The Coronavirus has well and truly hit on a worldwide scale, spiralling many businesses out of control, these unprecedented times certainly have created turmoil.
For businesses safety at work for employees has been of paramount importance, whilst abiding with Government regulations, resulting in many employees working from home; technology has been tested to its limits as a means of ‘carrying on working’ and avoiding those unnecessary trips.
However, for most industries sales have slowed and, one-by-one, many suppliers and customers are preparing for closure, if not already closed. Manufacturing businesses supporting the medical industries have remained open under the ‘keyworker status’ and continue to operate with the minimum amount of staff required to support the NHS and the fight against the Covid19.
Many businesses have already put some of their staff on furlough, or are considering the furlough process right now, preparing for an imminent shutdown, or temporary period of functioning with only the bare-minimum ‘skeletal staff’. Other businesses, like engineering firms, have been able to successfully pivot their businesses in support of the crisis such as Dyson, who have transferred their skills into the manufacturing of much-needed ventilators.
How will the Coronavirus downturn affect the marketing of your business?
Should you carry on marketing the same? Should you be marketing more? Should you be marketing less? To help with this, Clear Goal Marketing has produced 14 tips for businesses going through such conundrums.
Tip 1 - Refocus your marketing efforts appropriately
It might be a case that certain things in your marketing plan need to be put on hold. Exhibitions you booked may be cancelled, so you may need a new strategy to launch your new products. Can you afford to wait until the next show date? Possibly not.
Your new products could be the perfect way of reviving your business after the crisis. Refocus your marketing efforts on more online activity such as social media, online advertising and online publications to keep your business visible.
Take the time to update your website, write those industry articles you have been putting off, research press opportunities for your business and develop email campaigns; all of these can be developed ready to launch when the time is right.
Tip 2 - Review commitments and contracts
Review commitments, retainers, contracts and, if not possible, refocus efforts to avoid wastage, liaise with marketing suppliers and develop agreements during any period of closure, making any expectations clear.
These are extraordinary times, it may be difficult to continue with existing monthly commitments during the period of reduced or no sales; consider negotiating a reduced fee for less output, with a view to coming up with a mutually agreeable solution.
If agencies are inflexible during times of crisis, it is maybe time to question the integrity of the future partnership. Survival is key, and only you know if it’s possible to carry on, or if it’s worthwhile paying. Failing to consider this point may result in paying several full months’ fees for little activity in return.
Tip 3 - Use video and voice conferencing
Use video and voice conferencing to progress your marketing plan and stay in touch with your key accounts, team and suppliers. Communication and sharing information, supporting each other and working together will be key to getting through these difficult times. Why not setup an online group to maintain contact during the crisis? This will enable you to make better and informed decisions.
Tip 4 – Ensure you plan and prepare for the resurgence
It will come, it’s a question of when. Anticipate required stock levels from the previous ‘norm’ and have plans prepared for a slower or higher than the predicted start. It’s a fine balance between having enough stock to supply customers (so you don’t let them down) and holding too much stock and causing more cash flow issues.
Keep a careful watch on the market and close contact with your key accounts so you can be ready. Consider the marketing you will need to rebuild your business again - see starter packages Tip 13.
Tip 5 - Switch to doing more online activity
With your customers either working from home, retail outlets shut, or consumers stuck at home, your sales could be limited to just online. Your marketing visibility will be mostly online too - ensure that you continue your social media activity, online advertising and email campaigns. Is your business equipped for online sales?
If not then why not make a plan of how you will develop an e-commerce strategy for your business. You will only be able to sell the stock you have with the staff you’ve got to dispatch it. Online brands like Amazon are doing exceptionally well during the crisis, as are supermarkets, but coping with demand, stock availability, staff safety and strikes are a huge challenge.
How will the lockdown affect how your ideal customer sees your marketing? If you normally advertise in local publications and press, there’s a chance these will be read more due to more available time, however, if you feature in specialist manufacturing and sector magazines (often delivered to workplaces) there’s a chance this effort will be wasted.
Overcome this by switching your activity to online, ask magazines to post your PR, advert on their online publications and social media channels. Be ready to take advantage of any opportunities to promote your business such as contributing to topics and features on business during and after the crisis, promote any good deeds and activity in support of the crisis your business has had involvement with, e.g. if you have helped the hospitals, the elderly, people in need, this will help build your company’s credibility and profile as a brand that is known, liked and trusted.
Tip 6 - Research your competition
While business is quiet, why not take the time to research your competition? Update your competitor database and make sure you know what they are up to, even during the crisis - what are they promoting on their social channels? Try to anticipate what their strategy is and what their next steps will be. Everyone will be looking to regain their market share, and make up for the lull in sales and lost profits.
Tip 7 - Reconsider any large-scale investment
Such as any booked exhibitions, many events have been postponed due to the crisis. Consider whether the new date could work for your business and whether if, at all, it makes business sense to exhibit at all - could the financial resources be better used in other areas? Avoid making commitments if you are unsure, it will take a while for the customers to feel confident again in attending events, and they also will have businesses to piece back together too. Consider where your priorities lie.
Tip 8- Develop online teams working Behind the Scenes
Develop teams that can work on new product development and innovation projects during the quiet time, so you are fully prepared for when the market revival happens. Especially if you have a backlog of new products to develop, why not take advantage while your sales team are on off-the-road, or on furlough, (and not adding to workloads) to catch-up. Plan your strategy to launch these products so you can hit the ground running.
Tip 9 - Consider how the market will have changed since the Corona crisis?
How will this impact on product choices that people and companies will make, and what will influence their purchasing decisions moving forward? Look for opportunities your company can take advantage of such as growth areas like anti-bacterial finishes, products that self-clean, help with germ control and promote healthy living. Suppliers to public transport, hotels, leisure centres, restaurants, aircraft, cruise liners, public spaces should consider what new products their customers might now be interested in, how life may change afterwards and how you can help them.
Tip 10 - Prepare for an almighty resurgence
With people being at home socially distancing themselves and self-isolating, this will bring the need for DIY projects and home improvements to the forefront of their minds. Once any insecurities over income are overcome and job security is restored, those jobs will happen. Continue your online and social efforts to ensure your brand is thought about for when that purchase is made. With more time of their hands, customers will be researching right now their options.
Tip 11 – Time to rethink your marketing
Take advantage of this time to rethink your marketing, consider any new areas you can target and think of any potential brand switching opportunities. Consumers and suppliers may be more tempted to switch for many reasons. Inflexible terms and lack of understanding during a crisis, relationship breakdowns, and time to reflect and consider other options.
Why not use the time to get ahead of your competition? By revising your marketing strategy and planning your marketing campaigns. Your competitions’ marketing may lapse, so take advantage while there is less noise (competitor activity) to build your brand and attract new potential accounts.
Tip 12 - Be prepared to pick you where you left off with your order bank
Who was ready to buy? Look at accounts and projects that were in the pipeline, that was put on hold. Ensure that you stay close to your customers so you don’t lose out.
Tip 13 - Develop starter packages to encourage initial sales regrowth
What can you offer customers to rebuild your business? Market confidence will take a while to build again - what can you offer to encourage people to buy again? Promotions, offers and deals, credit terms.
Also, to improve your cash flow by tempting customers/stockists to take large discounted orders for pro forma/upfront payments. If you are selling to retail businesses and stockists consider how you can help them market themselves, work together on sales promotions.
Tip 14 - Firm up your marketing strategy
If you haven’t planned your marketing strategy, due to lack of time, then now is a perfect time while your business is quiet. During times of crisis, you will certainly find out how loyal your customer base is.
Is it likely that your customer will be more price-sensitive in order to claw back some of the lost profits? Now is a good time to prepare for this and be ready to ‘ramp up’ your marketing when the crisis is coming to an end. Build your offers and make sure they are desirable to your target customer.
If you’ve made it to this point then you are almost at the end of this blog! Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this, we hope it has been helpful. Why not subscribe to receive our regular blogs?
If you need any assistance with your marketing during or after the crisis why not get in touch? We offer many flexible packages that can support your business during these difficult times. Good luck, stay safe and see you on the other side!
The Government are helping in lots of ways to support businesses – check out help here:
Also the Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2