Adaptive Digital Marketing in Times of Crisis
How Baal & Spots remained nimble with our clients during COVID-19
We’re living in crazy times. Throughout March and April of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and stay-at-home orders began to roll out across the country with little notice. People had minimal time to prepare on a personal level, and businesses — including marketing partners like Baal & Spots — also had to react to changes swiftly.
And yes, we’re talking about more than stocking up on toilet paper.
Neither we nor our clients could ever have predicted COVID-19. But as an adaptable and nimble marketing firm, Baal & Spots was still able to handle the unforeseen issues brought on by the pandemic. As a result, we were able to help (and continue to help) our clients through COVID-19 by protecting and stabilizing their revenue.
To accomplish this feat, the marketing team at Baal & Spots used several core marketing strategies to shift the tide in uncertain times. Learn more about how we market during times of crisis and how Baal & Spots was able to help our clients be successful despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crisis marketing and what we can learn from the Great Depression
Successful outcomes during rough times
Before we get into the strategies we used to help our clients amidst COVID-19, we need to touch on an idea that’s central to these efforts but might otherwise go unsaid: namely, the idea of continuing to market, even during a crisis.
When times get tough, it can be tempting for businesses to cut down on costs by decreasing their marketing budget. In reality, cutting off your marketing team or decreasing your marketing budget when the market is volatile is often short-sighted and may actually hurt you more than help you.
History is full of examples of companies that succeeded during hard times because they increased their marketing budget and got creative, including Kellogg’s dominance of Post, MGM’s successful double features, and the soap company Procter & Gamble’s creation of radio “soap” operas, all of which took off during the Great Depression.
All of these success stories contain similar elements:
- The business increased their marketing budget while their competitors cut down on marketing
- Because the business continued to advertise, customers felt less “abandoned,” worried less about the company’s health, and felt less incentive to take their business elsewhere
- The business focused on creating the best deal for their customers so that they felt they were getting the best bang for their buck during hard times
Today’s marketing landscape offers a multitude of opportunities for businesses to connect to customers in creative and helpful ways (and vice versa). That also means that today’s marketing landscape offers a multitude of opportunities for businesses to “abandon” their customers through neglect of social media accounts, websites, etc.
By continuing to market and provide consistent and thoughtful messaging during rough times, you are more likely to gain the trust of your customers and win over new customers. In these situations, having a marketing company — and a nimble one, at that — can be crucial.
Not only that, but you’ll want a marketing company that can be innovative and flexible within your budget and promote your services and products in a manner that is not tone-deaf to what your consumers may be going through.
COVID-19 trends in marketing
No recession, crisis, or economic downturn is the same. For COVID-19, we saw the biggest change in behavior and needs when it came to our clients’ “bread and butter” services.
All businesses have their “bread and butter” services and/or products, marketing partners are often asked to emphasize these one or two particular services as part of their work. But when COVID-19 began to change life as we know it, the public demand for some of these services also changed.
All of a sudden, typical “bread and butter” services weren’t as effective at bringing in customers, and any service or product had the potential to become a bread and butter service. This meant that Baal & Spots needed to tweak our clients’ business and marketing strategies quickly, smoothly, and effectively.
Specifically, we needed to make sure that our clients could increase revenue across a wider range of their services by implementing a new and more diversified marketing approach, all while maintaining the brand’s core identity.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Say you’re a criminal defense lawyer and your main business is generated from litigating DWI cases. As bars close up shop and cars stay parked in the driveway, DWI clients aren't going to (literally) drive up your revenue anyway. Luckily, you work other types of cases and know that you can start promoting those more to make up the difference.
But what’s the best way to see which of your case types are bringing in more clients? How can you monitor what changes are taking place in your market so that the decisions you’re making are data-driven? That, my friends, is the realm of a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist.
When most people think of SEO, they think of keywords. But SEO services can and should go way beyond keywords. In fact, a good SEO team can help clients make better use of their analytics, capitalizing on everything from improving the reputation of your site (in Google’s eyes), helping you better answer your customers’ questions, to being able to identify how many leads you’re getting from specific pages.
Here’s the thing — SEO isn’t a one and done means of adjusting your marketing materials to better reflect what your customers are looking for. Beloved Google changes their algorithms frequently, and those changes can have multiple layers of consequences for your online presence. What once worked a few years ago (or even a few weeks ago) will not always work today.
Google’s changes often require proactive updates and monitoring to even know that these changes are affecting your traffic and leads. When additional changes in the market are caused by external factors — like, say, a worldwide pandemic — you need a marketing team that can be extra vigilant to help you identify new opportunities and make changes to your online platforms according to your customers’ needs.
2. Content marketing
SEO and content marketing go hand and hand. You can optimize a page, but if you don’t have quality copy written in a way that a site user and Google likes, you’ll be stuck throwing good money at bad results.
It’s important to keep your website copy updated with new blogs and new pages that reflect what people are searching for in relation to your business’s services. When external changes are causing rapid fluctuations within consumer behavior and what they’re searching for, you want a competent content team that makes your content the wheat that’s separate from the chaffe… the grass-fed buffalo from the spam... the actual information from content-lite listicles.
Changes, whether prompted by a Google algorithm change or external factors, can also help highlight content that needs to be re-focused. A skilled content writer will be able to revisit your website’s older pages and ensure they’re still maintaining rank and quality traffic by tweaking copy until it aligns better with what your customers need and are searching for.
Let’s go back to that criminal defense law firm who specializes in DWI… and admit that they’re our client so that we can talk actual numbers. The SEO and content changes we made to our client’s pages helped out his organic leads. While his overall search volume was down by 10% (actually a relatively good amount, as we’ll discuss in a minute) his organic leads increased by 35% when comparing April 2020 to March 2020.
3. Pay per click ads (PPC)
Here’s the kicker — SEO, while important, doesn’t typically create immediate results. It’s neither a flash fire nor a slow burn. But even if you just started revamping your content marketing and SEO, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Pay per click ads are a fantastic way to drive traffic to your pages to supplement quality web traffic while you’re working on rank.
You may be tempted to run your PPC ads yourself, but we honestly wouldn’t recommend it. High-quality PPC goes beyond creating and managing campaigns in Google Adwords. PPC done well requires having a superb landing page that is relevant to your ads, understanding how to test your results without wasting a lot of time and money, and more.
Back to our criminal defense law firm again. This client previously had almost 1,000 keywords ranking on page 1. But ever since COVID-19, the search volume (how often people search for a term per month) for his keywords has decreased across the board.
Why? Well, as a matter of fact, search volume during COVID-19 has been about 30%–50% lower than it was during “normal” times, no matter whether you’re in the legal field, medical field, a nonprofit, or basically any other business besides those making masks or anything related to Animal Crossing.
With that knowledge, we knew that we had to figure out what people are still searching for with frequency in our client’s field. In our defense attorney’s case, it was types of criminal offenses other than DWI. On top of gearing our SEO and content efforts in this new direction, we quickly recommended pausing DWI PPCs (no brainer — no one was driving) and spun up new campaigns focusing on a whole host of criminal terms.
We didn’t spend much to start - just enough to gather data. Once we had enough data, we were able to ramp up what was really working and pause what wasn’t. We also tweaked pages that were only meant for SEO traffic by adding in more credibility builders that know work well with paid traffic. The results?
- Comparing the first 14 days of May to the first 14 days of March, we had a 33% increase in paid leads.
- Comparing the first 14 days of May to the last 14 days in April, we had a 167% increase in paid leads.
It’s possible to create something great even during hard times
At Baal & Spots, we’re proactive with all of our clients. When we see a decrease in results, we find the issue and come up with new solutions.
Of course, no one tactic is ever the answer 100% of the time. And if anything, that’s the moral of this story: If you want your business to make it during hard times, it’s essential to work with a flexible marketing team that you can trust to wield the tools of their trade effectively in both foul and fair weather scenarios.
At Baal & Spots, we know that we’re doing well only when our client’s are doing well, then we’re doing well. Start laying a marketing foundation strong enough to weather any unexpected storms — we’re here to discuss how.
“I never thought PPC would work for quality leads, but it does. I have a great marketing company and couldn’t be happier. Plus, my marketing company will handle other law firms as long as you’re not in my competition area. And that’s what I really love about them.”
– Mark Thiessen, Houston Trial Attorney