The world has been rocked by the Coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks and the UK is starting to see the implications of remote working as its impact on the economy unfolds. The important thing of course, is not to panic!
Many of us may have seen orders postponed or cancelled in the last few days but this is an understandable, knee-jerk reaction to the current crisis and the overhaul that many businesses have faced as they evacuate their premises and get settled into a new working lifestyle. Soon enough, your clients will be set up for remote working and will get back in the swing of things - at which point they’ll be back in the marketplace - but who will they turn to? Now’s the time to get creative and really show what you’re made of as a marketer. If you can continue to put in the hard work now whilst others are standing still, or even reversing, your organisation will stand proud against the competition.
The current challenge to marketers
According to industry commentators, Marketing Week, more than 60% of UK marketers believe their organisation could be compromised by the need to work remotely depending on the scale and duration of the outbreak. In addition to this, 68% of senior marketers also believe that creative collaboration will suffer as a result of working alone. So what can we do to tackle these issues?
Communication is going to be key to maintaining your marketing team’s productivity over the coming months. Regular phone calls and video chats with colleagues will ensure that your creativity is upheld and of course, doing the same with your clientele (as well as regularly communicating over email and social media etc.) will reassure them that you’re still working hard for them and that you haven’t disappeared into the ether.
Don't stop marketing!
Cutting your marketing budget during this time will definitely be a massive temptation - management will see this cost as non-essential. If you’re part of the creative industry then it will be no news to you that this would be a big mistake - a short-term fix that will undoubtedly lead to long-term issues. In contrast, it’s well documented that brands that increase their marketing spend during a recession, when others are decreasing theirs, can see their market share and ROI improve significantly and for a lower cost than it ordinarily would. This will stand you in good stead for when the world returns from isolation whilst others are playing catch up.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t make any cuts at all - just be smart and objective about what you’re cutting back on - what is likely to see you a decent return and give you the greatest exposure with your target audience?
Rule 1: Don’t exploit fear
At times like this, taking advantage of your customers’ situation by hiking up prices for essentials or jumping on the bandwagon will only lead to a negative impression of your brand and inevitable long-term damage (as well as conflicting with your obvious moral responsibilities). Instead, focus on providing outstanding customer service. Remind your audience just how much you care about them, their businesses and their wellbeing. Offering existing customers a discount on products or services they would ordinarily rely on or coming up with creative solutions to issues they might be facing in the coming weeks (for example) will show that you value their custom and that, despite your own hardships, you still have their best interests in mind.
One thing you can take advantage of is a dip in competition. If you’re comfortable increasing your budget for PPC ads for instance, then this is arguably a great time to capitalise when others are dropping theirs. If you can find a way to replace cancelled events with digital alternatives or other innovative options, then doing so will show that you’re not the type of business that gives up easily. What is it that people are attending these events for? Why are they buying your products? Can you achieve these fundamental benefits in another way without the need to meet in person?
Work hard to retain your existing customer base
It’s likely that, during the outbreak, your customers are going to be tightening the purse strings, so we need to make sure that you’re not forgotten. One way to maintain your position is simply to keep in touch. Contact your clients to see how they’re coping and ask if there’s anything you can do to relieve their pressures. Monitor your clients social media and join the conversation where possible - essentially, let them know that you’re still active and willing to assist with their needs.
Who's spending and what’s important to them?
According to the Harvard Business Review, during any type of downturn, customers typically fall into four groups:
- ‘Slam on the brakes’ (this audience has been hit hard financially and typically reduces all spending)
- ‘Pained but patient’ (this audience is optimistic for the long term but concerned about short term spending)
- ‘Comfortably well-off’ (this audience is confident about riding out the dip in the economy but more selective than usual with their spending)
- ‘Live for today’ (unconcerned about savings and likely to continue as normal for as long as possible).
Regardless of which group a customer belongs to, they prioritise purchases by sorting them into four categories: Essentials, Treats, Postponable, Expendable. The team at Harvard Business Review also produced some great infographics to help describe the changing behaviours between these groups and how you can tailor your marketing tactics to attract each particular audience.
What are the problems & challenges caused by isolation?
There are a number of issues being faced by those working from home and those who are just spending a lot more time in the home in general. Are there any ways that your products or services can address some of these problems?
A big question for managers and business owners is how to keep their workforce engaged whilst they’re working from home. With many more distractions, there can be a temptation to take the foot off the gas - especially with a lack of inspiring conversation - how can you help?
Keeping the family entertained on a rainy day can sometimes be hard enough - imagine how difficult it’s going to be to keep people amused after they’ve completed Netflix! Can you beam your business, its events or services into peoples’ living room in an interactive, fun and engaging way? Perhaps you can launch a live cook-along from your restaurant or start at-home workout sessions for your gym customers who are stuck at home?
Community & Wellbeing
Social-distancing is going to leave some feeling lonely and missing their daily dosage of friendly faces. How can you interact with your tribe to keep spirits high?
Health & Fitness
Keeping fit when you’re sat at home tucking into a month-long supply of crisps and baked beans is going to be tough. Can you offer a solution to this problem? Take your fun-run event back to the masses and host it online with regular video updates from the public in fancy dress jogging on the spot or in their gardens!
How are people going to be celebrating their birthdays and special anniversaries without being able to pop to the shops to pick up a gift or visit their favourite restaurant for a special meal? Can your business offer them something special for the occasion as an alternative?
Coping with the slump in the economy (and having to spend an eternal Christmas break with your whole family) is likely to tire out your customers and put them in a weary state of mind. What can your business offer by way of stress relief as the pressure mounts?
Looking inward - spend time focusing on your own business
Having some extra time on your hands during this time can be seen as a great opportunity to do the jobs you’ve been putting off or simply haven’t had time to focus on recently - like updating the content on your website, analysing your data, improving your Google My Business listing, working on your SEO, creating a user journey map and so on. By utilising the time you have effectively you can ensure that your organisation is in ship shape for the post-quarantine era.
In summary, there’s plenty that we as marketers can be ploughing on with during this strange period and I strongly believe that times like this give you the measure of someone’s creative energy. Let’s all get back on our feet, put a plan of action together and start making the best of a bad situation!