Here’s a statement of the obvious: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted virtually every aspect of our lives both personally and professionally.
As a result, businesses and brands have not only seen reductions in sales and operations but also their presence reduced in their markets.
Whether in good times or bad, marketing budgets are one of the easiest expenses that entrepreneurs tend to cut for cashflow purposes. In many cases, it’s the line item on the balance sheet to reduce for some business owners who don’t see marketing as the lifeblood it should be for their companies.
It’s self-defeating to stop marketing
If you don’t understand how marketing is helping your business and there isn’t an instantaneous return, well that spend can be easily cut. Right?
In the current economic environment and from a practical perspective, cutting the marketing budget can make sense. However, for any business where pure survival is not on the table and business is down or flat, taking your foot off the marketing gas pedal can be self-defeating.
I am sure you’ve seen that there are lots of businesses that have stayed in your face over the last few months and that was not an accident in many cases. Some companies have stayed the course, and some have doubled down on their marketing to stay top of mind with consumers even when those same customers weren’t spending money.
Guess what? Their competition wasn’t spending money, either.
Have your customers’ needs and behaviours changed?
It’s now time to consider what you are prepared to do to get your company back in front of your customers. The markets you are in may look very different than they did six months ago, and some competitors may not be there as you re-open.
Have your customers forgotten about you and, more importantly, have their needs and behaviours changed? Are they still looking to buy your products or services in the same way? Do they have the means to afford them? Do they want to buy online now more than ever?
Just as important as knowing your customers is how to put your business in front of them in relevant ways. Marketing your business requires a long-play and “always on” mindset. I use the spinning plates analogy that good marketing infrastructure is like spinning plates on the end of stick. As soon as those plates stop spinning, they come crashing to the floor.
Having a strong marketing strategy and budget will help you to acquire and engage with customers to drive more business. Whether it’s lead generation for your sales team or conversions to your ecommerce platform, when done right marketing will begin to fill your sales funnel.
The key is consistency, consistency, consistency.
Dealing with a second wave
I see this is an opportunity to stay relevant and engaged with your customers as we potentially come together again to protect one another. During the initial shutdown of the economy, many companies pivoted to make personal protective equipment or hand sanitizer for both revenue and goodwill.
One of my favorite BBQ restaurants locally opened a Shopify website to sell T-shirts and hats online as well as shrink wrapped brisket and ribs that you could pick up curbside.
Don’t stop thinking about what you might need to do and how you might pivot yet again.
Let’s break it down
Look at your customers. Who are they? Where are they? What is the reality they are living with right now? What is your value to them in all of this? The time spent understanding that is never wasted energy.
With the context above, map out how these customers buy your products or services. What is their purchase journey from not knowing you (awareness), checking you out against the competition (evaluation), their purchase trigger points (conversion) and how to keep them coming back (retention)? How long does that process take on average? Is it two hours, two days, two months? It’s important to know.
Build a content and media strategy to stay relevant to them while COVID-19 is here and beyond. Back up that strategy with a marketing budget that you can afford that will generate touchpoints and data that you can use to understand the effectiveness of that spend. Google ads, Facebook ads, email marketing, analytics and your website can give you that feedback. Now is the time to learn so you can ensure the efficiency of those precious dollars, especially if things are slower than usual.
Don’t let COVID-19 hold you back any more than it has already. Gather your team and decide how best to get back into your market. There’s lots of help in the Canadian economy right now, from government programs to lending and advice from BDC.