How to adapt your marketing plan for COVID-19

Reach out to customers to build a forecast that can inform your marketing plan

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on consumer behavior and consumption patterns. Online sales are skyrocketing, shoppers are making fewer, larger trips and product preferences are changing.

In this context, how can business owners predict demand and adapt their marketing to continue attracting customers? According to Martin Wiedenhoff, “It’s all about adapting.”

“Businesses need to modify their offers to adapt to the new demand,” says Wiedenhoff, Director, Revenue Growth and Expansion for BDC Advisory Services. “What do customers want now and how can we respond to that change?”

He offers the following advice to help entrepreneurs adapt their sales and marketing plan in the current context.

Survey your customers

One of the main challenges for businesses right now is determining the correct level of demand for their products.

Wiedenhoff advises entrepreneurs to ask customers how they have been experiencing the crisis and what they will need in the coming weeks and months. This will give you an idea of the level of demand for your products or services. You’ll also learn whether you need to modify your offer to meet changing demand.

“Businesses who used to sell small quantities might now be shipping bulk. How is that changing their needs and how can you respond to that,” he says.

Create a sales forecast

The information you gather through your customer survey can serve to create a sales forecast.

When forecasting sales, one trick is to think of your sales funnel as a reverse pyramid. If 50% of your leads move on to the quote stage, 20% go on to the negotiations stage and 25% close, then you know that you need to talk to 1,000 leads to sell 25 units.

funel final

One mistake Wiedenhoff cautions against is focusing too much on one or two big leads that drain all your resources away from other deals.

“These big deals might not go through, which could make your forecast go from good to bad,” he says. “The big deals also ask for a lot of freebies. It’s best to get a diversity of smaller leads.”

Plan for a variety of scenarios

Wiedenhoff stresses that your sales forecast “isn’t written in stone.” Rather, it is a guide for expected demand.

Your forecast also needs to be fine-tuned by thinking about varous scenarios.“What happens if 50% of my leads are on hold, or if I sell 25% more than I expected?” he says.

Remember that your forecast will be highly dependent on how the public health crisis evolves in your region.

As part of your scenario planning, try to think about the impact of changing consumer behaviors on your sales and include those predictions in your forecast.

Revamp your marketing plan

With a good idea of what products and services will be in demand, your next step should be to revamp your marketing plan.

Since in-person events and sales activities have all been cancelled, you will want to reallocate that money and find leads in other ways. Some of these events might be replaced by online webinars, expert discussions, tutorials, product demos, etc.

You will also want to review your creatives, ad copy and call to actions to ensure that they match the current situation. Changing media consumption patterns might also affect where and how you choose to spend your marketing dollars.

Also try to plan at the three, six- and 12-weeks point and determine what sales and marketing activities or promotions could proceed.

Get online and be creative

Wiedenhoff says that moving offline marketing to online channels makes it easier to measure whether your efforts are successful or not.

“Companies need to be able to measure their impact. There is less money now to do marketing, so it has to work,” he says. “If it doesn’t work after two weeks online, you have to pivot.”

Companies need to be able to measure their impact. There is less money now to do marketing, so it has to work.

He adds that it’s important to remain creative in these trying time. He gives the example of partnering with an essential service provider to advertise on their equipment.

“Pool cleaners, landscaping companies, mechanics, depending on the province, they might still be able to work. Why not advertise on their trucks with stickers to do some offline marketing,” he says.

“The marketing budget you have left, you have to use it smarter and be more effective.”

To learn more about online marketing and sales, download our free guide Attracting and Selling Online: A Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs.