It's a global pandemic. Life as we know it has changed and the future is more uncertain than ever before. Some businesses are being hit hard and struggling to stay afloat. Others, not as hard as they find ways to navigate this new landscape and the rest are somewhere in between.
When life and business get turned upside down, it's natural to go into "hunker down" mode, especially in a situation where the entire globe is being told to do just that. It's understandable to want to cut all expenses and anticipate the worst. None of us should feel bad about these very valid (and sometimes practical) reactions.
We don't know what the future holds and there are so many things out of our control right now. However, there is a school of thought that argues that marketing is not one of the things that should be suspended right now. In fact, there are many reasons why marketing should continue or even get more resources. Of course we’d say that, right? Well here are some cold hard facts to back it up.
People are on social media a lot more right now
A recent study pointed to a sharp rise in social media usage right now. It makes sense because just about everyone is now working from home and spending time on social media following current events.
If you run campaigns on social media, now may be a great time to double down. For once, consumers are time rich. Attention is in high supply and the competition may be pushing pause, this may give you a unique opportunity to gain more attention from your target audience.
In particular, the leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram are likely to be incredibly high-value as people follow breaking stories, argue about politics (Facebook) and share inspiration and life stories (Instagram).
Building a list may be easier than ever right now
People everywhere are looking for hope, inspiration and positivity. They are looking forward to the day when they can socialize again and see life get back to normal. Now is the time to create content that inspires and helps.
Whether you're in B2B or B2C or both, the classic tenets of Inbound Marketing have not changed: provide value.
Now may be the time to launch that amazing offer, course, podcast, download, video series, webinar, or pillar page that helps your audience navigate their challenges. Now may be a great time to use content to build your email list, your social media custom audiences, your podcast subscribers, your video followers, and any channel that you are building a community around.
People in both B2B and B2C are looking for support and guidance. Be part of the solution and provide help to them. When everyone is bursting out of this crisis and moving full-steam ahead in business, you will have been part of the solution all along which will afford you the social and business currency to turn that loyalty into revenue.
Marketing is not a switch; it's an engine
In times of turbulence, it's tempting to think of marketing as a switch that can be turned on and off. But that's not how it works.
Marketing is an engine that starts slowly and then builds momentum as you spin it up (flywheel anyone?). The more you add fuel and the more momentum you gain, the faster and more effective it is.
If you suddenly grind it to a halt, you have to start over by building momentum again. You may have to re-earn loyalty from your audience if they haven't heard from you in a while. You may have to re-gain SEO rankings because the competition kept going. Loyalty is based on the relationships you’ve built. If you cut contact and ignore your loyal customer base, they’re likely to pledge allegiance to the brand that has stood by them and provided value and support in an uncertain time.
Rather than halt marketing, you are likely better off maintaining or even increasing your efforts so you are running strong when the storm passes.
Businesses are reinventing themselves
While some businesses are unfortunately truly struggling, others are reinventing themselves. From restaurants to breweries to retail, many B2C businesses are pivoting in response to the coronavirus in creative ways. B2B companies are less affected and in some ways, they are thriving (take Zoom for example). Many industries, especially technology, are experiencing unprecedented demand.
How can your business serve the community in the current environment? What can you do to pivot and adapt your message? Yes, there is some negative news out there. But there are also some amazing opportunities.
A recession is the time to increase market share
No one likes saying the word out loud but it's pretty much accepted that we are going to see a recession. We don't know how long (or short) it will be, but it's likely.
When this occurs, your competition is likely to cut back. As scary as it might sound, this is your chance to gain ground.
It's been well-documented that increased spending in marketing and advertising during a recession can pay off. From Forbes:
"...there have been a number of studies going back nearly one century that point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a weaker economy. Those advertisers that maintained or grew their ad spending increased sales and market share during the recession and afterwards."
The article continues:
There are several reasons to advertise during a slowdown.
- The “noise level” in a brand’s product category can drop when competitors cut back on their ad spend. It also allows for advertisers to re-position a brand or introduce a new product.
- Brands can project to consumers the image of corporate stability during challenging times.
- The cost of advertising drops during recessions. The lower rates create a “buyer’s market” for brands. Studies have shown that direct mail advertising, which can provide greater short-term sales growth, increases during a recession.
- When marketers cut back on their ad spending, the brand loses its “share of mind” with consumers, with the potential of losing current – and possibly future – sales. An increase in “share of voice” typically leads to an increase in “share of market.” An increase in market share results, with an increase in profits.
Many well-known companies like Kellog's and Amazon became the uncontested leaders in their space by increasing marketing during recessions. And they're basically unstoppable now. We know not everyone has the behemoth budgets of these big players but the relative results of maintaining steady marketing activities remain the same.
A decision to make
So what should you do? That's something only you can answer for your business. There are many very real considerations to work through including cash flow and financial situation. But if it's feasible and realistic to continue your marketing or even increase it right now, it could pay off exponentially in the months and years to come. The world is social distancing but the feeling of togetherness and community has never been stronger so do your best to keep in contact with your customer family and keep your relationships strong.