Making the most of an uncertain world

The prospect of this continuing for longer than most would have expected, plus the uncertain future impact of Brexit; not to mention the possibility of a future recession – means that businesses need to have some flexibility in their planned marketing activities.

Whatever dilemma we face you are still running your business, and as I’ve said many times before, it is not the time to think ‘woe is me’, panic and pull back on your marketing and literally go invisible. Treat it as an opportunity with time to review, replan and look at what you’ve been doing and how you can do it better…or indeed different.

I’m sure there will be some who go into hibernation and do nothing until uncertain conditions change – but think about the consequences of that action…or should I call it non-action? Whilst you might think this is a reasonable thing to do and save money while sales revenue is a little scarce, scaling back on your marketing completely is not recommended, after all, what is a business with great people, products or services if no one knows about it?

Review and Adapt

One of the biggest investments a business will make is marketing and there will be many businesses that adapt their marketing to fit the situation better. It is a pretty good time to review your marketing strategy and plan to get yourself in a stronger position and long-term to increase your share of voice against your competitors.

There is no doubt in my mind that businesses with stronger brand awareness and relationships with their customers will recover the quickest. To support that I read a global survey towards the end of last year of more than 35,000 consumers (completed by Kantar) that said:

“ONLY 8% of consumers believe brands should stop advertising due to the COVID pandemic.”

“Brand health becomes vulnerable when companies stop marketing,” said Kantar Insights global head of media, Jane Ostler. “If they do this for longer than six months it destroys both short- and long-term health.” Simply said … people will forget about you if you are not visible in some way.

Speak to your Customers

Particularly small businesses should try and be a little innovative but mindful of tone – NOT necessarily referring to any specific situation, but focusing on the benefits of their products or services to existing customers and how their lives will be better by using them. Build that relationship further and show them value…they will buy from you again and again and more importantly recommend you to friends and family … this costs far less than trying to attract new customers.

There is no doubt digital and social media will be attracting bigger audiences as people still on furlough or working from home crave news and entertainment however, that does make them a more crowded environment for a smaller business to get any ‘cut-through’, so do not ignore some of the more traditional marketing approaches to speak directly to your customers.

By all means tell your customers what you are doing to keep yourself, your family, and your employees safe and well in these difficult times, but maybe introduce a free delivery option like ‘click & collect’, free consultations, or open up new communication lines where customers can contact you for advice and support relating to your service or product.

Focus and Control

While uncertainty prevails, your marketing focus should be on things you can control, such as the customer experience and care. When reviewing your marketing strategy stay true to your brand values and provide lasting impressions that focus on your customer’s wellbeing.

Don’t Panic, Be Agile

My main advice is don’t stop marketing! Marketing will pay for itself in the long term. Generally speaking, and in my experience (over 30 years of it) many small businesses have the view that when their first attempt at a marketing activity doesn’t work, marketing, as a whole, doesn’t work, instead of trying something new or different. This is where having that well thought through marketing strategy proves its worth.

While your current marketing strategy may not deliver the same results as expected now, but don’t hit the panic button! Think about creating a slightly tweaked or new marketing strategy to target your prime target audience, which will help to maintain some growth during these challenging few months.

This period of uncertainty will not last forever. It is those who remain agile and maintain their spend with the right marketing strategy who will swim, rather than sink.

It won’t be easy, but ‘pulling back in the short term’ will hurt your business in the long term. It should be ‘business as usual’, especially in sales and marketing. It may feel like it is not working immediately, but it will eventually, and you’ll come out stronger as a result. If you’re not sure what to do, get expert advice.

Key points for marketing in uncertain times:

  • Adapt and evolve your marketing strategy and focus
  • Keep up your presence on digital and social, while not ignoring traditional marketing methods
  • Look after your existing customers with a sound contact strategy
  • Pay attention to the changes in consumer behaviour and lifestyles
Andy Sarson
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Andy Sarson

Andy likes to work with small businesses (sole traders, new start-ups, or established businesses with up to 75 employees) by identifying their target markets, developing, and delivering effective marketing strategies with affordable plans and activities designed to help them grow - it's his belief that getting the marketing right early on lays the foundations for the future. He has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, being elected to the status of Fellow. With just over 30 years’ experience in various marketing roles, both agency and client side - many working alongside retailer networks across the UK – he has worked with brands such as Peugeot, Toyota, Chrysler, Jeep, Cineworld, JD Wetherspoon and SEAT. Also managed UK sponsorship campaigns with NFL UK and Tough Mudder for Jeep.