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There’s No Better Time: Strengthening Your Digital Marketing Strategy During COVID-19

Digital Marketing Tools and Solutions to Keep Your Business Moving During the COVID-19 Crisis

The fast-moving trajectory of the Coronavirus throughout the world is having a significant and continuing impact on businesses, forcing many to strengthen their digital marketing strategy during COVID-19. 

Since the spread of the virus began, we at Fishnet have had a unique perspective on the implications for any businesses’ digital marketing strategy during COVID-19. Most noticeably is how the virus has shifted consumer perceptions, behaviors, and habits, putting far more at stake for businesses than just a change to working remotely. 

Depending on your industry (because there are winners and losers of the Coronavirus outbreak) there can be significant impacts. 

When consumers change their focus – and especially when there is a fear component at play – web traffic, leads, and sales can go down. Ads can become less effective as people reserve their time and money for things deemed more pressing. Strategic content may attract fewer eyeballs as people invest their attention in other areas. 

Another more abrupt implication of the COVID-19 crisis has been the cancellation of trade shows, conferences, and festivals large and small worldwide. While many organizers were able to convert their planned event into a digital experience, such as holding panels, presentations, breakout sessions, and discussion forums online, many were simply not set up for that type of functionality, and millions in anticipated revenue were never realized. 

But Don’t Despair – There is a Solution!

The COVID-19 ripple effect will be felt whether you’re a B2B, B2C or DTC company; however, whether your topmost concern is event coordination, keeping your audience engaged, or just generally keeping your business afloat – or all three – a big part of the solution is your digital marketing strategy during COVID-19. 

And we’re not just talking about advertising and content optimization. When the opportunity to be face-to-face with your team, your customers, or your prospects is no longer possible, digital tools and solutions can be excellent stand-ins for all kinds of in-person activities and business functions. 

Your company also likely has extra budget from travel plans or events that have since been canceled, and now is the perfect time to reallocate those monies toward digital efforts that can salvage some of those interactions rather than yield zero activity or results. 

Start with Internal and External Digital Collaboration 

By now, your company is likely into its second or even third week of remote working. 

If you’re not yet leveraging a remote collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom for internal or external meetings, you should be. The first thing you should do is get your company set up for virtual workflows.

But you can’t stop there. Weathering the COVID-19 crisis from a business perspective is about more than remote meeting tools. Your audience is still out there, and the question now has become: how can you continue reaching them with the right message during this very different time?

Digital Solutions That May Not be on Your Radar – But Should Be

Now that reality has set in that no live gatherings, happy hours, in-person networking events, or business meetings can be held in the near future, it’s time to consider your options to keep the lights on for you, your audience, and your prospective customers and clients.

To get people together, even when you can’t physically be in the same place, marketers are turning to live or recorded online options to make it happen. 

  • Stay Face-to-Face with Video: Bring live or pre-recorded video events to your audience. Video is a quick, easy way to engage your customers, answer their questions, have topical discussions, and book meetings. And with social distancing essentially eliminating real-life interactions, video is a welcome, personalized way to maintain and grow relationships with your audience. 
  • Deliver Product Experiences: If your company was planning to reveal or show off a new product at an upcoming event, digital tools can help you provide your audience with a virtual look at the product or a live demonstration.
  • Live Stream Anything: There’s a multitude of tools out there that enable your company to live stream any kind of content, whether it’s an exercise class or a tutorial. Social media platforms like Facebook Live or YouTube Live are great options, or you can leverage video apps like Zoom.
  • Make it a Webinar, Podcast, or Audiobook: These aren’t new concepts but they can be lifesavers right now when it comes to delivering content to your audience digitally. Consider what type of information you’d like to share and how to best disseminate it in one of these ways. Take your customers through a multi-step guide to using a product or solving a problem you know they have.

In addition to live or recorded online interactions, there are additional ways to leverage digital tactics, and if you’re not updating or taking advantage of these yet, now is the time to do so. 

  • Social Media: Your customers will primarily turn to your social channels to communicate with you and check for updates and timely information, such as a change in your hours or the date and time of your next webinar. Make sure your business is accessible and responsive. Update your social pages, post any relevant news, and maintain quick response times.
  • Website: Your customers will also visit your website to check for updates or reach out. Make sure your website is accessible, contains updated information, and has visible links to your social pages so users can get everything they need from you without having to dig.
  • Blog/Content: If your company has a blog or news page, or both, keep them updated! Depending on your industry, there may be a decent amount of relevant information worth sharing during the COVID-19 crisis. Share these updates on your social pages as well to increase visibility.
  • Email Newsletters: Does your company have a database of email subscribers? Leverage that list to begin communicating regularly with news and updates your customers will care about. If you haven’t launched an email effort yet, this is a great time to get started with an email client and get your company into your customers’ inboxes. Go one step further and leverage a CMS platform like Salesforce to manage your database.
  • E-Commerce Channels: Many businesses in the retail industry have had to shut their doors during the COVID-19 crisis, making it almost mandatory to continue sales opportunities for customers online – the alternative is far less desirable. Activating an e-commerce platform is completely doable in a short amount of time, and can be very successful with additional tactics like website push notifications to give your subscribers a clear understanding of what they get when they click. E-commerce and push notifications aren’t just for retail either – any industry looking to increase product marketing online can leverage this tactic.
  • SEO and Advertising Tactics: Now more than ever you’ll want to attract your target audience to your website and content. Luckily, most people are spending more time online and in front of their televisions right now – Neilson reports a 60% increase in content being watched online and on TV simply because people are staying home. What a perfect time to reach your audience through search or targeted advertising.

Implementing these tactics can be a game-changer for your business and digital marketing strategy during COVID-19, and making it happen is as easy as partnering with a digital marketing agency. 

However, before launching these digital marketing tactics, make sure you’ve gotten a handle on the thing that’s going to drive audience engagement in the first place – your audience. 

Now, More Than Ever, You Need to Understand Your Audience

In order to deliver digital content your audience will want to engage with, your company has to have an understanding of what will resonate with them. What are they doing online? What are their pain points? Have they interacted with your website before, and if so, in what way? 

The more purposeful you can be in your digital content production, the better the results will be from enhancing your digital efforts. With every company looking for ways to captivate at-home audiences in this distracting and stressful time, you’ll get the best outcome from understanding your audience first. 

And while it might seem like the COVID-19 crisis is dominating every piece of content we come in contact with, you can still connect with your audience. The pandemic is simply changing the way we engage with each other and do business.

Hopefully, in not too much time, the Coronavirus will pass and we’ll all be able to reclaim the normalcy in our lives again. Until that happens, we all need to make adjustments to deal with the challenges to business operations in all areas. 

Because we are a digital marketing agency, we not only have extensive experience with a wide repertoire of the digital technology tools and solutions that can help your business successfully leverage your digital channels, but we’re ready to do so. Whether it’s because of a pandemic or because of a need to generally reposition your business, we’re able to jump in and help optimize your operations – no matter the industry you’re in.

And none of these digital tactics become irrelevant during normal business operations. Implementing them now will only mean you’ll be in a better position from a digital standpoint after this COVID-19 crisis passes. 

Contact us today to discuss what could help your business during this time, and beyond.

Move Over, Oscars. We’ve Got AVA Digital Awards

We’re Celebrating Awards Season With Our Award-Winning Clients

We’re excited to announce that four of our clients, Appleton Partners, Peloton Advisory, Polte, and MIT, each received an AVA Digital Award for new websites we designed, developed, and launched in 2019. 

Each website reflects the unique differentiators these companies bring to their markets and elevates their brand aesthetic with a fresh, next-generation look, feel, and functionality. 

We’re thrilled to be working with these amazing clients and proud to have provided them with award-winning website experiences.

Appleton Partners Wins AVA Platinum

Appleton Partners: Platinum Award
Appleton Partners provides personalized financial planning for clients and was looking for a website that reflected their growth and capabilities while remaining true to the company’s long heritage and valued reputation. 

Visit the site

Peloton Wins AVA Platinum

Peloton Advisory: Platinum Award
Peloton Advisory provides M&A services for privately-held businesses and was looking for a website that would help differentiate them from similar companies, but that would also communicate their unique client service and approach.

Visit the site

Polte Wins AVA Gold

Polte: Gold Award
Polte is a first-of-its-kind IoT location provider whose technology is uniquely able to track location indoors and outdoors using 4G and 5G cellular networks and cloud computing. They were looking for a website that would clearly communicate the advantage their technology offers and how it’s being leveraged today.

Visit the site

MIT Wins AVA Honorable Mention

MIT AI & The Future of Work Congress: Honorable Mention
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AI and the Future of Work Congress gathers academics, business leaders, entrepreneurs, education and labor leaders, and policymakers to discuss the impact and future trends of technological disruption. They were looking for a fresh new website that would convey the collaborative feel of the event, as well as the technology that’s driving it. 

Visit the site

Congratulations to our award-winning clients! If you’d like to discuss a new website or digital project that could earn your business an award, contact us today!

The Real Digital Customer Journey

Taking Stock of the Many Online Customer Touchpoints to Understand How Buying Decisions are Really Made 

When mapping out content and other touchpoints to serve the digital customer journey, one of the biggest mistakes marketers can make is thinking that their audience approaches their buying decisions as a linear series of actions.

The traditional, high-level customer journey progression adhered to by marketers looks something like this:

Customer Journey Progression

While this diagram is a great guide for how certain types of content can drive forward action as customers become more interested and educated, it can also lull us into a false sense of security that we understand how our customers are making decisions; i.e., first this, then this, then this.

Customers come into contact with a host of digital touchpoints, many of which aren’t controlled by the brand itself. Customers find information through Google search, ads, social media platforms, product reviews, blogs, industry publications, and product or company websites. 

Therefore, customer journeys can actually look a lot more like this:

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This digital customer journey contains 35 touchpoints using a combination of desktop and mobile to navigate the journey. 

The customer is still enjoying forward momentum, but it’s happening much more slowly.

What this graph proves is that the digital customer journey is complex, and if brands want to reach the customer and track their behavior effectively, several actions are necessary:

  • Brands need to produce several pieces of content for each stage of the buyer journey to ensure that they are providing multiple ways for customers to get information – both so customers have multiple assets at their disposal for broader research, and because not everyone wants to read a whitepaper.
  • Brands need to key into the differences between digital devices used in the customer journey and how these variations can impact buying decisions; i.e., mobile vs. desktop vs. tablet.
  • Brands need to insert themselves into the customer journey in more ways than just producing a multitude of content – the digital customer journey includes many phases within “awareness”, “consideration”, and “decision”, and can last several months.

Tracking Content Consumption Through the Digital Customer Journey

Content, broadly, is an integral component of any digital customer journey. Content applies to website copy, blog posts, social media posts, resources like eBooks and whitepapers, guest posts you publish on other sites, and advertising, to name a few.

Because there are many ways to access content during the digital customer journey, it’s important to have several pieces of content available across multiple touchpoints. However, before you start writing, a few simple questions can help direct what type of content would be most advantageous based on your customers’ behavior:

  • Do customers primarily use a mobile phone or desktop computer to make their purchase?

If the answer is mobile, make sure your content is mobile-friendly – and we don’t just mean responsive. Consumers using mobile will appreciate short, quick, informative content that doesn’t require a lot of time or attention; i.e., product reviews, videos, or product comparisons. Chances are, your audience is using a mix of desktop and mobile, so you should look to provide multiple types of content that appeal to both.

  • Where do the bulk of purchases occur? I.e. on the website, through social media, in a store, over the phone, etc.

Knowing where your customers are making buying decisions is valuable information you can use to justify where you choose to put content and how you reach out to customers. For example, if you determine many purchases are occurring through your website, you can begin placing content at other touchpoints that drive to the website, and you can reevaluate your eCommerce experience to ensure it’s doing the best it can for the customer and for your business.

  • Where do customers come from before making a purchase; i.e., a competitor’s website, your blog, or a link in an email?

Wherever customers are coming from, if you know their path, you can place content strategically to influence buying decisions or get them to take the next step. Think ads on similar websites, calls-to-action on your blog or web pages – the more you know about your audience, the easier it is to guide their journey with purposeful content.

Different Devices for Different Behaviors

Because consumers are using multiple devices as they proceed along the buyer journey, it’s important for brands to track and respond to these activities. Marketing and retargeting tactics may work to an extent, but there are other considerations that will only boost your brand’s ability to convert. 

  • Ensure cross-device consistency. Where the customer experience is concerned, nothing is worse than a desktop experience that isn’t replicated with your mobile one. Not only should your e-commerce work well on all devices, but the information, layout, and accessibility should too.
  • Optimize, optimize, optimize. How many times have you found yourself standing in a store, trying to access a website on your phone to see about a product, and it just. won’t. load. Don’t replicate that frustration for your potential customers! They may move on – and never come back.
  • Play into your audience’s mood. According to research by Convince&Convert, consumers make more spontaneous purchases when using mobile. In addition, more consumers make online purchases at home. With targeted, customized, real-time marketing, you can influence those spontaneous purchases in your brand’s favor.

Be Tactical and Strategic with Content to Drive Audiences Through the Digital Customer Journey

We know content is important and thusly is assigned to the phases of the high-level customer journey that make the most sense for the customer. However, along the path from awareness, to consideration, to decision, your potential buyers are taking a lot of different steps involving many touchpoints. Brands should focus on the digital customer journey and also consider how offline activities can influence that journey as well. Print advertising, radio spots, mailers, leave-behinds, and other offline content can drive potential buyers to your website, and can be just as effective and strategic as a series of digital content. 

When it comes to the digital customer journey, there are a lot of considerations for brands in terms of how to reach their target audience and get them to take action. But the most important consideration is who your audience really is. Your customer journey strategy can be highly effective if you’re resonating with your target audience and showing them that your brand understands them and what they need.

Without knowledge of who your audience is, your efforts to drive the digital customer journey may not be as effective. 

Want to tap into your target audience and understand their digital customer journey so your brand can stand out and win customers? Of course you do! Fishnet can help – contact us today!

How Businesses Must Change Tactics to Comply With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

New Privacy Protocols Under the CCPA Are Changing How Businesses Operate and How They Can Approach Long-Used Approaches to Marketing

In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect as a core part of Europe’s digital privacy legislation, and it was the talk of the town in the U.S. as companies that do business overseas readied themselves for compliance. At the onset of this new decade, however, there’s a new kid on the data privacy block: the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). 

A Short Introduction to the California Consumer Privacy Act

Don’t be fooled by the law’s geographic specificity – the CCPA applies to any company that employs or serves California residents.

Broadly, the CCPA establishes new consumer rights relating to the access, deletion, and sharing of personal information collected digitally by businesses. It also establishes procedures to facilitate consumers’ new rights under the law and guidance for business compliance. 

To trace the origins of the CCPA, we can point to the widely-known Cambridge Analytica scandal during the 2018 presidential election that shone a spotlight on the myriad ways consumer information was being used without consumer permission. 

Taking action to try and rectify these wrongs, California’s privacy act gives consumers more control over their data, including insight into what information companies have collected on them, whether companies have sold or are selling their personal information, and the option of removing their information from company databases. 

The CCPA is essentially the U.S. version of GDPR; incidentally, it was signed into law in 2018, but it officially went into effect in January 2020, which has companies scrambling to ensure compliance. 

Which Industries Will be Most Impacted by the CCPA?

The most important designation of the CCPA is that it only applies to businesses that earn more than $25 million in gross revenue, collect data on more than 50,000 people, and acquire more than 50% of their revenue from selling consumer data. 

Technology, telecom, and financial services companies may have a “leg up” since they’re already subject to a slew of regulations and are inherently more aware of and prepared for stricter privacy regulations in a post-Cambridge Analytica world (and with the threat of security breaches always looming). 

The CCPA will have a different impact on the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, but all tech and telecom companies with customers or employees in California have had to take a series of actions to comply, including: 

  • updating their privacy policies
  • preparing communications to answer consumer questions about their data (such as a web page or special phone number)
  • putting the “Do not sell my information” button on their websites, which is a feature we can all expect to see on sites that enables consumers to enact their rights under the CCPA

Other companies, like retailers, have more work to do to comply with the CCPA because they weren’t subject to GDPR. Although data privacy is a key component of most organizations, compliance with the CCPA requires additional protections. 

Likely because of the large amount of work involved to meet the requirements of the CCPA, a lot of companies are choosing to apply the privacy protections to their entire operation – not just to their California contingent. This can also be viewed as a smart move given the likelihood that other privacy laws will be legislated in other U.S. states in the near future.

Will the CCPA Change Marketing and the Internet for Businesses and Consumers?

According to the law itself, the data it covers includes IP addresses, contact information, internet browsing history, biometrics such as facial recognition and fingerprint data, race, gender, purchasing behavior, and location. 

The law grants consumers several rights when it comes to their personal data:

  1. Knowing what data collection practices a business is exercising
  2. Knowing specifically what data on them is being collected
  3. Knowing how their data is being used; i.e., with whom is it being shared and for what purpose
  4. Seeing copies of their data to validate the company’s reports
  5. Requesting their information be deleted or that it not be sold to outside entities

The privacy protections that businesses now must offer under the CCPA can really only be achieved by essentially overhauling current data management practices. For most organizations, consumer data is collected in many different ways and in several different departments. For most businesses of the size specified by the CCPA, consumer data comes in through internet usage, social media, store purchases, payment card information; essentially any way in which consumers interact with a business.

We all know that “big brother”-esque feeling we get when an ad pops up for an item or topic we were just searching for. This occurrence, while mildly irritating at best for consumers, reflects a much larger online operation called “real-time bidding”, in which ad buyers bid on ad space based on user data so their ad can appear in front of that user.

Here’s the part that, under the CCPA, users have the ability to opt-out of. That user data is then stored so webpages have more specific user information to validate higher ad prices, and that data can also be purchased by companies looking for target audience information.

Because the CCPA grants consumers the right to essentially remove their information entirely from formerly robust databases, it could be seen as a pivotal change for marketing tactics as we know them.

Once the law has been in place for a time, it will be interesting to see how many users actually choose to opt-out of data-sharing practices; however, if enough do, the costs for ads – and thusly the revenue they pull in – could be drastically lower.  Companies may find themselves working from a smaller pool of data and may have to rely less on purchasing or selling information to beef up audience targeting or raise ad revenue.

However, while the CCPA does impact some keystone marketing tactics, the law is not a red herring for the end of the internet as we know it or anything sinister like that – but it does mean companies will have to adjust and reevaluate how they collect the data that drives many common marketing practices. 

Adapting to a Data Privacy-Conscious World

GDPR and the CCPA should be viewed as just the beginning of a more data privacy-conscious online and business environment. Other states will join California in leveling-up privacy protections for consumers; Maine and Nevada have recently passed privacy laws, and numerous other states are considering or have already tried to pass similar legislation.

The CCPA achieves something pretty big for the U.S. – putting consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to their personal information. That being said, there is still an almost mindless ease with which we share private information, and it’s hard to know whether this law will make a marked difference in behavior, at least right away. After all, when’s the last time any of us read through a privacy policy on a website we visited?

Either way, privacy laws are here and more are coming. If nothing else, these legislative actions draw much-needed attention to the risks of data collection and sharing, and should at the very least prompt businesses not required to comply with the CCPA to voluntarily evaluate their privacy protections and security protocols. 

As businesses implement these protections, they’re sure to grapple with the aspects of their marketing strategies that rely on user data for advertising, marketing automation, and other targeting tactics. 

If your business is governed by the CCPA and you’re contemplating next steps for your marketing strategy this year or in 2021, we can help. Being well-versed in privacy rules and marketing means success for your business, even amid big changes. Contact us today!