Helen Littlewood, Client Services Director
There is not a single business in the UK that hasn’t reviewed their working practices during this pandemic we are currently facing. Businesses are working round the clock on strategies and crisis plans to guide them through the coming days, weeks and months.
The immediate focus has, of course, been on the health and safety of staff and families and to protect the lives of all citizens. Alongside that, management teams have been reforecasting, adjusting processes and reviewing staff and customer requirements.
Never before has our global economy had such a sudden blow. Businesses have had to react at lightning speed with many having to completely review their route to market while dealing with daily government briefings and updates.
As we try and get through this immediate crisis, small business owners are only too aware of the financial hardship that will be caused by social distancing. So how can businesses look to the future and what can be done now?
OneAgency believes that this present situation is a rare opportunity to be strategic, to plan and get ready to hit the ground running. Here we have outlined seven tips covering essential marketing practices that businesses should look at to make sure they are aligned and focused for now – and for when ‘normal’ business resumes.
1. Anticipate change – understand your business strategy and objectives and ensure your marcomms plan is aligned
It is likely that your business plan will have altered. Marketeers should ensure that this is fully understood and that any marketing plans are set against new objectives. It is highly likely that the marketing budget will be reviewed – it is therefore imperative that it is optimised and prioritised to deliver the maximum efficiency possible. If there are obligations that won’t necessarily deliver immediate ROI these should be postponed. Ensure that all marcomm activities have clear KPI’s outlined and be prepared to justify how they will meet business needs.
2. Research, research, research – what has changed in your marketplace?
How have customers’ needs and behaviour altered since the pandemic? Does the business still meet them? Listen to what customers want and review what has shifted since COVID-19. What are they saying on social media? What do the sales and account management teams hear? What concerns have been presented to the service team from customers? Keep your ear to the ground.
Draw up a list of customer pains and needs since COVID-19 and review how your product or service can support. This could be how the delivery of service is managed or perhaps reviewing pricing strategies and payment options. This will guide your key messages and response.
3. Review your brand message – is it still relevant? Can it be/should it be updated?
Now is the time to dust off your brand positioning and ensure it is still super relevant and meaningful. It could be that now is the time to sharpen up on the brand toolkit creating a set of fresh and innovative assets. Don’t forget to consider the brand personality and tone of voice.
4. Become a thought leader and create valuable content
More people are at home and online than ever before. Brands should now create a new and relevant content strategy that is compelling, informative and engaging.
Demonstrate that you are market leaders by providing leading, authoritative and educational insights. Pull together a list of content ideas. Ask staff and customers for suggestions. What do they want to know more about? What insight can your business provide? What can you offer in terms of supporting your local community?
Events are likely out of the question for the foreseeable future so work with media partners to create webinars and invite your target audience to participate. Now is the time for healthy debate to shape your industry. Be seen to be well informed and lead the way.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time to invest in video, as this is how most audiences enjoy consuming content at the moment. Don’t underestimate it as a tool to tell your brand story. Our 5G rollout will see this channel explode so embrace it before your competitors do.
5. Turn up your social
Social is a great platform to share content, and above all, for others to share this content and amplify it even further. Boost posts that link to articles directly to your audience via paid for methods. If your customers are not interested in buying goods and services, then talk to your audience in a different way and develop a human voice for the brand. Continue to develop the relationship.
If not already, use this time to train your sales team on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn so they can continue to engage with their audience on a one-to-one level. Devise clear notes and offer advice on how to get everyone in the business involved in sharing content.
6. Create a campaign to reach your audience
In these unprecedented times, it is likely brands will be reducing their communications and promotions. This is no time to be glib or flippant. However, once the pandemic slows it will be a race to reach your audience and stand out.
Spend the time now to create a campaign that delivers your key brand messages, reaches your audience and really stands out. If it is a digitally focussed campaign, create the time to split test the messaging, create multiple landing pages and carefully monitor each channel. Put the right KPIs in place from the start so you can closely measure the impact and ROI of each approach and tweak your tactics as you go.
7. A digital mind-set
If you weren’t already using digital to do business, chances are you will be now. COVID-19 has forced day-to-day working practices and communications online. In such a short space of time our whole world has shifted even further into a digital space.
Digital has a huge role to play in the customer decision making journey. How are you maximising this as a business? Digital is a way of engaging with customers – if you haven’t already got a comprehensive digital strategy now is the time to really review it. When was the last time you really looked hard at your digital reports? Use this time to pull your digital team together and review how effective the existing strategy is. What works well, what more could be done, how do you compare against competitors? What does your online space look like – does it reflect your brand well? Not just your website but all digital platforms (social, email, etc.). And don’t forget ecommerce. If you weren’t selling online before, now could be the time to get a platform up and running so that your customers can still buy your products. If you’re already trading online, are there improvements you could make to the UX and buyer’s journey? There will be a huge increase in online shopping and you want to make sure that customers can find what they need as quickly and easily as possible.
One thing is for certain, never in history has it been so important to have a strong digital presence.