Note to readers: This is the fourth in a series of posts offering some guidance for marketers during this global health crisis.
Local SMB’s are the bedrock of the American economy.
In the current environment, understanding how SMB advertising is adjusting to the impact of national and statewide shutdowns is crucial. Since the market impact of COVID-19, there have been a few trends unique to Local and SMBs that have emerged and require a different strategy than those of larger brands.
In today’s installment of our Marketing in a Crisis series, we’re going to take a closer look at the Local SMB advertising landscape and how marketers might adapt their programs right now to shifting consumer behavior.
Local market shifts: turning the fleet in a storm
Local ad spending actually continued to increase through the middle of February where that of enterprise-level brands dipped much earlier in the month.
There could be a few factors at play here. For starters, local brands have smaller teams and may take a bit longer to analyze and adjust strategy. With less money and time, smaller teams might be stretched thin and unable to act as nimbly as larger ones. Perhaps they were simply slower to react.
Another notion could be that the variety of verticals in the SMB space (retailers, dentists, lawyers, tradespeople, etc.) provided enough diversity to buffer Local advertising, compared to the difficulty larger companies have had through the past few months when entire segments of the market took big hits early on, ie. airlines, hospitality, restaurants, and entertainment.
Below we can take a closer look at the differences in Search ad spending between Local advertisers and Enterprise in Q1:
Local vs Enterprise ad spending Q1 2020 (source = Skai)
Local advertising tips during COVID-19 from our team
Many of our Skai Local client success team are advertising practitioners and had these tips for you to consider during this time:
Adapt Your Plan
Modify current copy and messaging to reflect the current health situation. Send traffic to a temporary landing page specifically about COVID-19. Use that URL to build up a seed audience that you will use to remarket to later. Messaging specific to this event and demonstrating empathy to your customers could build positive sentiment for the brand.
Your KPIs may need to change. Click-through-rates are dropping along with CPMs while impressions are increasing. With so many people at home and on the internet—without necessarily a purchase in mind—you might be getting more clicks but a shrinking conversion rate. As other advertisers reduce spend, the auction prices fall, so CPCs and CPMs are lower in general right now.
Now is the time to circle the wagons and focus your ad strategy on brand building instead of those efficient CPAs; shifting from a tCPA goal to Maximize Clicks may be a more fitting bidding strategy. Adjusting your ad copy to drive traffic to your blog or lead forms instead of measuring call conversions could be a better objective if your storefronts have reduced or paused business hours.
Build your audiences. Engage potential customers with your services in ways other than direct response. For example, try driving up your email lists or audiences now by attracting consumers with good content such as blog posts and tips and tricks. When the markets recover later this year, you will have a solid base of potential leads built up to begin outreach again to make your dollars count in what will be a very competitive market.
Shift your funnel focus. A lot of people are at home right now. If they are going to make a purchase or use your service, they could be researching now with that free time. This would be a good time to focus up the funnel and build up the demand now that you will be able to convert in a few months. Targeting broader, but relevant, long tail keywords and using Google Affinity Audiences to drive customers to a lead form will allow you to build a Customer Match list to use later this year to encourage movement in the middle of the funnel.
Get more Social in Local
More consumer downtime. Since COVID-19 arrived in the US, Facebook has seen a 70% increase in usage across its family of apps. There have never been more people out there viewing newsfeeds and ads. People that normally may skip your video ads or not view your stories ads might have the time to engage right now.
Invest wisely. As a percentage of total Local ad spending, Social has begun to decline a few percentage points heading into the end of March. This is likely due to Social being seen as less of a direct response channel for Local advertisers. However, because audience sizes are growing, CPMs are going to drop as well.
This could be the right time for Small Businesses to enhance their SEM awareness with increased social reach or traffic objectives to build future customers. Using Social Ads to drive to your webpage and building Google remarketing audiences to target deeper intent allows both channels to work together to fill out the funnel.
A workforce at home. Things are changing rapidly in the market and looking quite different from week to week—and even day by day. Local marketers, whether they are SMB Agencies, multi-location national brands, or small businesses running their own ad strategy are going to have to find a way to weather this storm. In these times, in-house ad teams can rely on tech partners like Skai to help them execute flawlessly.
How can we help? You are not alone.
The Skai family is rallying behind our client partners to find new ways to innovate and collaborate together so that none of us is alone in the coming weeks and months.
Please reach out to learn more about how our Local Search platform can help you manage accounts at scale so you can spend more time planning for what’s ahead.