Strategic marketing considerations in a crisis

2020 has quite frankly got off to a terrible start, with travel, retail, and hospitality industries feeling the brunt of it so far. From the floods in February causing a near 8% decline in the number of people visiting high street stores, through to the current pandemic which has had monumental impacts on across various industries.

Its highly unlikely that business will just return to normal once the pandemic is over. Many businesses will be having to adopt strategies left, right, and centre right now to make it through the next couple of months, but even more will be considering their longer-term strategies – think over the next 2+ years. For industries so reliant on trade and free movement (read “all industries”), it would be not only naïve for businesses to think only about the short term, but potentially even detrimental to their survival.

So, when it comes to a crisis, what marketing considerations should be feeding into your strategies?

From an agency perspective

If you are an agency, working with multiple clients across a variety of channels in a mixture of industries, you are in one of the best positions to learn from the data and what you are seeing. Whether you are servicing SEO, PPC, CRO, Email, or providing consultancy on Data & Analytics; as an agency you are exposed to a huge amount of information, which is both overwhelming and invaluable. And because of that, you will need to break the considerations into different points:

  1. Are services / products changing?
    1. What from/to and for how long initially?
    2. Is delivery paused/available/partially available?
    3. Is there leftover stock that needs to be cleared?
    4. Where are the opportunities if we cannot sell as normal?
  2. Are goals changing?
    1. How are forecasts changing?
    2. Has the quantity vs. quality balance changed?
    3. Do we need to do more to attract and nurture in preparation for future conversions?
  3. Is budget changing?
    1. How is media spend affected?
    2. Are there areas that perform well that should be pushed further?
    3. Are there areas that do not perform but we are there for coverage that can be sacrificed?
    4. Are the marketing channels being used the right ones for meeting the goals?
    5. Are there services at risk of being paused or deferred?
    6. Are there changes that could be made to the services to continue driving performance?
  4. Is resource changing?
    1. Client-side, what is their team setup looking like?
    2. Which resources are likely to be stripped back to handle the current issues?
    3. Are those changes going to impact anything we need to get implemented or created?
    4. Are those changes going to impact the work we can do to drive performance?
  5. Is the market affected?
    1. Are there similarities between client changes and what is happening in the market?
    2. Are we seeing competitors decrease spend or change Biddable tactics?
    3. Are we seeing a change in user behaviour?
    4. Are there changes in what and how people are searching?
  6. Is website use being affected?
    1. Are new users at the same intent level as returning users?
    2. How is performance by site section affected?
    3. How does this stack up to benchmarks and/or other clients in the same space?

From an in-house perspective

If you are working in-house, then you are at a slightly different advantage to those working at an agency – you have access to a wealth of data about your own company. Now, that sounds like less of an advantage to being in an agency during a crisis, but it does mean you can base decisions of factual information that is shared directly from the source, and all of it instead of just a part of it. So that does mean that there are slightly different considerations to add to the above:

  1. What does the focus need to be?
    1. If we shift to online-only, what do I need to do about the stores?
    2. What product do we have a lot of right now that needs to be sold?
    3. What product do we have right now that cannot be sold?
    4. How do product levels differ between types/categories?
    5. How does my service need to be adapted?
    6. Do I need to look at offering extended trial periods?
    7. What do my users need from me the most right now?
  2. How can I check what my users need?
    1. What channels do they engage with?
    2. Is that the same as what it was before?
    3. Has engagement dropped since the crisis began/when did behaviour start to change?
    4. Are we receiving more information from customer services?
    5. Are we do everything we can to reassure customers of our status?
    6. Are we seeing people interact with the site differently (e.g. more phone calls/live chats/basket abandonments)?
    7. Are these needs likely to continue past the next couple of months?
  3. How can I act on what they need?
    1. What resources do I have available internally?
    2. Do I need any additional insight?
    3. Do I have the functions internally to act on the demands/needs?

Where do you go next?

There are so many things that need to be considered when
making a strategic change, not least the overall impact on the business. A
marketing strategy isn’t a switch you can turn on or off when it suits; if it’s
done well it can be the difference between surviving a crisis, thriving after a
crisis, or never making it out the other side.

As great as it is to see so many inspirational posts on
social media platforms from business owners talking about how we can all get
through this together, the truth of the matter is that these are hard,
challenging, and worrying times for everyone. The more aligned your marketing
strategy is with your business goals and requirements, the more likely it is to
play a part in your success.

Invest time right now, whether you are at an agency or
in-house, in truly understanding the wider, longer-term impacts and what that
is likely to mean. Make scenarios, tens of scenarios, that scare you, a few
that do not, and a single best case. Like with any crisis, none of us know
where this is going with certainty, but we can use everything possible at our
disposal to predict, adapt, and implement change effectively, efficiently, and,
most importantly, with direction.