In March, at the start of the pandemic, we wanted to know the immediate impact SEO experts felt and what their plans for adapting to uncertainty were: a collective material on strategic thoughts followed.
We’re now more than 4 months into the “new normal” that this crisis brought, so we thought about going back to our SEO experts and find out what lessons learned during these times they could share: what changed for their agency, what new ideas appeared, how they managed in terms of remote work, employees, new business etc.
Let’s explore their thorough answers!
Arianne Donoghue, Founder @tempest Marketing:
It’s been over 100 days since the original article was published and we find ourselves in a very different world now. Remote work has become the norm for most of us in “knowledge” jobs and it’s now clear that we’ll definitely be heading into a recession in the UK given the sharp contractions that the economy has seen in the last few months.
It’s been really interesting to see how “haves” and “have-nots” have appeared in remote-working “society”. We’ve got those who are quite content to stay working at home; perhaps they’re introverted, and/or are fortunate enough to have dedicated space for work at home. We’ve then got those who can’t wait to go back to the office – whether it’s to be around other people for the companionship, or because they’ve grown tired of spending 4 months working from their sofa or bed. And finally you’ve got parents who’ve probably found this situation the most challenging of all of us and who desperately need some sense of routine in the lives of their kids so they can regain their balance between work and parenting.
Because of this I have no idea what “normal” will look like once all this is over, but I’m hoping at the least it’s helped people become more tolerant and accepting of the fact that we all live lives outside of work, and sometimes they intertwine. The recent number of kids gatecrashing their parents interviews on TV makes me think this (my favourite being “what self should be put the unicorn on” Scarlett, followed by “can I have a biscuit” boy!) is possible, when you see the public reactions to these things on social media and in general it’s been really heartwarming.
Despite the impending recession, it’s been really nice to see things pick up in terms of my clients. Most have adapted and found ways to continue during this time and many who put marketing on hold now feel more comfortable resuming some measure of activity as they know how important it is to remain part of the conversation and present in their customer’s minds.
The biggest thing for me is making sure that I’m prepared to weather what’s coming. It’ll be my first recession as a business owner and speaking honestly, COVID has drained the tiny reserves I had when I set up. It’s forcing me to look at things like forecasting, cash flow and other things far more seriously to make sure I’m ready in more ways than one for what awaits us next.
What about new business in these “new normal”?
If anything, the power of recommendation and referral has been all the more important in being able to bring in new business. Every single one of my paying clients has been on a discounted rate for at least 3 months during COVID and for new clients, particularly those who are looking to try digital marketing for the first time, are offered a cut-rate for the first 3 months for a couple of reasons. 1) to ease the financial risk on them a little and 2) to show that I'm also invested in the relationship and keen to make it work.
While this has been challenging financially, I'm trying to play the long game - focusing on building my connections and really establishing myself as a solid partner for clients to work with. This is paying off, as clients have been referring me to others in their networks who need marketing services. So while it's not been easy, I'm glad I've stuck to my principles of trying to do great work with nice people, and doing so with the intent of adding value. The real test of principles is when they stand to cost you something, but in the long-run, I believe it's a position well worth taking.
A referral is worth so much more than any other kind of lead to me and I've been so fortunate thus far that I've not had to do any sort of outbound for leads (other than my initial post that I was open for business back in January).
I hope that if I keep adding value, we'll be ok through the stormy times ahead, or my middle name isn't Storm (which it is)!
Kevin Gibbons, Founder @Re:signal
In many cases, despite the very extreme circumstances of Covid-19, it’s been business as usual. Our key focus has remained the same; do our best to achieve results for our clients and make sure our team are best equipped in order to succeed.
Our focus is always a view of retention is growth. We’ve always focused on our existing clients first and foremost, if we’re making a positive return for them from our activity it shows we’re working well. That allows us to retain our clients, grow with them and generate positive referrals / have strong stories (case studies and awards) to share to attract new clients.
We’ve been in a fortunate position to retain the majority of our clients, some of that is luck based upon their sector, but I also believe this is largely due to the strong results we’re achieving for them.
Communication is key - the pace of change has been rapid, and for that reason it’s been vital to communicate closely with both clients to understand their business, and with our team. We have a plan to deal with this, but are also clear that this is unchartered territory for everyone, so we need to be able to adapt to the changing landscape as required, as no-one has all the answers.
Remote work / team - we have a flexible environment normally, with 1-2 days a week working from home common across most of the team. We also have a network of remote workers / freelancers we work with to provide flexibility/scale.
So although Covid-19 clearly isn’t the same situation as working from home, we’d had some preparation that was useful. This meant that the team have adapted well, and we’ve put effort into sharing more in daily scrums, weekly lunch and learns and a company update / team chat at the end of each week.
We trialled going back to the office in the last weeks - this is 100% optional for the team, but are flipping the working from home 1-day per week, into working from the office 1-day per week to try and ease back into the new/next normal, optimistic that we can come out stronger than ever.
Radu Marcusu, CEO @Upswing
There is no universal recipe for managing crises: the reality is that, in order to survive or even thrive during a crisis, you need to take a step back and remember who you really are as a business. We exist in order to offer other businesses that matter the most efficient marketing strategies and tactics. That’s why enhancing these strategies with push marketing and even consultancy services came as a natural step.
We identified opportunities and used them:
- We organized the first online edition of Upswing Power Sessions focused on ”Certainty in uncertain times through real-time data”.
- We redesigned the Upswing website, adapted for the new context.
- We decided to follow the blue ocean principles and invested in research, so as to leverage our unique advantage of real-time data on consumer demands from day 0. We built a proprietary tool in almost no time, Upswing COVID-19 Data Trends, highlighting SEO trends for each industry, with daily updated data.
Take care of your people and they will take care of your business - we did all of this, while embracing a “0 furlough” policy from the start. We invested in the productivity and team spirit of our people with one on one meetings, online social events, team exercises, constant feedback etc.