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Government and public health officials have had to take severe, unprecedented action in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 across Australia. These are uncertain times for everyone, with event cancellations and business closures being put in place indefinitely.

Businesses are scrambling to operate in this new environment, and many decision-makers are tightening their discretionary expenditure, including marketing.

However, minimising or stopping spend now could have an even more crippling impact on future business opportunities.

In order to give businesses the best chance of survival, decision-makers and marketers should instead pivot their marketing strategy to ensure they stay relevant to consumers.

Marketing Through a Crisis: The Research

Historical data has shown that economic slowdowns that are a result of an epidemic are different from those of other causes.  Data has shown that they follow a consistent pattern. However, we don’t know exactly how COVID-19 will play out.

McKinsey published a study in 2002 that looked at what happened during the recession of 1990-91 and how that affected a business’ performance after the recession. The study found that most companies tightened their belts; however, the most successful businesses refocused their operations rather than cutting spending.

The companies that do it right during the difficult times are more likely to experience significant growth when things improve. Simply put, if you react too severely too quickly and cut costs, people, and marketing, you have fewer tools and resources available to keep your business going.

We know that marketing through these times isn’t easy, and your business is likely to face significant challenges that it hasn’t come across before. However, if you can adjust your strategy now to address the current challenges, your business is more likely to survive the crisis and thrive once it’s over.

Challenge 1: Pivoting Marketing Campaigns

A number of brands globally have had suspended, delayed, or changed their marketing plans as a result of the pandemic. AdAge has been keeping track of how different brands are changing their campaigns and overall business strategies as a result of the coronavirus.

Taco Bell is using user-generated drive-thru videos in their new TV ad, while Hershey had to change one of their ad campaigns that emphasized hugs and handshakes in light of new social distancing measures. While these are global brands that are advertising to the end consumer, B2B brands can also learn from their example.

No matter what industry they operate in, all businesses have to be seen as empathetic and sensitivity in this global environment, or they risk alienating a large part of their audience. This means that B2B businesses should review all current campaigns and ensure the messaging is appropriate and sensitive to the current situation.

Challenge 2: Updating Service Methods

Limitations to the number of people who can currently gather together have made it impossible for most businesses to continue with their usual processes. More and more product-based businesses are moving to selling online, while experiential businesses , such as museums, are offering virtual tours to keep people engaged from home.

As more people are now online, the following are some of the things that businesses can do to keep reaching their customers:

The lack of personal contact is particularly challenging for many B2B businesses, particularly those that are service-based, and involve a significant amount of contact with clients. This contact doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) stop with the coronavirus restrictions. It just has to be done in a different way.

B2B businesses should make sure their clients know how to get in touch if they need to. Skype and Zoom might be the most well-known, but there is a plethora of services that can also be used to hold virtual meetings.

Challenge 3: Moving Events Online

All trade shows, conferences and events across Australia have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. As such, businesses that use events as part of their overall marketing strategy have lost vital opportunities to network and generate new leads. The impact of this will be felt across the board. However, businesses that are willing to think a little differently and adapt their normal processes can still interact with their audience and generate leads.

If your business was planning on hosting an event that has now been cancelled, you might consider setting up a virtual event, or a microsite for the event. This allows your business and others that were sponsoring or planning on attending the event to interact and extract value from each other.

While you can’t present to attendees in person, you can set up webinars, or collect insights such as articles, eBooks and other resources that can be shared with the audience. Any presentations that were already written can be repurposed and sent out as videos or SlideShare files to the audience.

Businesses that have already implemented this type of event are seeing success from it. More people are now online and are actively looking for alternative ways to network and share information. If your business can adapt in this way, it’s worth giving it a try.

Challenge 4: Staying Relevant to Prospects

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a shift in consumer behaviour. For many B2B businesses, clients have gone quiet. This is likely as they have so many new issues to deal with at the moment. However, while clients may be quieter than normal, it’s important for businesses to ensure they are not completely forgotten during this time.

Your business may not necessarily be selling to customers and prospects at the moment, but you can still stay at the top of their minds by understanding their needs and challenges and providing something of value to them.

Stay relevant to your customers by creating educational content that can help solve the problems at the top of their mind. Or, share inspiring videos, innovative designs and creative ideas that may also be interesting to your clients at this time.

This pandemic has had a significant impact on the economy and business community, with businesses in various industries across the world feeling the effects. In order to ensure the continuity of our business, it is essential to adapt to this changing business climate.

At The Lead Agency, we know that best results are based on building GREAT MARKETING CONVERSATIONS: the more you engage and communicate with your customers and prospects, the more likely they will understand, need and value what you deliver. Now more than ever, our clients need us to be there for them, in whatever capacity we can. If we can stay in touch with our clients and provide value to them through this difficult time, we are putting our business in the best position to succeed once it’s over.

For more information or if you have any questions on the above, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Most importantly, everyone at The Lead Agency hopes that you stay safe and well during this time.

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