Greg Sterling Interview: How the Coronavirus Is Changing Online Marketing

Greg, thanks very much for being heretoday and having a chat with me.

Can you just introduce yourself toeveryone please.

Sure I'm the VP of Market Insights for uberall.

I've been alongtime analyst and writer in the location marketing local space.

This is areally kind of strange and unprecedented time and everybody is affected, I meanabsolutely everywhere around the world at all levels, enterprises to smallbusinesses, and we all really need to find ways to work together to solve thethe enormous and stressful challenges facing businesses B2C, B2Bbusinesses right now.

At Uberall we're trying to create content and be moreresponsive to our customers needs as well as respond to what's going on inthe large marketplace and hopefully this discussion that we're gonna have todayjust a short discussion will be the first of a number of these conversationsthat we'll have both with our own internal Uberall experts and employeesas well as customers and partners.

Like you said it's a really uncertain time at the moment, both for businesses and also people looking to find accurateinformation, and especially because of the fact that there's limited movementin terms of where they can go I guess accurate information is reallyimportant.

Can you just run us through what businesses can do toachieve good communication aside from sending the odd email to their customers.

Right so that they they need to start with email that's a way to reach theirmost loyal customers for the most part but then they need to go beyond that asmany people already know if you have a physical brick-and-mortar location, orlocations plural, you need to update all your information in Google my business ifyour new bar all customer you we can help you with that, if you're not acustomer you need to do it by changing hours indicating if your locationsare closed, using Google posts, you can even change the business description toindicate any updates.

These are the kinds ofthings that you need to do.

You also probably need to create special pages onyour website to address your change in circumstances, anything you're doing tomake your service or products available to the public, if you'reinstituting special precautions, special hygiene or health and safety measures -these kinds of things, you should put on special pages on yourwebsite that can be optimized for discovery and search.

Because people aregoing to be going to Google they're going to be going to other directoriesand search engines to look for information.

You know one of the commonmisconceptions I think is that local search is kind of dead right now becausestores are shuttered in many cases people are doing a lot of e-commercebut that's absolutely not true.

People are searching for store hoursinformation certain categories of businesses like food delivery groceries, so you need to have pages on your site that can be discovered in search thataddress your customers questions and address your changed circumstances.

You should use social media to communicate much of the same informationbut social media can also be a two-way communication channel where you can bemore responsive to your customers in near real-time and you should alsotry and be as as genuine, as authentic as possible, sort of put aside the corporatejargon and kind of marketing speak and really speak to your customers as humanbeings who are in distress and who have real problems right now.

Some aresaying “it's a really good time to pivot the marketing strategy, investin paid advertising”, these sort of things and others have said “hey it'stime to shut up shop, close the doors both at offline stores and with online communication”, so can you just give usyour view on that.

it's tough to make generalizations but here goes, Ithink if you are pivoting from, if you're a restaurant, you're pivoting from in-store experiences to food delivery or takeoutyou need to communicate that, so you don't want to shut down your marketingif you have any kind of online capability to shipproducts or e-commerce or remote learning or instruction or consultationyou need to let your customers know about that and you don't want to shutdown your marketing.

Very few industries are going to want to shut down theirmarketing right now or indefinitely pause their marketing.

I mean ifyou're in the travel business or if you're in the cruise business or ifyou're in live sporting events or concerts it's a it's a bit of a toughercall because there isn't going to be demand for your services butthere's still things you can do so the general advice would be no.

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don'tdiscontinue marketing at this time.

You need to shift your messaging and shiftyour focus of your marketing in terms of content creation, which a lot of peopleare engaged in depending on the size of the business.

You'redefinitely going to want to change that, you need to be aware and sensitive tothe current situation so continuing to push out content that doesn'tacknowledge what's going on or doesn't respond to the current circumstances iskind of tone-deaf and you're going to want to stop doing that.

So in your opinion is this an environment where there isopportunity be creative as a business and what are your tips forbusinesses that are trying to do that? They're trying to pivot andcreate some value in a space where it's pretty hard at the moment to do that.

Again it's going to depend somewhat on your circumstances and particularindustry but I would say creativity is absolutely essential I mean it's going tomean the difference for some businesses between survival and failure and Iwould encourage people from a small business context to really talk to asmany people as they can, to look around see what other people are doing andsteal the best ideas.

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