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Marketing Basics in a Time of Uncertainty

We interrupt our regular scheduled blog to speak directly to small and medium sized businesses that find themselves in a situation that is, in a word … unprecedented.

How many times have we heard that word lately?

Unlike a lot of what you read these days, we’re going to stick to what we know best and give you advice to benefit you, not us.

The coronavirus phenomenon has literally made the freight train that was our economy take a dirt road. Our media, both digital and traditional, have done a good job of scaring everyone but I’ve yet to find a reliable resource that’s giving real accurate information.

The good news is that before this event occurred most everyone was doing pretty well business wise. As long as we weren’t totally irresponsible, we should have at least a small cushion to operate with before we get into any significant trouble. That being said, marketing is a business expense. So, what are some things that you can do during an unusual and unique economic downturn to get through this difficult time?

Important Takeaway

Remember that memories are forged in times of difficulty. How you act now will leave an indelible mark on your customers, your vendors, and your employees.

That’s important.

Marketing Tips to Consider

Here are some other, more definitive, ideas to help you weather this challenge that we are facing as a country.

  1. Over-communicate with your customers …Let them know what steps you are taking to mitigate their risk when doing business with you. This is a huge challenge for industries that directly interact with consumers (restaurants, gyms, retail, etc.) but one that must be met. Stick to the point and don’t mix messages with offers or sales. Email and social media are great platforms to communicate with customers right now. As always, be thoughtful and intentional with your posts.
  2. Be creative in implementing solutions that will benefit your customers, your employees, and your business. For some this might mean enhancing the ability to deliver your product or allow for customers to pick it up without charge or risk. For instance, we are recommending to our restaurant client to stay open, use some of their friendly wait staff to deliver meals and change your marketing message to free in-home delivery. We’re also making more space available in their parking lot for pickup orders and asking loyal patrons to support us during this difficult time.
  3. Get charitable in creative ways. This situation will most certainly hurt people economically. If your business can figure out ways to ease the public’s pain or assuage their anxiety, everyone wins. We recommended to one of our clients that they should donate a percentage of all sales to a program that provides food to local underprivileged kids. With schools closed, parents will need additional assistance feeding their children. These types of community-oriented responses to difficult times can be impactful for a brand and pay off when things improve. (At time of press, they are considering it).
  4. Get ahead of your technology. If you’re in an industry that requires meeting with clients, implement easy and practical ways to make meetings virtual. There is so much tech in this space that I won’t even begin to list them all, but just know if I can teach an entire classroom of ASU students with ZOOM, you can hold meetings and get documents signed without putting anyone at risk. Need help? Let us know!
  5. Brush up on how to effectively work from home and hold your employees accountable for being productive. Steph wrote a great blog on that subject last May that you can access here. Give it a read and feel free to share it with your employees!
  6. Cut your marketing budget. Yeah, I just said that. We’ll be assessing each one of our clients and make specific recommendations based on what we see as a time of slower economic activity (unless you’re selling toilet paper). Our clients in Seattle have already implemented changes to their outreach that will help them save money but grow their brand presence during this time. Cutting budgets is not something to take lightly and should be done strategically. We can help you do it … even if you aren’t a client. Oh, and we’ll do it at no charge and no obligation too as public service during this difficult time. (Important: This service is not available to businesses working with other ad agencies, that’s not how we do things here.)
  7. Implement training regimens that enhance your ability to provide great service to your customers. As challenging as the current circumstances may be, they are most certainly temporary. If you have downtime at your business, it’s a good time to get certifications and other training initiatives completed. This helps your employees and improves staff morale. Once done, feel free to brag about them to your customer base.
  8. Use down time to do research on your sales activity, consumer profiles, and other valuable data points that will help you grow your business once consumer activity returns to normal. Don’t know where to start with a process like that? Let us know, we’d be glad to show you how and where to begin.
  9. Ask for support from your clientele. We Americans do well to rally around causes. Depending on your business, it’s 100% legitimate to ask your customers to support you at a time when you need it most. Social media is a great platform to do this very thing. Use it to benefit your employees and your business. This is especially important for restaurants and the hospitality industry.
  10. Take advantage of the gift of time that an operational slowdown offers. The day to day of running your business can be very time consuming so take this opportunity to create fresh content for your website. This will enhance your organic search position. You and your staff can write this content and be sure to  keep it evergreen so you can post it throughout the balance of the year.

Our Last Important Takeaway

Be HUMAN. Now more than ever people will appreciate compassion from others. You don’t have to violate social distancing recommendations, but you can put a big smile on your face and perhaps call some of your best customers or vendors to see how they are doing. That’s good marketing and even if it doesn’t pay off business wise, it will make you feel better for doing it.

 Look, weird viruses sourced from foreign soil during a highly contested and emotional election year is a recipe for disaster for the normal, everyday person in this country. Let’s all move forward by not letting this get the best of us. Difficult times bring out the best in extraordinary people. Let the unique challenges of our current situation elevate you to live your life better, run your business differently, and be the type of person that improves the lives of everyone around you. Trust me, if you respond to crisis by helping others, you will ultimately be the one who benefits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Ed Olsen is the owner and agency president of ReThinc Advertising. He loves his company and doesn’t look all that great in a blue sportcoat.

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