How SMEs should approach marketing during COVID-19

It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely torn through the global economy and disrupted how society lives, works and communicates.

How SMEs should approach marketing during COVID-19

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely torn through the global economy and disrupted how society lives, works and communicates.

In business, it has presented significant challenges, with millions still battling for survival as the economy falls to its lowest point in over 40 years. However, with every period of economic downturn, comes the opportunity to evaluate, disrupt and emerge stronger as markets start to recover.

Without an effective digital marketing strategy, the latter is simply impossible to achieve. Yet, for business owners who don’t have a strong or effective digital marketing strategy in place, it can be difficult to know where to start. Having helped hundreds of business owners with their digital marketing during this period, I believe the following 3 themes are key to success:

Refinedbrand presence

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a genuine opportunity for business owners to evaluate what does and doesn’t work, what they could do better and what needs to be improved. For many this is their website, branding and overall digital presence.

The message here is that if you aren’t happy with how or what your brand looks like, now is the time to change it. When doing so, take the time to think about what sort of branding would attract your ideal clientele and, once implemented, ensure it is consistent across all digital platforms for coherence and consistency. I promise you that this may seem like an unnecessary task in the short-term, but it will pay dividends in the long-term by enabling you to compete with key market players.

Longgame Vs short gains

A recent survey of over 2,000 businesses across the US and Europe found that 63% of companies chose to divert their SEO budget to PPC activity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, to focus on driving sales for the products and/or services most relevant to businesses during this time.

Conversely, many businesses in the UK retracted out of fear, pausing their spend with PPC and transferring it to SEO, with a view to utilise this period to increase their position within the Search Engine Results Pages [SERPs] and dominate top keywords as the pandemic eases.

In reality, the most effective solution is to combine both strategies, increasing PPC spend to outsell competitors in the short-term, whilst simultaneously driving an aggressive SEO strategy so that your product or service dominates the SERPs in the long-term.

If you’re reading this and are concerned about committing any spend to digital marketing, consider the evidence from Millward Brown which found following the recession of 2008, 60% of the brands that went ‘dark’ [i.e. no advertising or marketing activity] during the economic downturn saw a ‘brand use’ decrease of 24% and brand image decrease of 28%.

The lesson here is that while reducing marketing and advertising spend in the short-term may result in initial savings, it will significantly impact your ability to bounce back and generate sustainable profits in the long-term.


For years, the businesses and brands that have shown and delivered consistent value are those that have always come out on top. Whether offering a free trial of your services or providing insightful content through educational guides or eBooklets, more and more consumers have become increasingly engaged with the brands that consistently show and deliver value.  

Despite the challenge presented by COVID-19, it has taught many business leaders not only the importance of consistent marketing activity, but also the importance of delivering value in order to engage customers and build brand trust during this period.

Therefore, if you aren’t delivering value to your clients, now is the time to start. This could be as simple as a tech company creating a free remote working checklist or a personal trainer creating free remote workout videos. Think about what you could ‘give back’ to your existing and potential client base, instead of thinking about what you will gain. Having this attitude will not only establish a positive reputation for you and your business but will inspire you to think about the purpose of your business, its position in the market and how you can benefit your customer base. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is truly unprecedented and although we can’t predict if and when it will end, we can take action in how we continue to respond to it. Now is not the time to sit back and wait until it passes, now is the time to take action, pivot your strategy and battle for survival, with an effective digital marketing strategy right on the frontline.

Mark Wright
Mark Wright

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