Responding to COVID-19

We get it - this is a scary and uncertain time for everyone. But it is also a time of great opportunity. Preparation, steady nerves, and a willingness to be bold are the keys to success. Buyers, sellers, owners, advisors - everyone is paying attention right now. The eyes of the world are all watching, and now is the time to be a firm that leads from the front.

Every prudent firm should be taking a step back and re-evaluating their business and how they serve their clients. We are all being forced to evolve, adopt new technologies, and bend to the needs of our communities. We understand that many firms are using this time to evaluate their current marketing / BD initiatives, so we wanted to provide some resources and tips to help.

We are going to break down best practices, strategies, and pro tips to help your firm reach new clients and build goodwill within your community. You won’t find gimmicks, hacks, or complex click-funnels. Just good, solid marketing that we believe every firm should be focusing on during this pandemic.

What We Will Cover:

Making COVID-19 updates to your website.

The foundations of SEO.

The importance of Email Marketing.

Pivoting Google Ads PPC strategies.

Communication strategies during a downturn.

Industry-specific Resources

(Click a box to jump to that section)

"The team at Merger Labs is professional, responsive, and deliver results. We have seen a significant increase in traffic to the website and inbound inquiries."

Emma Kirchoffer - GaP Advisors

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Domenic Rinaldi - Sun Acquisitions

"Currently working with Merger Labs and they've been very helpful at getting my website more clicks and working properly. Helpful with SEO and social media marketing also!"

Aaron Solganick - Solganick & Co.

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Karl Grasemann - Grasemann Group

"Had a great experience with the team at MergerLabs. They took the time to understand our goals and designed a dashboard that gave us visibility on the impact of the changes made. We saw a marked improvement in website traffic and search activity."

Travis Ernst - NuVescor Mergers & Acquisitions

"Merger Labs quickly improved our firm's online presence in New England by improving our ranking across the board. Having industry experts support our digital marketing effort is a must!"

Justin Grolley - The Nery Corporation

Merger Labs has played a key role in modernizing our firm. I have seen gains in search ranking, site traffic and engagement all while saving over the cost of my old, industry agnostic digital marketing provider. The team is professional and very knowledgable about marketing in the deal space.

Omar Alhariri - Global Business Brokerage

Modifying Your Online Presence

Web updates

This is a time to get back to the basics of good digital marketing. That means having a website that provides resources, information, and an easy way for clients to contact them.

Your website is the hub of your online activity. It tells people who you are, what you do and how they can get in touch with you. It is the funnel by which you convert visitors into leads. And during COVID-19, it is the base camp for your marketing efforts.

While many firms will press “pause” while they wait for the dust to settle and the market to stabilize, there is a unique opportunity for smart firms who want to strengthen their position.

Here are three things you can do to update your firm’s website in response to COVID-19:

1. Review Your Messaging.

Your branding, positioning, and overall digital strategy are going to be crucially important during the next few weeks. Your digital footprint impacts how business owners, intermediaries, referral sources, and other targeted audiences view you in amongst a sea of competitors.

It is important to clearly communicate your firm's value in a concise, cohesive manner. When someone lands on your home page, can they clearly identify:

- Who you are and what you do
- How you can help them
- Proof: testimonials, cases studies, tombstones, etc
- How to contact you

If those elements are not clearly defined on your home page, you are likely losing opportunities to convert visitors into inbounds leads.

2. Ensure Your Digital Security.

The COVID-19 has not only caused global disruption, it has also changed the cybersecurity threat landscape. Now more than ever, during this time of global uncertainty and especially when the use of digital media is on the rise, security is an ongoing imperative.

Cybersecurity experts are seeing a 500% increase in online attacks, mostly in the form of scamming, brand impersonation, and business email compromise.

Security is a shared responsibility. It is important to remember your continuing role in ensuring the safety and security of your websites. Below are our recommended best practices to improve your chance of staying safe from a security incident or malicious attack:

  • Create a strong username and password within your website and website hosting portal that you do not reuse on other services.
  • Use multi-factor authentication, or MFA, as a security best practice for all logins.
  • Enable seamless login from the WP Engine User Portal to WordPress Admin.
  • Ensure that the plugins on your website are always up to date, and remove any plugins not in use.

Is your website currently hosted on a high-quality server that offers advanced protection - or are you currently on a $10 / month economy option? The average cost to remove malware from a website can exceed $3000.

3. Check for Issues "Under the Hood".

As the digital environment continues to evolve, it is important to ensure that your website is being actively maintained and there aren't any issues "under the hood". An in-depth audit is a valuable way to diagnose any problems or areas of weakness on your site. The results will provide a detailed analysis of what can be improved to enhance your site for improved performance.

Performing regular performance audits on your websites is the only way to ensure that your website is positioned to rank well for keywords, functioning correctly for visitors, and making sure that you're not wasting your marketing dollars.

Some common issues that need to be checked for include:

  • Website Speed: slow websites will frustrate visitors and tank your website's SEO efforts.
  • SEO Setup: There needs to be a deliberate strategy when formatting the back-end setup for every page on the website.
  • Broken Links: There is no faster way to ruin your online credibility than to have a website with broken pages or links.
  • SSL Certificate: Making sure that your website is https-compliant will give you a boost to you SEO efforts, and improve the user experience. (No one likes to see "NOT SECURE" when they visit a website).

Request a Free Website Audit

Submit your info using the form below, and we will send you a comprehensive website audit report.

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Protecting Your Online Visibility

SEO Updates

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy, and often takes time to see results. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse to neglect your ongoing SEO strategy. Even as many M&A and PE firms scale back their marketing efforts, this time presents a great opportunity to double down on marketing projects that were previously placed to the side.

SEO can be technical, but we’re going to simplify a few strategies you can focus on during this time. Even referral-based leads will search for your firm online at some point. When they do, your firm needs to be competitively ranked. Our team builds specific SEO campaigns that get your website to the top of local search results and keep it there.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of your marketing strategy. Here are a few recommendations for your firm as you review your digital BD efforts:

SEO Checklist

  • Verify your Google My Business listing
  • Page Titles: Make sure that each page is accurately describing the page and incorporating your targeted keywords.
  • Meta descriptions: Write a brief description about each page to tell Google what the page is about.
  • H1 Tags: All of your pages should have an H1 tag, which is a descriptive headline that includes the primary keyword the page should rank for.
  • Content: Your website pages should have between 500 to 1000 words to really compete in search engine rankings. The pages should be descriptive, easy to read and relevant to search queries for your services. Each page should also have at least one mention of the primary keyword you would like it to rank for.
  • Try using Google Trends (trends.google.com) to see what search terms people in your city and state are using to search for attorneys.
  • Site Speed: How fast your website loads can be the deciding factor in your online visibility. Here are two free online tools to check your website's speed: Google PageSpeed & Pingdom Website Speed Test

Free SEO Audit

If you don’t have time or the technical chops to check on these core pieces of SEO, we can help. We are offering a free SEO analysis to every firm that requests one.

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Maximize Your Audience Engagement

Email Outreach

Email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Bar none. Even in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an overall increase in email open rates, which indicates that people are still interested in hearing from the businesses and organizations they care about. Here is what works in generating responses, in our experience:

Use an organic follow up cadence.  Mechanized follow ups, sent at the same time and date each month read like automated email marketing.  Stagger your follow up cadence and try to mirror an actual persons email ebb and flow. It's more common early on in email communication to follow up rapidly and slow the follow up over time.  Don’t be afraid to send your second follow up a few days after your first.

Say something different each time. You can only introduce your firm so many times.  Plan to quickly pivot to short story telling, or value added information and updates to avoid fatigue.  Once a prospect unsubscribes you lose them forever.

Building an audience = building value. Think of the email marketing exercise as an audience building effort not a lead generation effort.  It’s easier to generate active leads from an audience than from a cold group who has no understanding of who you are or what you do.

Email Outreach

  • Send helpful resources, such as info about SBA and other emergency relief programs. (See resources below for examples).
  • Keep your emails concise and actionable
  • Segment your audience: Firms should have specific content to send to business owners vs. referral sources. PE firms should differentiate the content that they send to owners vs. intermediaries vs. referral sources, etc.
  • Direct Conversions: Send your traffic to a designated landing page that has clear and easy-to-use calls to action.
  • Plain-text: For contacts who do not open the email, re-send them an email that contains none or very little HTML. Sending a plain text email will have a better chance of reaching your inbox, and avoiding the SPAM filters.
  • Prove your expertise: share recent deals completed in a specific industry, or share relevant comments about the current state of a given industry.
  • Distribute to multiple channels: If you share content via email, make sure that you are posting that content on your website and social media pages as well.

When content marketing campaigns fail it is often because the client firms are not willing to adapt strategies based on the available data.  If you use data to drive your decision-making you should have a high probability of success.

Learn More About Email Marketing

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Managing Paid Advertising Campaigns

Google Ads

Right now, paying for ads may not be a top priority. With many businesses, having to make tough decisions about payroll and overhead costs, it can seem like Pay-Per Click (PPC) Google Ads are expenses that simply need to be put on pause.

But when everyone zigs, that is when you zag. If your firm offers business valuations, outsourced CFO services, turnaround services, strategic planning, or other non-exit specific advisory services, COVID-19 presents a great opportunity to capture the attention of your prospective business owners.

Most firms do not need huge ad spend budgets to generate measurable results – after all, finding your next client or portfolio company is about value, not volume.

Google Ads PPC Checklist

  • Track Everything. Make sure that you have set up conversion tags on your landing pages to that you can determine which ads/keywords are leading to conversions.
  • Make sure the ad and landing page are relevant to the targeted keyword.
  • Use negative keywords. Including words like "career", "jobs", "fast", and other words will help protect your budget and further qualify your audience.
  • Be Creative. The dealmaking space is crowded - say something different, and show your audience why you are better than the others.
  • Create strong calls to action “Above the Fold”
  • Add testimonials, tombstones, or relevant statistics
  • Define a path for conversion, including forms and clickable phone numbers.

Learn More About Paid Advertising (PPC/SEM)

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Communication Strategies

Content

We encourage you to consider the importance of your communications strategy and activity within the context of today's COVID-19 pandemic. What you do and say now could have lasting positive effects once the dust settles.

We all know this pandemic has already impacted the middle market, but how we prepare for additional change and react to the new normal is key. Each industry, and even each sub-vertical, is facing unique challenges that will play out in the weeks and months to come.

Original content can establish trust, shift minds, and inspire action. Sharing the insights that only your team can provide in a concise, easy-to-understand way will further establish trust with your target audience.

Over the last few weeks, we have helped many clients craft responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

As a subject matter expert in your industry, now is the time to consider how you and your colleagues can share your insights to help in this period of uncertainty. Everyone is looking for answers, and while none of us know definitively how things will shake out in particular industries, we all have unique perspectives that our networks would want to hear.

Don't let gravity of the situation stop you from sharing your thoughts. Just talking about what you and your team are experiencing and hearing in a sincere, thoughtful manner can add a lot of value for your audience.

If you find yourself with the time and energy to take on some content generation efforts on your own, feel free to send us your draft for review.

We’ll offer complimentary editing and advice during this time because we believe it is important for our colleagues in the industry to communicate quickly and effectively amid this period of uncertainty.

We Want to Help You Create Content

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