How Multi-Location Businesses Can Navigate Localized Marketing Through COVID-19

Given the rapidly changing direction and news on COVID-19, there is a need for multi-location businesses to adjust marketing strategies immediately. Local search and social pages provide the top sources of information consumers are going to in order to stay informed and connected, therefore it’s essential to manage a localized digital presence to remain top-of-mind for consumers.

Local search and social pages provide the top sources of information consumers are going to in order to stay informed and connected.

Consumers’ digital habits of turning to local search and local social pages didn’t start during the pandemic – a recently released report from SOCi found that the majority of business searches produced these local listings as the top results, and ultimately converted.

There are unique challenges multi-location marketers face when building and maintaining a digital presence for each of their locations – the digital world is over-saturated and has become even more digitally-focused amid this pandemic. And throughout times of crisis, consumers’ expectations for reliable, timely, and mindful communication exponentially increase, leaving marketers with the massive challenge of delivering for all locations. This is where the concept of localized marketing – digital strategies that focus on building a local presence for a business, leveraging locally-driven communication channels to reach the specific local communities it serves – needs to be utilized.

And as a localized marketing strategy is deployed, empathy must lead and inform all communication during this pandemic. So, as multi-location marketers realign strategies, stay away from a broad corporate message, and refocus on a localized search and social strategy to communicate to consumers at the local level, during times of crisis, and beyond.

Throughout this pandemic, businesses have been forced into a more reactive approach to communication, rather than proactive, which is understandable given the current situation. However, now that everyone is living their socially distant lives, it’s time for marketers to start preparing their localized marketing strategies for what’s next. For brands, there are a few communication best practices to adopt to help reach consumers and audiences during this time, and when everyone is ready to rebound. Here are four.

Lead with Empathy

It's essential to recognize that COVID-19 has severely affected the lives of many people worldwide. Multi-location businesses must acknowledge this through any communication to avoid coming across as tone-deaf. While the focus on connecting with target audiences should remain, lead with empathy. Show that your brand is empathetic, not because it’s a strategy, but because it’s a core value.

Provide Value

Through any communication, a brand needs to be asking what can you do to ease consumer confusion, provide value, and prove brand credibility, while tying in COVID-19. Themes for socials posts include:

  • Create posts on social distancing – what can consumers do to occupy their time at-home. Whether it’s must-read books, puzzles, at-home workouts, or stress relief techniques.
  • Provide real-time updates on your brand’s revised business practices, what you’re doing to help employees or the community, and share how consumers can continue connections with your business.
  •  Ramp up your cause marketing, and share your efforts to increase brand affinity.
  •  Provide franchisees with corporate messaging to share to their local social pages.

Keep Consumers Informed

Everyone has been impacted, but are there any noteworthy changes that are happening in the industry as a result of COVID-19? These are questions that consumers want answered. There is so much confusion with businesses having to reduce their hours, work from home, or close completely, that it's critical to keep consumers up to date. Businesses must claim ALL local pages on top search and social platforms, and share up-to-date information and rich images. Consumers need to feel like they can trust your brand during this difficult time, so be that source of information.

Engage and Respond

Creating posts to be shared on local social pages is only the beginning – once your posts are live, you must actively engage and respond to any comments, and maintain reputation management. Any sense of comfort you can provide can make a huge difference.

When a brand is creating personalized, localized content that has empathy at its core, you’re building brand trust.

Best practices for engagement suggest that brands must respond to any comment or review – those with negative sentiment especially, respond to within 24 hours. You can inform your future content by actively monitoring the engagements each content topic is receiving across all search and social platforms, and build upon what’s working. Engaging the community helps consumers feel heard during times of uncertainty.

COVID-19 is having drastically different effects on each local community. To remain empathetic is key. The content that you craft and share on each local search and social pages must mirror the unique challenges they’re facing. When a brand is creating personalized, localized content that has empathy at its core, you’re building brand trust. The lasting effects of this will far outreach the timeframe of this pandemic. And once you’ve established this relationship, deepen that brand trust through the continued creation of localized content for each of your locations after the crisis subsides. The companies that will survive this crisis are the ones that will adapt and put out the right messaging, at the right time, on the proper channels.

For brands to prepare for the rebound, localized content is only the start of a holistic localized marketing strategy. Learn from consumers’ digital habits throughout the crisis – everything has gone digital, and consumers are turning first to local search and social pages to find the information needed to make a purchase decision, and a brand’s marketing strategy must align with this digital-first world. If brands prepare their localized digital presence now, to meet consumers where they’re spending even more time digitally, you’re primed for a successful rebound, and to even gain momentum, for the world after COVID-19.