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Marketing through the coronavirus crisis

11 May 2020

Kathryn Ranger, account director at PRG Marketing Communications explains why now is the opportune time to strengthen, not reduce, your marketing.

At PRG we are used to handling crisis situations. In our 40 years delivering tailored PR and marketing communications to our specialist industries – including logistics – we have helped more than a handful of clients get back on track when disaster has struck. But, when coronavirus hit the UK, this was a crisis we were not prepared for; nor did we know how to react.

Like many marketing agencies (or those that would admit to it) our first reaction was to panic. In just a few short weeks businesses were forced to change their working habits, with many having to furlough staff or set up their teams working from home to adhere to government’s call for social distancing.

Naturally, when faced with a major crisis like this, a business owner’s primary instinct is to look at cutting costs; marketing can often be the first to go as it is classed as non-essential. Yet far too often we see those businesses that cut back on their marketing in haste, live to regret their decision when their competitors do the opposite and ramp up their marketing efforts.

Times are tough. We appreciate now more than ever that businesses do not have the marketing budgets they would in ‘normal’ circumstances. That is why, it is essential that the marketing budget you do have is used wisely.

The marketing plan you set in January, for instance, may no longer be timely or relevant. But rather than put your marketing on pause, here are some reasons why you should keep going but ‘pivot’ your marketing strategy.

Communication is king

In times like these, nurturing existing customers is more important than ever. Picking up the phone and calling your customers, when many will be worried about their families and livelihoods, will be appreciated more than an impersonal email. With so many people now working from home, you may also find that customers are happy to chat for longer, allowing you to get a better understanding of how you can best support them at this challenging time.

Keep it relevant

Perhaps you had planned to launch a new product or shout about a business milestone. Whilst these activities are still important, getting the timing right is essential to ensure they have the desired impact. Get the timing wrong and you could end up wasting the months spent planning the big event. With many businesses currently operating in survival mode, taking a sensitive approach to your marketing and keeping communications relevant is crucial. 

While different industries face different challenges over the coming months, giving customers the right messages at the right time will play a part in determining which businesses will build loyalty among their customer base.

Pivot your marketing

In recent weeks, the headlines have been filled with manufacturing businesses adapting their production to meet the urgent call for ventilators and other much needed medical devices. Whether you are diversifying operations to meet your customers current needs or asking staff to work from home, now is the time for change. With the way we operate and communicate being challenged in lockdown, it seems natural to ‘pivot’ your marketing strategy to react to a new way of working.

So, what is pivoting your marketing? For businesses that previously operated offline only, investing money in marketing may have meant attending exhibitions, direct mail and other more traditional methods of promotion. But at a time when staying connected virtually is the ‘new norm’, entire industries built upon face-to-face networking and offline activities are changing the way they communicate. 

A good example of this is a long standing client of ours Goplasticpallets.com, the UK’s leading independent supplier of plastic pallets. Although our marketing strategy has always involved a good balance of on and offline communications, when the coronavirus crisis hit, we were quick to identify where our messaging would be best heard. Whilst we eased off in some marketing areas, we ramped up activity on LinkedIn. And we have found others in the industry doing the same, deciding that now is the opportune time to strengthen their presence on the relevant social platforms.

Increase your market share

If you are considering cutting back on marketing, chances are that some of your competitors will be too. So rather than risk one of your rivals swooping in whilst you go quiet, why not seize this opportunity to increase your market share? Of course, scale back if you have to, but by pivoting your marketing strategy and ensuring your communications are both timely and relevant you are setting yourself up to not just survive but thrive.

For a no-obligation chat or advice about marketing your business, email kathrynranger@prgltd.co.uk or call the PRG team on 01323 411044.