The Importance of Online Marketing During COVID-19
The advent of COVID-19 has reverberated all over the world and barely an industry or country has not been touched by it. As businesses struggled at the beginning to pivot and keep operations going many turned to their social media channels to communicate with their customers. The onset of COVID-19 served as a reminder of many things; one of the more interesting things learned is our overwhelming dependence and reliance on social media and online marketing.
At Insiteful Solutions, we were fortunate that many of our team already work remotely so we could easily turn our attention to our clients and help them update their websites with new operating info and make sure their social media accounts reflected the numerous changes happening in real-time.
No matter what business you are in, COVID-19 has brought into focus the importance of staying on top of both your website and social media accounts. The success or failure of businesses during recent months was largely dependent on their ability to re-focus their offerings to online operations while keeping all interactions with customers safe. During the initial days of COVID-19 we had numerous panicked businesses contact us as they had never really invested in an online platform for sales nor had they engaged their customer base on social media. Fortunately, we were happy to quickly help get their business online and plan for the future.
At Insiteful Solutions, we are experts in online marketing and social media engagement – which is why we are pleased to share all we have learned during COVID-19 so businesses can prepare for future disruption to their regular business practice.
One of the most important things we learned in recent months is that businesses that attempted to carry on as if COVID-19 was not taking place and would pass quickly not only lost customers but their brands took a severe hit. Not responding to worldwide events, or responding badly, can do more damage to your business than almost anything else. For the month of March 2020, Facebook reported an incredible 70% increase in use; people were at home and were looking for ways to connect, be entertained and learn more about the situation. This is why it is so important for you to engage with your customer base on social media.
Setting the Tone
From the outset of any worldwide event that impacts people’s lives and business operations, it is important to quickly decide on the tone you wish to set through your social media channels and website.
While it may seem obvious the most important thing you need to convey is empathy and concern – not just for your staff and customers – but for everyone. Showing that your business can put aside concerns of commerce and rise above the desire to compete in a quickly contracting marketplace shows that your company and its leadership are confident and care about something beyond the bottom line. During the first two to three weeks of the pandemic, Insiteful Solutions advised our clients to focus on people’s well-being and share when appropriate information on how people could still interact with your business. One of the most important things we were able to do for nearly all our clients was to make sure the President/CEO of the company sent a personal message to customers via email, the company website and social media channels. Unlike most messages from senior leadership, these messages contained no ‘ask’ – but were mainly a message to check-in with customers and to assure people that all precautions were being taken to move forward safely. We found that these messages helped greatly to build a sense of community and connect people.
Don’t Forget Email For Online Marketing
Email turned out to be one of the most, if not the most, effective ways to reach out to customers. By tapping into your email lists you can communicate directly to people who have previously engaged with your business and brand. While social media is incredibly effective, messages on these channels can lack a personal touch. Email access to customers has proved very beneficial for our clients as a way to create an exchange of communication between the company and the client.
Whether you’re just exploring social media or you’re experienced but trying to navigate this new world, the steps below will guide you to the right solution.
Don’t Forget the Data
Whether your company had excellent data on your customer base before COVID-19 or not, recent months have proven that companies can never relax when it comes to data collection. To communicate effectively with your customer base and potential customers it is much easier to hit the right tone if you understand thoroughly who your audience is. If you have been in business for several years you may feel that you understand your customer and don’t need any more information – incorrect! People change, people age, and people respond to crises differently depending on many factors.
Once we passed through the first few weeks of COVID-19 we started advising clients to start re-thinking and updating their data collection. The basics were fairly simple: make sure your name/age/address capture was up to date so you could identify who exactly you were speaking to. Then we encouraged them to do a deeper dive and try to find out how their customers were doing as they coped with COVID-19. If you are a global business your customers in New York were probably coping and feeling differently than your customers in New Zealand. If your customer base average age is 27 then they would probably be feeling differently about things than if your average age is 65. All of this information can feedback into your marketing strategy that will guide your company into the future. By having this information on hand you can tailor your messaging and make sure you are hitting the right tone and providing the best information needed by your customers.
Work with the Present, Plan for the Future.
It is difficult (near impossible in fact), to know what the future holds. But as COVDI-19 ebbs and different parts of the world get back to a more ‘normal’ level of functioning it is still an incredible time to learn about our shared ‘new normal’ and how it will impact your business. No matter what market you operate in a few if any, businesses will not be majorly changed by COVID-19. Taking the lessons learned and data collected from the last few months can better prepare your company for the future if these lessons are applied in the right way.
At Insiteful Solutions, we are fortunate to have clients across Canada and around the globe. We have guided over 50 clients in recent months in their online marketing efforts. Whether your company has been operating for a year or ten years we know we can help guide you during this challenging time. Give us a call today to get started.
No one can give you an accurate prediction of what the immediate future holds for brands and marketers. We know that this crisis will end eventually, and we know that right now, at least, there’s a lot of uncertainty on a variety of fronts. As such, we can’t plan as far into the future as we would have before. We need to be nimble and agile in our approaches and able to pivot to the next thing at any moment. If your organization is already functioning this way, congratulations! You’re in a good position. If not, now is as good of a time as any to start.
Please visit our contact page if you have any questions about online marketing or email us at email@example.com – 905-947-8235 x 103
Online Scheduling Insiteful Solutions
Let Insiteful Solutions Help you Get Your Business Back to Work with our Online Scheduling System
Getting Ready for the Future Post COVID-19
As the cloud of COVID-19 lifts and the various provinces start phased opening for places other than essential services, Insiteful Solutions has been hard at work helping our clients get ready to re-open and re-start operations. The past few weeks have been heartrending and complex. As we grapple with the ‘new normal’ that faces us Insiteful Solutions is here to help people get their businesses back up and running, safely and responsibly.
Doing Business in the age of Social Distancing
With the advent of COVID-19 in early March of this year the world took a sudden and dramatic shift. By mid-March many provinces had closed all but essential services and worldwide people were advised to stay home and isolate to protect themselves and the most vulnerable among us from the virus. These swift actions left many businesses scrambling not just to close businesses but how to transfer their operations to e-commerce in all attempts to keep their businesses running. At Insiteful Solutions we immediately swung into high-gear and set up e-commerce capabilities for several of our clients and made sure that their websites were mobile friendly. We also advised all of our clients to reach out via their social media channels to make sure that their customers were aware of their new operation schedule and how they could still provide service to them.
The province of Ontario has developed a framework to guide its re-opening plans. It is a three- step approach which will slowly see businesses, services and public spaces open. On the website www.ontario.ca the province outlines the steps to make sure things open with public health and safety at the forefront of everything. One of the main components which businesses all over the world, including Canada, will have to grapple with is how to maintain social distancing when the doors of businesses open. It is recommended that people stay 2 meters apart under all circumstances.
The New Solution – Online Scheduling
In the weeks and months to come it is clear that businesses are going to have to operate differently. Whereas before businesses were able to open their doors and allow anyone to visit within their operating hours, social distancing will cause these ‘regular’ operations to change.
One of the ways the business world is responding to planning in a post-COVID19 world is to organize online scheduling for business. If you run a retail store for example your previous operations most likely saw people come and go as they wish – going forward for the foreseeable future retail stores will need to monitor the number of people in their stores at any given time and do their best to encourage social distancing within their retail space. While many stores that were able to remain open at the beginning of COVID-19 started instituting line-ups outside their store, line ups might not be the best way forward. That’s why at Insiteful Solutions we are helping clients set up an online scheduling system so your customers can reserve a time to visit your store to go shopping.
Avoid the Stress of Scheduling
There are numerous benefits for your business to scheduling customers to visit your store or business. The system Insiteful Solutions is using takes all the hassle and stress out of organizing times for your customers to visit you. Clients can self-schedule the times they wish to visit you based on the information and parameters you provide; this allows you to anticipate the number of people that will be in your store at any given time thus allowing you to schedule the appropriate amount of staff at the right times. If you are a business that offers a certain service, again clients can self-schedule and provide the exact details of the service they wish to receive. The online system doesn’t just take care of scheduling – it covers off an incredible array of back of house work which will allow you to focus on other things. The online scheduling system can be embedded into your website for easy access and sync with Outlook.com, iCloud, Google Calendar, Exchange and Office 365. If your offering is solely an online venture then this system can sync with GoToMeeting, Join.me and Zoom so that when the appointment time comes customers are automatically linked to the online meeting forum.
As Canadian businesses quickly restructure their operations to cope with the complexity of COVID19, businesses are having to operate with leaner staffing and overall be more flexible. The online scheduling system doesn’t just help you book customers to visit your store – it can also by synced to whatever accounting system you use: QuickBooks, Freshbooks and Xero integrations are all possible. This syncing of systems frees up time from the nitty gritty of invoicing so you can focus on other things. Clients can also pay for the service they receive through PayPal, Square or Stripe. Credit card information is also securely kept for one time or future payments. Clients can also tip for the service they receive and use vouchers or coupons they have been given. The Insiteful Solution online scheduling system is so much more than just telling people when they can visit your store or business – you can be rest assured that the detail work around visits will be taken care of so you can focus on your interface with your customer and supporting your business.
Keeping Your Brand Strong
And you don’t need to worry about an online scheduling system diluting your brand. Insiteful Solutions will embed the online scheduling system into your existing website – your clients won’t have to deal with a clunky transfer between sites or any confusion that may cause. Everything about the online scheduling system will be branded as if your company created it. We can design the online scheduling system to display your logo and customize it with your company colours, the online app can be edited so that the text reflects the tone and culture of your business.
All the Convenience, None of the Hassle
One of the best things about the online scheduling system is the convenience for both you and your customer. Once a customer books an appointment they will automatically receive reminder emails or text messages so they don’t forget the appointment. The system is set up to take into consideration multiple time zones should you be located in more than one city and will automatically do the time zone conversion for customers.
Insiteful Solutions has been working with clients in Markham, Toronto and all over the GTA for nearly 20 years to address all of their digital marketing needs. With the onset of COVID-19 we were able to quickly help existing and new clients pivot their business to function online. As we face the future with our clients we are more focused than ever to help them develop new operating systems so their business can continue to function and thrive. Contact us today so we can help you set up an online scheduling system for your business and help grow your business!
The Power of Social Media During a Crisis
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the staff at Insiteful Solutions has been busy helping our clients in Markham and across the GTA ramp up their e-commerce sites and update client websites with the latest news and information related to the virus. The past stressful weeks have taught us more than ever the need to be prepared; we were fortunate that the majority of our staff were already working remotely so we could change our operations seamlessly.
One of the areas we have been most busy is advising clients on their use of social media. In the early days of COVID-19, with everything happening so quickly, social media channels turned out to be the fastest way our clients could communicate effectively with their customers. To give you some idea of the reach of social media in Canada, it estimated that 64% of Canadians have a social media account and over 50% of Canadians are registered to one or more social media platforms. 70% of social media users said they logged on at least once a month.
The popularity of social media makes it a perfect medium to reach people in a crisis. With many provinces, including Ontario, ordering virtually all public activities to close suddenly to flatten the COVID-19 curve, businesses were left scrambling to figure out their new operations. Many businesses, such as restaurants and certain retailers, were able to transition to curb-side pick-up or delivery. Others were left not knowing how they were going to alter their operations to serve their customers. With all of this confusion it was a comfort for both business owners and their customers that they could keep in touch via social media. At Insiteful Solutions we help clients with all of their digital marketing needs; from building websites to their social media platforms, we make sure our clients are up today with the most recent trends and changes to the industry.
With the unprecedented times we are living in we have found the following to be helpful advice to our clients for their social media platforms. With the news changing almost daily it can be difficult for business owners to strike the right tone: hopeful or somber? Idealistic or realistic? While there is often no ‘right way’ to communicate with your customers via social media we have found that if you post content that is deemed insensitive it can negatively affect your brand. The following can hopefully serve as a guide or refresher on how to approach your clients on social media during a crisis.
Who you are in a Crisis?
Great brands and businesses are a result of great leadership and teamwork. The best businesses understand their customers and how to communicate with them. During a crisis is time to connect with your customers on a personal level; with something as serious as a global pandemic it’s crucial that you reach out and stay connected. The values that built your brand can also be on display. We advised our clients not to ‘sell’ anything to their clients with their early social media posts – no one wants to be sold to during a crisis. While some business people had the instinct to shutter their social media accounts we advised people to keep the lines of communication open. With people suddenly isolated and their worlds upended they need human contact, even if it’s over social media.
Know Your Audience
Many businesses post to their social media channels without fully knowing who their audience is. Fortunately companies like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have done the analytical work for you and you can easily tap into this data to learn more about who is viewing your social media platforms. Knowing your audience is always important, but especially so during a crisis. Are you catering to the healthcare industry and you have many followers that are frontline workers? Then you would tailor your message to this industry. You want to make sure your social media content is reflective of your audience, that way you can curate your content to grab their attention. During a crisis is a key time to connect with new and old customers.
Be Sensitive to the Times
In 2014 the clothing brand American Apparel created a social media faux pas that is still being talked about. On July 4 of that year a well-meaning person in their social media department posted a July 4 greeting on the company’s social media platforms. The greeting was accompanied by an image of a plume of white cloud against a blue sky. The staffer thought the image was fireworks exploding – it wasn’t. It was actually a photograph of the Challenger Space Shuttle exploding shortly after takeoff – a fatal incident that occurred in 1986. The American Apparel post has been used ever since on what not to do on social media. With the onset of COVID-19, many businesses began to struggle, while we advised clients to quickly improve their e-commerce offerings and switch to delivery or curbside pick-up we also advised them to understand the humanitarian aspect of these times and do what they could to assist others who may be struggling. Communicating the human side of your company during a crisis will let your customers know that your company cares.
Keep on Top of the Changing Landscape
COVID-19 has been challenging in more ways than one. It seems that daily the news about the virus changes and governments (and businesses!) are left scurrying to keep up. While most companies have a solid social media marketing calendar based on their business plan, times of crisis may have caused their plans to be paused or put on a complete hold. One industry especially hard hit by COVID-19 has been the restaurant and hospitality industry. With guidance from governments constantly updated restaurants have had to keep in touch with their customer. Being fluid in your planning and accurate with your information allows you to continue to control your brand messaging – even during a crisis.
A distinct aspect of COVID-19 has been how it has affected everyone globally. While these times of crisis can be extraordinarily stressful it can also be a time to bring people together. While your customers will want to know the core information about your business and its operations, they will also appreciate a human touch to communications during this time. Don’t be afraid to communicate with customers on a more personal level.
At Insiteful Solutions we have worked for nearly 20 years with clients in Markham, the GTA and across Canada on all aspects of digital marketing campaigns including social media. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help your business navigate this current crisis.
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