Skip to Content
Close Icon

The Business of Quarantine - Serving Customers in a Crisis

Still Open? Getting the Word Out During COVID-19

Using Google Insights, Facebook Insights & Local Resources to Reach Customers in this New Environment 

By Cassi Price, Manager of Marketing Strategy

In mid-March 2020, we all entered uncharted territory. Schools closed. Companies sent much of their team to work from home. Entire states shut down non-essential businesses. With so much going on, your initial thoughts may be to withdraw from communication and marketing efforts. However, this pandemic can actually present a rare opportunity to rise to the occasion and reach customers and community members who need your help. Let us explain why.  

In the last few weeks, what your customers knew about your business has changed dramatically. In this current pandemic environment, there are so many questions about your business: 

  • Is your business still open? 

  • Can you deliver your products safely to me? 

  • What do you have in stock? 

  • Can I communicate with you via video chat? 

How do you answer these questions to make sure your customers know you’re still open and can give them the products and services they’re looking for? 

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your regulars know you’re open and able to serve them. You’ll need to shout those messages from the digital rooftops to reach your customers where they are right now, at home. Google insights show that people are relying on their smartphones, tablets or computers now more than ever. In fact, Forbes reported on March 25, 2020, that internet usage has increased by 70 percent with this same research showing “eCommerce will be the other sector that will see a revenue boost as a result of the pandemic.” Verizon reported seeing a nearly 20 percent increase in web traffic in just one week’s time. This is unprecedented. 

Your customers are searching on Google, Facebook, and Bing, to see where they can pick up immediate household needs or materials for a project, what different financial services they should be taking advantage of or to plan for the coming needs of their aging parents. They are looking for a provider nearby who now offers delivery services or video consultations. Yes, many turn to Amazon because they know they can deliver their goods within two days. But so many in your community are researching ways to support their local providers, too. These shoppers are looking to make quick decisions because they realize what is available today may not be tomorrow. So, will your business show up where they’re searching and supply the information they’re looking for? 

Is now the time for your business to go quiet online? 

Is now the time to go quiet on social media, ignore updating the information on your website, stop sending email updates to your customer list, or neglect your search audience? Amazon hopes you do, but the answer is “No.” Connecting with your customers online may be the only way for them to know you’re open and able to serve their needs. It’s  up to you to communicate how your business is handling these moments and how you’re able to serve those needs. 

Side note: Google just announced that many advertisers who continue to stay relevant during this time may be eligible for $340 million in ad credits that Google is making available to small and medium-sized businesses. 

If you're able, now is a great time to adjust your strategy on social media, modify any online ads you have running and make sure your website is accessible and helpful to all customers that are visiting. These are the ways customers will find you while they remain socially distant.  

How do you adjust your online strategy to reach customers during this pandemic? 

During this time, we’ve noticed new opportunities in all areas of online marketing. Here are some tips to help you adjust your message and make the most out of what new search data is telling us as well as what we’re seeing in successful campaigns.  

Adjust to Dramatically Changing Search Trends 

Since mid-March, search trends have changed dramatically. We’ve seen obvious search terms like “coronavirus”, “take out” and “delivery” soar to top trending terms, but there have also been increases in more unexpected search terms.  

For example, the week of March 15-March 22, the VGM Forbin Web Marketing Team saw a dramatic climb in healthcare keyword searches that are still on the rise for terms that include: 

  • Hospital beds (across the nation) 

  • Ventilators 

  • CPAP 

Screenshot of Google Trends for Hospital Beds Screenshot of Google Trends for ventilator 

We also saw a huge increase in the same week in financial searches that are still on the rise: 

  • SBA lending (for only specific states like the District of Columbia, Colorado, Wisconsin) 

  • Small business loans (everywhere) 

  • Payment protection program (only in specific states like Idaho, Kansas and Iowa) 

Screenshot of Google Trends for SBA lending Screenshot of Google Trends for small business loans 

Screenshot of Google Trends for payment protection program 

How to research search trends in Google Trends 

You can do this research for your business. But be warned – it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole in this research.  

  1. Go to Google Trends: 

  2. Enter a search term someone would use to find services related to your business that are currently relevant. At VGM Forbin, we would search for a term like “work from home setup,” which saw a huge increase in March.  

  3. Make sure you’re filtering to the United States or your state, and then explore the data that comes up for metro area focuses, related topics and related search queries! 

Once you’ve found the trending search terms that align with your products and services, you’ve discovered the services that your community is most in need of right now from your business. These are the services that you should focus on when updating and adding content to your website, online ads, social media and community resources.  

How to add helpful social distancing-related content to your site 

Now more than ever, you need to look at your website as your virtual store or office as this is going to be the most accessible representation of your business – the world’s window to your business. This is a great excuse to finally dedicate time to updating the content on your website to reflect how you're serving customers today. Keep those trending search terms in mind as you develop content, remembering to be as specific as possible on how you can deliver those services to your customers during this pandemic. After polishing the main service pages that are focused on those trending terms, let’s get online ads matching those high-volume search queries to your appropriate pages. 

How to adjust online ads during COVID-19 

As you can see with Google Trends, search volume is changing dramatically across virtually every type of search. When you see the volume is high for terms that align with your products and services, you want to be there to get a piece of the increase in traffic. On the other side, when the search volume is low, there isn’t as much to go around, so you won’t want to be one who’s left out while competitors take what little is available.  

You’ll also see that there is a lot of opportunity in the area of display/content network, as well as callouts and sitelinks. These are great areas to get people more important information on any service changes such as COVID-19 hours or special delivery services. 

So, develop your campaigns for the high-volume search terms, get those display ads going, and make sure you’re taking full advantage of your callouts and sitelinks that spotlight your polished pages. 

How to adjust your approach on social media 

We have observed that Facebook’s organic content performance has increased and the cost for paid ads on Facebook has decreased during this pandemic. However, the true reason for this is that people are engaging more with organic content because brands are rising to the occasion and posting more unique content about their helpful response to COVID-19.  

Now is the time to post more often and provide content that engages or brings people together (virtually, of course). Take a tip from the brands receiving the most recognition on Facebook and focus on content that: 

  • Shows contributions to your communities and your employees 

  • Thank the community for their support 

  • Shares how you’re keeping your employees and customers safe while still serving your customers’ needs 

Facebook also reported that March saw an increase of 50 percent in Facebook Live view. This tells us that Facebook users are flocking to watch live updates from their favorite brands and spokespeople. Consumers are yearning to be in the moment with everyone else on social media. There’s no other way to do that than by joining a Facebook Live video, or if your focus is B2B, start up a LinkedIn Live session. 

Making the community connection 

Once you have great content covering your elevated services that are designed to help your customers with their needs during COVID-19, broadcast that message through community resources such as: 

  • Local Chamber of Commerce 

  • Industry Associations 

  • Community Facebook Groups 

  • New Community Strong Sites/Resources that have popped up since the start of this pandemic 

Updating Your Online Directory Listing 

As the number one online directory, Google My Business has taken steps to help businesses show they’re “Temporarily closed” or have changed hours due to COVID-19. If you’re a brick and mortar office or store, be sure to update this area online as it’s often the first information a consumer sees when searching for your business via Google search or on Google Maps. Here are instructions Google has provided on how to complete this change. However, the team at VGM Forbin also specializes in online directories and is happy to help you update this information. 

Need Help? We’re Here to Help You Adjust to the Impact of COVID-19 

Overall, we certainly understand the temptation to cut investments in times of uncertainty, but we believe significant shifts in the commercial environment are the moments that separate growing businesses from those who will forever remain smaller players in the field. At Forbin, we'd love to help you adjust to the impact of COVID-19 so your business doesn’t fall victim to this moment. Contact us at [email protected] for help deciding how to best handle this situation and how to be smart about this once in a lifetime opportunity to make up ground on the largest e-commerce store in history. Call us at (877) 592-9125 to set up a time to discuss ways to save money by focusing marketing in the right places and how to help your customers during this time of need by getting the word out.  

Using Google Insights, Facebook Insights & Local Resources to Reach Customers in this New Environment  By Cassi Price, Manager of Marketing Strategy In mid-March 2020, we all entered uncharted territory. Schools closed. Companies...