Imagine it’s January 1, 2020. What would you tell yourself then to prepare you for today?
Marketers plan for months and sometimes years for major campaigns. But no matter how much we try to prepare for any scenario, the current economic landscape was a huge curveball for everyone. Some companies had to instantly switch their entire business model. Others are faced with responding to increased demand in unanticipated channels. And a much smaller group of businesses are actually poised to grow in this environment. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we can all relate with feeling scrambled to catch up, keep up and continue forward.
Currently, our team’s top priority is helping our clients create comprehensive strategies around COVID-19’s effects. Each client is unique – ranging from quick-service restaurants and travel to e-commerce and cable – but they have all been undeniably affected by this situation. And while we’re optimistic about things getting better sooner than later, we’re guiding our clients to think through now, a month from now and what could be anticipated as the “new normal” of the future.
This three-part blog series will cover some of those immediate, short- and long-term strategies while considering the pandemics’ level of impact on a business. First, we’ll focus on what’s on everyone’s mind right now: right now.
If your business is majorly impacted:
For businesses with a major company impact (think travel and tourism), your customer base has nowhere to go. Literally. The trips they planned, whether business or personal, have been postponed or canceled. So, what is a marketer to do?
For travel companies specifically, first, turn off pre-arrival campaigns or other automated re-booking campaigns that promote travel in the close future (think within the next 3 – 6 months). Campaigns can always be turned back on, but leaving the campaigns on puts your company at risk of seeming out of touch with the reality of today. For other industries with similar lead times or audience restrictions, like movie theatres, sporting events and concerts, automated campaigns may need to be turned off or majorly edited as well.
To keep the light’s on, consider what kind of digital experiences you can promote in the meantime. If no one is coming to you physically, then bring your company to them. Are there great photography bloggers on staff that can show “digital trips” for opt-ins? Customers could also click to listen to a recorded concert from a favorite artist or a show that had to be canceled. Many people miss interacting with friends, coworkers and family. How can your company bring people together even while they’re apart?
For businesses whose footprint has changed:
Some businesses have shut their doors, but not their operations. Restaurants, quick-service and dine in, have seen their customer base move from tables to tablets. Some companies have invested in delivery via third parties over the past few years, while others have relied on more traditional catering and larger order delivery systems. Whatever the past strategy included, the current one is largely dependent on awareness and availability. If your audience is unaware of third party partnerships, they may not look for you on third-party apps. While it may have been bad business to promote third parties before, now it can keep your company top of mind during the crisis.
Target your marketing to customers who are able to receive third-party deliveries. It would not be a good user experience to tell someone that delivery is available when it is not. Likewise, use analytics to target likely customers or customers within a delivery radius who have not ordered delivery with you before. Executing targeted marketing campaigns can not only increase awareness, but also decrease marketing churn from over-contacting your audience.
If delivery is not an option, but your doors are still open, create content that answers the question on everyone’s minds. For on-premise fulfillment, create easy to follow, understand, and share overviews of how you’re handling contactless orders on-site. Target campaigns for customers who may not have ordered to-go before, but were regulars on-site before the crisis.
If your company can, consider organizing a way to support those on the front lines of the crisis by donating food to hospitals. While most of us are resigned to work from home, some do not have that option and would appreciate the support. To include your audience in the movement, create “we’re in this together” campaigns where your customers can send a donation of money or goods to increase the impact.
For companies with business opportunity:
Not all companies were brick and mortar based. Some companies, like the cable/internet and e-commerce-based industries, are well-positioned for growth during the COVID pandemic. Customers are looking for the fastest internet and the fastest way to receive online orders. Cable and internet companies, in particular, have a market opportunity, unlike any other time. With customers at home more often than not, internet companies can market the multi-device optimization plans and upgrades for current customers, and target competitor customers with bandwidth and price discounts.
Additionally, customers cannot enjoy media the same way they did before. No one is going to movie theatres right now, and media companies can partner with cable and TV providers to offer a new kind of pay-per-view experience by streaming new releases that would have been in theatres. Just like Netflix and Hulu offer a pay-for-content model, cable companies would benefit from a pay-for-content bundle that lets customers opt-in for additional content than what was originally in their package.
Ecommerce companies will not need to adjust their standard operating procedures during this new, at-home reality, and that gives them a unique market advantage. These businesses have the credibility to market with confidence about delivery capability, security and timing. Rather than needing to adjust for less foot traffic, website volume could increase as customers are more likely to shop online in general, or splurge on a treat for friends and family. Ecommerce companies should also make sure their app is up to date, as this provides another channel for quick conversion and increased sales. Additionally, smart targeting and segmentation will help the emails work harder for the channel and reduce marketing churn.
No matter what your business situation is during these uncertain times, email is here to help you innovate and communicate.