Should you stop marketing during the Coronavirus outbreak? 10 things you might consider

Should you stop marketing during the Coronavirus outbreak? 10 things you might consider

Coronavirus is having a devastating impact. Lives are being lost, jobs and the economy are unstable. Organisations have been scratching their heads about the (temporary) down-turn. But should you stop marketing?

I believe not – and I have some suggestions on how you can use your time and budget during this unprecedented episode. My suggestions will resonate more if a) you believe your product/service will be in-demand post-virus, b) you believe the virus outbreak will be short-lived, and c) you’ve had your marketing budget cut or frozen.

The tips are a mix of B2B and B2C; some will hit the mark, some will not.

1) Is your strategy right for the ‘new normal’

Your strategy needs to change during the virus, and it might be unwise to return to your original plan after the virus ends.

Even the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, which killed an estimated 20m-50m worldwide, eventually came to an end. But it did have a lasting effect on those that survived.

Your strategy needs to change during the virus, and it might be unwise to return to your original plan after the virus ends.

So start thinking now about the market sectors that will be impacted most, the age groups that will be affected (physically and emotionally) and the attitudes of consumers (more likely to value health and happiness?) or business decision-makers (more risk-averse?).

2) Social media is free but over-crowded

Don’t stop using social media – but accept that because it’s free (mostly), it is likely to be top of the list for every marketer that’s seen their budget shrink in the last few days/weeks.

Free ‘organic’ social media posts don’t get the reach they did years ago (partly because the platforms want you to pay). These days you have to devote budget to reach your audience in sufficient numbers.

So consider alternatives. Perhaps use some of your social media money to test TV or Radio. It can be less expensive than you think… and ideal for targeting people working or staying at home.

3) Nurturing – before contact

Sales figures may be poor during this period, but buyers will continue to ponder all their options for when the economy picks up. So it’s important to nurture these ‘window shoppers’.

Many will not have made contact with your company, but they are not invisible. For example, Google Remarketing will place online display adverts in front of your website visitors (if they land on a Google Network website). It’s relatively low-cost and helps to keep your brand front-of-mind for when they are ready to buy.

Programmatic Marketing requires a larger budget but has the benefit of not being limited to websites on the Google Network. Same idea; online display adverts are presented to people who have visited your website.

4) Nurturing – after contact

Some buyers will make contact – and then postpone making a decision because of the virus. It’s understandable.

A nurturing programme that maintains contact, without pestering, is a solution. Accept they are not going to spend money – yet. The ideal content is knowledge; how-to videos, research documents or blog articles that compare buying options. Anything neutral and unbias that teaches your audience something they didn’t know.

Educate your prospects so they make informed decisions about their future purchase, it could ensure you’re on their shopping list.

5) Make existing customers feel valued (virtual hug)

When was the last time you called a customer and spoke to them on the phone? Human Interaction (HI) builds loyalty and increases order values. I did some research on B2B buying that showed 58% of repeat purchases had HI; the average value of repeat orders with HI is £29,439, but without HI it falls to £3,407.

This supports the theory that when it comes to high value/complex sales, buyers want the reassurance of talking to someone on the phone/video or meeting them in person (post-virus) before making a decision.

6) Your data needs cleaning. Yes, it does.

If you think your customer and prospect data is clean, you haven’t forensically checked it yourself. Do it (not your Assistant, you). You’ll be surprised (shocked).

A slow-down of activity is an ideal time to do some housekeeping. For example, take your list of B2B bounced emails and discover where those people went (which company did they move to) and who replaced them. Take your B2C list and check the accuracy of postcodes, they provide valuable intelligence if correct. There are a lot more fields you could clean (trust me).

7) Map the whole buying team, not just the CEO

This is for you B2B guys. You may have the name of the CEO for XYZ Ltd in your database, but he is not the only decision-maker. There is a team of C-level experts that he/she will consult – and the CEO is not always the final decision-maker (that’s why they employ experts).

Take this opportunity to get the names of executives most likely to be involved or influence buying decisions.

8) They’re at home – send them a postcard

A lot of consumers (B2C) and business decision-makers (B2B) are currently working or self-isolating at home.

Firms (such as CACI) provide geodemographic data that enables you to target households similar to your existing customers, based on postcodes. There is less competition on the doormat, so a low-cost postcard campaign for B2C products could be effective.

For B2B, it’s a little more difficult. But if you assume that affluent areas are more likely to have senior executives (and your B2B product has broad appeal), then a limited campaign could still work.

9) Time to grab market share. Get ready for the bounce-back

If you are a pub or restaurant chain, just imagine the hordes of people that will want to celebrate the end of Coronavirus. Being denied access to pubs and restaurants will make them more attractive post-virus – they will forever have a special place in the national psyche.

But the pub and restaurant chains that will benefit most will be the ones that continue marketing.

As many brands and organisations cut back on marketing, this is an opportunity for you to maintain activity and grab more of the market. Consumers and business decision-makers will have forgotten your competitors because they went quiet – while you were still visible.

10) I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does.

So I will leave the 10th tip for you to complete. You are a marketer, and marketers are some of the most creative thinkers – don’t be normal, be ‘new normal’.

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