One silver lining that I’m finding is having some time, although not as much as I thought I would (!) to reflect, read and interact with different small businesses, understanding how they are navigating these uncertain seas.
I’m also being approached by businesses, asking about what they should do with their marketing.
So I’ve put together my thoughts on what I am seeing with regards to marketing at the moment. Things are changing so quickly, so this is just a snapshot in time.
Over the last two weeks I’ve seen business owners having to get their heads around a lot of information. They find themselves in completely uncharted waters. As a business owner myself I understand it’s a tough time. not only working out what to do with your business and how to look after your staff, but also the personal challenge that this current situation brings. Questions such as what support is out there, what is going to happen to my business, can I continue to trade are natural reactive questions.
But what I am also now seeing more of are proactive questions :
What is the need out there that I can address?
How can I adapt my business model?
What do I want my business to look like on the other side of this?
Traditionally smaller businesses have been the ones who have been able to adapt quickly to the environment, but all around us now are examples of larger businesses also adapting their businesses to change.
Some businesses have stopped their marketing activity, but I would argue at a time like this marketing is really important. I suspect many who have stopped, see their marketing as a cost. There will also be some who simply don’t have the cash flow. For those business though there are lots of marketing activities that you can do that take time, but not money. I’ve just created a helpful guide of 10 free marketing activities to do in lock-down, so if this is you, take a look.
For those that see marketing as an investment, they are looking at taking a very different path. It is well documented that those companies who invest in their brand and their marketing during recessions sustain a much stronger growth coming out of them.
So what should you do about your pricing? Well what’s not the right thing is the companies who I have seen try and profit from this situation. I’ve been watching these unfold on social media at their peril.
But what about the companies slashing their prices or offering services free? It’s true customers become increasingly price sensitive in a recession and many people are struggling with cash flow at the moment, but is reducing your price or even not charging the right option? It may help get your name out there and also keep you busy if you’ve got nothing to do, but there is the argument that you are devaluing your product or service. So you need to think carefully before you do this.
Another option is to offer a slightly altered product or service for a cheaper price. Maybe an entry level option that people can afford.
A third option is to segment your customers and offer differentiated pricing. Create different product bundles for different groups and price accordingly.
Whatever you decide, you need to be clear where your product or service sits in your market. This will give you more confidence in your pricing and where to pitch it.
How people are receiving products or services has been massively impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. People are being forced to move their model online. I’ve talked to physios and osteos, who wouldn’t have dreamed of doing online consultations, but who are now managing with success to treat patients remotely and in fact attracting customers from further afield who they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Delivery companies are changing the way they deliver products. Even my local butcher is adapting his model to best serve the needs of his customers and keep everyone safe.
So let’s use the marketing 4 Ps to understand in more detail how marketing activity is changing :
Companies are flexing their product offering, one of the main levers of marketing. Britain’s oldest manufacturer the Royal Mint, like other tourist attractions, has had to close its visitor centre and gift shop and cease tours. But it is helping the NHS keep its front line staff safe by making visors for healthcare workers.
Take a look the exhibition industry, where all current exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed.. Where London ExCel would normally now be dormant, it has been transformed into the lifesaving Nightingale hospital and companies like GES, an events management company, are working to help kit out the hospital.
This is tough one at the moment. Do you go out there as if nothing is happening? Do you mention Covid 19? My advice would be to think about what you are experts in and talk about that. This is what people what to hear from you about and this is what other people can not provide them with. Your messaging needs to be sensitive to the current situation and relevant to you and your audience.
Communications can be broken down into two areas:
Lots of people out there communicating with their customers. This is great. Customers need reassurance. They need to know you’re still out there providing a service or product and how it is affected by the current situation.
If you’re busy you still need to be communicating, managing expectations for examples that things may take a little longer.
As I mentioned you should continue with proactive marketing if you are in a position to do so. This can take many forms and if you’re a small business can be an investment in time as much as money.
Continue to talk to customers and prospects about your offering. The same marketing rules still apply. Be clear who you are talking to and make the message relevant and engaging. Make it about the customer and what need you are able to fulfill. What pain-point can you solve? How can you make their life better?
Now is the time to plan out your promotions. Think about what you can offer and how. Think about your audience and create plan. Make sure you are coordinating your messages across every touch-point and remaining consist. Do bear in mind things change quickly, so be flexible.
What can we learn and how can we market in this climate?
Notwithstanding the prioritisation of people’s health and well being in this current climate, what marketing should we be doing and what can we learn from what is currently happening?
We need to be sensitive to the current climate when we put our marketing messages together
We need to get our brand out there and let people know we’re still trading and what we’re offering
We need to continue to adapt to survive now and grow in future and stay flexible and agile.
We need to think carefully about our brand and what we want to stand for now as well as going forward and how we will get this message out there.
We need to continue to invest in our marketing (whether that’s time, money or both) to put us in a strong position as we emerge from this current situation
If you’d like any marketing support during this uncertain time, then please contact me. I’d be more than happy to guide you, especially if you’re a business that is struggling at this difficult time.