This blog is the third in a series of content we’re producing to support companies during the current pandemic and to give you the advice you need to make more informed decisions about your next steps.
We’ve already discussed the forced transformation and why businesses need to embrace digital to stay relevant and survive the crisis, then last week we picked five local examples of small businesses doing precisely that.
This week it’s all about marketing. It might sound a little self-serving that a digital agency like ours is talking about the importance of marketing. But, in this piece, we’ll be discussing what you should and shouldn’t be investing your time (not necessarily your money) into.
The current mindset is that if new businesses has dipped, you’re not getting enquiries and your website traffic has dropped; then people aren’t interested in your services or products. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people will still be considering purchasing from you, even if they’re not able to right now. With consumers isolated and businesses closed, there is understandably a fear around spending money. However, there is still a demand, and people have more time than usual which means they’ll be more open to reading your blogs and your social posts and opening your emails. When the crisis ends, and the recovery begins, by marketing effectively now, you’ll ensure you’re still top of the list when your customers are ready to spend.
We’re seeing lots of businesses pulling their marketing activity, scaling back or even stopping marketing altogether, but this is not the right move. Your customers, suppliers, partners and prospects need to know you’re still around. Those that have bought from you need to feel assured that it was the right choice, and those thinking about buying from you will only keep you top of mind for when they’re ready to spend again if you continue to engage with them.
If you stop marketing altogether, but your competitors continue to create innovative content, engage with their audience and inspire, then in 2, 3, 6 months or a year when people are ready to spend, who do you think they’ll choose to buy from? The brand that disappeared, or the one that kept them updated and filled their feed with valuable content?
Another mistake that many businesses are making at the moment is trying to continue as normal. While this might feel like the right thing to do, it doesn’t send the right message. If you continue to market yourselves as though nothing has happened, it can come across as insensitive, and also more than a little pre-scripted.
Activities such as automated emails, scheduled social posts, paid social advertising, and email marketing all need to be either cancelled or completely re-thought, with immediate effect. We’re not saying go radio silent, but updating your messaging to make it relevant is crucial. Otherwise, you might receive a reaction you wasn’t expecting.
Facing challenges head-on, and discussing the elephant in the room is something that not everyone feels comfortable with, but, it needs doing. If you haven’t already, we recommend sending out an email update letting your contacts know what positive steps you’re taking to approach the situation, and also what they can expect from you. Try and avoid the standard template ‘a message from our CEO’ though. Send this to active clients, partners and suppliers to let them know if you’re open, what impact COVID-19 has had, where you stand and what you’ll be doing next.
For your wider audience and contacts, all you need to do is share a message via your social channels and also update your Google Business listing. You could even put a banner in your email footer or website with a short update or a link to a relevant article or page.
For more general marketing collateral, you need to consider what you can be doing right now to add value. How can you change your approach to contribute positively to the current pandemic? It could be writing blogs that you haven’t considered before about your products or services (as long as they provide a genuine positive benefit, don’t just try and sell). It could be joining a movement to help the NHS or local businesses. It might be a collaboration with others in your industry. Whatever your value is, this needs to be your focus in marketing.
If things are slowing down for your company, then it’s the perfect time to focus on content. Producing content costs nothing, and all it requires is time and creativity. What better way to elevate your business than to position yourselves as a voice of authority in your industry? Content instils trust and loyalty with your audience. It’s about producing valuable insights and educating readers and viewers.
Use this opportunity to brainstorm and create a content bank of ideas, from thought leadership opinion pieces and comparison articles to insider hints and tips and product or service reviews. Tackle the most common questions you get asked, and create helpful how-to guides, eBooks, videos and blogs. However, you choose to create your content and share your knowledge, be sure to focus on adding value as opposed to giving a sales pitch if you want to keep visitors coming back for more.
Take this opportunity to reflect on your entire customer experience across your business (this should also encompass the user experience on your website). Think about what activities you’ve done in the last 12 months, what you can learn from your experiences, and what you can learn from your customers.
Outline several questions to ask your customers. This could be through an online survey, via your website, or by arranging dedicated user feedback calls. These questions should focus on why they chose you, what their experience was if they would recommend you to a friend, what challenges they faced, and what they liked or didn’t like.
It’s important to get honest and balanced answers and to be receptive, as it’s the most beneficial feedback you can get when looking to optimise your customer experience. The insights you get from customers, along with your own thoughts and the data you get from Google Analytics, will help you improve the experience for future customers, both online and offline.
If we can learn anything from previous experiences, we urge you to reflect on the financial crisis of 2008/09. We’ve spoken about it before, and the learnings are the same. The businesses that didn’t embrace digital marketing and stuck only with traditional mediums struggled to recover. Those that did, emerged ahead of the curve, primed for new opportunities, and it’s exactly the same now. If you don’t invest in your business and your brand image right now, your competitors will, and it will make things all the more challenging when this current crisis turns around.
All in all, we want business owners to see that how you market in a crisis is one of the most critical factors that will determine your success when the recovery begins. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune; all you need is to give it your time.
We hope this blog proves useful to you. Let us know how you get on, and if you liked this blog, why not share it with your connections or register for our newsletter.