Anthony Boe, Business Growth Advisor at the Hub shares his marketing know-how to help you promote your business throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that’s a textbook yet to be written. How do you market your firm during an unexpected global pandemic? How can you promote your business when it seems the whole world has shut down? Who saw that one coming? But here we are, and that textbook is probably being written, even as you read.
The survey numbers are in. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our ongoing business survey consistently reports reduced sales and cash flow making it now more important than ever to maintain existing contacts and win new business.
Let’s start by defining what we mean by ‘marketing’. There are many definitions in this complex and sophisticated business discipline. But when you look through the haze of data, theory and frameworks, it boils down to a simple idea:
Putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time with the right promotion.
This statement, in effect, describes your offer to your target audience, and it’s one that, until recently, you’ll have known well.
What Coronavirus and its impacts did for many firms was turn a number of those ‘rights’ into wrongs and instantly amended the composition of your marketing and target audience.
Reread the sentence, swap in one or two wrongs, and you’ll see the whole thing pretty much falls apart. That’s why, for a lot of businesses when COVID-19 hit, their marketing plans disintegrated almost overnight.
The ‘4P’s model, was developed in the 1960s by E. Jerome McCarthy. The model has since expanded to include three more dimensions and is now often referred to as the ‘7Ps’.
While this is a well-worn and familiar technique, it still offers a way to do an efficient marketing review, quickly identify problems and focus on where ideas are needed.
By applying the 7Ps, firms can swiftly explore how they may be able to change elements of their marketing mix to account for the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic is imposing on their promotional activities. Here’s a basic overview of the model:
This is the product or service your firm sells. Not just the core offer but the brand, the aftercare, the way it was sold. It’s the whole product package that makes your client see the value and buy from your business.
How much you charge. This can be complex with many moving parts, including your competition, the market, fashion etc. But at its core, does your offer add enough value and client utility to justify its price?
Place refers to where your product is up for sale. Online, in-store, in the client’s home or premises or any combination thereof. In effect, this is where you meet your client and make your sale.
This is the range of messages and techniques firms use to highlight their offer to customers. The possibilities are many: online, press ads, exhibitions, words of mouth etc. The key here is choosing the right ones for the business.
These are the internal and external processes that reliably deliver the client offer. Processes may involve logistics, installation, training, quality assurance and aftersales support.
This could be your shop, trade counter or website. Do all these things present your business as well as possible. Do they align with your brand and help to build client confidence?
Perhaps the most critical aspect. People who are working in the product delivery process can be a ‘make or break’ element. Ensuring they display your values, are well trained, and client focused are a must.
1. Product - Consider Your Offer
Customers may be struggling to access your product or find it less useful now as their priorities have changed in response to COVID-19. To combat this, your firm may look to develop a new product line or perhaps providing the same products, but to a new audience. Understanding how the pandemic might have changed your product and service offer in the minds of your target audience will help you restructure your marketing mix.
Try to explore what adjustments might be possible to keep your offer relevant. For example: can the product packaging be changed to allow for posting? Can the USPs of the product be adjusted to combat the virus? Does the content of a service or product allow for amendments to bring additional value in the current environment?
Have a look at tried and tested techniques such as the Ansoff Matrix. Models like this can be used to assess your product offer and help inspire you to explore new growth strategies and create additional sales opportunities and ideas.
2. Pricing – The Price Is Right?
Currently, some businesses may still not be able to sell their services for any price. Some firms may have continued but with added costs, and therefore prices, for delivery of their goods, for example. Some ‘hot’ products have increased in price due to scarcity from high demand.
It’s a complex landscape and highly situational by nature.
However, here are some thoughts that may help. Can you adjust pricing to keep your offer attractive? Can you provide discounts to specific market segments to keep you front of mind and enhance your brand? NHS or Key Workers, for example? Should your business move to a wholesale pricing model to sell more of the product in a single transaction? Can you pass on cost savings?
Conversely, can a price increase be sustained, and justified, for products that are in high demand?
In all cases, the market will decide, and ultimately your sales will show if your pricing is appropriate. That said, perceptions of profiteering or price gouging will not enhance your brand, so avoid that!
3. Place - Make Being Found Easy
The ability to sell face to face is now much reduced as social distancing remains in place. But once lockdown across the country gradually begins to be lifted, more businesses will start to re-open. Some firms might re-open physical locations, while others might continue to operate online. Also, many companies operating hours may have changed to accommodate lower staffing levels. Under these fluid conditions keeping customers informed of where, when and how to find you is critical.
Of course, many firms have moved to eCommerce platforms often with great success; it’ll be a new element of their offer they’ll happily sustain. And for businesses operating online, the so-called “frictionless” buyer journey is crucial to understand.
According to eMarketer’s Frictionless Commerce 2020 report, this can take the form of streamlined digital transactions and click-and-collect pickup, which can fast track the process and increase shopping frequency. A review of your online marketing and conversion model may be a worthy activity to plan.
But what about face-to-face sales? Ones where there’s a need to meet a consultant or trainer. Currently, this will be difficult. Alternatives may be video conferencing enhanced by the creation of videos or animations that demonstrate the product or service qualities more effectively.
Businesses should ensure they update the website, directory listings such as Google my Business, social media accounts, as well as any Ad campaigns to reflect any new operating conditions and assure clients the business has made a real effort to be COVID-19 ‘friendly’.
4. Promotion - Ensure Your Messaging Resonates With Your ‘New’ Audience
With heightened worries and anxieties in all areas of life, it’s important to amend your core messaging to be relevant to the current environment. It is crucial that you speak to your target audience in this new world and that your tone of voice is appropriate and supportive. Defining your messaging approach will help shape the content that you develop and the forms in which you deliver it.
Opportunities do exist. Are there any positive PR messages you can send out? Can you move budgets to channels that remain viable like AdWords or Social Media advertising? Can you increase SEO supportive work like blogging to keep staff occupied? Are there channels the business can explore you haven’t tried like press adverts, perhaps?
Try to discover ways to help clients navigate the COVID-19 challenge as it relates your products and services and promote accordingly. Remember, this is an opportunity to show your customers that you understand their needs, so avoid generic corporate emails and opt for a personalised chat. Think about how you would like to be approached if the situation were reversed. What language would make you respond?
Inspiration can also be found by looking at what other businesses are doing (or failing to do) to inform your marketing strategy. Your competitors can provide a great source of information and ideas. They are responding to the same challenges as you for the same target market, so there may be much to learn from them.
However, the most compelling voice to listen to is that of your customers. Listen carefully to what they are saying, where they are saying it and the substance of what they’re saying. This is your biggest clue as to what they want and where they want to find it.
5. Processes – The Keys To Value
Businesses are a hive of different processes, and these can often be complex. But they are essential to ensure a consistent approach throughout a firm’s value chain. To better understand your operations, a useful approach is to trace the product delivery process from initial contact to final delivery. Put on your COVID-19 goggles and try to find the pinch points or parts that are no longer working at the moment.
Issues will undoubtedly be about areas of preventing potential infection, client safety stemming from the fulfilment process or maybe the product itself.
Reviewing and reengineering processes can help businesses identify adjustments. So, for example, could moving to an outbound telemarketing model replace face to face sales? Can a move to eBay or Etsy replace physical sales? Can food businesses develop a delivery model to replace their dining room operations?
Can you get urgent products out more quickly, or can you adjust your processes to help vulnerable clients? While some of these changes may be challenging, the impact they can have on customer perception and therefore your brand could be profound.
6. People – Everyone’s An Ambassador
By its nature Coronavirus is a human crisis. And it’s the work of humans that will solve the issues involved. That’s why ensuring your staff are playing a vital and appreciated role. To help your firm, they may need to enhance their sales techniques or learn new processes like telesales to replace quiet channels.
There may be a need to acquire customer complaint management skills. Ensuring staff are motivated, incentivised, enthused, and customer-focused can make a big difference. If there’s a maxim that’s common in the current crisis, it’s: ‘we’re all in this together’. Helping your staff to embrace this idea will make them more likely to land sales, retain customers and keep the business trading.
External to your business you can cultivate other kinds of ambassadors. Clients who are satisfied with your offer can put 5-star reviews on platforms like Feefo or Google Business. Don’t be afraid to contact your clients and actively ask for testimonials that will increase your authenticity to new customers.
Think of your partners, suppliers and stakeholders as an extension of your business; as a resource, you can utilise to help you through these challenging times. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Look at, Tarsier Spirit, a Greater Manchester gin distillery which had to move sales online and thus decided to partner up with the Gin to My Tonic platform to reach more customers.
7. Physical Environment – Managing Touchpoints
When the new lockdown begins to lift and more premises and offices start to open, a new set of issues will emerge. You’ll need to see how your business in terms of layout, point of sale, staff training, product management, use of PPE or signage will facilitate a safe purchase or working environment.
Businesses will need to understand how their physical delivery model will impact on customers and staff. Clients will want to know they are safe and that they can comply with guidance on social distancing.
They’ll look for strong signals on how they can physically interact with a business in a risk-free way that assures them they can buy with confidence and thoroughly enjoy their purchases.
Happily, there is a wealth of information, signage and resources available on the Safely Re-opening our Workplaces website to assist businesses of all kinds to implement the required changes.
Strive And Thrive
This blog is not as an exhaustive list, more a call to action. By using a model like the 7Ps offers a coherent structure to help you work methodically on your marketing mix and identify maybe three or four things you can try as you look for ways to sustain the business during the pandemic and remain viable for the future.
Try to be creative, free-thinking and participative. Indeed, you may find ideas that become a permanent part of your future operations adding long-term value for when the re-build is underway
Let’s all strive to emerge from the crisis successfully by remembering that your brand is at the heart of your marketing strategy. The COVID-19 crisis has shown companies it’s as much about who they are and what they believe in, as it is sales.
Now, more than ever, having clients think well of your brand by encouraging this throughout your marketing mix will be critical to ensure business growth in a post-COVID-19 world.
There’s an old Persian adage that goes: ‘this too shall pass’, and it certainly applies to the current crisis. Whether we eventually land on a planet we recognise or a strange new world, it’s our adaptability that will see us through, and businesses in COVID-19 UK are demonstrating that in spades.
Business Growth Hub is here to help you review and restructure your marketing approach to ensure you define your message, market and product correctly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Call us on: 0161 237 4128 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Boe, Business Growth Advisor
Anthony has over 25 years’ professional experience built within a number of blue chip and public organisations, which include, telecoms, banking and training organisations.
He has extensive experience of project and programme management, quality management, process improvement and innovation development. He has worked as a volunteer director in the performing arts sector and built his business advisory skills working for Business Link and Pera Training. In addition to having an MBA, Anthony is SFEDI accredited, qualified in Lean Six Sigma, is a Prince2 practitioner and has a diploma in Action Coaching.
The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information, and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the Coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit is entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub, and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.