Marketing Through Ongoing Times of Crisis: 3 Steps for Success

"yes, we're open" sign on store door

In the first half of 2020, businesses everywhere got a crash course in crisis marketing. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to the racial justice protests across the U.S., to the current economic downturn, companies have found that their pre-planned marketing content feels out-of-touch and even tone-deaf in the current climate.

Whether you’re facing a company-specific issue or a global one, you’ll need to be flexible and adapt your strategy to the current situation. And while marketing during an ongoing crisis can be daunting, it’s necessary to stay connected with your customers and ensure they stick around through (or after) the storm.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to crisis marketing; how you proceed will depend on the nature of your company. Size, location, industry, and target audience all play a role in how you and your customers will be affected, and should be considered when developing your individualized strategy. However, any small business can implement these three steps to successfully navigate challenging times.

1. Communicate with your customers/clients every step of the way.

Since the start of COVID, most businesses have adjusted their hours, updated their policies, and implemented new practices/protocols (among other things), and they’ve had to communicate those changes with their customer base. Others, especially those that already operated virtually, haven’t seen many changes to their day-to-day operations, and it’s just as important to communicate that, too.

Yes, it’s a lot of noise. (Think of how many “company statement” emails you’ve received from organizations over the last few months.) However, it’s important to share this information with your customer base, as well as any updates as the situation evolves.

Regardless of changes you may or may not be making to your daily operations, the bottom line is this: if your customers or clients are being impacted by the crisis, so is your business. You need to address the ongoing situation in some way and acknowledge the impact it’s having on your customer base. Being empathetic, compassionate, and mindful should be your top priority. Let your customers know that you care and that you support them.

During these times, your customers and clients will probably have questions for you. Be sure to ramp up your communication and customer service, expanding into the digital realm as needed. Social media is a great place to start; you can also use instant messaging as well as phone or video conferences to bridge the gap between your business and your clients.

2. Highlight any new or amplified components of your business.

Challenging situations often necessitate innovation. Use this time to develop new services or modify existing ones to not only diversify your revenue streams, but also to better meet your customers’ needs. If your brick-and-mortar store or restaurant has limited capacity right now, offer options that will allow customers to support you from their homes – think gift cards, discounts, and other incentives for booking in advance or shopping online.

You can also adapt your existing services by offering digital/virtual versions of those services. For example, one of our clients, a New Jersey media and entertainment company called Hurricane Productions, faced many event cancellations in the wake of coronavirus earlier this year. They pivoted their marketing strategy to promote services like wedding livestreaming, backyard movie screenings, and “curbside DJs” for outdoor dining and events. As New Jersey continues reopening, Hurricane has kept pace by developing innovative ways to adapt their services while still maintaining social distancing and event capacity guidelines.

3. Take things week by week (or even day by day).

In the midst of multiple ongoing crises, it’s impossible to plan your marketing content weeks in advance, since these situations are changing very quickly. Take it week by week, or even day by day. Check in with your customers consistently to see how you can help, and most importantly, pump the brakes on hard selling – after all, people don’t want to be sold to in a time of crisis. Try to be relatable, empathetic, helpful, and above all else, human.

The small business community should come together in support of one another in times of crisis. Lightning Media Partners is here to help with your marketing needs during these fast-changing times. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our co-founders about your marketing needs.

Embrace Your Path(s): How to Pursue Multiple Careers at Once

open compass in windowsill

This has been a strange couple of months, hasn’t it?

With many businesses temporarily closing or moving to remote operations, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in most people’s careers. Some people are facing reduced hours or temporary layoffs, and some businesses may struggle to survive the extended closure.

If there’s ever a time to think about shaping your career path, it’s now.

I went to school for speech-language pathology and have been a school-based speech therapist for almost three years. Since schools have been closed, I’ve also delved into the world of teletherapy – and while this has come with many challenges, I’m glad my students are getting some services to some degree.

I am also a marketing associate here at Lightning Media Partners. I love having a productive creative outlet, using words and images to convey a message to an audience, and then adjusting or building on our strategy based on client and customer feedback.

In short, my career is more than one thing – and yours can be, too.

What does it look like to have multiple careers?

When I started my marketing career, I didn’t have a formal education or background in the field. However, my hobbies always fell on the “creative” side of things – I did dance and musical theater, I wrote and edited for my high school newspaper, and I made silly photo edits for my friends in Photoshop. While being a speech therapist was rewarding, I really missed having creative freedom. Between that, the challenges inherent to the school system, and a few career curveballs, it was clear: I was on the path to burnout.

I am forever grateful to Nicole and Sean, the founders of Lightning Media Partners, for taking a chance on me at this critical period in my life. Knowing my interest in writing and design, they expanded my role from an administrative assistant to a marketing associate. I would have the opportunity to create on a regular basis, as well as be generally more involved in the company’s overall direction and growth.

Today, I work part-time as a speech therapist in a preschool, and part-time as a remote marketing associate. Moving from one full-time job to two part-time jobs felt like a huge risk, as I’d be giving up benefits as well as potential career and financial stability. And yet, I had no doubt in my mind it was what I wanted to do.

I get so much fulfillment from both of my careers, as I get to use two different parts of my brain without completely overworking one or the other. Being a speech therapist has improved my ability to communicate my desired message through words and images, as well as to manage my time effectively. Building my creative skills with LMP has made me a more innovative speech therapist, more willing and able to try new ideas to best help my students.

Embrace your career paths

I can only speak from my own experience, but if you have that nagging voice in your head telling you that you aren’t really satisfied, listen to it. It is entirely possible to pursue multiple careers, simultaneously or sequentially, especially with the gig economy and remote work becoming more and more common. There are many freelance/gig posting websites available to get work experience and grow your portfolio, as well as free or inexpensive online courses to supplement your theory/knowledge base. If you’re worried about taking that leap, starting at a smaller scale and building up your skills is a great way to test the waters.

So whether you’re pursuing a second job in a new field if you’re looking to change your career direction entirely, embrace your path(s) – your journey is yours, and it can take you to some beautiful places if you let it.

Managing Mental Health While Working from Home

working from home | girl with laptop and cat on her lap

Businesses everywhere are feeling the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). Brick-and-mortar stores are shutting down or severely reducing their hours, and companies are urging or even requiring their staff to work remotely.

Working from home requires a huge adjustment from operating in-office, especially if you and your team haven’t done it before. Parents of school-aged children also face an extra challenge, with school closures mandating at-home instruction.

Working remotely certainly has its advantages, including increased flexibility, ability to connect with others around the world, and reduced commuting time and costs. However, working from home can also negatively impact your mental health.

According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work report, 49% of participants reported that their greatest challenges were wellness-related: difficulty unplugging, social isolation and lack of motivation. Combined with a global public health crisis and uncharted waters for the working world, mental health challenges can certainly arise or be amplified.

Whether you’re new to remote work or have been doing it for years, here are some tips for managing your mental health while working from home.

1. Create an at-home office and schedule.

Setting up a home office space can help you shift gears into “work” mode by physically separating your work and relaxation spaces. This can be as simple as designating a spot at your kitchen table for your laptop and mouse.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated or meet deadlines, creating a schedule for yourself can keep you organized and focused. Allot enough time for your work tasks, but also incorporate breaks and a start/end time to your day. Doing this will limit procrastination as well as the need to be “on” 24-7, both of which can drive up levels of stress and anxiety.

2. Communicate openly with your team.

Both businesses and its employees are facing unprecedented circumstances. Communicate with your team, even more than you think is necessary, on a regular basis. When possible, use phone or video calls – it promotes social connectedness while also making your message more clear (subtle nuances are more easily captured in vocal inflection and facial expressions).

You’ll also want to be transparent about any personal situations that could impact work, such as watching your child while you’re on a conference call. Speaking openly will not only set expectations for your team, but it will also give you some flexibility if you need to shift your hours or skip a meeting.

3. Designate time for self-care and social connection.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Caring for your physical, mental and emotional needs will make you more able to do your job successfully. Get some fresh air and exercise, lean into your hobbies to unwind, and be sure to check in with your emotions regularly.

Working from home during a pandemic inevitably limits in-person interactions, so you may need to make additional efforts to maintain social connection. Schedule phone calls and video chats with your loved ones, reach out to friends and family over text or social media, or attend livestreamed version of public events.

Above all, give yourself and others grace. Remote work is a big adjustment for businesses and its employees, and there may be some growing pains as you and your team adjust. You may be feeling overwhelmed with your new work setup and worried that things will fall through the cracks. We encourage you to take a deep breath and do your best – in this uncharted territory, it’s all we can do.

How are you adjusting to full-time WFH life? We’re here to swap ideas or just chat – contact us or reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn).

Digital Marketing Dictionary: 10 Buzzwords Defined

person reading book on digital marketing terms

The field of digital marketing is constantly changing and evolving – and as a result, so is the language used by its professionals. Trying to make sense of all the acronyms and jargon can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a background in marketing or communications.

To help demystify the language of this field, we’ve broken down 10 common digital marketing terms in layperson’s terms.

Algorithm

Each digital marketing channel has its own algorithm – a set of rules that establish how content is being seen and prioritized – that is meant to better connect customers to what they want to see. These algorithms are seemingly ever-changing, so understanding how they work is key to making sure you’re effectively reaching your audience. 

B2B and B2C

B2B (business to business) companies market goods and services directly to the decision makers of other businesses. B2C (business to consumer) companies market their goods and services to customers for personal use. While B2B and B2C marketing strategies have similar best practices, the specifics of your business strategy will depend on your audience.

Buyer Persona

A buyer persona refers to a representation of your target customer, based on data from market research as well as your existing customers. When creating a buyer persona, you might consider their demographics, motivations and goals, and what your business can do for them. This information can help you focus your marketing efforts in the right places. For more guidance on creating a buyer persona, check out this blog from our client, Go Narrative.

CMS

A CMS (content management system) is any application used to produce and publish your online content. Multiple users can log into a CMS to create, store, edit and publish that content. Some popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Squarespace and Wix, though there are countless others.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors that complete a desired goal or task (e.g., sales, email signups, or form completions) out of the total number of visitors. A high conversion rate indicates that your marketing strategy is working – people are interested in what you have to offer and are following the necessary steps to get it.

Engagement

On social media, engagement refers to how people are interacting with your content. While each platform has its own mechanics, people will ideally follow your accounts and regularly like, share, and leave positive comments on your posts. It’s important to remember that engagement is a two-way street – if you’re interacting regularly with your customers and other businesses, it’s more likely they’ll interact with you.

Metadata

A website’s metadata refers to what appears on search engine result pages. This includes the meta title (title of the page) as well as the meta description (the text that appears below the title, usually a brief overview of the page content). Optimizing metadata is one great way to organically boost your search engine ranking.

Organic Growth

Whether you’re looking at social media or search engine results, any growth is either organic or paid. Organic growth refers to increased customer reach without any kind of promotion or payment. On the other hand, paid growth comes from posts that are “boosted” (i.e., more likely to show up in people’s searches or feeds) for a fee. Both organic and paid growth have their place in marketing – the strategy will depend on what your company needs.

SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of organically increasing both the quality and quantity of traffic to your page. A strong SEO strategy helps ensure that your pages are higher-ranked and will come up more often when people are searching for specific keywords. In other words, it helps more people who are interested in your business to actually see and click through your page. A quick note: SEO and SEM (search engine marketing) are not interchangeable terms. SEM is the practice of increasing a website’s visibility through organic search engine results as well as advertising. SEO is one of many strategies used within SEM.

Thought Leadership

A thought leader is someone who’s considered an expert in their industry and uses their knowledge to offer guidance to others. Thought leadership typically involves creating and sharing content that you as an influencer who can offer solid insights and identify trends before they arise. Our client, NB Talent Services, published a great blog explaining more about how to become a thought leader!

If you’re ready to power up your marketing strategy, we’re here to help. Lightning Media Partners offers social media marketing, content marketing, and SEO services. Get more details on our services here or contact us with questions.

6 Effective Graphic Design Tools for Non-Designers

beginner graphic design tools | graphic design program on computer screens

Creating your own visual marketing assets can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not a graphic designer by trade. You want to make sure your graphics are visually pleasing, while also accurately conveying information about your business.

Fortunately, there are several web-based tools available that are accessible to designers of all experience levels. Below are six of our favorite beginner graphic design tools for non-designers.

1. Canva

Featuring a drag-and-drop interface and one-click professional editing tools, Canva is a great way for non-designers to create compelling visuals. This free tool features a continuously updated roster of free images, fonts, and templates to help bring your ideas to life. The premium plan, starting at $12.95 a month, includes additional features and assets.

Pro Canva Tip: Use the text box shortcut by pressing ‘t’ to save time and frustration. For more Canva information, take a look at these six tips.

2. Crello

Crello lives up to its slogan of “graphic design made easy”. It comes with several templates optimized for various platforms, but also gives you the option to start from scratch or edit any elements you choose. Crello also boasts a plethora of free images and fonts, themed collections, and even tools for motion design. Further images and features are available for an additional cost.

3. PicMonkey

PicMonkey serves as an all-in-one photo editor, graphic design tool, and collage maker. The free version allows you to edit existing photos as well as create original images – a task made easier with the help of tutorials, templates for new designs, and themed backgrounds. PicMonkey also includes vector graphics, which use math equations and geometric elements to create crisp, high-resolution images.

4. Pixlr

Pixlr has been compared to Photoshop in terms of its functionality – and it’s both free and beginner-friendly. The program allows for easy image adjustments and photo edits, as well as the ability to create graphics of any size. You can also upload your brand fonts to Pixlr if they aren’t already available. While the main Pixlr tool is web-based, you can also download the mobile and desktop apps to design on the go.

Designer Tip: Try out some preset filters, or adjust your tint manually, to change the feel of your photo.

5. Snappa

Snappa’s main focus is making each step of the design process as quick and easy as possible. The browser tool allows you to choose the exact image dimensions for various platforms, including emails and social media. It features templates, stock images and one-click design tools to create your digital assets easily. Snappa also allows you to schedule and share your visuals instantly.

6. Stencil

Stencil is specifically marketed toward non-designers who are looking to boost their social media engagement through DIY visuals. In addition to photo editing capabilities and various design assets (including a quote collection, icons and images), Stencil also features a resize option to optimize your images for different social media platforms. The free version comes with a limited number of images; the Pro version grants access to all features for $9 a month.

Great visuals can help you stand out from the crowd and launch your business to new heights. With the help of these tools and a dash of creativity, you’ll have everything you need to turn your design vision into a reality – the only limit is your imagination.

Looking for more DIY marketing help? Our coaching packages will give you the tools and resources you need to power up your DIY marketing strategy. Get more details here or contact us with questions.