3rd April 2020

Coping in a Mad Mad World

Mike Blackburn

Two weeks into lockdown and life is not as we know it. 

Our colleagues and friends have hunkered down into their respective home offices/guest bedrooms/kitchen tables across Greater Manchester and slowly, slowly, we’re adapting to the new normal. Not just in how we work internally, but how we’re guiding our clients’ strategies. 

Every day has brought us new challenges, but also a heart-warming, morale-boosting number of successes. 

Some have been down to the incredible effort on the part of our team to adapt and pivot others - we won’t lie - have been down to pure potluck.

So, we thought we’d share what’s worked, and what hasn’t, in this article. We’re all in it together, and if we can spread some knowledge that helps you keep going, then we will all get out of this together.

The Downs

One month ago, as COVID-19 creeped close to our shores, we opted for a ‘business as usual’ approach. 

Knowing that panic can spread all too easily, we saw it as our duty to maintain the calm in order to quell the nerves of our clients. We sought only to offer reassurance as the experts and the nations scrambled to gain an even vague understanding of the economic implications of COVID-19.

But in truth, we were unsettled. How could we not be? We sought to reassure ourselves as much as our clients. What if everyone decided to reduce their spend with us? What if all of our clients were forced to completely cut their agency costs? We carried on, nose to the grindstone, serving our clients the only way we knew best - getting the work done to the very best of our abilities.

Yet, inevitably, the sky slowly began to fall down around us. In the days following the PM’s announcement of non-necessary travel and contact on 16 March, PPC budgets were reduced, web development projects were postponed and decision-making meetings were cancelled. 

We were forced to furlough some people who are great members of our team simply because we had to cut costs quickly - for me it was a personal low-point. Fortunately, we’re large enough that we still have the capacity in our remaining team to manage the work of those businesses that can carry on with their marketing and development projects. 

The Turning Point

However, there was a glimmer of hope. One of our e-commerce clients - an online supplier of homeware - had a particularly strong day.

Revenue had slumped dramatically in the days after the PM’s announcement, raising alarm amongst all of us. We had leapt into action, re-evaluating and updating our social media, email marketing, PPC and content marketing strategy for them within 24 hours.

And, just six days later, there was a sign of recovery. Our daily report for them showed a sudden boost to their PPC revenue. And it continued on the next day and the next. Revenue generated from organic search was ebbing away, yet PPC - and organic social - kept on climbing.

Now, another week later, our client has seen a 97.57% increase in transactions compared to the same two-week period last year. This was driven almost exclusively by an equally huge 101% increase in revenue from their paid search. Sunday 29 March was their best-selling day of 2020.

The Ups

Into week two, there was more good news. Another e-commerce client, a fashion brand that had announced only days earlier that they would be closing up shop at the end of March until better days returned, had a change of heart. The results from our work - again, particularly the PPC - were good. They were really good. So good, the brand has decided to stay open and keep supplying.

Not only that, but last week:

  • Two new websites were signed off
  • A new contract was signed
  • One of our law firms commissioned and signed off on a COVID-19 support hub on their website
  • Another law firm signed its renewal contract with added billable hours
  • We secured coverage for one of our clients in Glamour magazine and another in the Daily Mail

After the lockdown was announced on 23 March, it seems that the public have taken comfort in the fact that now our fears have been realised. 

With firm guidance and financial support to businesses and workers finally announced by the government, it has allowed the dust to settle. The nerves and anxiety of the nation have been quelled somewhat and for many - though by no means all - a new form of normality has been allowed to emerge. We now know where we stand, what the restrictions are and what safety nets have been put in place. It has restored confidence to consumers and purveyors of goods and services alike. It may be temporary, but - for now - let’s hope it will hold.

What You Can Do

We’ll admit it, we’ve been lucky. And our clients have been lucky too. But to say it’s all been down to luck is inaccurate. We’ve also been working our butts off to deliver the absolute maximum amount of support and practical work to each and every one of our clients. We have stayed up late and started at the crack of dawn, seeking out ways to adapt and adjust to every situation.

So, here are a few tips on what we’ve found to have worked:

  • Up your PPC spend - people are now browsing very differently, and seem to be using ads more frequently. We believe this is because customers are using ads to quickly recognise if a business is trading or not - if a business is still advertising then it must be operating normally
  • Build your brand awareness - your audience might not be buying from you now, but that’s not to say they won’t want to buy from you in the future. So what can you do to raise your brand awareness in the meantime? Hit your social media channels hard - get out there sharing your expertise and connecting with people. Be humorous (if appropriate) or be helpful. Look for opportunities for press and media coverage - share your news, what you’re working on, your successes, your thoughts and opinions. You are the experts at your game - don’t be shy, let people know what you think
  • Get your house in order - now’s the time to review your website with the user experience in mind. What can you be doing to improve your website? What tweaks can you make to enhance the user experience? 
  • SEO - as above, if your business is quiet, then this is a great time to quietly work on your search engine optimisation

The Future

It may be obvious to say, but nothing is certain. We simply do not know how COVID-19 will continue to affect our lives, our shopping habits, our supply chains or our economy. Those who are making predictions now will find themselves reviewing and reassessing their words as the weeks progress. This is not like the recessions we have endured in the past 20 years or so - simply put, the situation is unprecedented.

All we can do is remain flexible. You must:

  • Be agile with your strategies and open-minded with your marketing budget, reallocating and adjusting both as the occasion calls
  • Focus on what is most pressing while keeping an eye your long-term goals
  • Be genuinely helpful to their customers and clients
  • Trust that although life as we know it will be different, we will get there - and we will all be still standing when the storm finally breaks

In the meantime, we’re here for you. If you need help get in touch: email info@i-com.net or call us on 0161 402 3170.