remember to experiment with different formats to check whether your audience will like them. For example, Facebook Lives and videos are usually more successful than static posts. You can record them with your smartphone and use yourself or your team members as actors. You definitely have something interesting to share with your audience, because who if not you is the expert in your business niche. There are many other formats you can try to use to engage your social media audience, so keep experimenting!
Last but not least, venture out of your Facebook page to infiltrate Groups related to your business niche. Learn about people’s needs, what subjects are important for them and join the conversation. Introduce yourself and let them know about your business.
Scenario 2: You want to launch a social media channel now to help your business grow
If you’ve been absent on social media but want to try it as a new way of reaching your audience, it’s a great choice. Especially now when people are spending more of their time online. However, choose your social media channels wisely depending on where your target audience is active. If you own a plumbing business, you probably don’t need an Instagram account. SaaS companies are rarely active on Pinterest. Again, the first step to building a successful marketing strategy is the analysis of your audience’s online behavior.
Recycling older content is a great way to keep your accounts alive. Even if you currently don’t have time or resources to publish anything new. Go through your older blog posts to decide which one should be updated. Look for outdated data, graphics or information about your business that are no longer valid.
A different strategy would be to check in Google Analytics what older content is performing especially well. You can publish this evergreen content once again with a current date. These days your target audience is spending online more time than ever, so provide them with your best content.
The above strategy doesn’t apply only to blog posts. You can go through your old social media posts and check whether any of the old content could be reused now. Focus especially on the graphics, which tend to be the most time- and money-consuming part of the social media communication. Your followers definitely don’t remember every single post you published, so some content recycling won’t do you no harm. Moreover, you can tweak the copy a little to make it sound like it was written in real-time.
Analysis of the best posts in a given period of time in Sotrender
Adapt an ABM approach
Account-based marketing (ABM) is basically a strategy that brings marketing and sales teams together to map key prospects and then prepare customized communication targeted specifically at one account. The team should first research a specific company, learn about their current needs and financial situation to decide whether it’s a valuable lead. Then you should focus on establishing contact and building relationships with the highest opportunity, highest-value accounts.
This strategy may seem time-consuming at first glance, but in fact, it isn’t more demanding than what you and your team are doing on a daily basis. It just entails a shift in priorities. Instead of communicating to many people via many channels, often with a very limited chance of success due to lack of proper targeting and insight, you focus only on companies that need your product and are able to pay for it. Decide for yourself which approach will work better for you in this difficult time.
Apart from acquiring new clients, you should obviously also focus on not losing the ones you have. Reach out to them, ideally in a personal call, and check if they are still financially afloat. Inform them that you are still available and ask about their current needs. If your relationships with them have lasted over the years and they started having fluidity problems just recently, try to support them by charging them less for a certain amount of time. It’s a win-win situation for you both, and you won’t lose a valuable client.
In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, people and businesses will be much more cautious with spending their money. There will definitely be a lot of online research, comparing offers and negotiating involved. Stay flexible both in negotiations with potential clients as well as in your business model and strategies. Observe, draw conclusions, adapt. In spite of the uncertain times, continue to be present online. Otherwise your potential clients will move on to someone else.