What’s your Coronavirus marketing style? Are you sticking absolutely to your original plan? Being adaptive and making the most of the changing markets? Halting all marketing activity until… the dust settles? We’re looking at how you can make the best of your current business situation, and giving you some ideas for incremental improvements that will boost your business. Even in 2020.
Good marketers plan flexibly, know they need to be agile, and build in contingencies - but we think it’s fair to say that most of the marketing plans written for 2020 didn’t account for a global pandemic. In the first two weeks after the UK government announced lockdown back in March, a quarter of businesses temporarily shut down, and 38% reported substantially lower than normal turnover. Many staff were furloughed, and others started remote working, some with little pre-existing infrastructure. With these huge business and life changes, and as the months have now passed, marketing for some companies became a priority, and fell by the wayside for others.
Sticking to the plan
It’s unlikely that Coronavirus has had zero effect on your business. Even if your company manufactures hand sanitiser, you probably needed to look at that marketing plan again.
Sticking to a plan with such a change of market forces is risky at best. Whatever you researched and wrote for opportunities, budget, channels, messaging – they all need to at least be reviewed with data firmly in hand. It’s foolhardy to continue without acknowledging that a pandemic will affect your business – even if it’s positively.
Stop the world – I want to get off
In situations of economic uncertainty, marketing can be seen as an outlay that can quickly be slashed, rather than an investment that will keep the company communicating, being visible and bringing new business in – or even finding new ways to do all of these things.
We get it, sometimes businesses just need to take a breath in times of crisis to consider how they will proceed. But if you’ve been holding your breath since March, as we settle into a new normal, you must consider that inaction can’t go on indefinitely without seriously damaging your business opportunities.
The good news is, if you have chosen to stop all marketing activity or carry on exactly as you were, there’s now an opportunity to do something different. Now is a great time to innovate.
Some businesses will be changing aspects as fundamental as their product offering, but don’t throw away your 2020 marketing plan yet – read through it and see what still remains true. The major changes to how we’re working are already underway – like remote working, buyer behavioural changes, closures of venues - so see what’s affecting your business and how, and compare it to what you wrote.
Do some research, focusing on data from the past few months. Are buying cycles affected? Has your target market shifted? Are there new opportunities you could explore? If your proposition has changed, how are you communicating this? What budget are you working with now and how will you manage costs? If you rely on people visiting you physically, what changes can you make to ensure these people keep buying from you?
We could go on – the point is, be critical. Examine every part of your plan and see what needs changing.
There’s a lot you can be focusing on – here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Refine your target audiences
Now’s a great time to reflect on who your ideal customer is and how to reach them, whether they’ve changed or not. Carry out audience research, and if there have been any changes to your buyer personas or your product offering, think again about what problem your business solves for them. Already know who your ideal customer is? Is there any more data you can tease out to further segment them?
According to David van Schaick in Marketing Week, micro-segmentation is how effective businesses will reap rewards – targeting potential customers based on ever more nuanced data with ever more tailored messaging. This isn’t a new proposition, but those who can achieve this level of targeting will be well positioned in this new environment against a competitor who can’t. In some markets, your target audience may even be freed up with more time to read or research – even more reason to get in front of them right now.
Have a website. If you have a website, improve it.
Consumers are planning to be very slow in returning to public places. According to the GlobalWebIndex Coronavirus Research report, almost half said that they won’t return to shops for ‘some time’ or a ‘long time’ after lockdown eases, so we are now at the point that if you are not online, you will not be seen.
We’ve been working with small businesses to get them online during lockdown – businesses that had previously relied on foot traffic, like restaurants, bars and grocers. These innovators have found a new way of generating value for their customers with a new route to market, taking orders and payments online and making the most of the opportunity to reach a wider demographic and serve them despite the adversity their businesses have been facing.
Never tried Google Ads? Facebook? LinkedIn? It’s a good time to test new ways of reaching your target market. Social media, as an example, is a great way of showing the personality of your brand and the reach potential is vast. If you only switched off your Google Ads in March, go and see if they gave you some ad credit and use it for a fresh campaign. This goes hand in hand with the audience research – where are they hanging out online now?
Your existing customers need to be reassured, especially if you’ve had a big change in service provision over the last few months. Retaining the customers you have is much easier than gaining new ones, so don’t neglect communications with them. Marketing automation is an easy way of keeping in touch with leads or customers in less time. Just remember to retain your brand’s personality so it doesn’t feel robotic.
We always try to make the reader feel something with marketing communications, but communicating with empathy has never been more important. Brand messaging research from Dynata reports that 55% of British consumers agree that brands are taking advantage of the crisis in order to sell more products. If you can be more helpful – more human! – than the competition, you will be seen more favourably.
Context is king – you’re aiming to balance the proposition, channel and timing just right. Test, learn, optimise, and then test again.
Beyond the new normal
We don’t know how long this is going to go on for, so those businesses that are adapting are the ones that will not only survive, but thrive. By adopting a mixture of short-term and long-term planning, and knowing that the plan will need to be adapted, you’ll see your business through beyond the current situation.