When your income takes a hit, the pragmatic response is to look for opportunities to trim expenditure. Marketing is usually near the top of the list for businesses feeling the pinch, as under increased financial pressure, it starts to appear non-essential.
However, for a sensible business owner or marketing professional, this is worthy of some examination.
Should your marketing budget be the first thing to go during times of crisis?
When your customers have less to spare, you need to stand out more, not less
Firstly, it’s worth remembering that during a global crisis like Coronavirus, everyone is cutting back at the same time, whether you work for a business or not. You’re probably doing the same thing for your household, whether it’s freezing your gym membership, cancelling a streaming service, or buying cheaper food.
Everyone is making the same assessment. What am I paying for? Is it essential? Can I do it myself, if only on a temporary basis?
But because everyone is doing this, and spending less, if you turn off the tap on your marketing and communication efforts, the risk is that you reduce your own visibility at the very time you need to stand out. It’s giving up when the going gets tough.
If you stop communicating, potential customers might assume you've closed
The minimum you should be doing is letting customers know that you’re still open and able to provide products and services. If there’s some disruption or change in what you can offer over the coming months, your clients need to know – it's precisely because there's a crisis going on that they need you more than usual. If your customers have questions, you need to answer them.
Communicating a sense of continuity and remaining visible is important. Even if people aren’t buying right now, ideally you want to stay on their radar in order to benefit when they’re in a position to buy again.
The need for content, and the opportunity to consume it, is greater than ever
Better still is if you can increase the amount of helpful content you’re sharing, or change the tone of what you share to suit the times we’re living through. People need something funny, comforting or helpful now more than ever.
Your competition might not give up so easily
You should also be thinking about your competition. If you allow your brand to disappear from view, be assured that there will be another company who does not. In that case, there’s a strong chance that you’ll lose future business as a result.
It’s better to consider how you can market your services more cost-effectively
Marketing does not have to be expensive, in terms of either resources or time.
For example, a simple blog post on how your business is responding to the situation can provide reassurance and confidence in your brand. It doesn’t have to be long or particularly detailed, indeed, authenticity is far more important.
Social media marketing can also be a low-cost strategy. A series of Facebook posts on your efforts in the community, a LinkedIn article about how your industry is negotiating the crisis, or a series of tweets built around a popular hashtag can draw attention to your brand.
You can also be savvy about how you produce and publish content. You can amend and re-use the same story, emphasising different aspects for different audiences and mediums. The initial concept development is usually the most time consuming part of content creation, and you'll be surprised at how quickly you can turn one idea into several assets you can share.
Using video and podcasts, featuring guest interviewees on topical subjects, or sponsoring third party content are other ways of getting your name out there. You can conduct and record interviews and conversations using a video conferencing solution such as Zoom or Skype, then use them as the basis for videos, podcasts, and written Q & As. If you can’t do this on your own and you’d normally outsource some of the work, then you should continue to do so if at all possible.
Coronavirus is a once in a generation event, and businesses across the world are feeling the strain. But even in these hard times, remember that marketing is not a luxury, and shouldn’t be seen as such. You should see the current crisis as an opportunity to do more, or do things differently, and see what works for you.