by Scott Severson with Chris Schafer
Social distancing. If you’re like me, the line between social distancing and solitary confinement is starting to become very blurry. I’ve always enjoyed going to a physical office and I miss seeing and interacting with all my team members at Brandpoint and our clients every day. Yet we know that social distancing currently remains the best strategy to counter the COVID-19 virus and thus staying home remains the best course of action for us as individuals.
It’s a poor strategy for brands, yet many companies are responding to these uncertain times by slashing their marketing spend and socially distancing themselves from their consumers. It’s a bad idea. One that, at best, leaves potential opportunities on the table and at worst, can hinder future market share. Being timid has almost never made a company perform better.
Here are a few of the reasons a brand’s marketing efforts are more important than ever.
Communicating with our customers maintains a sense of normalcy
While some brands have adjusted their strategies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, others have gone radio silent. That’s a mistake.
This is the perfect time to adjust — not cease — your communications with your customers. It’s time to tell stories surrounding the pandemic. If your company is deemed essential, share what you’re doing to help everyone overcome the pandemic. If your company is not “essential” (I beg to differ), share what you are doing to help those affected by COVID-19. Share how you can solve a problem or make your audience’s lives better. With so much of our customers’ worlds turned upside down, your messaging is a chance to introduce something familiar. Just make sure to tailor the message to match the times and provide value.
Online marketing and messaging are more important than ever
These days I’m reading a lot of content online and I imagine you are as well. Research from Akamai shows internet traffic is up an astounding 50%, and brands are doing a disservice to themselves by not increasing their presence at a time when the market is flush with end users. Educate, add value and entertain us.
This is about more than simply having content focused on COVID-19. I’ve had time, for example, to take a deeper dive into subjects I’m passionate about. I’m channeling that time I would normally spend in rush hour traffic into new pursuits, and the brands that are actively creating content are benefiting from my increased website usage.
Focus your content on helping people indulge their interests or simply helping people at all and your efforts will benefit your site visitors.
Upping your online presence now will benefit you in the future
The great online migration isn’t going to cease once the pandemic subsides. Not entirely. Restaurants, sporting events, movie theaters and such will all return, but other industries will be forever changed by our habits over this time. (Side note: My first stop when the world reopens will be for a Parlour Burger in Minneapolis.)
We are learning to live a lot more of our daily lives through technology and I would expect many of the habits we’re learning now, like video chat, will continue even when other options become available again. For brands this means that the trend toward website interactions and content already will become even more dramatic. Digital interactions are becoming vital as tens of millions of consumers will continue to fulfill hundreds of millions of essential tasks online. If your company’s online presence, content and usability need work, use this time to build or improve that foundation.
Now’s a great time to improve your keyword and online rankings
Finding keywords that convert, particularly high-traffic keywords, can be a daunting task, but it is one made more attainable by companies cutting their marketing spend during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doubling down on content creation during this time can increase your prominence and leave you in a better place once those who chose to wait out the pandemic return.
It may also allow you to reduce your keyword spend in the future because you increased your rankings in more cost-effective ways.
Shutting down marketing now can hurt your performance today and in the future
Warren Buffett is famous for saying, “Be fearful when others are greedy and … be greedy only when others are fearful.” Your marketing spend is never going to be as efficient as it is today during a downturn when there are fewer dollars competing for your audience’s attention.
Companies that indiscriminately slash their marketing spending, versus taking a strategic scalpel to their marketing budget as Wil Reynolds from Seer Interactive suggests, will find that it hurts them in the near term, makes their situation worse and will force them to spend far more than they saved in order to recover. Many businesses that stop or scale back their marketing will see an insurmountable gulf created between them and more aggressive competitors.
On average companies that maintained or grew their marketing spend increased their sales and market share during the downturn and grew significantly faster than the competition when the economy inevitably improved.
There are numerous studies that go back to the Great Depression that cite the advantages of maintaining or even increasing your marketing and advertising spend during a downturn. On average companies that maintained or grew their marketing spend increased their sales and market share during the downturn and grew significantly faster than the competition when the economy inevitably improved.
Think of a recession as a sharp curve on an auto racetrack — the best place to pass competitors, but requiring more skill than straightaways. The best drivers apply the brakes just ahead of the curve (they take out excess costs), turn hard toward the apex of the curve (identify the short list of projects that will form the next business model), and accelerate hard out of the curve (spend and hire before markets have rebounded). – Bain and Company
The world will not be the same and your place in the world will need to be reestablished
When the pandemic subsides, where will your brand be? A return to the previous normal isn’t guaranteed given the general population has experienced such a dramatic shift in the way it handles every facet of daily life.
In some ways a return to traditional life will be a blank slate. The groundwork for success in the post-pandemic marketplace is being laid now by brands that are actively communicating with their customers and providing value. The actions we all take today could have a big impact tomorrow.