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Your Guide to Marketing During a Crisis or Downturn

A few of our clients have asked for advice on their spend at the moment, so we thought we’d put our thoughts down here to help out as best we can.

Marketing has always been one of the first things that businesses tend to cut – we’re the colouring-in department: pretty pictures, a few nice words, why would anyone spend money on that during a crisis? This kind of attitude has continued into the digital age, with the 2008 financial crisis seeing budgets slashed across industries.

What few people seem to ask themselves, however, is whether they’re right to think like this. Well, we’ve got some terrible news for you…

You see, it turns out that businesses able to maintain or increase spend during periods of financial instability recover faster than their more conservative competition. The following, for example, is from the conclusion of a featured study in the International Journal of Business and Social Science (Vol. 6, No. 9(1)):

Recession is a period of economic downturn. Customers cut down on their purchases, unemployment rate goes up, job insecurity increases, and consumer’s confidence dips. Companies cut their budgets across the board. Marketing budgets in most companies is usually the first port of call. The ad spend is usually reduced as the CEO and CFO are likely to go with investments that yield noticeable returns quickly. Studies show that advertising has a long term effect on sales, up to five years after the ads are shown. Usually, an expansionary period of economic activity follows a recession. Researchers have shown that companies that are able to maintain and even increase their marketing budget/spend during a recession experience growth in their sales figures and market share during and after recession. This paper recommends that during a recession, a company should try to maintain its market spend, (especially its ad spend) if it cannot increase it. The company should also focus on its competitors, customers and its communications.

It’s not just that study, however, in study after study similar conclusions have been reached. The Harvard Business Review created the following table to illustrate the possible customer behaviour types during a recessions (we know a pandemic is it’s own beast, but it shares a lot in common).

Consumer Segments

 

It doesn’t stop there, either – a further study found that recovery time extended for brands that reduced marketing spend, while it doubled for those that pulled back entirely:

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It’s understandable that marketing can seem expendable at moments of crisis, but in actual fact it’s as – if not more – important, especially if your competitors have given in to that urge. What is necessary is to refocus your priorities – on brand building, on solidifying and improving your digital presence and on preparing to accelerate out of the other end as a stronger business.

So, our advice? We understand that every part of your business – every part of everything – is clamouring to be considered essential at the moment. What we would advise as far as your marketing (both on and offline) and your digital presence is the following: can you still operate during the lockdown, if so – does this require a shift online for all or part of the purchase process – and if so, can you maintain or increase spending on improvements to this digital presence and on building your brand. If you can, you definitely should.

Sector Observations

Here’s how some of our client base are coping.

Hospitality & Tourism

Pubs, Bars, Hotels, Restaurants, Tourist Venues and Cafes have all closed for the foreseeable future under the government’s social distancing instructions. Bookings for the future are still being made though!

Many venues have started delivery services, some very profitably indeed! With the lockdown, people are still ordering food and drinks in, so if you can set up to deliver, have a go! Plenty of providers exist, such as Just Eat, but several of our clients have simply had us add eCommerce to their existing website to allow for online ordering – a cheaper alternative with less going out in commission. This still requires advertising, especially through localised Google Ads and Social Media.

Pets Feeds & Accessories

This sector is booming online with some clients hitting ten-fold increases in turnover by offering click-and-collect to locals, or courier delivery to those more remote. Email Marketing, Social Media and Google Ads are crucial here to encourage engagement.

Local Trades

Local tradesmen such as electricians, plumbers, gas fitters, decorators et al should be taking advantage of the government’s self-employed scheme if eligible. Many have been taking the opportunity to carry out essential work in closed places of work or education which are now empty. Marketing spend for these is still esssential to build up a waiting list of clients to book in once restrictions are lifted.

Salons & Boutiques

Sadly all are closed, but several have products for sale online that can be used at home by clients. Again, email marketing along with localised Google Ads and Social Media can be vital. Gift Vouchers are also proving to be popular – this is a way for existing clients to support the business and for people to gift to a friend. Special Offers help a lot here.

Education

With everyone closed from pre-school nurseries to universities, many are coming up with unique and original methods of delivering courses. The private sector is hardest hit, but marketing should still continue in order to build up brand recognition and to overtake some of those rivals on Google search.

 

Want to talk over your concerns? Why not contact us for a chat? Chances are, we can help you with what you need or we’ll know someone who can!