Oh, man. It sure is a weird time to be an earthling, right? And earthlings in business? Chaos.
After a few days of deliberation, I have made the decision to share my points of view and advice in the face of the current COVID-19 situation.
I have hesitated to make any blanket statements on this subject. Regardless of the expert I believe myself to be in my field, I am simply NOT an expert in navigating a global medical pandemic.
I tend to presume most of the experts making full-blown blanket statements on what you should/should not be doing in your business aren’t, either. However, this doesn’t mean we disregard advice altogether, but perhaps take it with a grain of salt and adapt it to suit our own businesses and Personal circumstances, varying levels of comfort (and unfortunately, fear) as well as our financial circumstances.
Please bear in mind that all of my comments and my subsequent advice is based upon direct experience (managing many ad accounts for 5 years, 1:1 custom auditing and planning sessions and running a group membership covering multiple industries, spend levels and levels of skill), crowdsourcing experiences from other groups as well as paid Advertiser Masterminds and groups from some of the top advertisers across the world.
You will find varying advice and warnings everywhere from all sorts of experts and professionals. Your job is to research, apply critical thinking and make the amendments that work for your business.
I’ll open with this…
Good things are happening in the world. There is kindness and positivity everywhere I look. When I recently went shopping, people were offering trolleys, helping pack bags into boots, offering parking spaces to those looking and generally having a bit of a laugh together in the (really) long lines and in front of empty shelves.
Businesses are offering free education, creating online courses and videos, sharing the love in groups, offering contactless delivery and spreading positivity and love through their organic media.
COVID-19 might be in the air, but you know what else is? Love, people. Love.
What we do know
Conversion rates are down on non-essential items, plain and simple (this is a general statement, not a final statement). While some advertisers and business owners are seeing a hike in conversions, the repeated feedback we are hearing (and so much of these discussions are in private, which I will expand on shortly) is that skincare, fashion, cosmetic procedures/salons/clinics, big life decisions (such as home and land buying), luxury items and other niches generally deemed not essential are experiencing drops in conversion rates. While costs per clicks go up, actual conversions are down. This makes sense because we know people are scrolling and reading more online than usual.
In our experience, this started with USA sales plummeting after Trump shut the borders off to visitors and about 4-5 days later, ANZ conversions started to follow suit.
The ones reporting a hike in conversion rates tend to be relevant to the worlds current situation. Soaps, immunity building supplements, at-home workout apps, yoga mats (in countries on lock-down!) and the odd general eCommerce account stay healthy and keep converting (I am seeing lots of talk of the “big guys” hunkering down and spending up in the hundreds of thousands right now. We don’t all have that luxury though, right?)
Now, to complicate matters, I have to say: whilst it is true the majority of our accounts are seeing dips in conversion rates, others are wicked strong and they don’t fall in the essential items ranges. What we can easily deduct from the success of these accounts, however, is that they have had a strong advertising strategy in place for a decent amount of time (1+ years), have solid systems and proven products, do not ship from China and a really engaged, loyal audience.
So, why are many of the honest conversations about low conversions happening in Private?
Put simply, (and again, in my experience) your digital marketers and advertisers are afraid of income loss, too. If they start telling everyone the digital sky is falling, they will lose clients and income. This crisis could genuinely shut down thousands of online businesses: Marketing is almost always the first casualty.
But the vigilant, adaptable and diverse marketers will not be a liability to you during this time. In fact, they could be one of your greatest assets. A truly adaptable advertiser knows how to switch gears and what to experiment with at times like this. No, they don’t know what to expect (fully, although they will have seasoned, educated guesses) but they will know how to read the data, how to maximise your potential opportunities and how to continue building your brand and business through troubled waters.
Business owners also don’t want to tell their customer base or target market that sales are falling. The fear of being perceived as trying to profit during a crisis is real.
What we don’t know
We don’t know how long this will affect business and the public in general. China got their shit together in 2-months, so we at Enriches are hopeful the rest of the world can too.
We don’t know what kind of effect this will have on income, jobs, the economy, retail, online stores or physical stores. We don’t know because this has never happened before. Neither does your preferred ‘Guru’ (although granted there are some folk who have been through similar times).
We don’t know how long it will take before people return to normal, spend normally, get back to work and school normally… It is a “Once in 100-year event” and if that doesn’t tell you how uncertain these times are, I’m not sure what will.
Which is why seeing blanket statements issued by advertisers now is somewhat frustrating me.
- “NOW is the time to be online!” Yes, eCommerce is good right now (hello, social distancing)– in some areas – because everyone still has access to devices and the internet. But are they buying handmade artisan coffee mugs with a price tag of $35 or luxe outerwear for work? Likely not.
- “You’re crazy if you’re not doubling down right now!” – Yeah, Ok. While my sales slow I’ll instruct my accountant to dig mystery money out of the dirt.
- “Every single one of my accounts is up 200%!!” – cool story, Bryan. Makes sense when we find out later you sell immunity building supplements. Those of us selling sunglasses are not seeing the same thing.
- “Only businesses who weren’t prepared for this will be suffering. We worked on our 2020 plan in 2019. Strong arm emoji”. Oh, shut the fk up, Susan*. You did not.
The issue is NOT being positive or optimistic about sales and business. Optimism is as crucial as the dry pasta I’m currently unable to buy.
The issue (for me, at least) is completely over the top, straight-up advice said in a way that implies they know how to handle this with total certainty and.. to be honest… some of the language used is kind of.. shame-y. Not a fan.
And lemme tell you something, young-buck 24-year-old “Agency Owner”: You have not seen this before. You are not experienced in this situation. You do not have all the answers. You are witnessing and learning in real time, like the rest of us.
Disclaimer: I know some professionals will have a better understanding of how to navigate these times and recover from them. I respect and appreciate seasoned advertisers, business owner and marketers 110%.
Anyway, I digress. You’re here for advice and support.
Marketing your business during this time
Is now the time to market my business? Is it appropriate?
The cries to convince you to reconsider stopping altogether are right: Don’t stop marketing your business! People still need you; they still want you, and they will still buy from you. Maybe they are not prepared to part with their funds at this time, but this doesn’t mean your business is not presently relevant.
As for the question: Is now the appropriate time is to advertise or market my business? (as with any crisis, it will always be questioned) – YES IT IS. We still have lives to live, goals to grow and surpass and futures to build. (If you are profiting from fear, though? GTFO. That is predatory and business karma will most certainly bite you in the ass).
Advertising your business during this time
Differing from marketing, advertising is paying to place your ads in spaces people will discover or come across them.
It is true that CPMs (The cost per 1000 impressions/views of your ads) are lower right now in many accounts. Meaning? It is cheaper to get in front of your audience.
However, costs per conversions (such as purchases) are on the up.
Our team have two sound theories as to why costs per impressions have gone down:
- Globally, many advertisers are pulling spend back or stopping altogether as they have seen a cease in conversions and are hugely affected by Corona. Think swim schools, gyms, personal procedure clinics (like botox or tattoo removal)
- More people are scrolling on social media, more often, now, giving us a larger pool of people to show our ads to throughout the day and night
Notice though, people are scrolling to consume information and media. Not necessarily because they just decided now was the right time to buy a new watch.
What does this mean for you?
It means if your ad accounts are business as usual, keep a close eye on your numbers but keep on keeping on! Keep advertising, keep pushing spend, keep making money.
We are also seeing a drastic drop in costs per leads.
Why might this be?
It seems people are showing us we are still relevant. People are still aware of wants, needs, desires and knowledge or education gaps. They are still preparing for when this crisis starts to ease off.
But if you are not getting conversions and thinking of pulling spend back or off socials altogether…
For those thinking of pulling back or stopping spending money on ads altogether…
You don’t need to. Yes, of course, if the current landscape in many cases is not giving you money back for money spent, you need to revaluate. But to stop all activities altogether is… well, it’s short-sighted.
Let’s say your conversions have plummeted and your return on ad spend isn’t so crash hot in the last 7 days. Do you think by pulling back your market reach, you are going to improve this anytime soon?
We don’t want you to disappear into the abyss. What’s more, if you fire back up when everyone else does, you’ll be re-entering the market at the same time as everyone else. Hellooooo high CPMs, audience saturation and a scramble to be noticed in the newsfeeds.
Here’s what we suggest in terms of advertising and business operations:
- Take advantage of low CPMs. Run your Brand Awareness ads – push your video content, using your most viral content to generate lots of engagement. Run sales to get rid of excess stock that is seasonal, introduce new products with video
- Hyper-focus on your warm targeting. Those who already know you and are just about positioned to buy are likely to only need a little nudge to do so. Ensure you are going after all your little pockets of warm audiences. This may include engagement on IG and FB, people who viewed your videos in the past, Cart abandons, website visits on products that were sold out months ago but now back in stock… people who have taken significant action with your brand
- Consider cross-selling to existing customers. These people have a high affinity with you and so will be less likely to require too much heavy lifting when it comes to convincing them to try you on.
- Build your on-platform audiences for when people are ready to buy again. Run videos in brand awareness campaigns: You have the view data for this for 365 days. Send people to quality blogs. Share positivity, happiness and warmth on your socials, which makes people feel happy when they interact with you and therefore, they do it more (also data you have for 365 days).
- Build email audiences. Run a competition, offer something for free, offer a small incentive such as % off when you sign up. Start to seek out your audiences and get them into your sales funnels, even if it means that right now, they may not buy from you.
- Nurture your email list. Besides your time spent, this is free! How can you continue to market to your audience right now, without spending money on ads?
- Shift and cross platforms. With Facebook, we pay for eyeballs (which isn’t a bad thing at all!) but with Google… we pay when we are literally being searched for. Are people looking for you? Are they googling things they meant to “get to” and now at home with the cat and have the time to spare? Consider setting up some Google Ads so you can still be found online by motivated buyers! Run a targeted Google Ad Campaign and keep a manageable amount of money targeting your visitors through Facebook
- Cross-promote with other businesses. Can you offer each other’s audiences a coupon code or other incentive for buying with each other? If you sell dresses which happen to pair with a beautiful range of shoes from another local/national brand, how can your businesses help each other?
- Ask Questions. Take advantage of Facebook Ads Made Easy (free support group), business groups, forums…(Quora can be really useful)
- LEAN ON EXPERTS. This is a biggy. Right now is the time to learn. If you don’t know how to run Facebook Ads, approach a professional. Try Facebook Blueprint for free and when you’re ready, join memberships and webinars and groups. If you can afford to, pay for custom training sessions or audits so you know exactly what will work online for you now or later. Join masterminds so you have someone to help you while you traverse the situation with your business. If you don’t know what to do right now lean on someone with a bit more insight – in areas that may not be your strength – for certain realms of your business.
- Plug your gaps in business right now. That process isn’t that great? Clean it up! Not sure what products people will want in future? Survey your audience! Have you been meaning to develop reports to assess the business to date? Get that spreadsheet, baby! If you find yourself sitting on your hands because things are quiet – use this time productively.
- How can you adapt your business to suit conditions? Can you deliver to people’s homes (hospitality)? Can you start offering online teaching instead of face to face meetings? Can you offer any education or support to people at this time?
DON’T CAPITALISE ON FEAR.
If you have a product that is needed right now, do not be ashamed to tell people about it. The world is in a weird mood but I still need new notebooks.
It is crucial today (as it is always, but sensitivity heightens when there is a crisis) to be mindful of your fellow humans. Some are really scared and some are a little less scared. Some are feeling offended by the casual way the virus and the pandemic is sometimes being addressed by others, others find strength in being casual about it. Watch your advertising and online language, pardon the fearful with empathy and stay cool under pressure (I know…easy to say. I’m right there with you).
Do not disappear.
Managing your brand during these times
I know. You want to put everything on sale and chuck it in a post parcel and never look at the stock again, right? DON’T! If you are a luxe label, or brand that typically does not participate in frenzy or high discount sales, don’t. Stay true to your brand; there is a version of you that lives on the other side of this crisis and they are begging you to make sure you don’t taint your values or ethos in the name of Covid.
Be positive and warm. Share good news stories and sunshine. Help your fellow entrepreneur out. Share things you learn, where you’ve failed and how you’ve won.
The key takeaway being this: Do not disappear. The world still wants you, needs you. And you still have work to do. You may need to work a little harder for the minute, while feeling confused and afraid amidst the chaos. But don’t stop the car because you’re approaching a hill. Switch gears and get to the top. Once you’re over the hill… well, it’s all downhill from there 😉 (downhill is easier than uphill, people).
Finally, I will leave you with this: Pour a wine, tea or grab a stubby and wait for this to all blow over. It will. We don’t know when or how that blow-over will look, exactly, but we know for sure that the human race is resilient and adaptable. Be kind, helpful and empathetic.
The way we respond to what is happening in the world right now is entirely and deeply personal. Let’s not forget that #KindnessIsKey
*No Susan’s** were harmed during the typing of this post
**We love all Susan’s. Gentle banter, nothing more 😉