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by David Lawrence on September 15, 2020 | Digital Marketing Strategy Rocket News

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If you’ve been following what I’ve had to say when it comes to marketing during tough economic times, you’d know I’m a keen follower of history and the importance of increasing your marketing spend during challenging times. The reason? It’s a rare chance to grow your market share at the expense of those who pulled back when the going got tough.

It’s easy telling people what they should be doing. It’s another thing altogether to take your own advice. 2020 has been a tough year for marketers, and today I wanted to share how we’ve managed our own marketing and what we’ve learnt from it.

As a reference, we’re an independently owned digital marketing agency with a team of about 30 people. We have three founders who all work in the business full time. Bottom line, sink or swim, it’s all on us. There’s no angel investor or distant and wealthy owner ready to bail us out if needed.

2020 at a glance

The first quarter of 2020 was off-the-charts good for us. Our marketing generated record numbers of sales opportunities and we were landing excellent new clients on a regular basis. Like a lot of businesses, we had big plans for 2020.

COVID hit in early March and immediately new leads came to a grinding halt. Fortunately, our strong sales pipeline meant that new clients were still being onboarded at pace until the end of March, but this then slowed down as well.

Leads in April and May were at about 40% of where they would otherwise have been. Sales themselves remained low from April through to June.

None of this is very surprising.

By June, leads were back up to around 75% of where things had been in Feb. And July and August were both strong months for landing new clients. Our pipeline of new clients in September is also very strong.

All in all, we’re very happy with where the business is at, given the crazy year that 2020 has been. As a business, we’ve not had to lay anyone off and we’re currently looking for new people to join the team to help manage our growth.

We’re still mindful of the virus, the economy and the gradual reduction in JobKeeper for many businesses, but we can see things continuing to improve for Rocket.

 

What did we learn about how businesses responded to COVID in a marketing sense?

Our own fortunes have been heavily impacted by how businesses reacted to the crisis. As a digital marketing agency, we’re also fortunate to work with marketers, business owners and senior managers across a range of industries and company sizes.

Early on we noticed that businesses we dealt with fell into five categories when it came to marketing post-COVID:

  1. The Impossibles: These companies were faced with the reality that their audience was no longer buying and that marketing for the future was not justifiable. These businesses stopped or greatly reduced their marketing. For the most part, this was the right thing to do.
  2. The Reducers: Whether through perceived necessity or fear, these companies saw marketing as an expense like rent, cleaning, or office supplies. Cut it, save some money and pick it up again later. No damage done. Trouble is, today’s marketing is tomorrow’s sales. Many of these businesses are facing the reality that some in their industry are now recovering, and that they sadly are not.  
  3. The More-Of-The-Samers: Generally through a lack of resources or time, these companies continued marketing hoping their audience would respond to the same type of marketing the way they always have. Same audience, same message, same channels.
  4. The Boomers: These businesses saw demand for their offering increase during 2020. As a result, they made the decision to invest in marketing to make the most of the current opportunities and to also ensure they could hold on to as much of their new market as possible if things return to normal for their industry.
  5. The Aggressors: These businesses understood that even if their market was going to shrink, it would one day grow again. If they could aggressively grab market share during the down, they could really grow during the up.

 

What has this meant for each group?

It’s been tough times for The Impossibles. In many cases cutting budgets was the smart or only move. If you were unfortunate enough to be running a business that no longer had any chance of generating revenue then options are limited. However, we also saw a lot of businesses who behaved as if they were part of this group, when in reality they simply were not creative or aggressive enough in understanding where the money now was in their industry (or where it was going to be in a few months’ time).

For the most part, The Reducers have missed the opening part of a significant opportunity. Sure, they might have taken less risk since March, but in reducing their marketing spend they have also reduced the chance of a fast recovery or even grabbing marketing share as things improve. If you are a Reducer, and you have a competitor who is an Aggressor then take notice. They will almost certainly be taking some of your market share now and in the future. It’s never too late to fight for your market share even if you’ve given others a head-start.

There are very few industries where the audience sees life the same way as it did in February this year. To The More-Of-The-Samers, if your marketing is saying the same things in the same places as it did earlier in the year, you need to ask yourself if you’re getting the most out of your marketing dollar. Have your customers really been unaffected by everything that has happened this year? If not, it’s time to look long and hard at your marketing starting today.

The Boomers had their own set of challenges. Faced with rapid growth and a market behaving differently to ever before, they’ve focussed on ensuring their recent success is sustainable in the future. Arguably, great marketing is as important to these businesses as it is to those who have faced serious challenges in generating revenue. The alternative is risking demand going back to pre-2020 levels, possibly very quickly.

As you might have guessed Rocket is one of The Aggressors. We wrote heavily on the topic in our Recession Marketing Manifesto and have followed our own advice. Our industry was heavily hit with marketing budgets being reduced by roughly 35% from the very first month so it’s not like this was an easy financial choice for us. 

It’s pretty simple though. Our leads and sales are bouncing back and we’re feeling buoyant about the future even though our industry is still heavily impacted by reduced spend and job losses. We’re landing new clients and seeing increasing demand for our services. I have no doubt that had we left our marketing on auto-pilot or reduced our spend that we’d be right in the middle of a lot of pain right now.

 

What We Learnt as a Marketing Aggressor

Keeping a strong focus on marketing this year has brought with it a lot of learnings. Here’s a few of the key ones as they apply to us:

  • Generating traffic has been easier and cheaper than last year. In many cases, it still is. People are looking for ways to fix their marketing and revenue problems and good content and quality ads attract them. This was particularly true during the first couple of months of the crisis.

  • Generating leads is now only a little harder than pre-2020 for us (although back in March and April it was very challenging). Had we stopped marketing, or left our marketing unchanged, then I’m sure leads would be a LOT harder to come across right now.
  • Lead quality has been down on what we’re used to, although this has started to change recently. We’ve got a clear idea of who we like to work with and we’re seeing more prospects falling outside of our perfect client than normal. If we don’t believe we can help a business we won’t take the work on.

 

  • Converting a lead into a paying client has been harder than before. But it’s possible. We’ve brought on some excellent new clients in the past four months, but nobody wants to make a mistake right now and people are rightly careful about where they put their money. Fair enough too.
  • An extension of the above is that sales cycles, in general, are longer than before and sales teams need to adjust to the changed pace as set by customers.
  • Communicating with and nurturing your database is more important than ever before. Since March we’ve released 3 new eBooks and grown our database significantly. We’ve also made sure to stay in touch with regular emails focussed on delivering value to our main personas. 

 

The COVID-19 Marketing Survival HandbookThe Recession Marketing Manifesto

 

The Wrap

Every business has had its own journey in 2020 and its own unique set of challenges. These challenges, for the most part, continue to reflect the challenges and changes being experienced by your customers.

One thing you do have control over is how much demand is generated for your products and services. And this is where great marketing comes in. Get the marketing right and the sales will flow.

What are your perfect customers experiencing right now? How can you reach them and how can you deliver them value? This is what effective marketing is all about, especially for those in your market who are not ready to buy just now. 

If you’re not sure you’re getting it right at the moment, or you’d like to chat to someone who’s advising businesses on how best to market in 2020 then get in touch with us!

We’d love to have a chat and see if we can add some value. Call us on 1300 059 620 or send us your details and we’ll call you back.

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