Marketing through the Coronavirus
We need to find our inner superhero and fight back!
One day we will wake up and the clouds of grey will be far behind us. For now, mother nature, the letter from Boris and the Queen in her speech are telling us to stay at home.
This article is about marketing for business owners who need some support or a spring clean for their business during this uniquely challenging time.
Businesses all over the world are digging their heels in deep to survive the attack of the Coronavirus. It's a disease of mass disruption and destruction, some businesses will stand firm, others will sadly slip into non-existence.
Important note: If you slip, you might find that something better will come your way.
Running your own business can be stressful and unfulfilling at times, even on your most fruitful days.
It could be time for a change.
(scary, I know)
Children all over the country are being encouraged to draw pictures of a 'beautiful rainbow' to display in their window as a symbol of 'hope'. I hope your business gets through this unprecedented moment in time with as minimal damage as possible.
Marketing through the Coronavirus
To start with, I'm going to briefly look at life after the disruption and destruction of the deadly virus.
I think that when the dust settles we will realise how very little we need, how much we actually have, and the true value of human connection (hope to see you soon dad!).
When we get through this, a lot of us will be very hairy and skint. Women and cars will need a full MOT, divorce rates could soar and there might be another baby boom.
Financial and support services will be in high demand and gyms will be bursting at the seams. Deep cleaning companies will be raking it in and the property market will suffer but recover. Retail companies such as Primark will realise they need to be selling online.
It's obvious that a lot of businesses if they survive, won’t be the same any more. Some companies will have seen how easy it is for their staff to work remotely - tempting them to downsize their business premises to reduce their outgoings. Or, moving out of the big cities to more rural areas just in case something like a viral attack was to happen again (we will be more prepared for it next time with our new business crisis plans).
Virtual meeting apps such as 'Zoom' have been very popular eliminating the need to congregate in small meeting rooms. It will become clear that business travel can be reduced and many people may not be comfortable travelling to other countries for quite some time.
Food and entertainment industries are a bit more unpredictable.
When will we be happy to go and sit in a full cinema again?
How can we stop overcrowding in pubs, restaurants and clubs?
Will busy shops such as Marks & Spencer limit the number of shoppers in the store at one time?
Will Sports Direct survive this after their inappropriate behaviour?
What about dating? Will people be comfortable snogging a stranger not knowing if they've had the virus or not?
So many questions, so much uncertainty at the moment.
Let's shake off the negative vibe...
Could your business be a super survivor in this viral war where we are fighting an invisible enemy? If you produce or sell things such as:
Relevant health-related products
Indoor fitness equipment or bikes
Outdoor and indoor games
Home and garden items
...you have the potential to keep your head above water, develop and grow.
The moment you and your business felt threatened by the unwelcome virus did you put your business crisis plan into action?
You didn't have one?
If nothing else, let that be something you take away from reading this article - create a business crisis plan because you never know what is around the corner.
Right here, right now...
(we most probably have the cleanest cars and neatest lawns than we've ever had)
No matter what your industry is or how successful you are, right here, right now you should be reviewing your marketing strategy. I'm not going to quote statistics of business survival rates at a time like this, we watch the news, we all know the score.
What follows from here is a no jargon, back to basics fountain of marketing information. Touching on brand awareness, your website and social media marketing. If you're short for time just use the info as a quick checklist.
Grab a coffee, note pad and pen. I will state the obvious but sometimes, especially in a stressful situation, we don't see things that are right under our nose. We forget the basics or we presume something is already being done. After the Coronavirus we don't want to be left with lots of 'if only I had tried...'
Firstly, take a step back and look at your business - what is working at the moment?
Keep doing it!
If your business is struggling, don’t waste precious time on things that aren’t working, you can revisit them at another time. For a lot of business owners, stress levels will be sky high at the moment, if that's you, use good time management and prioritise.
Tip: Create your marketing mind map.
What's in your pot?
Assess what is going into your marketing mix right now - online and offline, inbound and outbound. What limitations do you have now due to the disruption and what could you have in the future? How can you get around that?
Tip: Learn from others, get on social media platforms or in forums and see what other businesses are doing to keep the cogs turning.
Put yourself in the know...
Review your business reports, website analytics and talk to your employees to gather relevant information so you know exactly what is going on in your business right now. Do a SWOT analysis and think about the 7 P's of marketing and how they relate to what you do. After which, implement what you've learnt if you think it will help.
Your marketing strategy is a map to success...
You already know, if you want to succeed and grow your business you need a marketing strategy. The one you have already will need to be reviewed because of all the changes at the moment.
Life isn’t as we know it anymore.
Your goal as a business is to make potential customer's lives easier by solving their problems. Keep thinking like a customer and answer a lot of their buying questions with the content on your website and with your offline marketing.
Be available and proactive - let customers know where you are and use social media to build relationships with people.
I spy with my little eye...
Look at what changes are happening in your industry because of the current situation. Is there a need for something different? Adapt your offerings if it's more beneficial.
Do your research and find out what your competitors are up to, what new ideas do they have, what is working for them? Copying is a form of flattery.
Create marketing campaigns, even if you can't implement them right now. Try to motivate your employees by setting them goals, even now, if possible.
Sales leads and cycles may be all over the place but structure and guidelines are very important. Try some account-based marketing and cross-selling - contact previous customers if they've allowed you to keep their data and tell them about new products or services. Try A/B testing with your email campaigns.
Talk to your customers...
How are things affecting them, can you help in any way? This could be a good time to clean the information that you have on your database about people. Making sure you're in compliance with the GDPR regulations.
Keep your nose to the ground...
Keep visiting the government website to find out anything relevant to your business because things are changing as the weeks go by. Understand furlough and find out what help you can get as an employer and for your employees. If you are unsure of what you need to do with regards to your business finances, talk to your accountant, that's what you pay them for.
Do you need debt help? Seek advice.
The Coronavirus - what you need to know.
Be ready next time...
Create a business crisis plan by looking at recommended guidelines and by learning from what has happened to businesses all over the world. What could you have done to minimise the damage to your business?
Return On Investment...
The budget for your marketing plan may have to be adjusted right now. ROI for a lot of businesses will be survival, if they make profits then that's awesome.
Time should be invested in planning for recovery and encouraging teamwork when employees return to the workplace. Think of new ideas and become more efficient. Identify the best way to get leads, sales, growth and development. Should you look into marketing automation?
Note: This could be the right time for re-branding, which brings me to the next section...
Part of your marketing plan will involve brand awareness. If possible, right now you need to try to stand out in the crowd, does your business have a USP (Unique Selling Point)? Think of new concepts and breathe life into your marketing plan.
The use of images and videos are now and will always be the way forward with brand awareness. So, if you have spare time on your hands get creative for your business.
In this time of social media mania, you need to get yourself on your customer's radar through building your brand awareness and advertising. Especially right now or you will get lost in the stampede of struggling businesses.
When was the last time you did a vanity search on your business?
Where do you rate on search engines?
What directories are you in, online and offline?
Have you set up Google Alerts for your company name?
Here are back to basic reminders for brand awareness:
Consistency - online and offline
Maintaining and updating your website - because it is your online sales representative for your business
Adding a blog page to your website - gives you a shareable asset. It will also give your readers added value and shows your expertise
Embracing social and digital channels - using the appropriate social media platforms for your business and registering with online directories. For example, Google My Business and Yell. Send out newsletters as part of your email marketing campaigns
Using a hashtag - on relevant social media posts
Asking your staff to be ambassadors of your brand - to share your social media posts and recommend you to family and friends
Creating different marketing materials - such as, flyers, business card, banners, clothing, mugs, pens etc..
Producing promotional videos - for channels such as YouTube and other social media platforms
Running email campaigns - sharing relevant and valuable information
Google Adwords - if you don't want to these yourself, there are companies out there that can do it for you
Trying radio or TV ads - if you have the big bucks
Talking in podcasts - sharing your expertise
Taking part in exhibitions and trade shows - talking to people and exchanging business cards (not at the moment!)
Sponsoring a local club - football or rugby for example
Joining networking groups - such as a business breakfast club or Facebook groups
Using links - to any recent blog articles or events that are coming up in your email footer
Working alongside other businesses - and promoting each other's brand
Doing tutorials - showing customers how to use the products that you are selling
Running competitions and doing special offers - through your social media platforms or in online magazines
You know this already - your website is your online 24/7 sales representative for your business – you need one.
It should contain the relevant information to advertise your business and if desired, sell online. The website content should be relevant and valuable with consistent branding (logo, colours, fonts etc). It should include links to other pages or relevant videos and images. If you have business social media platforms there should be a link to those too.
When was the last time you reviewed your website?
Is it easy to navigate, do the links work and is it up to date with your latest offerings?
You should remove irrelevant content and keep putting fresh content on the website to help with SEO. Search engines scan through websites to see if there is anything new and useful that has been added.
Does your website content contain keywords and phrases for your industry?
Do you have hook lines and descriptions that will grab a customer's attention?
Is there a clear call to action?
Blog, blog, blog...
Have a blog on your website to help with SEO and to use as a shareable asset. Find out more about the value of blogging here. Not sure what to write about? I can help.
Vlog, vlog, vlog...
Have you written a blog article that has had a great response in the past? Vlog it! A vlog is a blog article in video form, this is how you do it.
Out with the old, in with the new and don't forget to recycle...
If you already have a blog page, delete outdated articles, recycle old ones that are relevant and good using a different title. Make updates to facts and figures within those articles if useful.
As you know, content marketing is part of your marketing strategy. Website and blog content, your emails, your adverts, your social media posts etc.
Your goal is to get and stay on your customer's radar and you can stay top of mind by sharing content.
There is a lot of content that you can share and it's a good idea to start a repository and set up schedules. You can schedule posts on Facebook or use platforms such as Hootsuite.
Are you struggling to think of good content to share with your current and potential customers?
Here's a little list of some ideas:
A blog article
A special offer
The launch of a new product or service
A review or testimonial that you have received
A case study
Staff activities - sponsored events, charity events, birthdays, awards, business/life stories, cooking, other challenges etc..
Information that will help people
Whatever you think will add value, is relevant and good for your brand
Social media marketing
Social media platforms - your customers are there, your competitors are there and you should be there.
It's free advertising in a lot of cases and it gives you access to potential customers that you wouldn't normally be able to reach out to. You can pay to advertise on social media using facilities such as Facebook Ads.
Choose to use social media platforms that are relevant to your industry. As a guide, B2B industries such as cybersecurity companies, use LinkedIn as one of their main channels. B2C industries such as clothes retailers use Instagram and Facebook, however, Facebook tends to reach a broad range of people so B2B industries still find that platform useful.
Don't spread yourself too thinly on social media, you can't be an expert at all of the platforms. Use analytics and bench-marking to find out what is working for you and your business.
We know them, we use them but here's a reminder of the key platforms...
Not been on them recently? It's a good time to get active again.
When posting on social media platforms it's a good idea to use a URL shortening service such as Bitl.ly and use hashtags when appropriate.
When is it the right time?
When posting on your social media platforms take into consideration time zones in different countries. Look on your insights to see what is working for you when are your visitors coming on your platforms the most?
Here is a little bit of food for thought.
‘Thinking outside of the box’ - it’s a phrase that over time has grated on people but it’s true, you need to look at the bigger picture sometimes.
Take this as an example of that concept:
You’re driving down a lonely dark road on a cold and stormy night when you drive past a bus stop and see three people waiting for a bus:
An old lady who looks like she’s not well at all.
An old friend who once saved your life.
The perfect partner for you who you have been waiting for all your life.
Which of the three would you offer a ride to knowing that there can only be one passenger in your car?
Our natural instinct would be to save the old lady, she doesn’t look well and the other two look fit and healthy. However, you want your friend who saved our life to get home safely but also you have been searching for that perfect partner and the opportunity may never present itself again.
This is what you should do, think of the bigger picture – give the car keys to your friend who once saved your life and ask your friend to drive the old lady to a hospital. Finally, you stand with the partner of your dreams and get to know them whilst you wait for the bus together.
In your business environment don’t just think what you would do when presented with a challenge or goal, think how others may deal with it and think beyond your limitations. Creative marketing can position a company, product or service squarely in a prospect’s mind. Do it clearly or even dramatically communicating unique features around your business or primary interest to a specific buyer.
Remember, search engines love fresh content on websites. Good quality, relevant, valuable and interesting content so think creatively about how you can utilise blog articles to create new business.
They say that the Coronavirus has been the most challenging thing since World War II. We haven’t been able to spend time with a lot of people that are normally in our lives regularly. It's been tough. When this is all over we will appreciate our families, friends and the strangers that in a time of need stepped forwards and helped people. The NHS, all the key workers and those employers who tried their best to help their staff.
I hope that there has been something in this article that has helped you. If you have any questions you can contact me on 07800887857 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Related article: The Coronavirus and the power of blogging