As COVID-19, aka coronavirus, continues to spread, small businesses are struggling. After about 2 months of stay-at-home directives, many businesses are declaring bankruptcy, others are desperately waiting on government loans, some are riding it out, and the lucky ones are thriving. The small businesses that are surviving are the ones that are meeting the demands for certain products and services, communicating effectively, and coming up with innovative ways to better serve their customers.

The first stage was to figure out ways to protect customers and staff, and communicating that information while continuing to do business. But after communicating health and safety information, what’s next? As we head into new territory, we’re all trying to figure out what the next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months are going to look like.

How should you be communicating your products and services?

Think about how this pandemic might be changing life for your customers and how you can help. Avoid humor and be as supportive and empathetic as possible. And steer clear of any communication that appears to be profiting from the crisis.

Talk to your employees, coworkers, and customers. If you do make a mistake, own up to it, apologize, and move forward.

Think carefully before hitting the send button on any piece of communication. Assess your existing campaigns through the lens of our new normal.

Coronavirus Marketing FAILS

There have been several badly timed advertising fails in the time of coronavirus, including Geico’s “Perfect High Five,” KFC’s “Finger Lickin’ Good,” and “My Dream.”

Brands are being extra careful for fear of negative reaction. What was once funny, heartfelt, and charming can now be seen as tone deaf.

According to an Advertiser Perceptions survey, about half of advertisers have held back a campaign from launching. 45% said they stopped or pulled a campaign mid-flight. A third say they cancelled a campaign completely, such as Coors “Official Beer of Working Remotely” campaign.

Coronavirus Marketing WINS

While this may not apply to your business, a lot of digital companies—Google, Zoom, Microsoft, Loom, Peloton, Scholastic, Shopify, various video streaming services—are offering extended trial periods and free versions of their tools, resources, and software. Many media sites are making their coronavirus coverage freely available. Others are offering free resources.

Some plumbing companies are advertising hands-free plumbing fixtures, such as faucets and showerheads. Think about how your company can help and add value.

Customers care about how you are supporting your clients and employees. When people know that the employees love working there, they are more likely to support that business, especially now.

Find more COVID-19 ad inspiration with these creative ads.

Search Engine Optimization, Back to the Basics

Everybody’s at home and on the internet. As a result, there’s increased demand for knowledge and information about solutions that companies can offer.

As consumers remain home, search has grown in increasing importance. It helps brands stay connected with consumers and highlights new and emerging behavior trends

Now is a great opportunity to shore up your SEO efforts and use search data to understand consumer interest. Of course, it’s always a good idea to optimize your search engine presence, but now that everything is online, give it some more attention.

Carefully Assess Content and Promotions

Many businesses put an immediate halt to their social media content and promotions after the crisis became clear. It made sense. Brands needed to take some time to assess the situation and come up with a proper communication strategy before hitting the send or schedule button. Tone is more important than ever. Customer skepticism and cynicism is the highest it’s ever been.

According to an Edelman study of 12,000 people in 12 countries, 71% of respondents said that if during this time “they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever” and 77% said “they want brands only to speak about products in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to resume your social media content and promotions.

As a general rule, don’t share anything if it doesn’t provide value to the customer. When considering content to promote, simply create value in the context of your brand. Focus on transparency, empathy, and helpful action.

Be careful about sending too many messages, especially if they are filled with the same old platitudes like “In these uncertain times, we are here for you.”

How many emails have you received with instructions on how to stop the spread of coronavirus? There’s a running joke online about the flood of coronavirus-related emails.

And have you seen this viral video about how every COVID-19 ad is the same?

Coronavirus Marketing Do’s 

  • Do share educational and helpful content within the context of your business. Unless your expertise is health and wellness, do not share health tips.
  • Do share business updates, such as changes to operating hours, policies, and procedures.
  • Do update your website content and reassess your existing campaigns.

Coronavirus Marketing Don’ts

  • Don’t try to be funny.
  • Don’t be silent.
  • Don’t go for the hard sell.

Updated FAQ Pages

Customers have more questions than ever. They are seeking information—everything from “Are you open?” and “What precautions are you taking?” to “Can I schedule contactless service?”

The tone here is all educational. The promotion stuff drops down, education goes up.

Do you have a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website? If not, we highly recommend creating one, or if you do, updating it to include coronavirus related information.

Start by collecting all of the common questions you hear all the time. Then, list recent questions you’re business has been receiving. Work with a writer and editor to make the answers as clear and meaningful as possible. Then, address your customer’s questions on your website.

FAQ Chatbots

You can set up FAQ bots on your website and social media platforms, such as Facebook.

Using natural language processing and FAQ data, bots can now provide instant assistance day and night. Customers no longer have to wait for an answer. In addition to helping customers find answers faster, FAQ bots also ensure consistent responses and reduce the requests your support team receives.

Learn more about how chatbots can help your local service business.

How Online Advertising Has Been Impacted

While some entities are able to run coronavirus-related ads, many are prohibited from doing so. According to Google, “Advertisers must follow Google Ads policies when serving coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related content, in particular our Sensitive events policy, which prohibits any content that seeks to capitalize on the pandemic, or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards this global health crisis.”

Ads are quickly removed if these policies are not followed. Google has already removed tens of millions of coronavirus-ads over the last few months for policy violations. Microsoft Advertising has similar policies in place to protect against price gouging, misleading claims, and illegitimate products and services.


Source: Microsoft

Strategic Approaches

  • Video Content
  • Interactive Content
  • Hyper-dynamic Content
  • SEO-centric Content
  • Voice Search Tailored Content

As a home service business, you may want to offer services that aren’t related to your regular business, such as delivering groceries and needed items. Actions speak louder than words. If you have a lot of clients that are elderly, this is a great way to show you care.

If your company is doing something to help, highlight it! Many companies are responding to the coronavirus with wonderful examples of putting customers and people first. Don’t let your good initiatives go unnoticed. Highlight the positive actions your business is taking to help during this time.

We’ve been following the search trends for the home service industry (including HVAC, Painting, Restoration, Water Filters, Landscaping, Pools, and Carpet Cleaning), and they are up 9% YoY since March. In general, we’re seeing an uptick in Home & Garden searches and clicks.

Based on consumer behavior patterns, we can recommend the best course of action for you. VitalStorm is here to support you and your team.

We encourage you to contact us with any of your questions or concerns.