How COVID-19 Has Changed Marketing For Small Businesses

COVID-19 Has Disrupted Every Digital Marketing Strategy Out There

With the COVID-19 pandemic has come a large number of “new norms”. These changes are also dramatically impacting the way people are searching, thus altering the way small businesses can market their practice, firm, or general business. People have shifted the way they traditionally search for businesses, services or products they need, and their expectations have altered regarding how they believe a business should interact with them.

For this reason, many small businesses, especially health care practices, lawyers, and other traditionally “in-person” businesses are having to alter their operational approach and how they interact with their patients or clients. This is even more true when it comes to how to market their practice, firm, or business. Below is a list of just a few of the changes we noticed during the pandemic and following the nation’s re-opening, which businesses should consider when determining how to enhance their opportunity to obtain net new patients, clients, or customers.

Marketing Changes & A Few Considerations On How To Respond

  • Desire For Information & Updates

    • Change: With the pandemic, everyone was requesting information and updates from restaurants, the government, the schools, and businesses as well. Though many businesses were not labeled as “essential”, it didn’t change the demand that people had for these businesses. Instead, they just wanted more information around whether the business was still open, if so what their new hours were and upon re-opening, what might have changed with the services or products offered.
    • Considered Response: One consideration for all businesses would be to add a “Business Update To Coronavirus” section that is readily available to everyone that visits the site. Even though the nation is opening up again, people are still curious about any updates to your practice, firm, or business and how this might impact them.
      • They also want to ensure that you are open and having it readily available on your website makes it one less step for people to confirm you are open and any considerable changes they should know about without having to call.
      • We would also recommend updating your Google My Business Listing to ensure it contains all the pertinent updates to your business. Both of these steps will be increasingly important if another mandatory shutdown were to occur again in the future.
        • Within 24 hours of the virus becoming a nationwide pandemic (~March 15th in our area), 100% of our partners had a link at the top of their website that led to a full-page of detailed information regarding how the healthcare practice, law firm, or general business was responding to the pandemic. 
  • Expectations Around How To Engage With You

    • Change: People not only want to confirm whether you are open, what your hours are, and what services or products you still offer, but just as importantly, they want to understand how this impacts how they interact or engage with you and your staff. Many people, including myself, are still leery to go to a health care practice, law firm, or business that doesn’t have any information regarding how they are keeping me and their staff safe when interacting with their business.
    • Considered Response: Though it is an inconvenience, people feel more comfortable when they see that healthcare practices, law firms, and other in-person small businesses are mandating a COVID-19 “test” (checking temperature, asking about any potential risk of infection, etc.) given to all people entering their facility and requiring masks for any person entering. In seeing this listed on the website and other digital and physical assets, they are assured this business is less likely to put them in harm’s way since both the staff and patients, clients, or customers are forced to comply with CDC best practices.
      • Another option, especially for doctors and lawyers, is to add HIPAA compliant “Telehealth” options or 256-bit encrypted virtual conference capabilities and allow people to easily book a Telehealth appointment or a safe virtual appointment online with a few quick clicks.
        • Within 24 hours of the virus becoming a nationwide pandemic, 100% of our partners had an update regarding what service changes would occur due to COVID-19 and how patients & clients could engage with that healthcare practice or law firm.
        • We also immediately added clickable Telehealth or 256-bit encrypted virtual conference on their website paid for by us, to ensure they didn’t miss a beat during the pandemic. This allowed people to quickly book a virtual appointment online by either syncing with the doctor’s calendar or going to the internal staff to confirm ahead of time with each patient.
        • For this reason, many of our healthcare practices and lawyers actually did BETTER during the pandemic, simply because they were some of the few offering these options so quickly. 
  • Shift To Social

    • Change: During the pandemic, people were frantically searching Google for open businesses to purchase the necessary items they needed while being mandated to stay home. Unfortunately, when searching, people became less and less confident with the search results they were finding, since though businesses appeared to be open and providing the service or product they needed, when calling or visiting the business they found that the business was either closed or operating under different hours or with only limited services or products.
      • For this reason, and many others, people started flocking to social media for business updates, knowing that though a business may not update their website, Google Listing or another search-related asset, if they updated their social media page, the update was “new” and most likely still relevant, especially if posted that day.
      • Facebook alone said “it was seeing spikes of more than 50 percent on its messaging products and now logs about 700 million daily calls across Messenger and WhatsApp…plus 3 Billion people [are] now using a Facebook product at least once a month”* according to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
    • Considered Response: Knowing that people are now going to social media significantly higher than before even now as the nation is opening up again, consider using social media to provide more relevant updates, information, and insight regarding the services or products provided by your business. With more relevant information and updates, this tells people two things…
      1. Is the business open?
        • The business is still healthy and doing well so is likely to be there 3-6 months from now, which is what people want, especially if going to a doctor, lawyer, or other in-person business they may need assistance again from in the future.
      2. How is the business responding to the pandemic?
        • The business cares about its patients, clients, or customers enough to keep them apprised of what’s going on with the business, the way they’re doing business, and any changes relevant to the business’s services or products.
          • One of the biggest changes we made within 24 hours of the virus becoming a nationwide pandemic was to shift our Marketing Agency to become somewhat of a Public Relations firm for our partners, immediately offering regular social media updates as frequently as necessary.
          • The goal was to update our partner’s patients and clients on business updates, general industry updates based on their business vertical, and how they can best engage with the healthcare practice, law firm, or general business to remain safe while still obtaining the service they needed.
          • By also targeting referring doctors or referring businesses, we were also able to capture a large volume of people closing down their doors but willing to refer their patients or clients to our partners.
  • Enhanced Desire To Do All Research Online

    • Change: With an ever-increasing desire to learn and become updated with how the “new norms” are impacting people’s daily lives, they are just as curious about how their interactions and engagements with certain types of businesses might change in the future. For this reason, people are spending more time researching the services that they would normally just trust from a referral source.
    • Considered Response: Because people are requesting more information and want more confidence in making the right choice in the doctor, lawyer, or general business they choose, it might be worth spending the time investing in writing articles, blogs, or even just a simple tip or educational post on social media.
      • With people investing more time in determining their choice of doctor, lawyer, or general business, being a thought-leader in your vertical and specific area of practice, law, or business will be increasingly important in order to continue to remain ahead of your competitors now and over time.
        • As part of our best practices, we are continuously working with our partners to help them figure out how they can showcase their thought-leadership whether through articles, video, social posts, infographics, or a combination of other different digital assets. 
        • Within 24 hours of the pandemic hitting, we proactively wrote articles on the behalf of our partners in order to help them be seen as thought-leaders in how to respond with the changes due to the pandemic, which dramatically helped build confidence in why people should consider their healthcare practice, law firm, or general business over their competitors.

For more information on what marketing changes we saw and responses we found successful during the pandemic and now as the nation has begun to open back up again, feel free to contact us today. We are a digital agency that may not be the best fit for every healthcare practice, law firm or small business, but we are always happy to provide some guidance and insight to help others make informed decisions towards their marketing efforts.

Sources: *The Verge –