News & insights
Digital marketing in challenging times
There’s no doubt that we’re currently in uncertain times, now we’re faced with this global pandemic. Big events are being cancelled, borders with a lot of countries are closed and we’re being urged to exercise caution with ‘social distancing’ to minimize contact.
In tough times the first reaction of entrepreneurs is to cut back on spending wherever they can. And too often marketing is at the top of the list of cutbacks. We see a lot of capable business owners pulling back on their marketing activities. But is this a wise decision? We believe it’s not.
Why cutting marketing during difficult times will hurt a business
Building trust and changing people’s minds and behaviours takes time. Every time a company cuts its marketing, they’re resetting that and end up spending more money and time trying to get it back than if they left the strategy in place.
Some entrepreneurs assume that their company will maintain its position in the market and keep a stable level of sales and revenue over time. But it will not!
We’ve discovered 4 consequences that show why cutting marketing just makes things a lot worse in the long term:
- People won’t find the company
- The company can’t drive leads
- The company will lose credibility
- People will forget about the company
Without marketing investments, industrial companies cannot hang on to their market position for long. They will keep losing existing customers, and increasingly struggle to win new ones. The value of marketing should be assessed against the likely decline in revenue as a result of inaction.
Industrial businesses must evaluate each element of their marketing budget, and determine whether it is part of the solution or an unnecessary cost. That could mean cancelling or postponing an order for new roll-up banners, but saying ‘yes’ to create a new landing page on the website.
7 Strategies to make marketing work in challenging times
Research done by Harvard Business Review shows that companies that act early, take a long term perspective and don’t give up on growth initiatives were able to drive continued growth despite challenging economic conditions. What at first may seem like a bold or risky strategy is in reality, a well-documented and proven action to increase revenue.
A company that stays committed to marketing during challenging times:
- Prevents a downward spiral of falling behind
- Gains market share from competitors who cut back
- Positions itself for growth when times are tough
We believe that strengthening the digital presence through a market downturn creates a competitive advantage for the market upturn. Every euro spent in these times, gives extra credits for the future; when everything is back to business as usual.
Successful industrial entrepreneurs should be thinking strategically on how to make their digital marketing more effective, álso during bad times.
Here are 7 strategies to make marketing work in challenging times:
1. Don’t cut marketing at the first sign of trouble
Cutting marketing to defend profits in the immediate short term will leave a brand weakened and much less profitable post-recession. Instead: industrial companies should take a longer-term view and maintain a healthy level of marketing investment through a recession.
This enables strong businesses to grab market share from weaker and more cautious competitors. And will make them stand out from their competitors.
2. Focus on what makes the company different
When business becomes harder to win, the companies and brands that succeed are the ones that stand out from the crowd.
What sets the company apart from the competition? Fine tune the pitch, focus on the areas of highest ROI and/or growth and define clear messages for the target market. Make sure that the brand message is up to date and consistent across all activities.
Zoom in on the USPs. Why should customers pick you over the competition? Marketing helps to express key marketing messages with clarity and purpose to the target customers. Without it, people will forget about the company and they’ll lose brand awareness.
Communication is crucial during uncertain times and should happen early and often. People, followers, customers and prospects need to understand the what, why, and potentially how behind actions such as policy changes. Even if no actions are needed, a company should provide reassurance that leadership is on top of the crisis.
Through times of uncertainty a company can demonstrate concern, strengthen trust, and reinforce brand pillars. Consider the tone of voice, striking a balance between formality and personal connection.
Use E-mail marketing to tell whether the business is still operating as normal or with different operating hours. Think of sending something really appropriate which might just keep them feel special and continue to support the business.
With Social Media, a company can continue all brand communications – the chance to be personal, relevant and keep followers informed. Now might not be the time to push a sales offer, but building an audience of engaged fans in a timely way is a great option to re-market to in the future.
By using virtual tools like Zoom or Whereby companies can conduct meetings. These tools enable attendees to maintain face contact through video. This could be a great tool to connect with suppliers or business colleagues when it’s not allowed to meet face to face.
4. Cherish existing customers
Countless studies have shown that it’s cheaper and more profitable to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones.
Keep in touch with existing customers. The reality is that existing customers can forget a company quickly. A company can put itself in the front of their minds with a carefully constructed email marketing campaign to stimulate repeat purchases, up-sell or cross-sell. When was the last time the company said ‘thank you’ to the customer? Express gratitude: customers who feel appreciated are going to give the love right back in the form of loyalty.
A good relationship marketing strategy should be an essential part of the overall marketing plan and will help companies to gain a competitive advantage. Use this time to improve customer service: make processes as seamless as possible. Because happy customers are loyal customers and they are needed more than ever right now.
5. Don’t give up on prospects
In difficult times, it’s essential to be visible. A company should share clear messages there where the target customers are likely to be. When doing so, the company can be ahead of the curve, so potential clients know where they have to go to, when they’re ready to buy.
When a company is forced into change due to a crisis, it gives opportunities to consider other areas. For example, if some coming trade fairs have cancelled, the company could re-direct those efforts towards an activity to enhance the company’s digital presence, such as creating new webpages, updating the clients database or hosting a podcast or webinar.
If visiting in person is not an option, there may be opportunities to look at how to get people involved virtually with the brand through virtual sessions. Virtual sessions are quite simple and very cost effective. Send out communications in advance with all the relevant details and potentially it’s a chance to pre-sell some products for people to join and participate from home.
7. Think long, not short
If, despite the reasons to NOT pull back in marketing as mentioned in this article, the decision has been made to cut in the marketing budget, the temptation is to go for shorter-term performance marketing and sales promotions.
From our point of view, that would be a mistake. The smarter play is to actually focus more on the longer-term brand-building mission.