Globally the impact of the coronavirus has seen stock markets decline and many businesses have started to implement contingency plans to ensure survival, which will include a review of marketing budgets.
Rightly so, Governments have implemented lockdown policies and taken action to introduce social distancing measures in an attempt to kerb the spread of the virus which they hope will enable healthcare services to cope better with patients needing treatment over the longer term and reduce the number of fatalities.
The coronavirus has placed many business owners in uncharted territory and some businesses are experiencing devastating effects whilst some have seen a dramatic rise in trade.
It goes without saying our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected. The all important message is that we should not be knee jerk in our reactions based on news and what other companies are doing. Decisions should be made based on our businesses and our financials.
From a marketing point of view, it is all about marketing communications and keeping in touch with suppliers, customers and staff.
Sensitive and well thought out marketing communications will help to retain confidence, maintain sales and ensure staff welfare to hopefully help you continue trading through the difficult times that lay ahead.
Communication will be key. Talking to suppliers will help you understand the impact on your supply chain, regular updates with staff will help to ensure they are keeping healthy and following health and safety and hygiene guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease. By keeping in touch with customers you will maintain confidence, gain an understanding of how they are fairing and what their future needs will be.
It is clear that most businesses will be assessing their trading position, reviewing cashflow and carrying out financial modelling to understand the profit and loss forecasts for various trading scenarios in order to take measures to protect the business in the longer term.
Central to this process should also be a review of marketing tactics as these may be pivotal to survival.
Wherever possible, we advise you not to cease marketing entirely.
Instead, we advocate you convey the message that you are operating your business within the guidelines, and should this not be possible, there is a clear message as to how people can stay on touch with you.
Here is an overview of how each marketing tactic may help you survive:
Your website news section is a great way to offer advice, promote offers and keep your suppliers, customers and staff updated.
We have drafted statements already for many clients explaining how they plan to mitigate the impact of the virus and these are being regularly updated.
This could also be an ideal time to re-think your content strategy and review the key words and phrases that are important for your business to rank in search. If you have spare time maybe you can write a bank of articles to post in the future and re-visit services or product pages to refresh them or add more content for important areas which do not currently have a dedicated landing page.
We’re not about to suggest to embark on a re-brand, but this could be an ideal time to step back and consider if your website and your other marketing channels still accurately reflect what you do as a business and your current values.
When was the last time you stepped back and reviewed the profile and needs of your your buyer persona’s and reflected on how well your business communicates and differentiates how you can help?
EMAIL MARKETING, SOCIAL MEDIA & VIDEO
Sending regular email updates and posting on social media will help you to maintain confidence in your company and ensure customers know you are still open for business and how they can buy and interact with you.
Social Media is also a great way to connect with people without face to face contact, so now could be great time to update your business profile on LinkedIn and start connecting with potential customers. It is ok to carry on posting relevant and appropriate content that is sensitive to the current market conditions.
Short video clips providing tips and information are also a great way to provide engaging content that raises your profile and helps to build trust and credibility.
NETWORKING, MEETINGS, EXHIBITIONS
This is bound to be the hardest hit marketing tactic, due to social distancing measures as people avoid face to face gatherings, but technology can still enable these events to go ahead using audio and video conferencing software. FaceTime, Skype, Whatapp Video MS TEAMS and other specialist software can help you to connect.
When lock down measures begin to relax and we are able to meet face to face, you may want to consider briefing employees as part of your health and safety policies.
SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING
You should review any sponsorship and advertising contracts and assess whether given the current situation, they will still work for you. As more and people work from home or go into self isolation they will be reading, watching and browsing more, so even though people may not be at work, lockdown could be great time to gain increased exposure. Alternatively, they could not be being seen at all and may be an expense you can pause.
People will always buy from people, and how you react and serve customers during this period will be remembered. We advise you to keep close to your customers and contact prospective customers with a clear message of how you might be able to help them, even if it is only for a social chat. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with anyone if there is a mutual gain. These good deeds will be remembered when trade returns to normal.
Issuing news stories and keeping abreast of current affairs and forward features in trade journals is another great way to get free exposure. However, please be very careful that you are not seen to be trying to gain PR exposure at the expense of others not so fortunate. Avoid scaremongering and sensationalism in headlines particularly if they simply promote your company as journalists have already told us they will not cover these stories and, even worse, they will not look upon those who send them favourably in the future.
There is no doubt that the months ahead are going to be challenging. However, they do need to be faced with optimism and a positive attitude.
Taking a doom and gloom approach that underlines uncertainty will impact the perceptions that customers have of your business and push them away to your competitors.
More than ever, now is a time to think creatively and look for opportunities that will help your company to survive.
In 1924, a Havard business schooler called Roland Vaile completed his Masters having spent a year studying the fortunes of 250 companies following the Great Depression after WW1.
Vaile divided the firms he researched into three groups:
- those that did not believe in advertising,
- those that cut back advertising during the Depression and
- those that increased it.
His results demonstrated that companies that increased their marketing budgets during the recession grew sales much faster than their rivals – not only during the downturn but also beyond it. Companies that decreased their advertising spend saw their sales decline both during the recession and then for the following three years. In relative terms, these companies actually underperformed even those that elected to do no advertising at all.
The message from us is clear:
Remain visible, keep in touch, stay positive, follow advice.
Those who stay visible have the best chances of staying afloat and surviving!