The global spread of COVID-19 is new territory for all of us, but what’s not new are disruptions in the market. Recessions, wars, and even technological breakthroughs such as the Internet have all impacted markets and marketing strategy throughout history.
Historically, some companies have cut back on marketing during disruptive times. They consider marketing to be discretionary spending, or they believe that marketing is a cost center rather than an investment in growth.
The fact is, many of those companies that cut back on marketing faltered, and others took their place as market leaders. Amazon became a leader during a recession. Toyota beat Volkswagen. Kellogg’s gained market share from Post. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell grew sales, while McDonald’s suffered.
You can go back one hundred years and see more examples of companies that innovated during economic declines ended up experiencing a surge in revenue and profit. Advertising executive Roland S. Vaile tracked 200 companies during the recession in 1923. He found those that continued to advertise during the downturn were 20 percent ahead of where they had been before the recession, while companies that reduced advertising were 7 percent below their 1920 levels.
When other companies cut back, there is less clutter in the market, fewer competitors seeking your customers’ attention, and often better rates on advertising placements.
The old adage is true: “During good times you should advertise. During bad times you must advertise.”
Sure, that’s easy to say, but may be hard to do if budgets and other resources are being threatened. That’s why companies need to look to marketing innovation and efficiency to see themselves through the economic impact of COVID-19.
Rely on marketing technology
The big three areas of marketing technology are email marketing platforms, web content management, and digital marketing analytics. Chances are you’ve already made some investments in these areas. Now is the time to get the most out of your investments.
In many ways, the global pandemic is presenting the perfect convergence of marketing technology and marketing tactics. Email, websites, and search (both paid and organic) are all working right now—and each of these marketing tactics is supported and optimized by marketing technology.
Continue to invest in sending emails to your house lists and advertising in industry e-newsletters. Maintain a robust and up-to-date website. Use search to drive qualified traffic that converts.
Even if customers aren’t ready to buy right now, they are continuing to work and are looking for the right vendors for when they are ready to buy. You want to be noticed during this period, you want to be remembered, and you want to be seen as a stable brand during uncertain times. You can only do that by continuing to maintain your marketing momentum.
Adjust your messaging
In your messaging to customers, you have to acknowledge what’s going on and how your company is responding.
Your customers are people, not just revenue sources. They have concerns just as you do. Their jobs and career and lifestyles may be in danger. It doesn’t help to pretend the pandemic isn’t happening or to act “business as usual.” An important part of marketing—during both good times and hard times—is showing empathy, and the current climate presents an opportunity for you to stay in close touch and tell your customers you are thinking about them.
You may also have an opportunity to reposition some of your products and services. Issues such as business continuity, supply chain security, and reliability of vendor partnerships are all on the minds of your customers.
This is the time to reassure, to show how your company is helping, to let them know if your products might play an important role in addressing their issues. Highlight the stability of your company, the reputation of your customer service and support, or the reliability of your product line.
Build a bridge through marketing
Marketing is the bridge that will get you from today’s difficult situation to a more stable future. It will keep you connected with your customers, visible in the market, and prepared to face additional uncertainty.
There may not be a “return to normal.” But there will be a future. Those companies that realize marketing is more important than ever will be best positioned to be successful, whatever the future may bring.