Marketing during a crisis.
Zoe Pedersen - Head of Commercial Services
This is a strange and uncertain time for businesses. For those in the leisure, tourism, hospitality, food & drink and supply chain sectors in particular, this can feel like doomsday.
For those that can, it is incredibly important NOT to drastically cut or alter your marketing budget. Many businesses have learned the hard way, through various economic recessions, that trying to reduce costs by cutting marketing is not the way to go.
Too many people view marketing through the lens of “cost” rather than “investment”. Since the dawn of industry, marketing has typically been the first victim in a cost-saving business battle. The decision to cut or stop marketing altogether, even if for a few weeks, can negatively impact overall market share for a long time.
When the tough times pass, all surviving businesses will be looking to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. There will be a rush to get out in front and take advantage of people who will be re-energised by the passing of the crisis. It is quite easy to understand that those businesses who have retained their presence will have a clear and strong head start over those that decided to hit the pause button.
Those that have made an honest effort to be there and connect with their audiences during the time of crisis will reap the rewards.
Businesses have to think not just about survival, but about how they will emerge when things start to return to normal. So, what should businesses and brands be doing with their marketing activities in the coming weeks and months?
Check and change your automated plan
If you are a brand that uses platforms such as Hootsuite to plan and schedule your posts, be sure to run a sanity check over whatever posts you have planned, then adjust, change and be sensitive about what you are communicating in the weeks and months ahead.
Spirit Airlines in the States had a rather embarrassing stuff-up when an auto-scheduled email was sent to its entire customer database declaring “Never a better time to fly” - the day after President Trump announced the United States was imposing a 30-day travel ban from Europe.
So, don’t be like Spirit.
Switch to digital
We have a B2B client who typically relied on face-to-face site visits in a bid to demonstrate business working spaces. With that no longer possible, should they just stop their marketing until this blows over?
Not at all. Rather, we are facilitating remote videos and designing up emails so they can continue communicating with their prospective customers.
For another, we are focusing on their employer brand strategy during this time - designing useful Employee Wellness packs and tools for use on their intranet to help their own team stay involved and connected with each other, even when working remotely.
What content and digital channels could you take advantage of?
Here are some of our ideas:
Internal communications should be a priority at all times, but more so when employees are scattered about.
A well-designed weekly EDM can help keep people connected to their team and business, and allow employees to share their work progress for that week.
And why not host a weekly Zoom, Google Hangout or Skype team huddle and beer on a Friday afternoon? Only rule: No work discussion is allowed!
Social media is a biggie right now for obvious reasons so make sure your profiles and business details are up-to-date, and remember to always be genuine, kind and sensitive.
Showcase your team’s social get-togethers, highlight your people’s profiles and skill sets.
AVOID sales messaging; rather, make sure - particularly if you are B2B - that your Linkedin profiles and management team are all spic and span. It’s surprising how impactful having the whole team looking the part across their own business profiles can benefit brand image and professional credibility.
Content can be a priority marketing tool, and potentially a low cost one, for all businesses to leverage and upweight in their marketing right now.
- Creating thought leadership opinion pieces, testimonials, meet-our-team profiles, podcasts and webinars are all ways to keep front of mind with audiences at this time.
Keep it useful and valuable; give content that is engaging and interesting, and always make it shareable!
Customer acquisition doesn’t have to stop either. We can leverage data, digital and audience targeting to still speak to our audiences through direct mail, Linkedin, email and social channels. Just again, always remember to put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. What messaging do you want from your brands right now? Perhaps sending out a genuine, personalised e-card that has been hand-signed by a CEO or MD wishing your audience well will have far more emotive resonance than sending them a discount voucher.
Now is the time to redirect marketing spend to the digital channels.
It’s also time for a good spring clean. Marketeers and brand managers can focus their efforts over the coming weeks in tidying up and polishing areas of their own brand.
- Would your brand benefit from some strategic definition and alignment?
- Been meaning to get that identity refreshed or redesigned?
- Is the website overdue for a Google search compliance check?
- When did the keyword research last get updated?
- How about redesigning your social assets?
Now is the time to get your brand and marketing spring clean done. Get ahead by having a wealth of tidied up assets, better digital platforms and business readiness for when you fully get back into the normal marketing swing and channel mix.
Above all, be human
With fewer marketing channels available, smart, real and human-led creative is vital. You want to stay top of mind without capitalising on this global health crisis.
So, be human. Tell the good stories. Share your brand culture moments. Show how you and your entire business team are coming together whilst staying apart.
Create a safe space for your employees, friends, family and audiences. Find ways to inject some fun and positivity into your messaging and through your marketing.
Marketing and content across digital channels can be an incredibly powerful tool to connect with people, even more so at a time when people are unable to connect with one another physically.
Be positive and ask for nothing. At this time, a brand’s ability to engender and build trust is perhaps the one thing that will see them successfully emerge with stronger customer support and advocacy.
And don’t forget - your customers will remember what you say and how you make them feel during this time. And the business value - the return on that investment - will materialise once the storm has passed.