You’ve been forced to close your shop, retail warehouse or restaurant, or stop delivering your services, and had to furlough or layoff many of your employees. It’s a very challenging and unsettling time. We’re all trying to adjust to the Coronavirus Crisis as quickly as we can.
You may have already reviewed all your marketing activity and switched off unnecessary marketing spend to reduce the cash drain. This could involve stopping planned advertising in print publications, halting Google Ads campaigns, cancelling events and shows, and turning off other communications channels across the board.
But, some businesses may react too quickly. They stop doing most of their marketing and that can be a serious mistake; analysis from previous crises and severe downturns in 1992, 2002 and 2008 shows that companies who continue to market during a serious recession are more likely to survive, build their brands and grow their profits much faster when the economy recovers and more likely to survive.
When life has settled down a bit and you have the space to think clearly, there’s a surprising amount that you can continue to do to market your business without spending much marketing budget at all. You need to have a plan for your marketing and it will involve some pivoting, perhaps some significant changes to your current strategy. You have to shift to the new normal or your business may not survive.
Remember, the aim of marketing is to buy life-time customers that provide repeat business, recurring revenues. A lot of your profits come from repeat business.
If you own an East Lothian small business (SME), you may well qualify for up to 3 days of Free Expert Help Marketing Support delivered by me through Real Marketing. See the positive feedback from 18 companies that have already benefited from the programme and apply. All businesses taking part have said that ‘they would definitely recommend this marketing support’.
Please use the headings below as a checklist to help you create your own practical Zero Budget Marketing Plan with concrete actions that could help your business survive and thrive. [Please note that this blog has been split into 2 parts of 10 sections each because of its length – if you’re seriously interested, please request the full article].
1. Product Strategy
Your products are one of the key ‘Ps’* in the marketing mix that influence demand from your customers. Assess which of your products and services are worth promoting in the short term: some may have a long lead time which means that the product or service can be delivered post-lockdown; and some may be more in demand. You may even be able to create and launch new products. Be flexible and open-minded. *[Price and Promotion are 2 more of the marketing Ps.]
For products with shorter lead times, you still need to fill your order book for after lockdown. So, pre-book as much business as you can, even if customer appointments or delivery needs to be re-confirmed nearer the time.
Providing excellent customer service is more important than ever. Do the ‘critical non-essentials’, the little touches that will be remembered. Create special offers for your advocates and raving fans so that they can help you through these challenging times.
2. Selling Messages, USP & Brands
Review your unique selling proposition (USP) and selling messages, and adjust them for the current stressed environment. Your messages probably have to evolve. Be empathetic, sympathetic, supportive, kind, compassionate, positive and optimistic.
Taking the right steps will also have a positive impact on your brand: according to recent studies in Asia, brands that ‘deliver purpose in an ethical way’ during the crisis will grow twice as much as average brands.
What problems are you fixing for your customers? What are the benefits that they buy from you (not just the features)? Who are your ideal customers? What are their profiles (personas) and where are they concentrated?
As well as repeat customers with high lifetime values, you need customers that refer you. Customers who refer you are better at selling your products than you are! So, how can you encourage referrals?
I recommend… finding ways to adapt your message to help those in crisis. Avoid any messaging that would make it appear that you’re exploiting the crisis rather than providing value. …At some point, people will become tired of talking about the crisis, and you’ll be able to go back to business as usual. (AJ Wilcox, host of The LinkedIn Ads Show)