“Five Ways To Optimize Your Digital Marketing During The Covid-19 Pandemic” article originally published on Forbes

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been harder to build and create new business when you can’t communicate with people in person. With fewer opportunities to meet clients and customers, you need to focus on how you can creatively and consistently reach people in ways that may be new to you.

Business owners are increasingly relying on digital marketing to promote their business, but many of them have never learned how to optimize their online platforms. If you don’t know where to start, it can be especially difficult to create a digital marketing strategy to meet your business’s needs during the pandemic.

Here are some ways to help your business communicate effectively online:

Optimize your digital footprint. 

What your business looks like online can be called a “digital footprint.” It consists of the places your business is listed or featured including your website, social media channels and directory listings (such as Google My Business (GMB), Apple Maps, Yelp, etc.). Search algorithms look at all of these things to help people find your business, which is why you need to make sure they’re all claimed, optimized and reflect the current status of your business to communicate your brand messaging during this time. 

Pro tip: Make a list of all the places you and your business are currently featured on the internet and set a reminder to check/update them once every one to two months. Google search yourself and your company in an “incognito window” to see where your customers are finding you.

Maintain direct communication.

During the pandemic, we have seen, a big uptick in companies communicating directly with customers online. More businesses are using email marketing, such as email blasts or simple direct email outreach, and there has also been a return to phone calls and direct mail. I recommend taking the time to clean up your contacts/CRM and setting aside time to touch base with your top 20% of contacts directly via phone call or direct email.

Pro tip: Calling someone out of the blue during a pandemic and trying to sell them something without any context around their current situation is just cold calling, and no one likes that. Take the time to catch up and stay in touch, providing connections and resources when you can. The sales will come. 

Connect consistently with your customers. 

There is a challenge with consistency right now, but you have to consistently stay in touch with your existing and prospective customers. Period.

Some in-person networking events went virtual for a while, then tried to meet in person again, decided to go back to virtual for safety and are now considering their future plans. It’s really hard to stay consistent with people during the craziness of this pandemic, but adopting consistent digital communication with your current client base, your strategic partners and anyone that you’ve previously connected with gives your brand a reputation for showing up.

My team has focused on making sure we have an email blast that’s going out every single month sharing all the information about what we’re doing, how we’re helping people in our community and how we’re changing our offerings. Adopting a similar strategy will allow your audience to stay up to date with what’s going on with you and will showcase how you can help them. 

Pro tip: Email to engage, not to sell. Emailing constantly with discounts and sales pitches can alienate your audience. Emailing with value-added content wins eyes.

Show empathy in your messaging. 

In addition to providing consistent communication, your empathetic side needs to shine through in your business’s messaging. You can’t completely refrain from selling — especially in those first three or four months after the Covid-19 pandemic hit — it can feel really uncomfortable to call people and ask if they wanted to buy right now. People are having a hard time managing the pandemic’s consequences, so you have to start with empathy.

Ask how they are, and truly listen to the answer. Where are they struggling, and how have their problems changed? Your messaging needs to show you are in it together for the long haul, and your behavior needs to back that up.

Pro tip: Reach out to check on your current clients and ask what they are struggling with and how you can help, even if it isn’t in your product and services scope. Take time to evaluate if your products and services need to change to meet the current market needs with smaller packages, shorter terms or complimentary consultations, for example. 

Recognize what your customers expect.

In the digital age, your clients expect to be able to get information about you online fast. Are you still open for business? Do you have special hours? How are you taking precautions for safety? Are you doing anything new or special to help clients during this time?

If you haven’t posted to your social channels in weeks, haven’t updated your website or aren’t available through online chat or phone call, people are likely to move on. Inconsistency leads to doubt and people expect clear answers quickly. Make it easy for them to do business with you by being direct and upfront about your status and how you can help solve their problems.

Pro tip: Use a pinned post on your social media channels to answer frequently asked questions and include estimations of your response times, especially if it is longer than normal. Answer direct messages as quickly as possible, even if it is just to acknowledge you have received it and will get back to them. 

Realizing that your customers are also struggling and how important it is for you to show up for them is key to maintaining relationships. You can do this in several ways, such as being present online, staying consistent with your communication, being direct and showing empathy.

Many of us are struggling right now, and your customers have other priorities. Optimizing your digital marketing and making empathetic, informative communication a regular practice makes it easier for everyone to find you and rely on you when they’re looking for the solution your product or service provides.