When the current health crisis first hit and many people were faced with an indefinite time at home, one of the most prominent discourses on social media advocated using this period for self-improvement. A lot of platforms started offering free modules and even though I didn’t yet find any relevant statistics, I do believe that for a while there was a certain enthusiasm for online courses – especially ones that resulted in some form of certification.
Now we are good months away from that initial reaction and things are no longer looking so bright for any business that is not offering essential products and services. People are now functioning by the rules of the base of Maslow’s pyramid, seeking safety first. Learning, as important as it is for our lives, ranks higher up.
If you are an entrepreneur in the field of e-learning you surely have the dilemma of whether or not this is a good time to invest in the marketing of your courses.
Adjusting your online course marketing strategy for 2020
While the ROI of any marketing endeavor might not be impressive (or even positive) at the present date, it’s very important to keep talking to your potential and existing customers. Here’s how to proceed.
Make a (new) strategy
Odds are you already had one when this whole thing started and turned our entire world topsy-turvy. And since we are talking about a marketing strategy, the focus of it was increasing your customer base and securing more sales.
Yet right now it might be difficult for your potential customers to make a purchasing decision – whether because they have been economically affected or are simply unsure of the future and feel like it’s best not to make any money-spending resolutions at the present time, so you should shift your focus towards building and consolidating awareness for your brand.
It’s not like you should not try to sell your products, just don’t be too pushy about it. Since we are in a global crisis, there is bound to be some level of anxiety in your audience regardless of who they are.
Be aware of this and act accordingly. If you find that there is something you could give to some communities (virtual or physical) don’t hesitate – it will improve your image and make people regard your business favorably.
Be honest without complaining
Even if your business did take a direct hit and you are far from where you thought you’d be by now, it’s important to stay positive and communicate as such. It does not mean you should pretend everything is perfect. However, there is a big difference between acknowledging a certain reality and looking for solutions and simply raving about the unfairness of it all. There is enough bad news on TV.
If you want to make it on the other end of this period with a good image and possibly an increased follower base, be transparent about the situation and firm about your optimism for the future. Resilience is key these days and it’s best if you can both demonstrate it and encourage it in your audience. Focus on the positive aspects, plan realistically for the near future and make sure you stay visible to the people who are already following you.
You don’t need to renounce all prospects of sales, but your honest communication should not be aimed at driving purchases up. Your best bet is to keep a spotless image and hope customers will return once they feel it’s safe to do so.
Don’t forget about your purpose
When you started your business, surely you thought about what you are selling as a brand promise – a better future, an eye-opening experience, an increased sense of self-esteem. Whatever it was, you ought to stick by it and communicate it profusely during these uncertain and anxious times.
Make it clear why your brand stands by those values and that they have in no way changed or your commitment to them diminished because of the crisis. Avoid clichés though. Many companies are displaying rather generic messages of hope and resilience and they have reached the point where it gets annoying.
Your customers need to hear a personal message, and this should be especially easy for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have relied on communities (either physical or virtual) from the get-go. The bottom line is that you should be even more vocal about what you and your business truly stand for.
Employ social listening
It’s a very volatile time and if trends and opinions tended to change quickly before, now they can literally alter dramatically overnight. You should keep a close eye on what the communities that make up your target audience are feeling and saying.
Take in all opinions that are relevant to your business and join the conversations if you feel you have something to contribute. It’s important, again, that when you do communicate you sound genuine rather than opportunistic.
Social listening is ultimately about monitoring and analyzing what potential and existing clients are passionate about at a certain time. It will help you adjust your strategy according to ever-changing demands and expectations and you can’t afford to be in the dark.
All in all
It is obviously a very tough time for everyone and not the best moment for sales. Economies everywhere have taken a big hit and people are rather cautious when it comes to spending their funds. However, this does not mean that all marketing endeavors ought to stop. Like everything and everybody, they just need to adjust.
Raluca Cristescu has over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.