Building the new — at this point, what choice do we have? The Covid-19 crisis has upended almost everything we knew and expected about our work, our careers and our way of life. Sadly, as the crisis continues, while unemployment is improving, we are not out of the woods and the collapse of myriad small businesses continues. Welcome to 2020, but all is not lost.

We’ve Been Here Before

Many small businesses are reeling right now, and I know from experience how staggering the blows can be when the economy contracts. I’ve been involved with several tech and digital media startups and concepts going back to the early 1990s, including opt-in email, e-appending and digital data and marketing. Like so many tech entrepreneurs, I remember May 2000, September 11th and the market crash in the autumn of 2008. Most of us are battle-scarred veterans at this point, and we have the core skills to fight the good fight. What’s interesting, and even exciting, right now is how the current crisis has brought the fight directly to entrepreneurs, thanks to an ongoing, revolutionary shift in online consumer behavior.

More Consumers Are Spending More Hours Online

The shelter-at-home directives given by governments worldwide inspired a heretofore-unseen migration by consumers to the Internet and a concomitant ecommerce boom. In August, Amazon reported reported earnings that nearly doubled year-over-year. And it’s not just shopping. Families and friends continue to host Zoom Sunday roasts and happy hours, karate and yoga have moved online, art students are still taking studio classes at home, and I’m sure I don’t need to mention the massive increase in home delivery.

Build the New

The immense increase in time spent online by consumers, while a harbinger of continuing grueling times for brick-and-mortar businesses, is an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs. Whatever your audience was, it’s now larger and almost omnipresent; whatever your marketplace, it’s expanded exponentially. Now is the time to ramp up customer acquisition and to take a thorough, consistent multi-channel marketing approach; you’ve got current and potential customers using Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube more than they ever have – it’s up to you to find and connect with them.

Retool Your Vehicles

Whatever digital marketing tools you were using as of February 29, 2020, it’s time to inspect and detail those vehicles. Even with your customers online for so many more hours per day, the competition for their attention has only increased since the crisis began. What can you do? First, keep your messaging clear, direct and free of hype and hyperbole. These are tough times, and your customers are stuck at home, trying to bang out a full day of work on a laptop with the kids at home – show them you respect and value their attention. Keep it short and uncluttered, forgo unnecessary graphics and images…stay on brand, but simplify. Right now, bells and whistles are unnecessary. Keep everything short, smart, sweet – and above the fold.

An Open Digital Hand

Beyond communicating with your current audience and engaging new customers, what else can your digital marketing strategy accomplish? Right now, everyone can use a little guidance, a bit of insight, some support, a bit of direction…and you can give it to them. If you have information they can use about staying healthy, working from home more efficiently, a great online museum tour, an online art project for kids sponsored by the local library, some great recipes – in other words, a little goodwill will take your brand a long way. We’re all battling cabin fever, short tempers, a very real but very different type of stress than we’re used to…use your messaging as a way to help your customers slog through this. If you haven’t done so, consider adding an email newsletter to your arsenal, one that offers useful tips, pertinent information, local news and special deals. Everyone needs a little help right now.

The End Is Where We Start From

The Covid-19 crisis will end. Economies are starting to open up even more. However, COVID has fundamentally changed our world and pretty much every aspect of our lives will echo with the effects of the crisis, from education to entertainment, from food and beverage to travel, for years to come. I can’t say what the lay of the land will be once the dust finally settles, but I am certain the amount of time we are all spending online will remain quite close to where it is now, and digital marketing will remain crucial to the success of any and every business: if yours hasn’t, it’s time to pivot.