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To state the obvious, COVID-19 is devastating businesses worldwide. In our 40 plus years of delivering marketing services, we’ve seen too many knee jerk reactions of cutting back on marketing efforts during a downturn in the economy. In the worst cases, it can be the deciding factor in whether a business makes it through those times.

Let’s face it, when a business is closing facilities, laying off employees and cash flow is tight, that can be the first inclination is to make cuts in their marketing budget and personnel. But pulling back on marketing only helps cash flow in the short-term and can easily create long-term issues for your brand and the life of your business.

We like to remind our clients that marketing today will help attract potential customers in the future. Delaying these efforts delays your future success. Marketing should be seen as an investment not an expense.

So why keep marketing your business when the economy is ailing?

  • This Situation is Only Temporary – Just like every downturn in the past, the economy will improve. So position yourself better now for when things turn around.
  • Your Competition – If your competition is pulling back on their marketing efforts or gone out of business, you now have a bigger piece of the pie to go after. Seize that market share. If your competition isn’t reducing their marketing budget and you are, they could be capturing business from you.
  • Because it Works – Repetition in advertising is your friend. It allows people to recall your product or service which leads to eventually converting into into sales down the line. Your advertising exhibits confidence and credibility to potential customers, suggesting that you’ll still be around when the dust settles.
  • Homebound Customers are Online More – You now have a more captive online audience as many people are working remotely from home. These people have more time to research products and services so be visible and give them the information they need to make a decision, even if that decision may be in the future.
  • Your Business May Have Changed – Has this pandemic forced your business into changing what it offers or how you deliver? Are customer questions raising service demands? Is your business providing essential benefits to our society during these unprecedented times? Are you offering sales incentives? Marketing can help.

How to keep your marketing efforts strong and healthy.

To avoid your brand becoming an alternative rather than a preference, you cannot allow your brand awareness to fade because this will contribute to diminishing leads and sales. We prescribe the following, it’s ultimately up to you on the dosage:

  • Focus on Your Existing Customers – It’s more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to nurture your existing customers. There are a variety of ways to reach out to your existing customers while not being able to do it in person. Whether it’s by phone, direct mail or creating new channels over web or social media platforms.
  • Develop Testimonials & Case Studies – Testimonials help build trust with future customers and can have a greater influence than the attributes of your product or service. Take advantage of your time not spent planning and attending events and create written or video testimonials and case studies.
  • Scrutinize Your Web Presence – In these days, and possibly far into the future, prospective customers are less likely to walk through your door or shake your hand, which is a good reason to improve your website. Do you know if visitors are having difficulty finding what they need? Research can determine that. Can you adapt your website to work harder? Replace a business process with an automated online tool. Try e-commerce.
  • Go Digital – With the cancellation of live events and conferences and the increasing barriers on face-to-face business comes the opportunity to reassign marketing budget to go towards digital promotions. Take advantage of the fact that customers are more online than ever by increasing digital marketing efforts in social media, SEO, display ads, streaming services (radio, OTT), SEM, email, etc. Use pinpoint accuracy with addressable geo-fencing and conversion zone technology. Has your business been slow to adapt to digital marketing? Then now is the time to turn to digital channels and embrace the transformation.
  • Research & Create Plans – It’s hard to succeed when you don’t have a plan or no means of measuring its success. The key is to find the tactics that work best for your target audiences in the most cost-effective manner. Is it broadcast television or streaming commercials via OTT, newspaper or online display ads, radio or streaming audio, press release or social media? What’s the best mix? Researching where your customers can be found online and the best approaches and tactics to reach them will drive the success of your marketing plan. And don’t rely on one plan. Our way of life is changing, on what seems like a daily basis, during the COVID-19 outbreak so scenario planning and adaptability are important.
  • Create a Budget & Measure – In normal circumstances, our recommendation has been to invest 20% of your resources into marketing. Whatever you’re willing to invest now will drive how quickly and how large you want to grow your business. It doesn’t matter what size your company is, without a marketing budget you can only achieve so much and after that business growth stalls. Optimize your marketing budget; there are low cost, yet still effective, ways to promote your products and services. Using metrics can help determine the effectiveness of each marketing tactic and guide how much to spend and where to spend it. If one tactic is performing better than another, switch it.
  • Be Creative – Sure it’s easy for us to say “be creative”, we live and breathe it every day but so can you. Most of us have never experienced a situation like this in our lives and what better way to overcome it by thinking differently, trying something new and taking chances?

To a long and prosperous future!

Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing. It’s uncertain how long this situation will last, but once businesses start fully opening back up, you don’t want to start off behind the competition. If your vision is focused on the future, the best time to double down can be when others are not. The Harvard Business Review wrote, “Brands that increase marketing during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.”

Take advantage of customers being more online and shift how you strategically influence, advertise and touch potential customers. When developing proactive messaging, stay honest about what your business can and cannot deliver during this time. Set realistic expectations about your service offerings or product launches and availability. And prepare reactive messaging for sensitive communications. Promote mobile apps, online tools and digital interactions all while enabling a human option for those more comfortable with one-on-one interactions.

For those of you who may find yourself strategically shifting more towards digital marketing, it doesn’t have to be temporary. There’s a long-term advantage to making your business more resilient to deal with future pandemics.

And always remember, you don’t have to do this alone. You can always call on the Creative Advantage and lean on an experienced partner to help you stand out globally.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

P.S., If you know someone who’s business might be struggling and of need of marketing support? Please share this article with them. We would greatly appreciate it!