It’s small consolation but, even at the beginning of the year, none of us saw the impact Coronavirus would have on our businesses.
The speed at which this hit means that marketing directors and business owners are having to make decisions quickly and based on what?... gut feel?... recovery trends from countries that are ahead of us?...Dominic Raab’s latest update?
So, where do we turn to for wise words on how to weather this storm, and make sure we’re best-placed to return stronger, fitter and ready to prosper, once some degree of normality returns?
On the whole we’ve had a good run since the 2008 recession, and we’ve got used to robust markets. But the global impact of Coronavirus is making us marketers ask ourselves what key things businesses learned then about marketing in a downturn then – and how can they help us to navigate our decisions now?
- Look after your customers like never before
Now is the time to focus with laser precision on your existing customer base and understand how the Coronavirus has impacted them. Depending on your sector, your customers may fall into one of four categories;
Slammed on the brakes…
Those who have had their income dry up, are struggling to get supplies and or simply can’t operate under the current constraints. Even if they can’t buy from you now, it’s important to continue to communicate with them. Try to build up a picture of the impact they’re feeling and whether there are ways you can support them. Understanding their pain will also help you to assess the likelihood of them returning as a customer and when, and also helping your own forecasting.
The fuel gauge shows they’re running on low…
These businesses are feeling the pain, but are still operating, albeit probably in a different way. They’re likely to have some staff furloughed so those left may be having to pick up new work areas and responsibilities. This is a time to step up and help those keeping their engine running – even it’s just ticking over. Perhaps you can share some expertise or market knowledge that will help their team in an area they don’t have much background in. If you can help them to come through this, you can be sure they’ll remember you in the better times to come and remain a loyal customer.
Passed the MOT, no work needed…
These are probably the minority of businesses that aren’t much impacted by the current situation. For them it’s pretty much business as usual, but don’t fall into the complacency trap. Even if you’re stretched yourself, its essential to maintain your usual fantastic service - you can be sure your competitors will be ready to step in with discounts and other incentives to try to lure them away, especially if they have lost customers of their own.
More acceleration required – and fast.
These businesses are in a sector where demand is high, so they’ll be really stretched. If you have customers in this category it goes without saying (almost) that now is a great time to speak to them and find out what else you can do you meet their needs. Taking time to really understand what their pressures are and where you may be able to step in and alleviate some of those pressures can be a great way to drive innovation through your business. Be prepared to really listen and open up the conversation beyond the normal sphere, so you can identify any good fit opportunities that will help you both to prosper. The best innovation comes from meeting an existing need, so now could be your moment.
- Your brand is your biggest asset
Delivering a great return on your marketing investment really matters now, but it doesn’t mean jeopardising your brand position. Building trust in your brand will have taken time and lots of effort, and now is the time to live up to that trust, showing your customers that your brand values remain strong and clear, unshaken by the short-term challenges you’re facing.
Find ways of showing your customers that your brand is strong and avoid the temptation to dilute your offer in the pursuit of short-term gain. Your brand is your differentiator so now more than ever it’s time to live by those differences and remind your customers why they have chosen you. Be there for them in new and innovative ways, putting yourself in their shoes and finding relevant ways to support them, rather than just trying to sell to them.
- Don’t just pull up the drawbridge & wait for it to pass
When your income slows it’s tempting to simply pull up the marketing drawbridge, seeing it as discretionary spend. But even in a downturn, it’s prudent to continue to maintain some activity, to keep your share of voice. The Harvard Business Review recommends continuing to invest in marketing during a downturn.
The critical thing is to prioritise the activities that deliver best return on your investment. And to do that, of course you need to have your eye on the numbers…That means knowing your most valuable lead sources – are they coming from all that organic social content you’re sharing or from your AdWords? Perhaps paid social delivers your best return? And then, beyond leads, conversions are what really count. If you know exactly what you class as a conversion – a landing page submission perhaps, or a direct message – then you can track your best channels and really focus on them. That focus also means you can devote your time and resource to squeezing the most from your best performing channels – split testing and refining at every stage, so you know you’re maximising whatever budget you have. You may even find this new level of interrogation means you can significantly improve performance for the long-term, helping you to recover strongly when your market frees up.
So, in summary, times are undoubtedly tough, and most businesses are looking for ways to reduce cash burn through these extraordinary times. More than ever now is the time to make sure you understand your existing customers, consolidate your brand position and really drill down into the numbers, so you can make the right decisions at the right time to fuel your recovery.
And finally, success can come from challenging times
In 2009, Amazon delivered growth of 28% in a year when most businesses were struggling even to stand still. The fuel in its engine was innovation, as it brought the Kindle to market, to become its best-selling item by both unit sales and dollars.
And when asked, “What do you think about a recession?” Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton responded, “I thought about it and decided not to participate.”
If you have any comments or questions you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you. Just complete the form below...