Marketing guide in times of coronavirus
These days we cannot think of anything other than the consequences of coronavirus in our environment.
What I am very clear about is that we have to prepare from NOW to the way out of the crisis . Let's go out as and when we go out, we have to define the plan now to arrive with some inertia. If we start to think when we see that the insulation is over, it will be difficult for us to gain traction and we risk losing the year and even worse.
And to prepare these scenarios we have to work in two areas:
- Short term : What can we do while the isolation lasts?
- After the isolation: what is going to be our marketing strategy ?
So we have to start considering scenarios and possible strategies for each one from them. Depending on each scenario, our marketing strategy will vary, but we can begin to lay some of the foundations that will be common.
Marketing during the isolation by coronavirus
Those who think that the role of marketing is very limited during the Confinement, is that you either have not thought it through, or the marketing philosophy in your company is purely sales oriented. Which, as I have already commented on many occasions in this blog, I think that is one of the great mistakes of companies .
We forget that marketing is much more than P (promotion) , and that we have the other three “P”: Product, Distribution (Place) and Price.
Around me I have seen everything. From companies that have stopped practically any marketing activity, to others that are using the time to come out stronger after the crisis.
Okay. Sales have either plummeted or simply don't exist. And if there is no income we have to reduce or cut investments. And in this scenario, this involves taking many things ahead. The problem is to look at marketing only as a sales generator.
If we have the capacity to endure during this time, we can act on the other three “P's” of marketing. What can we do to prepare for when the isolation is over?
We can do many things that we did not even think about due to lack of time, because we could not stop the processes to avoid losing sales … well, unfortunately now we do not have these problems .
1. Internal Marketing Audit
To start with things that generate rapid and visible improvements, that encourage us to continue, our first step will be to list all the marketing processes and projects, to evaluate them and define the needs of the area.
From this small audit will come our list of the Three Kings. Everything we would like to change, improve or create. Next we have to decide which projects we should and can undertake.
For this we can apply the well-known attractiveness / effort matrix, which many of you will know.
It is a very simple matrix. To prioritize projects, we only have to place them in the different quadrants depending on the level of effort and attractiveness they have for our company.
I recommend that this work be done in a small work group, in which they intervene, at less, the general management, marketing, product, operations and IT. It is the way that the decisions have all the opinions of the departments that may be affected.
From this meeting will come those projects that we are going to face in these weeks of isolation. Although we have already put an important filter, we must prioritize them and set dates.
Given the current circumstances, it is very possible that some of the big projects (high attractiveness, high effort), cannot be faced. But not for this we must discard them completely. We can do the preliminary study, the calculations of costs and efforts and leave them raised for when circumstances allow.
But we will focus our efforts on the quadrant of “projects to be carried out” (high attractiveness, low effort).  These projects can be highly strategic (brand, positioning, definition of new products, reinforcement / creation of logistics for the online channel, etc.) or tactical (improvements in digital sales processes, content plan, etc.) , but they all represent great profits / improvements for the company.
2. Define how we want our brand to be after the crisis.
Among these projects that we can undertake, one that will help us better manage the exit from isolation is the definition of brand purpose .
Something basic for all companies in any scenario, but that after the coronavirus crisis will be essential. Furthermore, we can lean on the pre-isolation trend in which many brands were already betting on defining a purpose beyond sales, that would bring them closer to their audience.
So, among these projects that we can face during these weeks , for me the most important is to define how we want our company to be after the coronavirus . It is what will make the difference. It is what is going to bring us closer or further away from our clients.
And it is not about sending emails saying that we support our clients, if not, as I said a moment ago, it is a thorough revision of our reason for being .
In this regard I really like one of the last bullets of Tom Fishburne :
3. Online training
Another project that we can undertake is that of training both personal and teams.
It is a good way to keep teams motivated and prepare the company to come out stronger after isolation .
The options are very numerous. From the courses that Fundae (the former Tripartite foundation) is offering, to online training in business schools, customized online training or personal training through books and videos.
4. Define our marketing strategy after the coronavirus
And of course, we can (should) spend time defining our marketing strategy, or what many companies call a marketing plan (this is a stage of the strategy, not the whole) .
4.1. Marketing from the inside out, and from less to more.
When proposing a strategy, I like to see it as a process from the inside out, and from less to more.
In the case of the coronavirus we can apply a similar approach.
If we really have the customer at the center we should follow a process similar to this:
- Worry about those who are closest to us: before thinking about selling, the first thing is really caring for those closest to us by offering our support. In this order: employees, clients and community / sector.
- Adapt our value proposition to digital: in what way could we give our services (current or new) through the internet? Could we offer 100% digital services? Improve / create home delivery options?
- Define the different post coronavirus scenarios and their strategies.
- Define the improvements in our processes to increase the resilience of our company to the times of change that are coming.  The data from the previous great crisis (the only one with which we can compare due to its importance and relevance), support this approach ( data from Mckinsey ). We can do it because it makes sense, or because it is more profitable
Taking all this information and approaches, what should our marketing strategy be like? What should be its pillars?
From customer service to customer care
Our channels of communication with the customer must go from being customer service channels (we solve their problems when they contact us), to customer care (We proactively care about your well-being. Related to our company or not.)
We have direct channels (email, telephone, customer web area, mobile application) and indirect channels (social networks, public web).  The possibilities are enormous.
In direct channels the key lies in a good analysis of the data to define the customer segments to contact and the reason for our communication (we should avoid what happens in the Tom Fishburne comic strip I left you before.)
From there the data and common sense should guide us the next steps and help us show the most human face of the company.
In l I indirect channels the work is less technical, but equal or more important. Our website and social networks are the showcase of our company. If we fail to transmit the essence of our strategy, if our communication is not adequate, if these channels really do not “breathe” the closeness that our audience is looking for, we are creating a problem in the short and medium term.
Build trust : closer and more useful content (social networks and web).
Continuing with communication, we must use the channels (direct and indirect), to generate the trust and closeness necessary to create a true relationship with our clients (all the true that can be expected from digital communication).
We will direct this content to both clients and non-clients. But it is of special importance that we broadcast from our social networks and web because as I said before, they are our showcases.
We must flee from clichés, phrases, half-truths, … it is time to be transparent, authentic, … to eliminate the distances (or the roles) company-client. It is time for management to step forward and get closer to customers, but really (all this must start from a real conviction of the company's management, otherwise they will be mere comments or content that is loose and worthless).
They must be content that provides real value and fulfills its mission of generating trust in the context of the coronavirus. In other words, on a completely new playing field for everyone. So masks off!
4.3. Ecommerce as the only store open during the coronavirus
I think the title is quite significant, right?
If we have the possibility of continuing to sell, our ecommerce has become the only open store of our company (and if you are 100% online, what has happened is that you have an advantage with respect to those who have to adapt).
And we must also take into account that due to isolation, e-commerce has increased in importance, and will maintain it due to to the consequences of the phased exit and the crisis.
How would you take care of your only store? What would communication, customer service, clarity of processes, type of promotions,… be like? What if this happened during the biggest crisis you've ever experienced?
These are the kinds of questions you have to ask yourself before starting work each day. This way we avoid getting into the “data tunnel”, in the routine of the indicators that we have been following since before the crisis. It is a good way to force ourselves out of the inertia of our work and give the focus that our store really must have.
In response to the previous questions, and to common sense, we are going to thoroughly review our ecommerce:  Products : availability, need during confinement, what products are we lacking?… And most importantly, how will this change once it ends? we are prepared? Will we have the products that are going to be demanded?
- Distribution : possibility and delivery times (now and after confinement).
- Prices : are they adequate to the crisis? Do they bear the extra costs?
- Processes : Is everything working correctly? Can we simplify them? What new content / tools should we create to complement them? Of course, this process review includes a technical part of Pure User Experience (UX).
- Customer Support : What channels do we offer now? Should we add / remove any? What should customer service protocols look like during the coronavirus? How should we adapt customer service hours and response times?
Due to the extra importance that ecommerce has taken, this is the approach to keep during isolation and after. But obviously physical stores will continue to be the pillars of retail business sales. So …
4.4. And what will happen to my physical stores?
We do not know what will happen when the isolation ends, but of course physical stores will continue to be the cornerstone of sales.
We have to observe (¡ which implies measuring!), changes in the behavior of our audience and acting accordingly.
It will depend on the circumstances and the sector, but I understand that after the long period of inactivity, customers will flock to stores ( we have to be prepared for this). But what will happen after the most basic needs are satisfied?
In retail the great challenge is always the balance between online sales and the ability to divert traffic to the physical store. Depending on the type of product, one or the other has more strength, but that fight is always present.
I am not one of those who think that everything should be online or offline, … our reality is combined. I do not remember the source, but if the data, and the reality is the ecommerces that open a physical store increase up to 4% their sales.
That challenge is going to be, I don't know if more difficult, but of course different. It will cost us more at first, and then we will have to see what happens to the economy.
In any case, the role of the online store should be to add value to the buying process, not just be an alternative digital shopping.
How can I improve the shopping experience of my customers? This is the question to start with each day. And the answer must have a combined vision (on + off), not tunnel as usual.
4.5. Advertising: change of style
I insist that the possible scenarios are many, and that it is very difficult to hit the real scenarios.
My bet is that advertising must change its objectives and style using the same tools.  To begin with, budgets will suffer a lot, and to continue, our clients will demand different things from brands. So why not use the tools available to make advertising more humane?
This implies changing the style of communication (in line with the style we have adopted on the web and social media), the advertising formats ( Greater interaction?), Retargeting under different criteria,… and what is more important, with some additional objectives : to generate confidence and to accompany the purchase (not to sell).
I have always argued that Our role as marketing professionals is to accompany our audience in the purchasing process. Paid media are especially effective generating initial knowledge, and closing sales.
It is about increasing the importance and objectives of traditional brand campaigns, in order to gain the trust of customers who are going to be touched by the coronavirus.
I could continue writing, because the implications of the coronavirus in marketing are huge. But I think this article / book gives you enough clues to have a guide with the first steps.
The image that accompanies the article ( coronavirus ) is from ShutterStock