As the coronavirus continues to grip the world, companies must act now to ensure marketing campaigns are able to weather the crisis.
The effects of COVID-19 on business and business marketing
From the plummeting Dow Jones averages that are rocking Wall Street to the forced closures and loss of consumer activity that are devastating Main Street, businesses of all sizes are on shaky ground during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. As social distancing continues to force events to cancel and bring face-to-face interaction to a grinding halt, certain industries have already suffered catastrophic damage. And other industries are bound to follow as factories shut down and companies fall into dormancy.
As they lose customers to the terrible but temporary chaos of COVID-19, business must take care to ensure that these customers ultimately return to them when the crisis is over. This typically means significantly altering, if not entirely redesigning, their marketing efforts with a dual focus on immediate risk management and long-term goals.
Wise companies are already getting ahead of this issue by taking immediate and comprehensive action. Take, for example, the recently launched ad campaign of the fast food giant Chipotle. Like other major restaurant chains, it has rapidly created, produced, and distributed, television and digital video commercials that stress the safety and reliability of take-out and home food delivery.
As you formulate and execute your response to the coronavirus crisis, make sure that you are retooling your marketing campaign to meet the demands of the present and look forward to the opportunities of the future. Here are just a few tips and guidelines to help you bring your business through these uncertain and difficult times.
Managing your marketing efforts to survive the coronavirus
1. Put Safety First
Few industries have faced as much immediate damage from the COVID-19 outbreak as the global tourism industry. This makes the words of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) all the more urgent as its stresses putting safety first. By stressing customer safety, the HSMAI strives to protect overall company reputation as well as individual guest health. Businesses that do so earn “trust, respect, and loyalty.”
A big part of putting safety first is keeping customers well-informed of relevant coronavirus facts and response protocols, particularly those that may affect your company’s operational processes and/or the goods/services that you offer. When providing this information, it is important to refer to and cite respected authorities such as the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the various local public health agencies at work in your area.
Think carefully about the ways in which COVID-19 is likely to impact your specific industry specifically as well as the greater community at large. What value you can provide as an organization to help keep people safe? As you contemplate this question, remember that this crisis is evolving rapidly and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This means that your commitment to safety will require flexible planning and your marketing plan must adapt to the moment as conditions continue to fluctuate.
2. Assemble Your Crisis Management Team
If your company is exceptionally large or specialized to deal with a specific type of risk, you may already have a dedicated crisis response team in place. Most companies, however, fail to prioritize crisis management and have never even considered developing a valid crisis plan. Well, now is certainly the time to do so.
Gather functional leaders from across your organization under the leadership of its top communications executive or chief executive officer. Other crisis team members to consider for inclusion might be legal counsel, human resources professionals, operations/facility managers, sales/customer service directors, and any leaders in the fields of public relations marketing, and communications. All team member should clearly understand their specific responsibilities and areas of concern.
For smaller companies without a dedicated PR or marketing team, MarTech Advisor contributor Indrajeet Deshpande recommends contracting with a qualified outside agency. In any case, your business should have in-house spokespersons at the ready in case you are approached by any independent media outlet or news publication. These spokespersons must be property trained to faithfully and effectively answer any question that they are asked.
3. Choose the Proper Media Mix
As part of your crisis response and overall marketing plan, you must remember the famous words of Marshall McLuhan: “the medium is the message.” In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, choosing the right media channel for your public outreach is more important than ever. In other words, if you fail to choose the right forms of communication to deliver it, your marketing message will likely fall on deaf ears.
In his March 20 article “Why Companies Turn To Digital Marketing To Survive COVID-19,” Forbes writer Bernard Marr points out that businesses will have to become more and more reliant on digital media channels. “Without wanting to sound too alarmist, he states, “in many cases it will be the deciding factor in whether they make it through the tough times ahead.”
As people continue to practice social distancing, they will connect more than ever via the Internet. This makes leveraging your online marketing capabilities absolutely essential over the comping months. Ensure that your company website and social media pages contain helpful information and present a positive brand image at all times. While emphasizing digital marketing channels that range from banner ads to email newsletters, remember to keep an appropriate amount of traditional media outlets in your media mix.
4. Practice Careful Media Buying
As part of your media mix planning, don’t fail to consider the supreme importance of cost. If it is to survive the COVID-19 crisis, your business will likely need to implement some fairly austere budgetary restrictions in the short term. Simply put, you will have to use every one of your marketing dollars wisely and make it count.
The Wall Street Journal reports that companies looking to mitigate immediate risk often cut advertising spending first and foremost. “With the coming U.S. presidential election and Summer Olympics, 2020 was expected to be a good year for advertising,” writes WSJ contributor Suzanne Vranica. “Then came the coronavirus.”
Careful media buying will look different from business to business and from industry to industry, but most organizations can benefit from gravitating toward digital media channels, which are not only generally less expensive but more suitable to a market under the ongoing effects of diligent social distancing. To learn what effective media buying can do for your particular company, you may want to contact a qualified marketing agency.
5. Develop Creative Campaigns Driven by Common Sense
In today’s challenging marketing environment, it is more important than ever to find extremely creative ways to keep your brand in front of their customers. Even companies that are temporarily shuttered must plan for a future in which brand positioning will become absolutely essential to survival.
In light of this, place an incredibly high value on unique and striking marketing campaigns that are carefully designed to turn heads. Just make sure that your creative content is properly vetted and above reproach.
In the words of Google’s global marketing vice president for media Joshua Spanier “in the spirit of reassessing campaigns, we’re finding that all kinds of creative elements need scrutiny right now.” As an example, he warns against any use of “slapstick humor” that might come off as tone deaf in the midst of the serious times in which we live. Certain imagery – such as actors using “handshakes, hugs, and high-fives” to interact with one another – may also turn off your existing and potential customers.
6. Employ Key SEO Techniques
Among the other benefits of digital media outreach, search engine optimization (SEO) reigns supreme in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. As quoted in Forbes, 123 Internet Group Chief Executive Officer Scott Jones points to SEO as a key way to reach new audiences in the current market.
As brick-and-mortar shopping becomes increasingly impossible, consumers are turning to ecommerce in numbers that are rising exponentially. SEO can help to ensure that your company appears at or near the top of the list when people search online for the goods and/or services that you provide.
By maximizing your online marketing through SEO, you can also benefit from the practice of geo-targeting. This involves optimizing not only for search terms that relate to your goods/services but for search terms that relate to your location as well. This is a great way to attract consumers from within your state, your city, or even your particular neighborhood.
7. Leverage the Power of Video
In addition to benefiting from the incredible audience targeting power of SEO, digital marketing gives you the versatility to present your message in a range of compelling ways. And, at present, consumers are responding to video messaging in droves.
In fact, the independent authority Quicksprout recently released research showing that consumers report a 74% increase in their overall understanding of a product or service after watching a video. And this engagement can lead to a significant improvement in your bottom line. Quicksprout goes on to report that a well-made video boosts the likelihood of a purchase by 64%.
In terms of general public relations and effective branding, the eye-catching and attention-retaining nature of video makes it a great way to remind consumers to stay with you, or to come back to you, as a company.
To learn more
Contact a skilled and knowledgeable Bigeye representative today for more information on the current impact and lasting effects of the coronavirus on your marketing campaign. A highly innovative and forward-thinking marketing firm, Bigeye prides itself on its ability to respond quickly to the challenges of a constantly evolving marketplace.