COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Marketing For Good

new normal for digital marketing - behtash moojedi

You might be wondering: 

How did the pandemic change marketing? The answer to this question might be of great use to you…

Let’s dive in.

We live in a time where information is almost instantaneous. Governments around the world, businesses, and individuals rely on the internet and digital media to get the latest updates, connect with one another, and blog about what is happening around them. This was no different during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It opened doors for businesses and local governments to reach a wider audience and collaborate with their communities and one another. Businesses relied on websites and social media channels to get the word out about their goods and services. They took to Twitter and Youtube to update their customers. 

Marketers, during this time, focused on building brands and designing a long-term plan. 

Is this aligned with what you are doing now?

Salesforce reported that 9 out of 10 marketing leaders believe their digital engagement has either completely or somewhat changed since before the pandemic. 

This data shows that the majority are using: 

  • Social Media 
  • Digital Ads
  • Content Marketing
  • Apps
  • Emails
  • And text marketing

84% of these respondents reported that they are going to still use events and sponsorships in the future but see the shift towards virtual and hybrid events to be apparent. They believe by 2022, 40% of their events will be virtual and 30% will account for hybrid events. 

Along with that the need for use of influencer marketing, user-generated and interactive content is becoming more and more apparent. 

Technology also has a role here, as cross-channel marketing becomes more prominent. Utilization of cross-channel content management systems, automation is going to become a normal part of marketers’ daily operations. 

I conducted a small poll last week, where we surveyed which of the channels saw a boost in usage during the pandemic.

Which marketing channel did you use during the pandemic - Behtash Moojedi

While the survey does not represent a true sample population, we can somewhat see a pattern that represents the usage of the channels across the industries and companies. 

Here’s the deal:

Despite the size of the company, social media is a great place for managing communities, stay in contact with your customers and future prospects, and create brand trust and advocacy. 

Pandemic was not any different, in fact, it increased the need for social media usage. While COVID-19 limited in-person social interactions, social media increased the connection between people more than ever. Social media engagements increased by nearly 60% during the first wave of the pandemic. 

This of course follows our long-lasting behavior. Even in ancient Greece, people met in the agora, a public area in the center of the state to conduct business, discuss politics and social events. Social media was used as a forum to inform the audience of newly launched services for the changing environments. It was also used as a means to increase engagement and establish a stronger online brand community while the businesses had to go into a hibernation state. Lastly, keeping the community updated on the company’s relaunch strategy upon restriction lifts. 

Email always remains the fastest and easiest way to communicate service changes or pushing promo content both for the prospects and current customers. However, it was tougher for some businesses to utilize this medium of engagement. Especially, for the B2B companies where the majority of the customers were also in hibernation or had to experience unfortunate cutbacks. Therefore, we can see that reliance on email channels was less than other channels. 

Digital Ads were expected to remain a secondary form of promotion. During the pandemic more than ever, the majority of the consumers were pushed to make decisions online, digital Ads (whether through social media, search engines, or affiliates) became a good way for the businesses to let their brand messages travel faster and attract customers.  

Video marketing…well, it was tough to make authentic content without the possibility of in-person shoots. Not sure how many of you watch the TV show “Blacklist”. I visit that show from time to time to be brought up to speed with the latest and greatest in the world of Raymond Reddington. The pandemic came right around the time that they had to shoot for the last few episodes of season 7 and they had to utilize animation for the portions of the shoot. It was interesting! 

I digressed…

Video marketing is a tough one but in my opinion the most important part of marketing. It’s tough because you need a team, you need a budget, and you need creative freedom, unless if you want to use stock videos, which is fine but eventually you can see the decrease in your engagement since the story will not look authentic. Also, stock footage can be accessed and used by you and many other companies, therefore, it kills the authenticity of your brand. For both reasons, many companies and brands stepped away from creating video content during this time. Other means became more prominent like zoom webinars by which businesses remained in contact and created interaction with their customers and future buyers. 

We can see that while tactics and strategies are different from company to company, the need to pivot and be ready for the post-pandemic era is a MUST for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are using the latest and greatest platform, new tracking application, or the newest social media platform that attracts millions. The first thing to recognize and accomplish is to have the right marketing plan that fits your business needs. Secondly, we need to understand the market and the customers to fit your strategy around the right information. Definitely cannot paint it all with the same brush. 

What this means for you,

I think there are few things that we all can recognize as marketing professionals for the future. 

Here is my take: 

Now more than ever, it is crucial to understand your customer segments.

Precision is important here because pandemics have changed the way users interact with the online web. Their shopping behavior to the way they digest content has been shifted. Therefore, it is no longer as effective to generalize content; rather it is very important to move towards personalization. 

Always understand that you are in competition with the last best user experience your customer had.

Why this is all of a sudden more important than ever? Because convenience became a huge factor in our day-to-day life during the pandemic. Customers ordering online, having direct access to all their favorite shows, and many more ways web accessibility benefited the customers during such difficult times. User experience doesn’t fall from this category. 

    1. It increases your returning users through mobile drastically. Studies show that 74% of the users will return to your website if you have a great user experience. 
    2. Your bounce rate can increase by 123% if your load time surpasses 1 second. 

So we can see that a truly seamless digital experience is very important now more than ever. There are always two types of users visiting your website. Your customers and a new user (potential prospect). Both users are in need of a solution and there is a chance that they might have visited multiple websites during their search for a solution. Therefore, you are always competing with the last best user experience your customer had. It is a great time for a website audit. 

The customers’ intent is now very important.

Customers now don’t just come to the website by accident. Search engines are designed to provide the users with the most relevant content. So when the user lands on your website, they don’t come in with just a HOPE to gain something back. They are coming in with the EXPECTATION that you have what they are looking for. There is good and bad news there. The good news is, you are halfway done with your conversion. The bad news is that you can easily lose that potential sale by providing a bad user experience.

Think of attracting customers now like online dating

The thing about traditional marketing and print advertisement is that the goal is to maximize reach to be able to hopefully gain new customers. 

Nowadays, it is very precise. It is now all about segmentation, algorithms, and data. Just like online dating, the chance of a match does not remain with maximizing on swipes but more about how the algorithm and AI match you based on behavior, interest, and other data points. Same as online dating, marketing today relies heavily on metrics. Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital channels present options based on certain criteria.

It is not always about performance marketing but a mixture of performance and branding. CRM teams are now getting more and more involved with the creative side to see the full advantage of the content. 

I should say while the targeted advertisement is somewhat more challenging, it is much more efficient than the alternative. As marketers, we have to be more creative, invite other portions of the business into the discussion, and have targeted goals. No more discussion of likes and comments. We have to go beyond that and tell the right story, to the right audience. 

Relationships are BEYOND IMPORTANT.

One thing that will never go away is relationship building. At the heart of your marketing should be the customer and the most important mission should be to establish a 1:1 relationship with them. Stories should not be fake. Sales cannot be a single touch. The path is long but at the end, there is a light. How many advertisements get thrown at you on a daily basis? Have you stopped to look at one deeply and compare it to your own? 

It was 2016, on a day I don’t remember, let’s just say it was rainy and cold to make it more dramatic. I was watching shark tank as usual and came across a guy name, Aaron Marino, he was pitching his brand alpha m, which was I believe series of training videos for men. The pitch was unsuccessful but something captured my attention about him. While he failed to win the hearts of the investors, he won mine by telling the right story, being humble in his storytelling ways. I followed his progress from that moment on, while his YouTube videos don’t really apply to me, I follow all his fashion brands and support him when I can. By the way, in my opinion, his cross-channel marketing channel and utilization of evergreen content is awesome. Check it out if you can. 

Bottom line is, 

If your focus was on all of the above, you are in a good position to continue on the marketing journey. Otherwise, no sweat! You still have time to look into your planning and strategy and make the necessary changes for 2022 year. 

I would recommend taking the following steps: 

  1. Do a full audit of your website and your content
  2. Look into your digital marketing channels
  3. See what understanding you have of your customer 
  4. Create a full plan to make improvements 
  5. Apply your 2022 strategy surrounding the required changes

Remember while content is the king, we are moving deeper in the age of technology. Segmentation, relevancy, and convenience will become the most prominent requirements for a successful marketing strategy. 

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