While some industries are seeing unprecedented global growth as a result of COVID-19, many others are experiencing a significant slowdown. But there are still opportunities for impacted companies to come out on top once the pandemic passes.
The spread of – and global response to – COVID-19 is projected to result in an economic recession significantly deeper than the 2008 global financial crisis over the short term.
However, the global recovery is expected to be faster. Brands in industries that have been hit hard by the downturn can still make progress toward international growth goals. To do this, they can start by focusing on maintaining and connecting with their global audiences.
Here’s what companies can do now to set themselves up for growth after the crisis passes.
POSITION YOUR BRAND AS A TRUSTED RESOURCE
Demand generation and brand building are two core responsibilities of every marketing department. But right now, with budgets frozen and consumers’ disposable income falling, it’s crucial to shift toward building up your global brand.
Global users are hungry for content. So now’s a good time to get in front of them with thought leadership pieces. Whether for business or everyday life, consumers are looking for answers to their immediate needs. And they also want strategies for adapting to their evolving situations. Brands can connect with key audiences by being genuinely helpful, offering content with no ulterior motive (read: sales pitch). By demonstrating an understanding of audience problems and providing content that helps solve them, you can position your brand as an authority within your industry. You’ll also emerge as a valuable, trusted resource for your target audiences.
Providing useful content is important in the best of times. But, amid COVID-19, brands have a unique opportunity to build trust and rapport with key global audiences. This is particularly significant for markets where local competition is fierce, brand awareness is low, buyers take a long time to make purchasing decisions, or consumers are skeptical of American brands.
It’s also a perfect time to put your company values front and center in your marketing. Global consumers care about companies’ environmental and social impact. And now, in the midst of COVID-19, they have even higher expectations of how businesses treat their people. Demonstrate your commitment to your company values and your people during this time to build good will with consumers.
Taking the time to nurture relationships with your key international audiences now means shorter sales cycles later – especially in markets where it’s more difficult to gain traction. Consumers will remember the companies that came through for them during this time.
KNOW YOUR MARKETS
First and foremost, it’s critical to understand how your international target markets have been impacted by the pandemic. Keep on top of in-market news to make sure that your global communications strike the right chord based on the current situation of each audience.
Though COVID-19 has thrown buying trends into flux, it’s still important to consider each market’s consumer behavior. Understanding what they care about, where they spend time online, and how online behavior drives decision-making are all important factors in crafting a successful engagement strategy.
Part of this means learning how your audience likes to engage with brands and the channels that interest them. It also means delivering content and messaging that resonates with them based on their cultural values.
In India, for example, consumers are generally more family-oriented and respond well to themes around nurture. With such a large and diverse market (culturally and linguistically), companies may need to plan their marketing localization strategy on a state or regional level to effectively engage with Indian audiences. Dutch consumers value clear messaging, modesty, and honesty. In-country research is vital to uncovering these nuances and helping you plan which markets to focus on. Doing this will help build brand sentiment with your target audiences.
START SMALL TO CONNECT WITH GLOBAL AUDIENCES
Armed with insights about your key markets and how COVID-19 has impacted them, you’re well positioned to create or localize content that your audiences will find valuable. But you don’t have to go all-in right away. Start by localizing and promoting the most relevant content for your target market. Then, test to see what works, and evolve your strategy based on the results.
If budget is tight, testing the waters with English content can be a cost effective way to engage in-market consumers. Measuring the performance of these efforts will help you determine which markets you can gain traction in immediately without in-language content. You can also determine where you’ll need to invest in translation. Even if you start out with English-language content, though, you’ll need to localize it to reflect the English nuances within your target market. Here, research on cultural values, consumer behavior, and in-market search trends can help guide you.
Short term, you may need to shift away from revenue or sales leads as your primary KPIs. Focus on indicators of engagement instead. Depending on the market, metrics like subscribers, followers, average session length, and content downloads may be more useful ways to measure in-market progress.
Despite economic conditions, COVID-19 has presented companies with new opportunities fore connecting with global audiences. Companies that take the time to build engagement with their brands now will be better positioned for success as the world emerges from this crisis. How well – and quickly – your company recovers depends on what you do now.