Nine ways to adapt your marketing strategy during COVID-19

26 May 2020 11:00Marketing 859  

Good marketing relies on a thorough understanding of your target market, says Gavin Knox-Grant, marketing expert and director of Karbon Media. But Knox-Grant says that when much of what you know about your customers is suddenly no longer relevant, a major shift is needed.

With the onset of the coronavirus, almost every aspect of what was considered typical daily life was upended literally overnight, with people confined to their homes and anxious about the future and their financial security.

The most important question you should be asking is: How best can I connect with my customers during a crisis? 

Marketing in these conditions should rather focus on community engagement, brand building and strengthening existing customer relationships, with a view to cultivate brand loyalty and growth.

However, when adapting our marketing strategies, it’s important to simultaneously plan long-term and to not only focus on introducing temporary measures. It’s not only during the pandemic that business will be different; the way in which we all conduct business will be forever changed.

Here are nine ways to adapt and adjust your marketing strategy during COVID-19:

1. Go digital

During the past decade, all sectors took a leap into the digital world to varying degrees but, with it being the primary option for doing business during the lockdown period, it’s critical that companies now fullyintegrate it into their business models. Both companies and customers are realising that digitisation actually allows them to be more productive and save on travel time and that online meetings can be very effective. Many will adopt these measures as the new norm. It’s also become the key medium for marketing and customer communication. One should be cautious in that businesses that fail to keep up now will be left behind later.

2. Be diverse

It’s now more important than ever to have a complete digital strategy with a holistic online marketing plan. All too often, companies are investing heavily in select buzz words like social media or search engine optimisation. The components of online marketing should never be discussed as a strategy in isolation. There is a large variety of factors such as remarketing, keyword marketing, social media marketing and organic search engine optimisation; how these all work together is where the real magic happens.

3. Assess, evaluate and adjust

The best place to start is to evaluate your current overall marketing strategy, your key messages and regular channels to determine which, if any, are still relevant. Take a close look at campaigns that are currently running or in the pipeline. This includes pre-scheduled content that is set to launch soon. Determine which must be paused, discarded hold or prioritised.

An online marketing strategy is never complete; it can always be improved upon and the only way to do so is to have the hard evidence of statistics showing you how your campaigns are faring and how the market is responding.

If your budget stretches to it, having a marketing specialist onside who understands your business strategy is invaluable. This is especially true when it comes to implementing various digital marketing tools that feed back to a single hub where you can monitor, assess change and refine on a daily basis.

4. Optimise your e-commerce

Currently, e-commerce is the only business model in South Africa where you are allowed to sell any product, bar alcohol and cigarettes. Globally, digital product sales have remained largely unaffected during the lockdown, with some companies even reporting drastically increased sales.To make more shoppers aware of your offering amidst all the competition, you need to optimise your e-commerce website so that it ranks highly in search engine results, which will help you drive more organic traffic to your site. And with online shopping fast becoming the retail norm, now is the perfect time to establish an online presence if you have not yet done so.

5. Offer discretional discounts

Sadly, many people are going find themselves in financial difficulties as a result of the lockdown and price-conscious shoppers will be looking for good deals — especially on products and services that they really need at the moment.If consumers perceive a brand to be willing to assist with access to products that can help them during a crisis, they are likely to feel greater loyalty towards it. Discounts can also be helpful in attracting new customers, driving traffic to your site and increasing your sales.

6. Innovate and regroup

This is also the perfect time to think out the box and figure out ways in which your business can temporarily — or even permanently — diversify using the resources you already have in stock. Think of the liquor distilleries who are now making hand sanitiser, manufacturers with 3D printers are making much-needed PPE and face shields and organic wholefood businesses that are now doing home deliveries.

Businesses that aren’t able to increase sales or grow their brand during the crisis, or who cannot yet operate at the current lockdown level, should take advantage of the downtime to evaluate their offering and prepare to come back stronger post-lockdown. Even if they are unable to trade right now, they can still maintain brand recognition with a minimal amount of spend, especially on social media, to create leverage for when they shift into the post-COVID-19 environment.

7. Adapt your messaging

Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says, “It’s important to remember that in everything your brand does, context is the key element. And this is especially critical in a crisis situation that dramatically affects people’s lives, as we are seeing now during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

8. Avoid exploitation

Many of your customer’s needs will now be fear-driven or, at the very least, linked to anxiety. Geffen cautions companies to ensure that the new marketing strategy doesn’t take advantage of the crisis by playing on their fears. “Exploiting a situation that is causing immense hardship for so many people just to make a quick buck is not only morally wrong, but also a very short-sighted business decision,” says Geffen. “You may make a few extra Rands right now but in the long term you are likely to alienate your loyal customers and drive off potential new clients,” he adds.

9. Avoid the hard sell

As Geffen suggests, “Focus on strengthening existing customer relationships and winning over new customers by being empathetic and genuine with messaging that reaffirms your commitment to being there for them for the long haul.”

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