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Strategy & Organization May 14, 2020

React don't retreat. Putting together a marketing strategy to thrive in the new normal

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The new reality that is unfolding before us will affect every single company in a different way. Some urgently need manpower to cope with the sharp rise in online demand, some are shifting to a Direct to Consumer model to combat the closure of stores, while the food retail and public sectors are forced to start mass recruitment efforts in order to find drivers for short-term work in response to increased demand. However, one principle applies to all businesses: putting the brakes on every marketing campaign is a major risk.

A number of companies have already implemented a complete stop to most, if not all, digital marketing activities. This way of thinking is understandable because as society continues to be at a standstill, every Dollar saved contributes to a company’s reserve. The issue is that in this period of crisis, consumers and clients are looking for clarity from the businesses, and pausing all communications can leave your audience adrift. Businesses should focus on reactive strategies that enable them to adapt and thrive in this new reality.

HOMEPAGE: OFFER ACTIVE INFORMATION

If a user is on your homepage, they are likely wondering what your company can offer. Failure to provide individuals with an answer leads to uncertainty. Looking at the retail industry, some store websites are displaying updated information on their homepage, along the lines of: “Our branches are no longer open, but we are still able to deliver our goods/ services”. However, some brands have yet to update this important contact point, still prominently promoting seasonal campaigns and promotions of their latest product lines. This leaves customers confused as to how the business is affected and whether the services have changed.

Updated information is necessary now more than ever to prevent consumer uncertainty and, though this may seem cynical at the moment, offering an additional page with honest and current information can improve the relationship and transparency with customers, establishing brand affinity that is useful as we return to normality.

GOOGLE MYBUSINESS: PROVIDING A “TEMPORARILY CLOSED” STATUS

When searching for hair salons, DIY stores, restaurants, or smaller niche shops of any kind, you will likely still see a green “open” indicator in Google MyBusiness. This, however, may not be accurate for some shops. So be sure to either change your opening hours or use Google’s option to mark your store as “temporarily closed”.

GOOGLE ADS: NAME THE LOCATION

Numerous companies are currently stopping all Google Ads, which is creating an information vacuum. Rather than pressing pause, companies should be looking to update their current Google Ads strategy to fit the changing needs of consumers as reality transforms. This reactive approach can promote the redesigned temporary business model, something that is new to your previous customers.

The free listing (or Google MyBusiness, see above) usually functions as the number one information point on a search results page, with the exception of brand ads. Unfortunately, this is rarely optimal because the free listings are neither set up for nor flexible enough to display updated and accurate information.

SOCIAL MEDIA: STAY IN TOUCH

Uncertainty is still running high amongst consumers which is leading to an increase in the volume of questions and comments via social media. However, most brands do not have the resources to properly cope with this influx of inquiries. For many businesses, creative approaches, especially in the way of social media, are serving as viable solutions for keeping their consumers informed. Reorienting your customer service operation to focus more on social media, through increased capacity, can be an invaluable solution when the call center model is rendered inoperable due to social distancing measures.

Other businesses are using social media to connect with the new challenges that the public are facing every day. Plenty of people have taken to baking their own bread as a response to panic buying and lockdown measures. With this in mind, the Swiss cookbook publisher Betty Bossi began using Instagram Stories to share recipe instructions for sourdough bread for viewers to follow.

FIRST PRIORITY: WHAT STILL WORKS NOW SHOULD BE ADVERTISED

Sales across brick and mortar retail will likely remain slow in the near future. However, e-commerce for many industries, such as gaming and DIY, has observed an uplift. Ensure that you communicate on your website and social media what services or products you are still offering. It’s especially important as society begins to return to normal to communicate what you can still offer your customers as some brands will be able to restock while others will not.

Another point to keep in mind is that while businesses should be aiming to keep sales as high as possible, pure ROAS strategies, which make profitability the top priority, are not suitable methods at present as they can limit market penetration.

CONTINUE OR ADAPT UPPER-FUNNEL CAMPAIGNS

Currently, demand and transactions are shifting across most industries, benefiting some brands and hurting others. However, this does not mean that overall interest has diminished forever. For example, interest will rise again in the automotive sector, especially as society reopens and people may feel worried about taking public transport. So by focusing on the upper funnel, you can prepare the market for future launches while catering it to the new reality.

The decline is logically more pronounced in the lower funnel. This also means that anyone who now stops their upper-funnel campaigns in Google, Social Media, and YouTube is taking a big risk. Because, as shown by stores reopening slowly globally, there is pent-up demand which can overwhelm brands. So anyone who is avoiding contact with their target group is more likely to be ignored as soon as the transactions begin again.

CONVERSION REPORTING

The crisis has changed the key metrics businesses use to measure their marketing and sales efforts. This is partly down to important metrics changing, but also the necessary frequency of reporting. Dashboards that were updated on a weekly basis in the past may now require a daily update.

Spending and sales are now likely to become more important than ROAS thresholds, and the transaction success of product categories can change completely overnight, for better or worse. Tools such as Google Data Studio become even more valuable here, for example. Dashboards can be compiled with just a few clicks, and if you do away with the pixel-exact arrangement of individual tables and graphs, you will be able to act faster.

ADAPTING TO THE NEW NORMAL

Nobody feels like partying right now, but life is resuming. As the doors open again, people flock back to their jobs and sales pick up again, digital marketing will play an immense role. As states and businesses open up, there are five key questions that your brand needs to be able to answer.

  • Messaging: How does your brand perform in the emotionally charged days of normalization?
  • Behavioral retargeting: How to interact with all the upper-funnel contacts of the crisis period?
  • Reactivation: What to do with all the customers who canceled, returned, got their money refunded, or simply remained inactive during the crisis? Are the appropriate marketing automation routes prepared?
  • Actions and promotions: How to deal with the fact that the world is beautiful returning to normal on the pricing and product level?
  • Budgets: How to plan spending when demand picks up?

That every crisis is an opportunity is a cliché, but, the fact is that the current situation brings challenges that can be better-mastered thanks to digital marketing as opposed to isolating and stopping communication altogether. After all, with everyone operating almost completely from home, online communication and transparency are more important now than ever before.

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