In times of financial uncertainty, we often see a knee-jerk reaction from companies immediately looking to cut costs and batten down the hatches to ride out the storm.And more often than not, we see that marketing budget and talent are amongst the first to be cut. However, if you are serious about riding out the storm, here is why that is the worst thing you could do.
Lost momentum and delay in rebuilding
Stopping all marketing activity means exactly that. Stopping any lead generation, brand awareness or strengthening of your customer relationships to support them during these uncertain times. We don’t know how long this period will last and what “normal” will look like on the other side, but by the time you’ve waited for that to play out, you’ve already lost any momentum you had. That is assuming your customers and target audience still remember that you exist by then.
Finding the right marketing expertise
When you are ready to focus on marketing again, you’ll need to spend time considering the types of marketers you need (skill and aptitude) which can be time consuming.
It’s not just about finding someone technically capable; it’s about finding people who are the right fit for your company for where it is in its life cycle. If you no longer have any marketing expertise in-house, this task will be all the more difficult - and time consuming - as you try to understand exactly what it is that your company needs.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of sitting on our hands and waiting this out.
For our small businesses to survive, we need to push forward – but how do we do so while conveying sympathy and without appearing insensitive to what people are experiencing around us?
The answer is something you should have been using prior to any crisis - empathy.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Consider what it is that you would need right now?
Evolve and learn
The best marketers are continually learning, evolving and reacting to the markets around them to meet the changing behaviours and needs of their target audience. A huge shoutout to the marketers who have adapted their strategies and tactics to better suit their audience’s needs right now. Whether you like them or not, the airlines have done a fantastic job of this.
Adopt a smart strategy
Review your existing marketing spend and results and consider redistributing budget to focus on your channels that are performing better right now. For example, reducing your events budget to reflect changing behaviours - from in person to virtual and allocating any remaining budget to running a supporting digital campaign.
If you absolutely must reduce your spend, look to reduce marketing costs, rather than cutting them out altogether. Focus on a few key channels or delivering a minimum viable (Marketing) product that will help you to keep your lead pipeline open and give you enough momentum to scale back up when ready.
Here are our thoughts on what you can be doing right now:
1. Optimise your website for lead generation
A lot of businesses are still open, so it’s important that you capture the interest of prospects and continue to manage your lead funnel. This is where a great marketing automation set up and lead nurture flows will really help you get ahead.
2. Don’t send that email
Don’t continue running your automated emails without reviewing and updating your email strategy and content first.
This is so important right now as what may have been important to your audience a few months ago may be of no importance now.
Make sure your content shows empathy and hits the spot of what your audience is currently experiencing. Oh, and remember, your target audience may not be commuting to and from an office these days, so update and test your email send times.
3. Use a blended team of inhouse experts and external specialists
This should be a key part of your strategy anyway to maximise your marketing dollars and achieve a great ROI.
Focus on building a marketing team in-house that can deliver the core aspects of your marketing strategy and plan, then complement their expertise by working with great freelancers and agencies to deliver anything that you don’t have the internal resource or bandwidth for. This also applies to any finite projects that will run for a specific period of time.
Working with external agencies and freelancers is a great way to benefit from specialist expertise and can deliver a greater ROI than hiring additional in-house resource as you will likely gain access to a wider range of skills than one person alone can offer.
4. Research SEO opportunities
Research indicates a significant drop off in paid search and SEO focused activities because many businesses have suspended these activities indefinitely.
Have you received some random adverts lately that you haven’t seen before?
This is a symptom of the lack of activity going on in paid search and advertising activities right now.
Previously, businesses with larger budgets who were able to focus on paid advertising had cornered the market making it difficult for smaller businesses to compete and gain visibility.
Do your keyword research and look for the opportunities present right now for your business to make a bigger impact with a smaller spend than previously possible.
5. Keep your campaigns simple
Let’s bite the bullet and address the problem with ‘campaigns’. Every company seems to interpret what a campaign is slightly differently. However you define a campaign, it should consist of a series of activities, run over a finite period of time,targeted towards a very specific target audience and end goal.
Campaigns don’t have to be elaborate and expensive, sometimes the simple ones are the best.
Think about what information is available to you (and what budget) and pull a campaign plan together that reflects this. A series of simple nurture emails can be very powerful when you have the right message and great copy.
6. Change up your events
Many businesses have leaned heavily on their in-person events plan. So, what do you do now that we can’t attend face to face events?
Bring the event online.
There is a great opportunity to reach an even larger audience than your events have ever done previously.
Suddenly you are no longer constrained by the huge costs of hiring event space and equipment etc. You can target as many people as you want (or as many people as your video conferencing software will allow 😉) and your audience won’t have to submit a business case for travel and expenses to attend your event. It really is win-win.
What’s more, you’ll have a video of the event that you can use as a marketing asset for further promotion and campaigns.
7. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Think about how you can support your customers better during this anxious time.
For example, can you offer them free access to your product for a month or provide them with further value-add services above and beyond your standard contract?
8. Be flexible
This isn’t an excuse to stop paying your invoices.
Be prepared to be flexible (if possible) regarding your costs and be considerate of how your clients and partners are faring.
Perhaps consider exchanging services if money is tight, such as providing expertise or writing a couple of blog posts for your client. In return, your client could provide a case study and testimonial to reduce their financial pressures.
Let’s support each other and get through this together.
Keep calm and carry on
Take this time to analyse, plan and prepare to come back stronger later in the year.
It’s a great opportunity to reassess your goals, update and create content (if you can get the kids to focus on their home-schooling work long enough) and generate ideas and plans for execution later in the year.
Remember, you are doing a great job. Keep going - you’ve got this.
And most of all, stay positive. We will get through this.