The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has changed nearly everything, including how organizations are marketing. In particular, as marketing leaders create their digital content marketing strategies for 2021, their planning sessions will be very different than in past years. To prepare for 2021, they will be in uncharted territory — considering the impact of COVID-19 on their target audiences.
Several organizations have already successfully adapted their strategies to meet the new content marketing demands. Their lessons learned provide valuable insight for others, including in these areas:
These five marketing success stories during COVID-19 provide inspiring insight for planning your organization’s 2021 digital content marketing strategy.
If one word had to encapsulate the impact of the global pandemic on marketing, it would be “pivot.” Facing unprecedented times, companies have had to pivot further and faster than ever before. One area, in particular, required a nanosecond right turn: social media marketing. Whatever had been planned before the onset of COVID-19 had to be immediately reviewed, assessed and sometimes redone. Several companies acted swiftly, some successfully, others not so successfully.
One success story was GoDaddy. The hosting company’s social media strategy pre-COVID-19 focused on how-to and product training content. But the company pivoted its focus to customers and their emotional stories using the hashtag #OpenWeStand. For example, one post said: “Whether she’s filling online orders or hosting virtual art tutorials, Elexia de La Parra of Artelexia is finding ways to reach her customers even while her San Diego gift shop is temporarily closed.”
GoDaddy’s core customers, who are largely small businesses, are under a tremendous amount of pressure to remain open in some way, shape or form. As a large organization with a big name in the industry, GoDaddy was able to leverage its reputation to reach out with support to its customer base through the power of its social media platform. The impact helped reinforce its support for small businesses.
Creating owned content on strong social media platforms can be powerful. When it’s combined with storytelling that resonates with the target audience in ways that are both emotional and supportive, the opportunity to make a big impression is boundless. To make the most of a social media pivot, consider these points:
Among the many changes marketers had to make at the outset of the pandemic was rethinking live events — both hosting and attending. That sent many organizations scrambling to figure out what to do — cancel or switch gears? Overnight, virtual events became a leading option to replace live events — and progressive companies jumped on board with both feet.
The eighth Midwest Digital Marketing Conference was already in the planning stages for its two-day annual summit to be held in May 2020 when COVID-19 struck. When shelter-in-place precautions were established in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the organization moved the event online for the first time rather than cancel it altogether.
The event organizers reasoned that they were already too far down the road in planning the event and didn’t want all of the work to go to waste. What’s more, they decided to leverage the new stay-at-home opportunity to give more people the opportunity to attend virtually than normally attend the live event by making it free for the basic package. A $99 ticket offered access to additional 70-plus on-demand sessions.
The virtual event’s responsive and creative approach to what could have been a disaster ensured that people who planned to attend still could. Plus, it opened the door to people who wouldn’t normally be able to spend their budgets on a conference, giving them the chance to see what the event is all about and learn something new. Over 2,500 professionals logged into live sessions from around the world.
Planned events don’t have to be canceled just because people can’t get there in person. Be creative and find new avenues to deliver content to your audience. Along with holding virtual events, organizations can also share their events in other ways. For example:
People’s search behavior changed during the coronavirus lockdown. In particular, there was a big shift in topics, including new searches for tips on working from home, how to get businesses back to normal and what the future will look like. Providing people with answers to their search topics can be a powerful way to connect with them.
To that end, organizations should rethink their content development from typical product or business-related issues to content that provides advice and tips on the most-searched issues — from health to returning back to “normal” life, especially if your business has expertise and solutions on hot topics like these.
A team at Search Engine Watch took this approach when it surveyed British citizens to learn how lockdown was impacting their lives, where they were working in their homes and what they were doing to relax. The firm created content based on the responses, and that content drove new traffic to its website. The research-driven content also supported its SEO campaigns by generating coverage in national publications.
Providing insight into topics your customers care about now is an opportunity to help your target customers and elevate your brand. If you do it well, they will reward you with their trust, which during uncertain times is worth its weight in gold. For maximum search impact, apply these tips:
Humanistic factors that sometimes get lip service rose to the top of marketing imperatives during COVID-19. When people’s lives were upended, they sought connections — albeit virtual — that were truly compassionate, authentic and emotional. Companies that recognized the need to step up and engage honestly with their customer base made a huge impact.
India-based custom clothing retailer eShakti is a good example of taking a humanitarian approach during a crisis. Two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global pandemic, founder and CEO BG Krishnan sent an email to customers that explained how viruses behave on surfaces, outlined how eShakti was keeping its employees safe, explained how the governments of India and neighboring countries were combating the virus, and provided links to reputable resources.
Krishnan's short, simple message typifies the company's outcome-oriented, humanistic purpose and executes on the emotional elements that engage his customers. It meets customers where they are, for example: 6 in 10 Americans are now “very” (26%) or “somewhat worried” (34%) that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the novel coronavirus, according to a recent Gallup poll. Companies that engage with their B2B customers by “becoming a trusted adviser,” and “delivering customer impact” reap 50% higher revenue and sales, 34% higher profitability and 63% lower customer attrition.
Emotional engagement is always more powerful than rational satisfaction. During the worldwide pandemic, consumers are making difficult decisions, both about their health and about whom they can trust. They are looking for companies who will help make life better — for themselves, their families and the world. When this crisis is behind us, consumers will remember the brands that satisfied their rational needs — but also genuinely met their emotional needs during a very difficult time. Consider boosting your emotional engagement with customers in these ways:
When COVID-19 entered our lives some companies immediately understood that, first and foremost, they had to take care of their customers' needs. Some organizations embraced this ethos and immediately dropped what they were doing and created innovative, highly customer-oriented programs that would serve their customers’ needs in these trying times — in ways both useful and inspiring.
Unity Technologies makes a popular gaming engine. The company had been poised to launch several new technological advancements when COVID-19 struck. Rather than stick to its original product launch plan, the company added bonus offers for content access to show its commitment to helping game developers learn new skills. It opened up access to premium content from its Unity Learn instructional content for building games, making it free for three months to the game developer community. The content includes bite-sized tutorials, hands-on projects, in-depth courses and sample projects.
Also, as part of its COVID-19 content-sharing effort, Unity launched Create with Code Live, a virtual class offering how-to-code instructions — and made access free to game developers at all levels. In announcing these special offers, the company released a statement:
“At this difficult time, we remain committed to making it easier and more intuitive for you to achieve your aspirations. We believe the world is a better place with more creators in it.”
Now is the time to not only educate consumers about your products but also to actually be useful — especially at a time when many of them are stuck at home. Your consumers will remember that you made access to valuable content easier and less costly during this trying time. Innovative ways to share content include:
COVID-19 has changed how organizations are marketing today and how they are planning their future digital content marketing strategies. Some organizations have already adjusted to our new circumstances by launching innovative content campaigns. They are the pioneers — and are reaping the rewards.
Use their success stories for inspiration as you create your new digital content marketing strategy for the New Year. Your efforts have the potential to both improve your campaigns in the short term and also influence your organization’s success long into the future — both during and beyond the pandemic.