A guide to marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic, its effects, the lockdown and the resulting impact on the economy has affected each and every business in South Africa. The "New Normal", living under lockdown and working from home has caused undeniable and far reaching impacts on all sizes of business. Some of these include:
- The SA stock market has experienced a major decline
- Most businesses have reported a sharp decrease in customer activity and revenue
- Many brick and mortar businesses have been forced to shut down indefinitely
- Many companies that have implemented working from home to assist in social distancing efforts are experiencing reduced service levels.
Things are not likely to change anytime soon and with the serious challenges that businesses are facing in order to survive, here is a guide to things to consider when adapting your marketing strategy in light of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
#1: Don’t reduce your marketing budget - if you can help it
I understand ... with all that's happened, money is tight and everything needs to be reviewed to try and reduce costs wherever possible. However this is not the time to cut the marketing budget but rather to review your strategy, reduce/remove the activities that are not paying dividends and focus on activities that are proving to work for the companies who are continuing to focus on marketing in these unprecedented times. The good news is, many of the digital marketing activities are cheaper, are proving more effective and can be implemented yourself in comparison with more traditional activities. This time can also be looked at as an opportunity, the competition are being affected just as much as your business and many will opt to reduce their marketing efforts, providing a unique opportunity for your company to gain market share and perhaps even become the dominant voice in your industry.
#2: Review, restrategize and refocus your marketing activities
I assume that your business has an existing marketing strategy and that you are measuring the effectiveness of the various marketing activities that you are spending your budget on. Based on our research and what we are seeing with our customers, digital marketing activities are paying off across the board. We attribute this to the fact that the majority of people are spending an increased amount of time at home and on the internet. This is reflected in the growth in the South African eCommerce industry as well as the following 3 insights highlighted in the 2020 McKinsey Consumer Coronavirus sentiment report.
- Flight to digital or omnichannel - up to 90% growth intent in online activities
- Shock to loyalty - 79% have changed suppliers/brands/how they purchase
- Homebody economy - 60% not yet resuming normal out-of-home activities
It is important to note, that I am not advocating to stop any traditional marketing activities if you are measuring and they are working for you. However I do recommend researching and experimenting with some of the digital activities listed later in this article.
#3: Don't stop communicating with customers
This is not the time to stop communicating with your customers. There is a lot of confusion and fear out there and many of our clients have only found out about customer financial difficulties and closures through reaching out. It is important to let your customers know that you are still open for business, what steps you have taken to keep your customers and staff safe in this pandemic as well as what actions you have taken to maintain your service levels and to make doing business with you in this period, as easy as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep your messages positive while acknowledging the seriousness of the impact of the pandemic on everyone's lives.
- Try to include messages expressing concern for the wellbeing of your customers as well as updates on developments and points of interest within your industry and not just send commercial messages to try and drive sales
- Our clients have reported that responses to high priority mails are taking first place and responses to other mails are taking longer than normal
- Make it easy for your customers to communicate with you, try to reduce waiting times for support and replies and make use of some of the ideas presented below to utilize technology to achieve these goals
#4: Experiment, measure, repeat
These three words embody the analytical side of marketing management. The old adage "what can't be measured, can't be managed" rings true and in these days of making the most of your budget, measurement will clarify the activities to be included in your "Pandemic marketing strategy". Fortunately, the digital nature of online marketing makes measurement easy through the use of analytical tools, as well as the ability to analyze the data collected to obtain insights into customer behaviour online. Here are a few of the activities we have found to be the most effective across the various industries we serve.
- A fast-loading, mobile friendly, easy to use website that portrays your company's products and services in a professional manner, complete with analytics
- Use of a mass email & SMS solution that populates your customer list from forms on your website and tracks the bounces, opens and click-throughs of messages sent
- Establishment of a professional presence on social media channels, providing content of interest and value to your audience as well as providing an easy to use method for customers to provide comments and feedback
- Establishment of a complete "Google My Business Page", in order to attract local customers as well as provide another channel for customers to provide reviews of the companies products and services
- The development of a digital showroom to showcase products and services together with eCommerce supporting multiple payment options and a seamless logistics solution
- The development of a digital content strategy that encompasses all of the channels that the business is using to engage. Where possible include the use of professional graphics, info-graphics and video