Reaching New Consumers in Times of Crisis: Opportunities for Canadian Businesses

Apr 2020
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Digital Marketing
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Eric Unger

While we’re still very much in the early stages, there’s no doubt that the world will change significantly as a result of the pandemic -- and marketing as a business practice must change along with it. The impact isn’t unique to one sector; many of the B2B and B2C organizations we work with are being affected by the declining economy.

The positive spin to this situation is that there's a lot of opportunity to pivot strategies to fit this “new normal”, from changing your brand positioning, to exploring new marketing channels.

Interestingly, between 60-70% of surveyed e-commerce brands -- from a pool that saw both increased and declining revenue during this time -- are looking to put more resources into their digital marketing practices. This makes sense: many businesses predict that consumers will spend the same amount as they did before this pandemic struck, despite facing increasing unemployment rates. While this could change quickly, they're certainly spending more time online too.

To help plan your next steps, I’m going to dive into what the industry is saying, along with some quick wins and considerations I’ve seen.

First, here’s a summary of observations by the Canadian Marketing Association on the topic:

  • Many businesses are looking for agency support to help find creative ways to drive revenue, like alternative streams of income or different product offerings.
  • Consumers are looking for businesses to have authentic reactions to the situation around COVID-19 (philanthropy, compassion, honesty, and transparency).
  • There's a huge benefit to shifting the marketing tone from "salesy" language to educational, supportive content.
  • There’s an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 messaging online, so companies have to bring a different perspective to cut through the clutter - do something different.
  • Companies should build out their tech toolkits and e-commerce practices -- there’s huge potential for those that choose to do this in an effort to bounce back.

There’s a huge emphasis on building out a digital presence -- from streamlined content execution (content marketing) to full-on ecommerce overhauls (bringing your business from physical stores to the digital world). It’s time to move quickly and innovate!

So, you might be thinking: what do I mean when I say “digital presence”? What opportunities should you focus on?

  • More people are online, consuming content: With less time out and about, more people than ever are at home consuming content on social media and blogs. In fact, there are resounding reports stating that impressions are up. If you’ve got the resources, it’s time to create more content for your business! (Blog posts, videos, helpful product guides, Instagram posts, etc.)
  • Expanding to new shoppers: Make sure you’re front and centre for people searching for your products/services. Since people cannot shop in person and have more time to research online, it’s more likely they’ll come across your business. Brush up on SEO or take the leap and start building an ecommerce store.
  • Competition for advertising is down: Understandably so, there are businesses that find themselves with less cash flow available. As such, there are less ads floating around in the online space. If you’ve got some liquid, it would be a good time to set up a social ad -- as it’ll likely be seen by your target audience, and cost a bit less than usual!

Here are a few things that my clients are employing to signal their awareness and flexibility. Some of them are quick wins, some will take more resources:

  • Tweak your homepage and web copy: Beyond posting on social media, your website is the main place where you communicate with consumers. Make sure you’re keeping your messaging up-to-date and relevant with a razor-sharp call-to-action!
We worked with LiveCA to launch a new website with messaging specific to COVID-19 and online business operations.
  • Modify your offerings: If possible, look into alternative streams of revenue. This could mean upselling your professional services rather than another product. Or it could mean showcasing different items (something that historically wasn’t your best seller).
  • Extend your free trial: I’ve seen a lot of clients go from a 14-day to a 90-day free trial. With all the confusion going on, your free trial sign-ups may not have had enough time to fully experience your tool. This also shows some compassion for your prospective client, and similar to giving them a discount - their first three months for free.
  • Offer free or discounted services for those in need: Considering your offering, your cash flow, and your employees, it might be a good time to give back to the community in any way you can. Not only will you solidify your position as a member of your community (and help your brand), it will feel good to get yourself out there and make a difference!

    North Designs is now offering discounted help & support to Canadian businesses (and others) that qualify for Webflow's COVID19 assistance plan. We are all #BetterTogether.

It’s important that we continue to share our resources and ideas with each other as we navigate these tough times. This is an opportune time to try something new! If your business could use some help, or you’d just like some suggestions on improving the performance of your website, drop me a line. I'd love to chat.

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