This post about COVID-19 digital marketing strategies was originally written on March 20, 2020, as COVID-19 began to spike in the United States. We plan to update as the situation unfolds.
The San Francisco Bay Area, where IMA is based, has been ordered to Shelter in Place. This means all businesses are closed except those deemed “essential”. The majority of IMA’s client base is in the home services industry. It quickly became clear that certain home service companies, like plumbing and HVAC, were definitely essential businesses while others, like carpet cleaners, were likely essential business. Most of our clients are not in the San Francisco Bay Area but we assumed similar orders would be enacted around North America soon.
Given the fact that our clients would not be forced to close, we developed the following playbook to take advantage of this position and leverage this unique new situation. If you are in the home services industry we believe this strategy can help you during this extreme time.
Point #1. Your audience has never been more available to reach
First and foremost, the home service industry is in a favorable position. Certainly, there will be an impact on sales and revenue. However, a single healthy individual coming into a home to clean or repair that home is not something that is going to be eliminated in our current social distancing environment. There is also an opportunity to educate your local communities. There have never been more people at home and on their screens than there will be in the next few weeks or months. We are already seeing an increase in social media usage during this time and Italy has seen a 30% increase in internet usage during their recent quarantine period.
Point #2. Shift a percentage of media dollars from bottom of funnel Google Ads to top and middle of funnel Facebook/Instagram and focus on increasing brand awareness.
This means that a shift to more Facebook/Instagram advertising that is focused on how your business can help your community during this time will pay huge dividends. This will not necessarily generate leads in the short term but it will position your company to be seen and trusted as we exit this period in a month or so (hopefully).
Point #3. Be a source of comfort and care during this time. Provide helpful information, not hard sales tactics.
The key during this time is messaging. You must update or write new ads to acknowledge the times we are in. The worst thing you can do is to be tone-deaf to the very real crisis that is unfolding. You must be empathetic. You also must position your company as an organization that can help.
For instance, if you are a plumbing company, let your audience know that you are an essential business and that you are standing by to help them if they have a plumbing problem. People are nervous and at home. If they have a toilet back up or a water leak they need to understand that they are not alone. Your Facebook strategy should repeat this message extensively. This is your new brand messaging. You don’t shout about “$99 Special Offers’. Instead, you provide a valuable and “essential” service during this time of need.
Point #4. Align Call to Action messaging with your new brand messaging.
So can you do more direct response advertising during this time? Yes, absolutely, but we don’t think you should be as aggressive as you normally would. Scare tactic headlines are not helpful right now. Limited time offers are also not going to help your customer’s anxiety when there is a limited stock of toilet paper at the grocery store.
Instead, position the offer as an acknowledgment that their finances are hurting and that you are here to serve your customers as best you can. Use similar language as your brand awareness ads and remember to match the tone of the overall campaign. Then you can provide a special offer that is empathetic to the customer’s current situation.
Point #5. Pent up demand unleashed
There is an old adage that says, “When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.” Why? For a variety of reasons that you can read about here.
But in our opinion, the main reason is that scared advertisers will shut down their campaigns. That means you, even if you have to reduce your budget, can increase your brand awareness and, using the messaging approach in Point #3, be seen as a loyal, trusted and dedicated part of your community. And, you’ll be able to do this with less noise in the marketplace and at lower costs because CPCs and CPMs are already dropping.
In short, you will NEVER (hopefully) have an opportunity to reach your customers with less competition and less spend. And that is incredibly important because when this wave passes, and it will, search behavior will surge and you will be in an incredible position compared to the competition that chose to sit this time out. Your brand term searches will skyrocket. Your CTR will increase and your close rate will jump.
That will refuel your business and push it to new heights in the wake of this emergency. The time is now.