by David Lawrence on March 9, 2020 | Digital Marketing Strategy

First and foremost, COVID-19 is a public health issue where concern for people should be our number one priority. The global focus should undoubtedly be on the public health response. Marketing challenges are rightly nowhere near the most important issue, which is why you’re not seeing them analysed in the daily coronavirus headlines dominating our media. 

That said, marketing is what I know, and I’ve had a number of conversations with clients who are rattled by what they’re seeing and are unsure of how to respond. Speaking as a marketer and a business owner, here are my thoughts.

The #1 challenge for businesses right now is uncertainty.

Global financial markets have seen big adjustments. Consumer behaviour has been nothing short of bizarre. Where did all the toilet paper go, and what exactly are people planning on doing with it all? Some industries have already been badly affected including airlines, education and events. Some industries on the other hand have experienced increased demand including sanitisers, face masks and online shopping for the major supermarkets.

But what about the rest of us who fall outside of businesses with clear and direct boom or bust pressure coming from Coronavirus? What are we likely to experience in the coming months and what should we do about it?

The Wider Economy

For a serious economic perspective, there’s some solid analysis available from the Harvard Business Review. A week ago, they were saying a ‘V-Shaped’ scenario where there is an economic shock followed by a quick recovery is the most likely outcome. More recently, a piece from the SMH suggests this optimism has been replaced by concern we’re now looking at a ‘U-Shaped’ scenario, where we’ll have a dip and then stay down for a while before things eventually recover. 

Will it trigger a recession in Australia? No-one knows. But the Morrison government who were very clear pre-election about being against economic stimulus packages, are about to release one. What does that tell us? There is rightfully concern around the Australian economy and the impact of the current situation. 

If you’d been hoping to ignore the impact of COVID-19 on your business and its marketing then I’d strongly suggest it’s time to take a much closer look.

Will A ‘Dip’ Affect You?

What will things look like for your business during the dip in the ‘V’ or the ‘U’? For example, there are lots of businesses and policy makers talking about enacting work from home policies or closing down schools and other institutions. These changes will have positive impacts for some but negative impacts for others. If you sell video-conferencing equipment I’m guessing you’re going to be busy. If you run a cafe which relies on workers then things might get a little tough.

Back to where I started though, uncertainty, right now, is the only thing any of us can be truly sure of. So where does that leave us as marketers? 

Don’t Panic

Regardless of any situation, a panic response is never the best approach. We need to be smart and deliberate about the actions we take. Good marketing is an investment which is critical for the future health of any company. A knee-jerk reaction to decrease or increase marketing in the face of a looming threat is not a good idea. Even business-as-usual is a decision, so you should be sure to have thought it through carefully.

Have A Plan

What we all need right now is some structure to help us make good decisions. Here’s the plan we’re using at Rocket.

  1. Does change need to happen? Will your business experience increased or decreased demand? Will your supply chain be negatively impacted? Will you be negatively affected as a result of the flow-on effects of consumer decisions? It’s likely that if you answered in the positive to any of these questions that business-as-usual is not going to do it for you. You need to accept that change is coming and that you want to be in control of it.
  2. Do a marketing audit: If it looks like you will be affected, it’s time to review what you currently do in marketing and understand what is working and what is not. Take the advice of experts as there is every chance you are too close to the problem.
  3. Be lean: As with everything in business, if there are areas that are not working then you should consider cutting them. Make sure you carefully measure the impact of your decisions on your sales and leads to ensure that you have not cut something that was important, but hard to measure. 
  4. Competitor research: Review the marketing channels being used by your company, and those of your competitors both locally and internationally in relation to what they are doing right now. Are there places your prospects are spending time and not seeing your message? Are there marketing opportunities you’ve missed and now’s the time to take advantage?
  5. What you say matters: Look at your branding, messaging, positioning, pricing and offers. Will they appeal to people who might be under financial or health pressure as a result of the current situation? Are your competitors currently doing this better than you? Challenging conditions make our jobs harder. Now is not the time to be average at what you do or to be average in how you communicate your value to your prospects.
  6. Have a growth mindset: Talk of growth during this period of uncertainty may seem counterintuitive, but there will be many of your competitors who remain committed to the PANIC part of the solution. They may slash marketing budgets or pour money into things that do not work. Some of them might go broke and others will shrink. Smart marketers and smart companies look to grow their market share during tough times. Getting your marketing right is one of the most important parts of making this happen.
  7. Stay agile: In times of increased uncertainty, things change much faster than during good times. You need to keep a close idea on what you’re doing as well as on what your competitors are doing. 

Hopefully, the above plan helps reduce some of the uncertainty you’re facing as a marketer or business owner. Yes, there are things to worry about. But there are always things we can do to improve our situation. Coronavirus and its impact on business and marketing is no different. We’re in a challenging situation at the moment, but don’t make it worse by walking blindly into sales and revenue issues you could have avoided.

Want to discuss your plan with an experienced marketer? Contact Rocket here or call 1300 059 620.

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