Digital marketing: What COVID-19 has taught us

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses think about marketing, forcing them to adopt marketing channels that they may not have considered previously, particularly on digital platforms. Helesha Moodley, Marketing Lead at Ovations Group, says it all boils down to what works for your brand and how you want to engage with your customers.

“Digital marketing focuses on the opportunity brought about by access to the Internet and a company’s presence on it. More than 50% of marketers today believe that digital marketing has an edge over traditional marketing methods, and this is because of the interaction and engagement opened up with customers through the use of digital marketing.”

People spend more time online than they do with face-to-face interactions – this trend was evident even before COVID-19 came about. The opportunity to reach thousands of people at the same time has driven companies to think differently about marketing and leverage off the digital marketing channels they now have available.

The primary change brought about by COVID-19, from a marketing perspective, is the lack of lead generation through face-to-face engagements and events. Companies have been forced to find alternative ways to reach their customers, to engage with them and ensure that they continue to create visibility for their brand. This has resulted in conversations about digital marketing strategies that aim to increase Web site and social media activity and engage with potential customers in order to convert them into leads and sales.

The main benefits of digital marketing include:

  • A higher level of customer engagement and an opportunity to not only have conversations with your customers, but also gain a better understanding of who they are and what they’re looking for.
  • Access to a larger, more easily accessible target audience and this can be at a global scale.
  • Cost efficiency as digital marketing campaigns are more affordable to the average SME than traditional marketing campaigns.
  • Ability to measure and adapt easily: not only does digital marketing allow you to have full control of audience growth and full visibility of real-time results, you are also able to gather endless amounts of information about your customers and tweak campaigns to allow for personalised direct messaging.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital marketing channels have really come to the fore despite shrinking marketing budgets, says Moodley. “The evolution of Internet legends such as Google, Amazon and Facebook have proven the effectiveness of online shopping, socialising and interacting, with over $600 billion products and services being sold online in 2019. The importance of investing in digital channels cannot be ignored. As a result of COVID-19 and the lack of face-to-face interaction or direct sale cycle methods, companies have recognised the need for investment in digital marketing channels such as social media, e-mail campaigns and digital advertising platforms.”

Moodley goes on to outline some compelling drivers for digital marketing, saying first and foremost, you reach people exactly where they are. “There are 7.7 billion people who use Internet across the globe. If you do not have a digital footprint, how are customers supposed to find you? You need to be Googleable and this will make you more credible as well.”

She continues: “Your competitors are already doing digital marketing, so if you don’t, you’ll automatically be at a disadvantage. It also enables customers to come to you, allowing you to spend time on customers with real interest. People who contact you for your product or service will already be interested in what you have to offer, which means you’ll be able to identify cold leads faster and not waste your time.”

There are two main challenges around digital marketing, identified by Moodley. “Generating traffic and leads can be difficult at first. It may be a slow process, but you will recognise the value in time. Remember that every new follower or subscriber is someone who is engaging with you now, who never did before, so just keep going.” She highlights the importance of creating content that’s interesting and to be consistent in your efforts, to counter this.

Also, it can be difficult to come to grips with the tools and technologies required for effective digital marketing – and the advent of COVID-19 enforced a steep learning curve on marketers. Moodley advises doing the necessary research and, where possible, finding someone who is skilled at digital marketing to assist with this.

In conclusion, she lists the five key things that any digital marketing campaign should include.

  1. Learn about your target audience – who are they and what are they looking for?
  2. Tell a story – create a personalised message that your customer is going to relate to.
  3. Use multiple approaches for a larger reach – e-mail, Web site, blogs and social media.
  4. Include a call-to-action – invite your customers to engage with you.
  5. Measure ROI – ensure that you are adding value, ie, creating visibility and generating interest. 
Helesha Moodley - Marketing Lead at Ovations
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