No one could see this coming in late 2019. Little did we know when we were busy planning our 2020 marketing campaigns, events and social media calendars, a novel virus had started to infiltrate the global population and change our world as we know it.
Lean times are exactly when a business needs marketing and with UK GDP expected to drop by between 2.6% and 5.4% because of the pandemic it is clear there are difficult times ahead.
The brands and businesses that use this time to adapt their business models and reshape services and/or products to our current circumstances will be the ones that survive. The key to survival will be a solid communications strategy using the right messages at the right time.
Consumers in lockdown are restless and rapidly making changes in buying behaviour. We also need to look to the other side of quarantine and be ready for our customers when they are released.
So, don’t quit marketing! If your business model is adapting to the new norm, then you need a marketing strategy to communicate that to your audience. If your sales have fallen off a cliff and you can’t adapt your business model, now is the time to prepare your post-virus strategy. Our marketing team is here to talk you through how to market your business through the Covid-19 crisis – and out the other side!
I thought about it and decided not to take part.
Sam Walton, Walmart Founder on the 1990 recession
Can you adapt your business model to survive the Covid Crisis?
Some businesses are finding that this crisis presents an opportunity for them: many in the health, food, tech and logistics sectors. Others are adapting their sales models from face-to-face to online. And then there are the others who need to furlough not just some of their staff, but their whole team. If you are still wondering which category your business falls into think about the following:
- Can you take the lead in your market like Iceland, who were the first supermarket to offer dedicated early shopping hours to their elderly and vulnerable customers?
- Can you adapt to ensure your service limits the risk of spreading the virus like Deliveroo who initiated contactless delivery?
- Are you able to pivot your model to help the effort to fight the spread of the virus? Look at the example set by LVMH whose luxury perfume factory outside Orléans has been producing hand sanitiser for doctors and nurses in Paris hospitals.
For most small businesses time is short to adapt. The cash from the government’s support packages is not immediately available nor is it available to everyone, so SMEs need to use these early weeks of lockdown to make change happen and adapt to our circumstances. As ever, reflecting on what works and adjusting accordingly will make the difference.
How has your customers’ buying behaviour changed?
Customers are spending much more time engaging on social media and accessing more online resources than ever before. This a great opportunity to reach your audience and provide them with information, interaction, positive thoughts and relevant resources. You need to give your community hope and show them that you are part of their future.
As a result of this behaviour change, many businesses are redirecting marketing budgets to social media marketing and search. Don’t forget, if you have adapted your existing products and services around the pandemic, you’ll need to promote them with a credible and authentic digital marketing strategy.
How should I communicate with my target audience during lockdown?
- Ensure your communications take an understanding tone and acknowledge your target audience’s concerns. Go easy on the sales-driven messaging and make sure you show the human side of your brand.
- Be generous, modest, self-aware, spontaneous and have a sense of humour, if appropriate.
- Be transparent with your customers throughout the process and try to reassure them when you can – you will want as many returning customers as possible once the pandemic is over.
- Now is the time you want your customers to see you – and see you in a gentle and caring way. Focus on your messaging and what you want your customers to think about you.
- Key messages: What is your business doing to help the community? How do you want your customers to think of you during this crisis? What are you doing to make life easier for your customers?
- Now is not the time to sell – think long-term brand building – keep the momentum going on your brand building journey.
- If you are B2B, call clients where applicable and ask what you can do to assist their businesses – there may be some non-traditional ways that you can continue to serve them. Where possible, focus your marketing messages on the industries least affected by the pandemic.
Sharpen your focus on your email marketing
Now is the time to put your email marketing list to work. Your pre-pandemic planned content won’t cut it, though. You need to adapt to the times. Despite being confined to their homes, people are looking for products and services to entertain their children and pass the time. Ideally ones that can be ordered online and delivered to their door.
- Look to build trust with current and potential customers through proactive communication via email.
- If what you supply isn’t currently available, your customers will want to know when it will be. The best way for them to stay informed is by joining your mailing list, so they don’t have to keep checking your website.
- Create a waitlist – you’ll be set up for a better relationship with your customers down the line.
- If you don’t have one already, set up a simple, visually enticing sign-up form on your website giving visitors the option to easily join your mailing list and get immediate updates. Ensure it is easy for them to select preferences as you don’t want to bombard them with unwanted messages.
Engagement is more important than ever on social media
Social media is never about posting content and forgetting about it. Now, more than ever, it’s about nurturing your audience, telling your story, promoting brand awareness and building relationships with your customers.
- Use social media to your advantage – there are many people currently working from home or on furlough leave making for a much larger audience for you to reach out to.
- Simply sharing regular updates on your social platforms can go a long way to maintaining customer trust.
- If your business is offering assistance in your local area, be sure to reach out to your customers on social media. It is a great way to engage with your customers, receive feedback and requests, and show your business is willing to help those in need at a difficult time. If that’s not something you are able to do then share content from those in your community who are helping the effort.
- Focus your social media on communicating clearly and concisely, particularly any updates regarding business operations.
- On social platforms, monitor comments within your posts. There is a lot of misinformation being spread and fear-based comments can put off potential customers.
What should I be doing if “Business as Usual” is out of the question?
For those businesses who have had to cease operating for the time being, because their customers can’t get to them and they are unable to pivot their business model, this is the time to regroup and plan for a post-pandemic future. You need to be ready to bounce back with a bang when the government pulls the release handle, so use these dark days to tick off all the tasks that have been on your to-do list forever:
- Write articles and blogs, film videos and make gifs. Produce evergreen content that will keep your customers engaged with your brand long after this crisis is over. Produce enough for this year – and next!
- Continue to optimise the content on your web pages and actively work to create fresh and relevant content to attract potential customers to your website.
- Think about how people are going to behave when they are released and create offers to attract their pent-up energy.
- If you run Google Ads campaigns protect your brand reputation by investing time looking at your blocked keyword lists.
- If you have a strong presence on search engines think about protecting it. It could take several months to recover the keyword positions you have lost during the crisis.
- If you put budget into paid social, now is the time to be running lead generation ads, testing new ad creatives and audiences, and building brand awareness.
- If you must cut your marketing budget to see you through these months, concentrate on the top of your funnel i.e. brand awareness and lead gen until you ride out the storm.
Be ready to come out the other side!
This difficult time gives businesses the opportunity to show their brand personality – bring out the human side of your brand, show you are honest, transparent and keen to give back to support your community when it’s in crisis. Authenticity will be key.
To use the much quoted (particularly recently!) Persian fable “This too shall pass.” Business As Usual will return – maybe not exactly as it was before – but renewed and reshaped.
If you are finding it challenging to adapt your business marketing strategy to the Covid-19 crisis, then we are here to help. Our team of marketing specialists understand just how trying times are, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like any advice on marketing your business effectively. We are running free marketing webinars during the Covid Crisis – get in touch to register for our next one.
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