Our current economic state of affairs amid the COVID-19 pandemic and recession has challenged and continues to confront businesses with new obstacles. We’ve already experienced extreme unemployment rates, pay cuts, closings, drops in demand, and crippling uncertainty. During these times, businesses are faced with tough choices when it comes to budget. Where can they save a little more by doing a little less or none at all?
A common first thought is marketing. Businesses see that consumer demand is low and surmise it wouldn’t hurt them greatly to decrease their advertising. But if history is any indication, companies that keep up their current marketing efforts or increase them have proven again and again that doing so positions them as the new industry leaders post-recession.
Take Procter & Gamble. Due to their adaptive marketing efforts during the Great Depression, we now have the phrase “soap opera.” Soap sales were seeing an all-time low, so they tried an entirely new marketing strategy and sponsored a daily radio drama called Ma Perkins, which targeted homemakers. Their push to try new marketing mediums during a time when other companies in their industry were pulling back garnered them huge success. It sparked commentators to begin to refer to daytime radio dramas as “soap operas.”
Companies that uphold their marketing budgets and risk new advertising strategies are the ones that make it out of their recessions and depressions. When businesses continue their marketing efforts, customers recognize them as flexible, resilient, and unwilling to give up in the face of great challenges. Trust builds, as well as relatability. Your customers have to adapt their own lives right along with you; it will feel comforting to them to know that you’re in this together.
Your past customers are the most reliable revenue stream you have. You’ve already worked through any objections or uncertainty they had when they were considering buying from you. This leaves your business in an easier position to resell them. When going for the resale, use the soft sale approach. We are all struggling, worrying, and facing challenges we never imagined. Simply checking in on past customers to see how they are fairing and if there is anything your company can provide them to help them through this will connect much more strongly with them than pushing a sales message upfront.
How Can You Help?
Focusing your marketing efforts on positivity and happiness when the world feels the opposite attract new and old customers. Brands that place importance in giving back provide light to a dark situation. Can your business spare old inventory and give it away for free? Can you provide a relief program to your customers like lower interest rates, rollback, or no shipping costs? Anything you can spare will help your customers and encourage shoppers to do business with you over the competition.
Go Online if You Not Already
Stay-at-home restrictions and a workforce that is now working remotely have shifted shopping habits to the online space. Now more than ever, we see an increase in digital activity. If your business is not marketing online or already is, now is the time to increase your presence. Consumer downtime is being spent on social media. Are you allocating marketing spend on your social channels? It costs very little to run an ad on a platform like Facebook. All it takes is a dollar a day, and you can hyper-target your ideal buyer.
Google My Business
Set up a Google My Business profile if you don’t already have one. The shift to online shopping means customers will be searching digitally for businesses that sell the products or services that meet their needs. Having a Google My Business profile ensures your information is presented clearly and is easily accessible. If you are offering take-out or delivery or if your hours have changed, add these information options to your profile to ensure your customers know exactly how to do business with you.
Reach Customers at Home
We are all being asked to stay home to stop the spread of contagion, which gives your business another known location to market. Direct mail is a targeted way to reach potential customers where they are right now. Shopping may have shifted to digital channels, but it’s done in the home. A direct mail piece is a great way to influence at-home shopping habits at a low cost. With inboxes filled and social media cluttered, use all the tools available. Business direct mail campaigns can target specific customers and verticals as well as be used with other media as a cross-media campaign.
Uncertainty and change are two of the most common experiences of the current day. Things are changing much faster than we can keep up with, which leads to uncertainty in the things that we used to rely on as constants. Shoppers expect changes in the way business is conducted, but they are uncertain about what that means for your business. Address this immediately on the homepage of your website as well as in other shopping areas where applicable. Similar to your Google My Business profile, you need to assure your customers your business is remaining operational and is putting changes in place to ensure safety when carrying out purchases. State clearly what changes you are implementing and how they will affect your customers.
Prepare for a New Standard
Adaptability during the pandemic has led to many new processes for carrying out business. Employees are working remotely. Delivery has increased in demand. Contactless buying options have been invented. What companies must accept to thrive post-recession/pandemic is that many of these new processes will continue to be desired by shoppers. There will not be a complete return to the old ways of conducting business, and rather we will arrive at a new normal.
Knowing this allows your business to critically assess which of your pandemic business practices it can sustainably support for the long term. Not all new measures will remain after all of this is over; however, processes that have made purchasing and researching easier for the customer will be desired. Forward-thinking is what will ensure long-term success.