The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. By now, that’s an observation that’s been made so many times that it practically qualifies as a cliché. Even so, it can be difficult to wrap your head around the extent to which the world we now occupy isn’t the same one we inhabited even six months ago.
One thing that’s changed in a major way? The marketing landscape. Already, there is ample evidence that businesses are rethinking the allocation of their marketing dollars, adjusting their strategies to accommodate this strange new world.
According to Google, COVID has accelerated digital-centric marketing activities. Marketers have increased digital marketing activities almost twice as much as traditional sales and off-line marketing channels.
In this article, we will expound upon the unique value offered by SEO and digital marketing; and in particular, we’ll list some of the reasons why it’s uniquely suited to our post-COVID moment.
Why Small Businesses Should Invest in SEO and Digital Marketing
1) Traditional advertising just isn’t as valuable as it used to be.
In some ways, the story isn’t that digital is rising so much as traditional marketing is declining.
For a clear example of why traditional ad tactics aren’t as effective in the post-COVID world, think about paper mailers. Direct mail has long been a staple in the marketer’s toolbox, and mailers have held on surprisingly well in the Internet era.
But now, consumers are more eager for touchless interactions; simply put, we’re all a little less eager to reach into the mailbox and pull out a foreign piece of paper.
This is just one example of how traditional advertising is losing its meaning in a post-COVID world. Certainly, business cards and Yellow Pages listings are diminishing, for the same reason that direct mailers are. And even billboards and radio jingles are less impactful with more of us working from home, spending less time in the car.
The bottom line is that traditional advertising doesn’t represent the sound investment it used to. Marketers wishing for a robust ROI will want to reallocate their ad budgets, and we think SEO and digital represent the best place to do so.
2) Consumers are getting younger.
Another reason to consider ditching traditional advertising in favor of an all-digital approach? The people you’re trying to reach are probably getting younger. And today’s younger audiences are true digital natives; they are familiar with digital ecosystems in ways that older generations could never be. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but they really have no use and no patience for traditional advertising methods.
Just think about it from this perspective: If a younger consumer needs information, or has specific questions about a product or service, where are they most likely to turn? The answer is almost always going to be the Web, whether that means doing a Google search or soliciting recommendations on social media.
Along with the same, your consumer may find their attention drawn in by Instagram posts or TikTok videos; these additional touchpoints can provide extra ways for you to win their attention and increase awareness of your brand.
Our world is changing for many reasons, not all of them directly related to COVID. One of the biggest changes is that audiences are younger and more digitally savvy… something marketers should exploit.
3) SEO and digital marketing can help you expand your digital footprint.
Marketers are fond of saying that, if you don’t have a good website and a halfway decent Google search ranking, your business might as well be invisible.
Indeed, we’d extrapolate from that point to say that, in order to draw a large audience and command high brand awareness, it’s important for businesses to have a large digital footprint.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, it certainly means having a good website and a solid Google search ranking. But it also means being ready to meet your audience at various touchpoints throughout their consumer journey. It means having the content and the presence to meet people at all stages of the sales funnel, from those just beginning to research to those who are on the precipice of making a purchase.
The best way to expand your digital footprint is through SEO and digital marketing; when paired together, these disciplines can help businesses be in all the places they need to be in order to connect with an audience.
4) Digital marketing helps build long-lasting relationships.
It’s easy to reduce marketing to the simple act of finding and converting customers. Actually, there’s more to it than that. Yes, it’s important to develop new leads and bring new customers into the fold. But it’s just as important to keep existing customers engaged; and, to re-engage those with whom you’ve previously had a relationship.
You can take it as a safe assumption that your current and former customers all spend a lot of time on the Internet each day. So, if you want to keep your brand name at the forefront of their mind, robust digital activity certainly doesn’t hurt.
Consider that, in the United States, half a million new businesses are launched every single month. As such, losing business to competitors is all too easy. To avoid this, it’s important to target those customers with whom you’re trying to sustain a relationship, providing them with meaningful content and smooth digital experience.
There are a number of specific ways in which digital marketing can help businesses sustain customer relationships. A few of our suggestions include:
- Replace traditional “word of mouth” buzz with testimonial images and videos, which you can share in email newsletters and on your social media accounts.
- Send automated follow-up and thank-you emails to people who buy your products and services, creating more touchpoints and interactions with them and boosting brand recognition.
- Engage your customers on social media, reminding them of their positive experience and encouraging them to return to your business in the future.
- Use retargeting and remarketing to upsell or cross-sell.
These are just a few of the ways in which digital marketing can be used to nurture customer relationships.
5) Through digital marketing, you can learn more about your customers’ needs.
Digital marketing isn’t just about amplifying the voice of your brand. It’s also about listening. Smart marketers listen to what their customers want and need; in doing so, they better position themselves to fill this need.
Through digital marketing, businesses and brands can conduct market research, learn some of the online habits and routines of their target customers, and accrue information that can help them tailor their messaging more effectively.
This may sound too complicated, too sophisticated for smaller companies to do on their own… but actually, there are a number of “listening” tools that can be used to glean actionable information. Some examples include Google Analytics, SEM Rush, Survey Monkey, and Google Search Console. Several of these tools are free, and all are pretty easy to use.
Upon the completion of some basic research, marketing team members can build buyer personas, helping them develop a fuller picture of what their customers need; what they value; and where their pain points lie. These personas can then point toward the best ways to brand a product, the most effective channels for reaching the target audience, and more.
6) Digital marketing offers multiple channels for boosting conversions.
One of the basic goals of marketing, of course, is to reach your customers. Just one problem: Those potential customers could be anywhere. And in an increasingly fragmented digital landscape, there are reasonable odds that your customers are in a lot of places at once.
What do we mean by this? Well, consider some of these statistics:
- 41 percent of U.S. consumers search for products on Amazon; an additional 28 percent search for products on Google but then go to Amazon to make their purchase.
- About 42 percent of the world’s population uses social media.
- LinkedIn provides about 80 percent of B2B leads.
- More than half of consumers use social networks to browse different products and services.
- About 87 percent of marketers say they use video and that it produces a positive effect.
The point in all of this is that there are lots of places you can turn to find an audience. That may seem a little overwhelming; after all, not every business has the time or the resources to be active on all of these channels at once.
The good news is that you don’t have to be everywhere. This is where your research and buyer personas come in handy. Using them, you can make informed decisions about where to concentrate your activity for maximum effect.
The bottom line: Digital marketing provides a way for your business to reach different people on different channels; again, it’s all about creating as many touchpoints as you can along the consumer journey.
7) Digital marketing levels the playing field.
An underappreciated aspect of digital marketing is that it puts small companies on relatively equal footing with large brands. In fact, when wielded appropriately, digital marketing can actually help small businesses to outperform their larger rivals.
Sure, larger enterprises will have more money to burn. They may have higher production values on their videos. They may be more active on more social networks. They may have an overall larger brand presence throughout the Web.
But when it comes to digital marketing, the scope isn’t always the important thing. Smaller brands can still exercise creativity and ingenuity. They can be strategic in where they spend their marketing dollars. They can be highly personal. They can offer responsive and friendly customer service.
With the right approach, smaller brands can be highly competitive with the big dogs… and ultimately generate plenty of business even with a modest budget.
8) Compared to traditional advertising, digital is quite inexpensive.
Speaking of budgets: Digital marketing represents a good way for businesses to do a lot with a little.
Many of the most popular and productive digital marketing strategies make it possible for you to see huge returns on investment. A good example of this is email marketing. According to some studies, it’s possible to generate $38 in revenues for every $1 you spend on email marketing!
Similarly, SEO offers ample rewards for comparatively small investments. Most of the cost of SEO is upfront. Once you have your strategy up and running, you’re essentially generating free traffic to your business website.
And there are a number of digital marketing and SEO tools that are effectively free. Google My Business is one example. Organic search is another. These are powerful marketing channels that you can exploit without having to spend too much.
9) With digital marketing, you can easily measure ROI.
This is another important way in which digital marketing distinguishes itself from traditional marketing: It offers credible ways to measure your progress, track your results, and see what kind of return you’re making on your marketing investment.
There are a number of implications here, one of them being scalability. Smaller businesses don’t have to dive into the deep end or begin their marketing campaign with a huge budget. They can start small, see what works, and then pump more money into the channels that offer a clear ROI.
A good way to start this process is by creating a dedicated landing page, focused on a particular product or offer. Your initial efforts should be centered on sending traffic here.
Using Google Analytics, you can measure how many people are coming to the site; how many of them bounce; and how many of them convert. You can even ascertain where they’re coming from… for example, do people find your landing page through Google? Marketing emails? Your social media channels?
Through the collection of data, you can tweak your marketing efforts on the fly, hone your targeting, and ensure none of your ad dollars go to waste.
10) The business landscape is changing.
Let’s conclude with one more point that’s specific to COVID-19.
The grim reality of our present moment is that a lot of businesses are going to close… including companies that have been around forever. Before venturing out into public, consumers will want to use Google and other channels to confirm that their favorite companies are still around, and with the same products, services, and hours of operation as before.
And similarly, many new businesses will rise from the ashes, replacing those companies that go out of business. Before trying a new place, consumers may wish to turn to the Web to do research, read reviews, and make an informed purchase decision.
The businesses that thrive in this new context will be those that have a strong digital footprint, including plenty of content that builds credibility and earns trust. Digital marketing and SEO provide these solutions.
Digital Marketing is Marketing
At Sefati & Co, we truly think that we’re near the point where, when people talk about marketing, they’ll be referencing digital marketing alone; the two terms will become synonymous as traditional marketing becomes obsolete.
For businesses and brands that shift their ad budgets into SEO, search marketing, social media, etc., there will be ample opportunity for growth.
A good way to get started is to reach out to Sefati & Co, a leading digital marketing and SEO consultancy. We have developed and implemented strategies on behalf of businesses of all sizes and in countless sectors. We’d love to talk with you about your digital marketing needs. When you’re ready to chat, reach out today.