The business world has been changed utterly by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the aftermath of our current lockdown, how can marketing step up to re-boot future business growth?
A new normal
Every business has experienced the dramatic shift to remote working. With social distancing going to be a long-term reality, remote working will become a permanent part of our working way. This has the potential to be a good and bad thing for businesses – on the negative side businesses will be challenged to manage teams remotely and to building strong team culture when not in physical proximity. On the positive side it will reduce the need for expensive office space, it can foster a culture of output orientated performance and can enable a more empowered work force, reducing commute times and offering improved work life balance which is something that has been craved for a long time.
The normal offline way of business is changed. With trade events and face to face meetings now impossible, businesses have embraced technology – reflected in the growth in video conferencing provider Zoom as an example. There are now many platform alternatives for businesses to create and manage meetings, webinars and events - Slack, Team, Hangouts etc. Online conferencing and meetings are now firmly established and are here to stay. Now is the time for businesses to plan new ways of ensuring they are interacting with their target audiences.
From a marketing perspective what has the short-term impact been and what are the longer-term implications for businesses and consumers? Since March 2020 e-commerce activity globally is up 108%, with 42% of consumers say their shopping habits will be changed forever. Businesses are going to become increasingly more reliant on their digital marketing for positioning and promotion. Those businesses that embrace this reality will be the ones that survive and thrive best. Right now is the time for businesses to get active. They should consider the following:
- Update their website – it is essential to make it the hub of their digital communications
- Examining how to win in SEO – ensure all content is accurately optimised for the new world your targets live in
- Consider when to use paid search & remarketing – paid search and conversion rates are down. This presents an opportunity in terms of the auction rates available to promote to your audience
- Review how social media channels can engage with audiences – SM activity has increased dramatically as people have looked to stay engaged. Consider social media advertising
- Consider outbound email it is still a very powerful medium in the B2B space
- Build out a detailed and layered content marketing strategy – embrace creating raw user generated content and don’t get fixated on having the very highest production standards – especially if marketing budgets are being pinched
- Look to develop as much earned media as you can – build out online networks and hunt for endorsements from industry influencers
- Look to see where your business can step up and help your community – Irish Distillers pivoted very quickly into producing alcohol for hand sanitisers, promoting a really positive message for their brand
Agility and adaptability will be the key to success. The starting point is to re-examine where your targets are to be found online? The manner businesses and brands behaved before COVID and after will not be the same. What needs have changed with your target audiences? How can you ensure that you understand and can solve their current pain points? How should you now target them for mutual benefit and success? Many of the answers to these questions will have shifted in the last few months – your targets world, like yours has spun. If your business promoted itself predominantly off-line, now is the time to examine how you can stay relevant in a digital environment. But be strategic with how you move into this space. Don’t view it as a short-term fix but rather a long-term strategic shift, based on the market environment and need.
Start focusing now on your brand and your marketing. You must be as ready as possible when the economy opens up – there is no time to be wasted, you need to create opportunities to grow leads once again. It is a difficult and scary time, but it is not a time for neutrality and sitting back. As always fortune will favour the brave and as Warren Buffet said,
“Be fearful when others are being greedy and greedy when others are being fearful.”