How Digital Marketing Agencies Can Support Their Customers During COVID-19

Digital marketing agencies everywhere are feeling the prolonged effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many marketers have been forced to shift internal priorities during these difficult times.

While losing business hurts, it’s also an important indicator of areas your agency can improve or build upon to retain your existing list of clients.

Top Challenges for Agencies

With so many businesses closing, agencies large and small are shifting their marketing priorities during the pandemic (COVID-19 Has Forced the Majority of Marketers to Shift Top Priorities)

In this guide we’ll cover six strategies to help your agency and clients survive the economic lockdown for as long as possible.

  1. Understand Your Client Relationships
  2. Be Flexible With Your Clients
  3. Provide Additional Value In New Areas
  4. Consider Targeting Different Types of Clients
  5. Prioritize Re-Strategizing Your Accounts
  6. Set Up Your Clients and Your Agency for Recovery

1. Understand Your Client Relationships

Whether you have 1 or 1,000 clients, you’ll need to assess how COVID-19 has impacted each one individually. 

Losing some accounts is unavoidable with so many businesses being directly hit by the economic lockdown. However, your agency should be able to mitigate potential losses by analyzing how the pandemic has impacted your current clients.

This is especially important for agencies that serve multiple industries. Each and every client has their own set of challenges and pain points that need to be addressed.

US B2B Digital Ad Spending 2020

Source: eMarketer

We recommend auditing your client portfolio for performance to assess what needs to be done, from damage control to strategic shifting. 

Identify Clients with the Highest Churn Risk

Your agency’s main priority is to identify which of your clients is at the highest risk of churning and whether there’s anything that can be done to retain their business.

When you sort by highest churn rate risk you are allocating your time and resources efficiently, rather than spending resources on clients that may not have been impacted as badly.

Your agency will also benefit by identifying which clients are impacted the least.

Customer Retention and Customer Loyalty

Customer retention and customer loyalty measure just how satisfied your clients are and how likely they are to share their experience with others. 

They are byproducts of your willingness to adapt and provide excellent services that fit your clients’ needs.

Use this time as an opportunity to double down, whether it be offering more services, suggesting creative solutions for other paid channels, or ideas for future content. 

Understanding your clients’ situations and where to focus your time and effort is a useful skill for any digital marketing agency, but it’s basically a necessity right now.

2. Be Flexible With Your Clients

Flexibility during a pandemic may seem hard to quantify, but it’s one of the more powerful economic advantages agencies can offer in case of a major economic crisis.

Offering more flexible pricing options does two things: 

  1. It conveys to your clients that you value their business. 
  2. Agreeing to lower prices during a fixed period of time or until the peak of the crisis subsides builds invaluable customer loyalty.

You should target clients who are at the highest risk of churning and be proactive about temporarily restructuring your contract with them. 

Empathy and compassion go a long way during these times, and reiterating that your services will help them stay afloat reassures them that you are in this with them for the long haul.

How do you price your PPC services?

Source: WebStream’s State of the Agency 2020

Flexibility with Contractual Obligations

If you work with larger companies or businesses that are experiencing layoffs make sure you’re aware of the flexible options you offer in your contracts. 

In most cases, the cost of an external contractor for marketing services is far less than that of a full-time employee. Your agency should be aware of this, in addition to the value that you deliver to their business.

Communicating your commitment to being flexible and offering understanding to your point of contact will prove that you have value and honor integrity. 

Ways to Provide Flexible Value to Your Clients

3. Provide Additional Value In New Areas

Another strategy is to identify where your agency can provide more value for your existing clients.

Once you’re done assessing your client portfolio, you can determine if there are any additional services that you may be able to offer them. 

While this may not be an option for every agency, you can still pitch your clients some new ideas on how to get more value out of your services.

Proportion of Total View by Content Type

Source: PathFactory COVID-19 Content Engagement Report

Services to Provide Clients

For example, if you have a background in creating blog posts or PPC Ad Optimization, you could offer those as service to them at no additional cost.

If you have the creative experience and the bandwidth to provide these additional benefits, now is the time to utilize them.

Some other skills that can be converted into services include:

Learning platforms like Photoshop and Illustrator, building landing pages with platforms like Unbounce, becoming HubSport certified, or simply familiarizing yourself with additional analytics software are all invaluable tools you can offer during this time.

The truth is many clients who outsource their paid media are short-handed on a marketing team to begin with. By broadening your scope of digital marketing skills, you’ll be able to provide more value to your clients.

4. Consider Targeting Different Types of Clients

Branching out and testing new industries isn’t easy, but the same goes for running a successful agency. While providing more value to your existing clients is key, exploring new avenues and clients you originally ruled out should be considered as well.

For example, you could lower your threshold for additional digital advertising budgets. Or, you could shift your agency’s focus to marketing for local businesses or local e-commerce clients. 

E-commerce in particular has seen increased traffic in the last few months due to COVID-19. In fact, US online sales rose 43% amid the pandemic in September, and e-commerce sales during the first half of 2020 rose 30.1% year over year.

U.S. retail landscape during first half of 2020

Source: Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data

While these types of clients may not be your bread and butter, they can at least help you manage your cash flow and keep your agency up and running.

5. Prioritize Re-Strategizing Your Accounts

Professional marketers are used to adapting to new industry trends and world developments. 

If your current strategy isn’t working for your clients, you may need to step back and start the plan from scratch, as painful as that may be. Re-strategizing doesn’t mean you failed your clients, it means you actually care about their best interests and their future success. 

Understanding the impact this pandemic has on each individual client does two things:

  1. You can better assess the current state of the account. 
  2. You can better communicate to them what strategies need to be changed. 

Every account is different. Small changes could mean switching up an ad copy and messaging. Large changes could be scrapping an existing promotional campaign entirely and starting from scratch.

Some businesses have shifted their messaging to highlight consumer trends during the pandemic.

Shopify Plus Ad Example

Whereas others have moved away from offers that impact revenue directly and instead have opted to focus more on brand awareness and higher-funnel collateral. 

Toast Inc. COVID Ad Example

This ad campaign strategy’s goal focuses on keeping the marketing funnel operating without throwing a wrench in the system. As months pass you still need leads to nurture, and these ads help keep the gears turning while appearing timely and informative.

The users who convert on these offers aren’t spending money on a product now, but they may choose to in time. This strategy shows that although your business is advertising, you’re not oblivious to what is going on.

6. Set Up Your Clients and Your Agency for Recovery

The ultimate goal is to survive the economic turndown that the pandemic has caused. 

While businesses are certainly feeling the effects of the pandemic, that doesn’t mean there isn’t optimism out there for an eventual recovery.

Influencer MarketingHub Media Ad Presence

Source: Influencer MarketingHub

In fact, 41% of companies say they will increase marketing activities to maintain or grow their presence in the media.

For example, suggesting proactive measures at an account level could help ease some tensions with all the budget-slashing marketers have been experiencing as of late.

Most other businesses are facing the same issues you are, so be adaptive and be resilient when things go awry. 

Be flexible, be resilient, and keep providing stellar services.