By Paul Weber
In a crisis, virus, financial or otherwise, here’s how to adjust your marketing plan to stay calm and advertise on.
Coronavirus is having ripple effects on the economy to which businesses of all sizes are not immune. Supply chains are disrupted. Consumers are being cautious with spending, yet also concerned with shortages of supplies available. The stock market is falling, and even briefly closed after a steep decline shortly after opening bell. Yes, the pandemic’s threat is real, and it is upon us.
Our clients are in the midst of conducting situational analysis and considering how their marketing plans should be adjusted in reaction to the crisis. Although marketing plans are unique to each business, here are some historically proven guidelines to follow.
Create Contingency Plans Now
Do not do nothing while waiting to see if the situation worsens or improves. Managing a crisis is as much about timing as it is making the right decisions. The sooner you have a plan in hand, the more confident you will be in your course of action over the short and long term.
Communicate Early and Often
Uncertainty is the enemy of any business. Uncertainty on your customers and their customers’ parts results in hesitation, slowing sales and a deflated bottom line. If your business will be impacted by supply chain interruptions, let your customers know now. Give them constant updates and stay ahead of what they may hear from other sources.
Similarly, if you don’t expect business interruptions, say so. Customers get their information from many sources. Make sure you are their primary source of information as it pertains to doing business with you.
Defer Non-Critical Spending
For some, reducing marketing budgets may be or become a necessity. With a plan already in mind, you won’t make the mistake of cutting the wrong budget line items and suffering negative consequences when the crisis subsides and the market rebounds.
Major projects that can wait until better days might include rebranding, a new website or any initiative that doesn’t drive direct sales, such as lead generation campaigns.
We caution against pulling back on marketing strategies that will create a compounding negative impact over time. For example, cutting search engine optimization (SEO) and website maintenance may result in a decline in Google ranking. Catching up down the road could be a long, difficult process.
Invest in Your Existing Customers
There are direct and hidden costs of new customer acquisition. Keeping a current customer is always better (and cheaper) than investing in attracting a new customer. First and foremost, protect your current customer base and prioritize existing customers over new business opportunities.
For some, this is a tough pill to swallow since business-as-usual equates growth to new business, however, this isn’t a business-as-usual time.
For the Brave, Be Aggressive
For some brands, a crisis presents an opportunity. Aware that their competitors may struggle through a downturn, companies that are prepared can get aggressive. Taking advantage of a weakness in the marketplace is often the strategy of industry leading companies, pulling market share from competitors who are waiting for better times.
If nothing else, spend time with your marketing partner talking about the market and the economy. If you are not yet prepared to face a crisis head on, it won’t take long to map out a plan and improve your ability to ride out any pandemic or plunge.