Marketing Dos and Don'ts During a Crisis
Think short-, medium- and long-term, and know what you should and shouldn't be changing.
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These are extremely difficult times, and making it more difficult is that these are uncharted waters full of speculation, self-appointed gurus and presumptive forecasts, leaving business owners unclear on what they should or shouldn't be doing with their business.
At our agency, we are telling all our clients the same thing we always do: Think of your marketing in terms of short-, medium- and long-term objectives, and know where you should and shouldn't be making changes in your marketing strategy. While a one-size-fits-all approach never works, there are some principles and concepts any business can apply during this current public-health, or any other, crisis.
Related: In a Brand Crisis, Should You Turn to Social Media Marketing or PR?
We define short-term marketing in terms of one to three months, and this is where our current crisis is going to have the largest and most dramatic impact. And depending on your industry, that impact may be positive or negative, and it may be minor or major. What's most important is to take control of things that are easily changeable, such as social media advertising, search engine ads, video ads and other types of digital promotion that can be closely monitored and adjusted as needed.
A large restaurant we work with is now closed in most states to dine-in customers, so they are offering free delivery. We made sure their social media advertising and search advertising, as well as website content and information, were all quickly updated and even scaled up to help them during these difficult times. The end result has been positive — they are actually seeing an increase in their sales and revenue as a result.
Likewise, a manufacturing business we work with has seen a sharp decline in web traffic and ad clicks. We've seen our cost per acquisition (CPA) increase dramatically and have subsequently recommended a temporary pause for 10-14 days until the dust starts to settle and things return at least to the new normal. This will hurt them from a revenue standpoint in the short term, but protects them from wasting money on ads that are currently ineffective due to external forces.
An ecommerce brand we work with has seen a mixed bag; some product lines are hurting dramatically while others have remained neutral or slightly increased. In this case, we've scaled back or paused campaigns for the next 10-14 days, while scaling up the product lines that are still in high demand. We also helped them roll out free shipping, and their sales have so far remained neutral during this difficult time.
We define medium-term marketing as three to nine months. While the changes will not be as dramatic as in the short term, your business may require some strategy adjustments to succeed.
We are recommending our clients evaluate what tactics they plan to use in the medium term, as well as their anticipated performance during this time period. Make sure your most critical product lines and services that will remain in demand during a brief downturn are the ones you are placing medium-term emphasis on. This is also a good time to focus on volume at a potentially lower ROI.
For example, while the economy was booming, many of our clients became more stringent in demanding higher ROIs. When demand is extremely high, that is a luxury we are afforded. However, as demand drops, oftentimes so does ROI. If your business can break even or be slightly profitable at a certain point, engage in as much advertising and marketing as you can to keep your volume up, even if in the medium term it means less profit. The goal during a crisis for any business is to stay alive.
We define long-term marketing as one to three years. While we don't have a crystal ball concerning the current circumstances, we are recommending our clients to not make any long-term changes at this point. As conditions and forecasts change, businesses should adapt their strategy accordingly, but for now most companies should hold tight and not make any dramatic changes that will hurt them in the long run.
Related: 5 Crisis-Management Tips for Your Digital Brand
In closing, avoid knee-jerk reactions, make smart decisions, use data and numbers to drive your decisions and, most importantly, don't panic. We are all in this together. Your friends and enemies, partners and competitors are all facing the same challenges as you. Keep your business positioned as best as you possibly can during these trying times, and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. And remember that your marketing can make a tremendous difference between success and failure.
Stay safe out there.