Pivoting to Digital Marketing for Small Business Success in a COVID-19 World

Pivot to Digital Marketing

I was fortunate to give a presentation to the American Marketing Association Nashville Chapter about how pivoting to digital marketing for small businesses has never been more important. As incoming president of AMA Nashville, my goal is to ensure businesses are  revisiting marketing strategies, goals, and budget allocation to maximize ROI in a COVID-19 world.

The COVID-19 crisis has created unimaginable acceleration toward digital and remote business operations. It’s not too late to make the pivot to digital for acquiring new leads, nurturing and cultivating relationships, and closing deals. This is understandably easier said than done, but it must be done.

Here are the three tasks I laid out in my presentation that you must take to ensure a successful pivot to digital marketing for your small business.

  1. Audit marketing budget and existing digital footprint

  2. Pivot strategies to capitalize on your digital audiences across channels

  3. Implement and optimize essential digital marketing tools

Audit marketing budget and existing digital footprint


The first thing you need to do in your pivot to digital marketing is to review your current budget allocation and existing digital marketing assets. 

Take stock of your entire marketing budget breakdown and look for ways to adjust. You most definitely need to reallocate resources for industry events to digital campaigns. This includes repositioning or furloughing field marketing roles. If you’ve budgeted for prospect or client outings, these resources also need to be repurposed to better serve your marketing ROI. 

Dedicate time to cataloging your digital marketing footprint. It may just be your website, or website and social media. Perhaps you have email marketing going on. Determine if you have an SEO strategy in place. What about a blog program? Take note your systems and platforms used to manage your website, blog, email, social media, or other digital marketing platforms.

You can also use this time to audit what your competitors are doing for their digital marketing plan. Checkout their website to see how professional it feels. Take a look at the cadence on their blog program. Sign up for their newsletter to learn the same. See what their activity is on social media. And once you’ve spent some time on their site, keep an eye out for any remarketing display ads that they may be doing.

Pivot strategies to capitalize on your digital audiences across channels


The equally wonderful and scary thing about digital marketing is that you’ve got increasingly more opportunities than ever before to market to your target audiences.

Tools, analytics, and other resources empower you to acquire and fruitfully engage with leads across channels with pinpoint accuracy. 

It’s critical that you pull your thinking above individual channels and implement a holistic approach that’s based on your target audiences. Just having an email marketing strategy or only promoting via Facebook is no longer enough. You’ve got to identify all the channels where your target audiences exist and determine if and how you can engage with them there. 

Channels to consider include: 

  • Email marketing

  • Organic and paid social media on classic and emerging platforms

  • Paid and organic search for your own site

  • Remarketing ads across the web

  • Industry publication placements

There is no one-size fits all approach to multi-channel marketing. Your unique product offerings, your target customer-base, and your marketing goals will dictate the channel mix that’s best for you. Keep in mind that the channel mix is dynamic. You should constantly be testing and augmenting every month or quarter to ensure you are maximizing returns.

If you’re a B2B operation selling a complicated and expensive product, your marketing goals will revolve around generating and qualifying high-value leads that your sales team can work to close. If you’re promoting a consumer app, your marketing will revolve around downloads. 

Be sure to manage you and your leadership’s expectations as you move to a multi-channel small business digital marketing strategy. Your ability to quickly scale across channels will be dependent on your marketing resources and tools. It’s not as easy as flipping a switch. You’ll need in-depth overall strategy as well as strategies for each channel you’re working in. And there’s a host of creative and content implications that come with launching marketing across new channels.

Implement and optimize essential digital marketing tools

Your pivot to a small business digital marketing strategy will require new marketing tools. A marketing automation platform, such as HubSpot, is a great place to start. These tools centralize much of your digital marketing work into one easy to use solution, including email, social media, lead management, forms, and analytics. 


This saves you a ton of time, but you can imagine that something so vast can prove to be overwhelming to set up and fully understand. It’s a challenge you’ve got to take on to maximize the effectiveness of your pivot to digital marketing.

After streamlining processes with a marketing automation tool, the next highest priority is to implement analytics tools that capture marketing performance against key metrics. This is the time to get your site set up on Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Marketing automation tools offer a ton of great analytics for email and conversions, but you may need to supplement with a social media analytics tool.

You’re looking for analytics to show you the campaigns across specific channels that return the most value. Measuring site traffic, post views, and conversions is fine, but you need to work toward real revenue-based metrics. If you’re generating and nurturing leads for a sales team, you need to be able to quantifiably prove your value.

Move fast and make your pivot before you fall further behind

There’s not much that can be sugar coated these days, including the urgency with which you need to pivot your marketing efforts to digital. 

I laid out these three high-level steps as a path to make your pivot, but it will likely be more nuanced than that for all marketers. We all have shared and unique constraints that seem to work against our marketing efforts. As constraints are overcome, others will arise. That’s just the way it goes. The challenge is to remain steadfast in affecting the change you need to realize your goals.

Your pivot to digital isn’t a task to complete but rather an ongoing journey that you’re already late in embarking on. Just as general marketing constraints ebb and flow, so too will your digital marketing channels and strategies. Stay agile. Celebrate your victories. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

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