How your business can make the most of digital in response to COVID-19

Published on March 25, 2020 by Tom Bowden

We hope you, your teams and families are all safe and well and adapting to everything that is going on. Unusual times call for steady nerves and informed decision making. Our industry-leading team of experts is here to help you through this.

Footprint Digital is here to help

We exist to help you join the dots & make your digital marketing more human with specialist data-driven marketing services including Strategy, SEO, PPC, CRO and Content Marketing.

Right now we are focused on helping you with practical responses to COVID-19 and how digital marketing can help.

This article and webinar are one of a series of FREE COVID-19 support webinars which you can find here. We hope you find it useful and if there is anything we can do to support you through these challenging times then please get in touch.

Our hosts for this webinar are Director Tom Jepson and Head of Marketing Innovation Chris Green. It includes a mix of strategic and tactical advice aimed to help you through. We hope it gives you some focus and helps you feel motivated.

The video of the webinar is here. If you prefer to read then scroll down to explore the ideas in written form.


Observe. Go with the flow. What are the new natural patterns?

First things first, in such extraordinary times, the worst thing you can do is to stand still. The phrase “business as usual” will become alien to us over the coming weeks and months. This means we all need to think differently and adapt to the rapidly changing conditions.

Yet, at the same time as needing to change fast it is vital that you do not panic. Take a moment, breathe and think about what the future will hold. Our first bit of advice is to observe the new environment around us. The world is different and the environment is changing fast. There is a new natural pattern emerging. What does it look like now? What will it look like in the future? How can you adapt to it? How can you find a way to go with the new flow?

Things are radically different now. But, it is not all doom and gloom. There is a real prospect that your willingness to adapt and push forward could leave you with a greater market-share on the other side. Let’s be real here, these are very tough times, but they won’t last forever! China is starting to come out of the other side and within days in Hong Kong schools and workplaces are gearing up to return to a new normal. Be ready for 6 months from now.

Activity – ask yourself:

  • What is the new natural pattern of your customers?
  • What is the new natural pattern in your industry?
  • What is the new natural pattern of your organisation?
  • What is the new natural pattern of the technology you use?
  • What is the new natural pattern of the products you offer?


Crisis communications

When you put out communications & brand messaging, be genuine and offer help. Connect with your audience on a human and emotional level. Now is not the time to put out pushy commercial messaging, but, it is a great time to be here to help your customers with no strings attached!

Get your crisis communications out to those who need to know – not your entire marketing list. Don’t throw GDPR restrictions to the wind. The truth is the vast majority of your customers don’t want to be bombarded with a load of noise. It can damage what you’re trying to achieve. Provide clear, helpful information that is relevant to them.

Even though things are moving very fast and you are sending information that reacts to the changes, try and build this from a syllabus. Map out the content people need. Ask your customers what they’re worried about. What questions are being asked but not answered?

But remember, email lists & social followings are your communications assets. This is a great time to support people and we hope they will subscribe for more information from you in the future. It is a great time to build your database and subscribers. Do this by creating content people care about.

Audit your existing mailing lists and social followings, establish what’s the very least you can do to communicate with those audiences.


Who is your customer? Where are they now?

In a matter of days, your customer has changed. Their anxieties, buying motives, worries – every part of their life has been impacted. Take the time to understand what has changed and what you can pivot to address any of that.

We need to view these changes in your audience personas within your immediate campaign focus & then 6-12 month plans. Those businesses suffering from the impacts of booking cancellations are going to need to rebook them some time soon.

In the vast majority of cases, the context of your customer has changed – meaning they’ll likely be sat a desk or dining table in their own home. We’ll come to talk about how you can ensure your content is online to meet them later.

Reassess who your customers are now & how they have changed.


Recognise there is opportunity. Don’t stand still.

These times are unknown. This is a real shock to businesses. We are going into recession and economically the threat we face is very real. This is unlike anything before, but, we can learn from previous economic downturns.

Following the 2008 recession, it was noted by the Harvard Business Review that maintaining advertising-spend during tough times is worth it;

“This is not the time to cut advertising. It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at a lower cost than during good economic times.”

“Those who stop marketing to save money are like those who stop a clock to save time.” – Henry Ford

At a bare minimum, you need to be considering what you can do to stay in the game. And you need to do everything you can to make sure you’re not lost in the noise.

What can you invest in the future?
Use Google Trends, or Answer the Public to see what people are searching for & how their online habits may have changed. Identify new/emerging questions that are being asked now, that wasn’t before.


Look for new products and ways to adapt/ change your business to fit with a current short-term customer mindset

This may be a tough one for many because the implications extend beyond digital, but your businesses can change the way they operate with your customers over a short period. We are already seeing people changing contract lengths & relaxing returns policies to reduce the level of perceived risk in a given transaction.

Even if you are not able to do this, consider how you might create this same impact on your website. What could it be doing to help this mindset shift? You could be changing your calls to action, clearly-highlighting what your business is doing differently now – it even comes down to how you communicate potentially-negative factors (like delayed shipping, low stock etc).

Be empathetic to the customer’s change in priorities and see if you can meet their different expectations with how you talk to them.

How can you create products that respond to the change? How does your website need to adapt?


Be there to help

When the light at the end of the tunnel feels a way off – communication and support for others is now more important than ever. Businesses and customers need and want help right now. Be there for them.

Now is the time to work together, Family values are high. We need to show compassion and support each other at a human level, engage with your audience. Especially existing clients “we’re going to get through this together”!

  • L’Occitane – Providing NHS staff with free hand cream
  • Brewdog – Reducing beer production in order to produce hand sanitizer, which is being given away for free
  • Twinkl – Made all resources free for teachers and parents to help educate children at home
  • Amazon –  Audible free audiobooks for kids
How can you help? Sometimes it won’t be as obvious or as easy, but every brand/business can do some good during these times.


Time to bring your content online. Right Message, Right People, Right time.

Technology is the key for businesses to adapt. It is the time to step outside of your business norm and turn your IP or product/services to the digital market. We have never been better equipped to mitigate some of the impacts of the pandemic – take confidence from that.

The power of digital to host and deliver content to your audience has always been strong – you need to harness this more than ever. Online traffic is the new foot-fall and unless your content is discoverable online – no one will see it.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) can bring education/course content online. Teleconferences and webinar software can be used to deliver talks and consulting. Book manuscripts can be re-created as ebooks and published online quickly/easily. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube & other online streaming services.

All of this content is great for search engines (SEO) if you are willing to have the content findable to all. It’s also great content to reach people via paid search, social media or email marketing. A content strategy built around your knowledge content will provide value to your customers, which is what they need/want at this time.

Where some businesses may struggle here is how to offer/sell their IP at this time. Some may be reluctant to offer it up to the world for free. I would urge you to consider what you stand to lose if you did do this and if you really can’t give up everything for free, at least tease content & then sell subscriptions or individual pieces of content digitally.

Start simple, create a YouTube Live Account, set up a livestream or create a free Zoom account where you can host your own remote meeting. Software like OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) is free to download and you can record your videos or livestream them to the major online platforms.

If you do not already have a website then now is the time to get one. There are also other fast options to sell products through existing marketplaces. Consider listing your products or services on Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Not on the Highstreet, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree – there are many avenues for you to turn to.

Those with event spaces/venues can easily set up to give guided virtual tours of venues or could make use of Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Make it easy for people to watch the tour live and tune-in later to review the content. Not as good as the normal, but the power to connect to your customer is far-stronger this way than doing nothing and there is also a wealth of people sitting at home looking for interesting things to do.

Social media, email & search engines are really the best way to maintain contact with your customers and be there when people are searching. This was true before but is even more pronounced now.

For the extra advantage, digital can provide here, the advanced audience targeting methods via platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook/Instagram, etc can bring a real-edge. Consumer behaviours are changing so quickly do you try and chase them OR let Google/Facebook use their market data to speak to the right customers via their anonymised audience data?

If any of these concepts are alien to you, now is the time to become familiar, it WILL enable you to act/react quicker.

Take an inventory of all your existing content (in all its forms), which is most important to customers at present and what’s the best format to recreate it in for digital?


Get focus. Avoid ‘head chef syndrome’. Research, Plan, and Prepare

With a dizzying array of options available to you, you need to be able to prioritise which is most important for your business now & in three-six months time. We work to a concept called the ‘head chef syndrome’ – you wouldn’t ask the head chef to take orders, prepare the food and serve the wine and wash the dishes, would you? Then don’t expect that you can do everything.

This is the time to get focused and efficient with your time. Take a look at the diagram provided. Plan which of these digital activities you think will be most valuable to your business (start with Google Analytics if you can) and then establish what you have the skills/ability to do.

To ensure you have the data you need to conduct effective marketing strategies in the future, install Facebook’s marketing pixel – start building audiences and gathering insights. Do the same for Google Ads and Google Analytics, ensure your picture of the customer & their activity on your site is as vivid as it possibly can be.

Then measure it and test it. Measure what works and then test/try new things.

Based on the knowledge of where the customers are now using the model above and focus on the most appropriate channels to speak with them.


Shoot the HiPPO. Conversion rate optimisation

If you are a business which still has good levels of traffic or are considering investing in paid search to supplement any drops, Conversion Rate Optimisation is a crucial area to look at.

Take a look at your contact forms/calls to action on your website. Does asking people to “submit” really seem like something people will want to be doing right now? Look at the speed of your website, is it too slow? The value of free services like Cloudflare are really being felt right now as they can make your website quick & secure – saving you hundreds of pounds.

Access each step in the user’s journey on the website, investigate where the points of friction are and what you can do to reduce that. Google Analytics is where we would usually start this process, but never overlook the importance of running through the process yourself and taking note of each part – ask yourself, what can be made easier?

Split testing (A/B testing) can work really well too to really maximise the revenue your website can generate, tools like Google Optimize provide a free & relatively simple way into the world of split testing.

We call this data-lead process “shooting the HiPPO” (as in Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), if you need to start making changes to the website, the best way to ensure you’re doing the right thing is to use the data to back your decision-making process.

Review your Google Analytics data identify where your users are leaving. Or at minimum, review & improve your website calls to actions – think about how they could be made better for your user.


Stay connected

Distributed teams are fine (and necessary), however, disconnected teams are not. There is no reason for people to feel disconnected/isolated at this time.

This is going to be a sharp learning curve for everyone, but creating some agreed-on ways of working to ensure everyone is in step & things are as simple/straightforward as they can be.

Share and learn together – talk about the wins, reflect on the losses, make time for this in the calendar and ensure it happens. Much of the daily-chatter which happens unthinkingly will not happen and people will grow to miss it.


Attend the next webinar to learn how we’re adapting to this

Working Effectively as a Remote Team
Thursday 26th at 11am
With Tom Jepson and Hannah Meadows – here


Get involved & share your thoughts

We hope that this content is useful for you at this time. Please share it with anyone that you think would find it useful. Get involved and ask us any questions you have.

It is time to dig deep. Footprint Digital is here to help.

Please stay connected and tune in to more from our series of FREE COVID-19 support webinars which you can find here.