The Case to Keep Marketing During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted by Brian Pappalardo on Mar 24, 2020 5:01:52 PM

Is anyone else's head spinning by how fast things have changed over the past couple of weeks? I'm pretty certain that I've aged about 10 years in the last month. We're in the middle of a global pandemic, life has changed, and businesses are struggling.

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Whether you've been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus or whether you're maintaining and watching out for warning signs, it's fair to say that life and business have been turned upside down. During these times, it's real easy to "hunker down", or as one of my clients said "turtle shell up" to survive. It's completely understandable wanting to cut all non-crucial expenses as we wait and as we fear. It's a very valid and practical thing to do.

However, for some businesses, this time presents an opportunity. Now, don't get me wrong, every business is different, and there's never been a one-size-fits-all strategy for how to market every business every time. But, for the brave, it's worth at least considering whether you should keep your marketing running or even ramp up.

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People are living on social media right now

A recent study pointed to a sharp rise in social media usage right now (22% more reach on Instagram and 27% more reach on TikTok). It makes sense because just about everyone is now working from home and spending a lot more time following current events.

If you're already running campaigns on social media, now may be a great time to double down. Attention is in high supply and the competition may be pushing pause, which could give you an opportunity to gain even more attention.

In particular, Facebook and Instagram are likely to be incredibly high-value as people follow breaking stories, argue about politics (on Facebook), share inspiration and life stories (on Instagram), and share hilarious quarantine videos.

Place more of a focus on building your audience

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People everywhere are looking for hope and inspiration. There's a longing for the good ole days of last month, and there's a renewed feeling that we're all in this together. People are looking forward to the day when they can socialize again and when life starts to feel normal. If ever there was a time for you to create content that inspires and helps, this is it.

Whether you're in B2B or B2C or both, the classic tenets of Inbound Marketing have not changed: provide value. The specific who or what may have changed, you may have to pivot a little, but try to figure out what your business can add to the conversation that gives value and helps people feel at ease when everything else feels crazy.

If you've been sitting on a new offer, course, podcast, download, video series, webinar, or pillar page that helps your audience navigate their challenges, now might be a great time to launch it. While people may be tightening the belt and not spending as much money, it may be the perfect time to use content to build your email list, your social media custom audiences, your podcast subscribers, or your video followers.

People in both B2B and B2C are looking for hope and guidance. This too shall pass (or so they say), and if you do a good job of building your audience now, you'll be in a good position to turn that social currency into revenue when things get back to normal.

Marketing is not a switch; it's an engine

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In times of turbulence, it's tempting to think of marketing as a switch that can be turned on and off. But that's not how it works.

Marketing is an engine that starts slowly and then builds momentum as you spin it up (remember, the marketing funnel is dead). The more you add fuel and the more friction you remove, the more momentum you gain. The result, a faster and more efficient marketing machine.

If you suddenly grind it all of your marketing activities to a halt, you'll have to, in many respects, start over by building momentum again. You may have to re-introduce yourself to an audience that hasn't heard from you in a while. You may have to re-gain lost SEO rankings because the competition took hold of the opportunity and passed you.

Rather than halt marketing, you could be better off by maintaining or even increasing your efforts so you are running strong when the storm is over.

Businesses are reinventing themselves

While some businesses are unfortunately truly struggling, others are reinventing themselves. From restaurants to breweries to retail, many B2C businesses are pivoting in response to the coronavirus in creative ways. In fact, we've shifted a lot of our focus toward providing services to help teams succeed with remote work.

Some B2B companies are less affected and some industries, especially in technology, are experiencing unprecedented demand (take Zoom for example).

How can your business serve the community in the current environment? How can you pivot and adapt your message - maybe even adapt your products or services? Yes, there is definitely negative news out there. But don't let that blind you to the opportunity that may exist.*

A recession is the time to increase market share

No one likes saying the word out loud but it's starting to look like we may see a recession. Nobody knows how long (or short) it will be but some tuned-in people are saying that it's likely.

When this occurs, your competition is likely to cut back. This is your chance to gain ground.

It's been well-documented in the past that increased spending in marketing and advertising during a recession can pay off. From Forbes:

"...there have been a number of studies going back nearly one century that point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a weaker economy. Those advertisers that maintained or grew their ad spending increased sales and market share during the recession and afterwards."

The article continues:

There are several reasons to advertise during a slowdown.

  • The “noise level” in a brand’s product category can drop when competitors cut back on their ad spend. It also allows for advertisers to re-position a brand or introduce a new product.
  • Brands can project to consumers the image of corporate stability during challenging times.
  • The cost of advertising drops during recessions. The lower rates create a “buyer’s market” for brands. Studies have shown that direct mail advertising, which can provide greater short-term sales growth, increases during a recession.
  • When marketers cut back on their ad spending, the brand loses its “share of mind” with consumers, with the potential of losing current – and possibly future – sales. An increase in “share of voice” typically leads to in an increase in “share of market.” An increase in market share results, with an increase in profits.

Many well-known companies like Kellogg's and Amazon became the uncontested leaders in their space by increasing marketing during recessions. And now, they're basically unstoppable.

A decision to make

So what should you do? I can't answer that for you. I wish I could, but that's something only you can decide for your business. There are many very real considerations to work out, not least of which is maintaining cash flow and a solid financial outlook. But if it's feasible and realistic to continue your marketing or even increase it right now, it could pay off exponentially in the months and years to come.

If you want to bounce ideas off of us, we do free initial consultations. If you're trying to determine how much to cut, or where to cut, we can help with that. We're here for you, and we're in it together.

Oh, one other thing, #washyourdamnhands.

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*I want to take a moment to acknowledge that it feels a little gross talking about this pandemic as an opportunity. But, the truth is, we're in a pandemic, and there's nothing I can do and nothing you can do change that (with the obvious exception of staying the f home). But change - any change - brings opportunity and we each have a choice to either see it and try to take it or to sit by. I hope you're using this time to think about the big picture, and to think creatively about what you and your business can contribute to society. Stay safe, and stay healthy.

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Inbound Marketing

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