by Jessica Dreiling, Consultant, Integrated Insight
The COVID-19 outbreak presents marketers with tough decisions about what is the best message to have in market, and when and where it is appropriate to deliver. For many, this may be the most crucial time in their company’s history to stay connected to audiences. Companies will need to adapt their marketing plans for the Coronavirus downturn, especially to manage cash flow.
Moreover, businesses will need to understand what true empathy and adaptability mean by stepping into the consumers’ shoes. Here are some quick facts to guide us, from data collected by InnovateMR:
- Over 1/3 of Americans have lost income, with Americans under 30 enduring the biggest impact (50% reporting they have lost income).
- 1 out of 2 people feel anxious about the future, with younger Americans reporting a higher level of anxiety.
- Most Americans do not expect life to get back to "normal" within the next 5 months.
- Americans plan to continue activities that have developed in quarantine in the post-COVID world, including cooking at home, socializing at home with friends and family, and staying connected via video chat.
- Future financial habits will include a priority towards saving for an emergency fund and preventative health care.
When digesting this data about consumer behavior in the post-COVID world, try to understand: what are your consumers thinking right now? How can your business meet them where they are at and alleviate a burden or provide new value? Agility and adaptability are winning keys in this time.
Here are 5 steps you can take to tactfully adapt your marketing plan for the Coronavirus downturn:
Start planning for the aftermath.
Work smart to retain your existing customer base.
Focus on Organic Reach.
Fine-tune your online conversion funnel.
Maintain your marketing budget.
While the world is social distancing, don’t let your customer base become distant from you. Maintain marketing messages and pulse them consistently to stay top of mind.
1. Start planning for the aftermath.
Customers are sensitive to spending money. But research shows that they are still spending in certain industries. It is important to keep focused on what they are spending their money on now and forecast spending behavior for the rest of the year.
- Keep an eye on consumer behavior to understand aftermath behavior and stay prepared. MarketWatch has been collecting data and tracking consumer sentiment since the outbreak started. This is a great resource to understand how the consumer currently feels and to project sentiment in the coming months.
- Plan ahead of the curve. Economists say the repercussions of COVID-19 are expected to last for months. Businesses need to get ahead of the curve and develop a plan with multiple scenarios for months to come: 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months from now.
- Prioritize strategies that are sure wins and fit best for this time period. Tactics that will take extraordinary effort to be fruitful need to be put on the back burner. If Q2 goals are dampened by these extenuating circumstances, brainstorm activations to launch in Q3 and Q4 that may be feasible during recovery.
- Meet the consumer where they are at with your product or service to remain relevant. Even when quarantine lifts, consumers will be maintaining social distancing habits to feel safe.
2. Work smart to retain your existing customer base.
Cost per acquisition is always lower for an existing customer than trying to capture a new one. When adapting your marketing plan for the coronavirus, focus on this market to capture quick cash flow. Here’s how:
- Maintain excellent, if not superb, customer service. Supply chains and organizational structure have been disrupted and it is more difficult than ever to maintain customer service standards. Being nimble and focusing on delivering consistent service will be key for word of mouth marketing.
- Enhance the customer experience by providing additional value. Some businesses are providing toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and face masks, even though this isn't their product line.
- Respond to ALL customers on your communication channels. It would be easy for the small businesses to neglect Facebook Messenger when they are trying to manage the crisis operationally. Ensure one team member is delegated to responding to customer communication on all channels.
3. Focus on Organic Reach
In a time when finances are tight, businesses need to put extra focus on reaching their target market organically. It is the most cost-effective way to deliver marketing messages. Due to social distancing, screen time has undoubtedly increased digital consumption on organic platforms. Here are a few tips on how to ramp up your organic reach:
- Consistently communicate to your audiences on social media. If your business is open, it is even more important, and you should consider posting twice daily on every platform: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, etc. This is just as critical for small businesses.
- Reach out to influencers and brand platforms to establish a partnership. A lot of influencers are offering free posts to companies that they are loyal to and want to see survive.
- Revamp marketing automation. Email marketing will be key to communicate long-format messages to connect with customers during this time. However, pulse the messages tactfully, as many companies have taken advantage of this time and inundated customer inboxes. And the consumers are not responding positively.
- Communicate the right message. Assess how sensitive your audience is to the current situation. Due to COVID-19, customers are understandably more sentitive to marketing messages. It is always better to communicate value to your audience rather than resort to hard selling. Right now, that is even more important.
4. Fine-tune your online conversion funnel.
While you are adapting your marketing plan for the coronavirus downturn, it is a great time to fine-tune your online conversion funnel. Small changes to the user journey can produce a significant increase in incremental sales. Make it as easy as possible for customers to understand your product and to purchase it. In a time where advertising resources are restricted, inbound customers and cash flow are even more valuable, so making it easy for them to buy your product before leaving the website is essential.
Here are tips to improve online conversion that we have seen help businesses capture up to a 10% increase in sales.
- Delve into Google Analytics to find key metrics on your website performance. Pull together a report on landing page bounce rates, dropouts, average time spent on site, pages viewed per visit, etc. Find holes that need to be fixed.
- Ensure Enhanced Ecommerce reporting is set up in Google Analytics. Enhanced Ecommerce reports critical data on how users interact with on-site marketing, product pages, and the checkout process. Most businesses don't set this up and are missing critical data.
- Identify holes in the funnel that are causing dropout and collaborate with the web development team to fix them.
- Reduce the clicks to purchase your products or services. It is no secret that consumer attention spans are smaller than ever. The booking engine needs to be as short and simple as possible to capture the sale.
5. Maintain your marketing budget.
Most leadership teams will see the marketing budget as a soft opportunity to cut costs during a financial crisis and as such during the coronavirus pandemic. Cutting the marketing budget is a short-term fix that will have long term consequences. Here is what you should do instead:
- Re-allocate resources based on the data that you have. This includes cutting ineffective campaigns and allocating that spend to the most viable campaign that is active. It may also include the difficult decision to transition from the expensive marketing agency to the more affordable one.
- Allocate advertising budgets toward website development to ensure your conversion funnel is in tip-top shape. Given that messaging needs to be communicated fast and wide, as well as changed often, tech vendors can play an essential role in helping brands stay visible and relevant in the right way.
- Focus on developing campaigns for Q3 & Q4. What will your message be, based on consumer sentiment and research that you have?
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