Many of your clients’ business has been hit due to this pandemic…

And so has yours.

After all, when sh%t hits the fan, the marketing budget is the first in line to get cut.

So, navigating your digital marketing agency during COVID-19 (and recession) is no doubt difficult.

When you’re losing clients because they can’t afford to pay you now… when many of them have lowered their budget… keeping your infrastructure running is a grueling task.

In that though, it’s important to not lose your sight and values – and to have a proper idea on how to weather the storm and keep your business afloat.

Digital marketing agencies during COVID-19

Here are 25 dos and don’ts for digital marketing agencies during this coronavirus and recession:

1. Do empathize with clients

They are struggling themselves.

They can’t pay their employees.

They can’t keep their operations running.

So, if the clients can’t pay you, empathize with them. Try to come up with a solution rather than cursing them.

2. Don’t try to convince others

I’ve already read countless articles and social media posts from agencies, marketers, and freelancers on how businesses should invest in marketing now more than ever.

The reality is, these agencies, marketers, and freelancers aren’t necessarily trying to “help” business owners.

They are trying to keep their own business alive by convincing others.

This is very inauthentic and see-through.

Don’t be manipulative for your benefit.

There are many ways to help businesses in these difficult times. Convincing them to increase their marketing budget – when they are struggling – is not the right way.

3. Don’t disregard the low-paying clients

It’s not uncommon for digital marketing services providers to disrespect the low-hanging fruits for those bigger ones at the top.

But when you’re hungry, it is those low-hanging fruits that will keep you fed.

More than ever, this is the time you’re most hungry. So, if you have some low-paying clients, don’t disregard them. Don’t assume they are less important.

If anything, double down on your efforts to deliver them more value.

4. Do pay the employees in full

Yes, it’s difficult. And even the top companies have cut their employees’ salaries in some capacity.

But then that isn’t good of a reason why you should do the same.

If you have the reserve, try to pay your employees in full. Do not cost-cut by not paying your staff what they deserve.

5. Don’t layoff people

Again, this is something many companies have done already. Don’t be one of them!

Don’t let the people who helped you build your internet marketing agency high and dry. They need a job more than ever to survive.

If your agency isn’t in the right financial position, take other measures to survive instead of doing the extreme.

Contrary to the previous point #4, cut back salaries.

If needed, send employees on a month of unpaid leave. But don’t leave them jobless.

It’s extremely difficult to find a job in the current scenario. Not many brands and online marketing agencies during coronavirus are actively recruiting.

6. Do re-connect with old clients

Of course, this refers to clients who you shared a good relationship with – and not the ones who you broke up with on a conflict.

A simple and honest email can take you a long way.

“Hey, I hope you’re doing fine. This is to let you know that we’re actively looking for more businesses to work with. We had a great experience working with your team the last time and we’re hoping to work with you again. If you’re looking for digital marketing services, let’s talk. In these challenging times, our team remains committed (and motivated) to help business owners like yourself with more and more value and higher ROI.”

7. Don’t overlook your own brand

Digital marketing agencies have a big problem.

They get so hooked to caring about clients, they end up caring less about themselves. Generally, most of them do not create enough content for their own brand.

Right now, you don’t want to make that mistake.

Create a lot of content across all relevant channels. Blog posts, LinkedIn Pulse, Instagram Stories, Twitter Fleets, Facebook posts, Medium, more.

More content will bring you higher brand discoverability and engagement. It will unlock plenty of other direct and indirect opportunities for your brand.

Recommended Read: How to Create Content Fast (Without Hurting Its Quality)?

8. Do focus on your speciality

In desperate times, it’s common to take any and every kind of project to survive.

Be careful of this.

You don’t want to work with clients – just because they are ready to pay you – whose industry and business you don’t understand.

In such a case, since you’re not experienced working with such businesses and on such projects, the ROI for your client might be low or poor.

This is going to hurt your brand, making things even worse.

So, stick to your agency’s speciality. Do what you and your team are best at.

9. Don’t ignore the ‘right’ industries

With the above point made, this is worth-noting.

Coronavirus and recession have done big damage especially to select industries: hospitality, realty, automobile, travel and tourism, OOH entertainment, insurance, more.

These industries will take time to recover.

So, while I mentioned in the previous point that internet marketing agencies should stick to their speciality, if you’re specializing in these hard-hit industries, you certainly need to switch your gear.

This isn’t about chasing money. It’s about being strategic.

You want to change your long-term strategy to progressively focus more on industries and businesses that will recover and grow faster.

There are a few industries that are relatively less affected by economic downturns. It includes healthcare, education, FMCG, food and beverage, discount retail. Surprisingly, this also includes the cosmetic industry.

So, if you’re looking for new clients, you want to target those in industries that are least affected by this pandemic and recession.

10. Do leverage on your network

As an entrepreneur or manager, networking has always been extremely important.

Hopefully, over the course of years, if you have built a good network of people, this is a great time to tap on it.

Reach out to such people.

Here’s an important tactic though:

Instead of asking them if they are looking for an online marketing agency, ask whether they know anyone who might need it.

Your bland sales pitch “contact us for digital marketing services” will very certainly get ignored. Those who are polite will respond with “if needed, we’ll get in touch with you.” The conversion will be disappointing.

On the contrary, when you’re asking people in your network to help you connect with possible clients, this will leave a much better experience for them.

People don’t like being sold something. They like the idea of helping others; it’s much more positive.

“Hey, hope you’re doing great. I am just reaching out to ask if you know anybody who might need internet marketing services. Any business? Maybe your friend or relative? We’re looking for more clients and if you can help, that’d be great.”

A simple email or text like this is a much better idea.

Plus, this way, the person you’re sending this to, if they require digital marketing services themselves, they will respond positively.

“I don’t know about my friends, but I am definitely looking for an agency. Let’s talk.”

In one email or text, you’re targeting them, as well as their network.

11. Don’t rush to freelancing platforms

Freelancing platforms were already crowded even before this pandemic and recession.

It’s going to get more crowded now with more people looking for side income and home-based work.

Unless you have solid experience in winning clients on freelancing platforms, don’t expect to find too much value here.

It’s unlikely you’re going to find high-return clients with a long-term prospect.

12. Do get (very) active and strategic on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has long been a great B2B channel to generate leads.

In fact, 89 percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for lead generation.

However, in recent times, this social media platform has become even more rewarding and relevant than ever.

It boasts very high organic reach and engagement, which opens a world of opportunities for internet marketing agencies, as well as freelance marketers.

With key decision-makers of big (and small) organizations using LinkedIn, you can find many clients here.

If you ask me which is the most important social media platform in 2020 for business owners – it is LinkedIn without a doubt.

13. Don’t lower your price

Be flexible in pricing.

But don’t compete with other agencies for projects by lowering your price.

“Best digital marketing services at a cheap price” is not a good model.

The big clients – who want an agency for long-term – know this well.

So, try to maintain the same pricing model for your SEO, social media marketing, content, PPC, and other services.

14. Do change your website content and design

The dynamics have changed for business owners.

If they are looking to hire online marketing agencies, there are many other factors now that they are considering.

They have many new concerns that need to be addressed.

Tweak your website design and content accordingly to address the mentioned “concerns” and “factors”.

Tweak to make them more topical and relevant.

For instance, if your homepage above-the-fold copy says “we offer best digital marketing services”…

Change it to something like “We will recession-proof your business” “Helping businesses grow (even in a recession)”.

Similarly, change the web design as well, if needed.

For example, if you created a new whitepaper for COVID-19 or economic downturn (which you should), have a large opt-in section on the homepage; as well as a download button in a navigation bar.

15. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room

This isn’t the time for “business as usual”. Time has changed – and so should you.

Address the elephant(s) in the room.

Address the difficulty in getting new clients; address cash crunch; address new challenges.

At the same time, consider the problems the businesses you target would be facing now. Consider why they might ditch you. Consider why they might decrease their digital marketing spending.

Discussing these ‘elephants’ will unveil you plenty of insights. And these insights will help you navigate your marketing agency in the right direction in the coming months.

In the end, do not continue with “business as usual” theory. Recognize this new world that we’re in now.

16. Do reassure your existing clients

Reach out to your existing clients. Talk to them personally. (No template-like emails please.)

Discuss with them the challenges they are facing right now.

Re-assure them that your team remains committed to deliver them high ROI. Comfort them that your agency will continue bringing them the same value despite all the on-going chaos.

This is important to strengthen your relationship with these clients who are helping your business stay alive.

You can’t afford to lose any client right now.

17. Don’t ignore your employees

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

You have likely read this quote from Richard Branson many times already.

It’s true.

In the ongoing events, it would be easier to ignore the people working behind the curtain – ignore their needs and concerns. Don’t!

Talk to each of the employees personally. Share with them the challenges the agency is facing. Let them know what you expect from them.

At the same time, reassure them of their job security and salary.

18. Do improve your communication

And this includes communication within your team, with the clients, and with the public.

Improve it to achieve higher efficiency, transparency, and a seamless connection between you and the stakeholder.

Remember, everything you want your agency to achieve – communication will be the cornerstone of it.

Whatever you’re saying, make it more topical. Aim to provide the highest value to the target audience.

Communicate effectively to put your brand in the right limelight; to make your brand more engaging and trustable.

This means, above all, amp your PR tactics. If done right (and creatively), MarCom could unlock you many opportunities even in these trying times.

19. Don’t say no to newer ideas

When you aren’t seeing the desired results from your existing strategies, you have no reason to say no to newer ideas.

Or in other words…

If you want better results, you need better strategies.

So, get along with your team and discuss newer ideas… Ideas to get new clients, grow brand, and sustain the business.

And then follow up those ideas – that seem fitting – with prompt execution.

Extending your brand with a newer website that only targets PPE manufacturers… Launching a new 45-day social media marketing package… Offering white label digital marketing services…

There are many great ideas that can come from any direction and at any time. Be open to them. Be open to promptly execute.

20. Do invest in paid ads

Paid advertisement is not an expense; it’s an investment. Unless, of course, you’re doing it with no defined goal.

Don’t let your cost-cutting measures keep you from investing in ads.

Spend on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and even LinkedIn ads; whichever makes sense to your business goals.

Focus on the keywords that have a high purchase intent.

Segment your target audience and reach out to right demography that’s more likely to hire you.

This is one very simple way to find new clients even in coronavirus and recession.

P.S. CPC has decreased on many platforms. So, it’s much cost-effective now.

21. Don't stick to the same inbound funnel

The way you acquired clients through inbound tactics needs to change.

Your entire marketing funnel needs to be redefined to complement the current scenario.

So, change your editorial calendar, lead magnets. Adjust customer journey touch-points.

In fact, based on the ongoing trend – and where it’s heading – you might even need to shift your priority from one channel to another. (For instance, is your target client still searching for answers on Google, or are they now more active on LinkedIn to discover business opportunities?)

Look at your inbound strategy and make the necessary changes to adapt.

22. Do increase your value proposition

This is very basic and most fundamental.

If you were delivering clients X ROI, you now should aim for X+5.

This is the way you can outstand the crowd of other digital marketing companies, attract newer clients, and retain the existing ones.

The more value you provide, the more you will win.

If your value proposition is not sufficient to attract and retain clients, no matter what marketing tactics you adopt for your services, you will inevitably fall.

23. Don’t underestimate small cost-cutting

You don’t need to axe your 10 employees to stay liquid.

There are several small cost-cutting measures that can reward you in the long-run.

Give up the subscriptions of those SaaS products that aren’t very useful. Save on electricity bill. Ask more employees to work from home. Disconnect the extra internet connection. Put off any repairing work.

There are several steps you can take to cut-cost. Do not underestimate them in making a positive impact on your finance.

24. Do learn from this experience

Every difficult event also comes with the opportunity to learn.

So, do not get very obsessed with all the things that are going wrong.

Make proactive efforts into learning from this experience.

How to effectively manage a team, how to always have plan B, how to have capital reserves, how to build networks to save yourself in storms, how to build a brand that attracts clients, and so forth…

There are many and many things you can learn from this, which will help you scale and sustain your business in the coming months and years.

25. Don’t give up

This may sound corny and cliché. But it’s worth mentioning…

Things might be difficult to a point that it looks almost impossible to move forward. Taking an exit might feel like the right option.

Don’t give up. Don’t make any panic-based move. Hold on.

Even in this unique situation, there exist opportunities. And when things start getting better, those opportunities will multiply.

Digital marketing agencies will be among the first ones to bounce back.

Persist, be creative, and push a little harder. You and your team will be fine.


Of course, there are plenty more things that digital marketing agencies should do – and should not. A large part of this will have to do with how they are helping their clients achieve ROI goals.

The entire process of how they devise a plan and strategy for the client might need to be tweaked.

Newer KPIs should be prioritized.

Local SEO should have the main focus.

There are many aspects and nuances to this.

Keeping self and the team ahead of the curve – by being informed of new trends – will help your case.

In the end, it’s not just about surviving and thriving your own marketing agency but also assisting your clients with the same.

I hope the above pointers brought you value.

All the best! :)

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Asif Ali

The guy behind Spell Out Marketing. A certified content marketer and professional blogger with 5+ years experience in the domain. Find me on Medium here. Let's talk about inbound marketing, business and side-hustle on Twitter. (And oh, if you're on LinkedIn, let's connect!)

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