It's a global pandemic. Life has changed. Some businesses are being hit hard. Others, not as hard and others somewhere in between.
When things get turned upside down like they have, it make sense to go into "hunker down" mode. It's understandable to want to cut all expenses and anticipate the worst. You shouldn't feel bad about these very valid (and sometimes practical) responses.
We don't know what the future holds and there are so many things out of our control right now. However, I'd like to share why I think marketing is not one of the things that should be cut back on right now. In fact, there are many reasons why marketing should continue or even increase.
People are on social media a lot more right now
A recent study pointed to a sharp rise in social media usage right now. It makes sense because just about everyone is now working from home and spending a lot more time following current events.
If you run campaigns on social media, now may be a great time to double down. Attention is in high supply and others may be pushing pause on their marketing, giving you a unique opportunity.
In particular, the leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram are likely to be incredibly high-value as people follow breaking stories and argue about politics (Facebook) and share inspiration and life stories (Instagram).
Building a list may be easier than ever right now
People everywhere are looking for hope and inspiration. They are looking forward to the day when they can socialize again and see life get back to normal. Now is the time to create content that inspires and helps. Which in my opinion should be our strategy even when there isn't a pandemic.
Regardless of your industry, the basic principles of Inbound Marketing have not changed: provide value.
Now may be the time to launch that amazing offer, course, podcast, download, video series, webinar, or web site that helps your audience navigate their challenges. Now may be a great time to use content to build your email list, your social media custom audiences, your podcast subscribers, your video followers, and any channel that you are building a community around.
People are looking for hope and guidance. Be part of the solution and provide help to them and when everyone is bursting out of this crisis and moving full-steam ahead, you have been part of the solution all along which people won't forget.
Marketing is not a switch; it's an engine
In times of turbulence, it's tempting to think of marketing as a switch that can be turned on and off. But that's not how it works.
Marketing is an engine that starts slowly and then builds momentum as you spin it up (flywheel anyone?). The more you add fuel and the more momentum you gain, the faster and more effective it is.
If you suddenly grind it to a halt, you have to start over by building momentum again. You may have to re-earn loyalty from your audience if they haven't heard from you in a while. You may have to re-gain SEO rankings because the competition kept going.
Rather than halt marketing, you are likely better off maintaining or even increasing your efforts so you are running strong when the storm passes.
Businesses are reinventing themselves
While some businesses are unfortunately truly struggling, others are reinventing themselves. From restaurants to breweries to retail, many businesses are pivoting in response to the coronavirus in creative ways. Though some companies are less affected and in some ways, they are thriving (take Zoom for example). Many industries, especially technology, are experiencing unprecedented demand.
How can your business serve the community in the current environment? What can you do to pivot and adapt your message? Yes, there is some negative news out there. But there are also some amazing opportunities.
A recession is the time to increase market share
No one likes saying the word out loud but it's pretty much accepted that we are going to see a recession. We don't know how long (or short) it will be but it's likely.
When this occurs, most people and businesses are likely to cut back. Leaving a giant hole to fill.
It's been well-documented that increased spending in marketing and advertising during a recession can pay off. From Forbes:
"...there have been a number of studies going back nearly one century that point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a weaker economy. Those advertisers that maintained or grew their ad spending increased sales and market share during the recession and afterwards."
The article continues:
There are several reasons to advertise during a slowdown.
- The “noise level” in a brand’s product category can drop when competitors cut back on their ad spend. It also allows for advertisers to re-position a brand or introduce a new product.
- Brands can project to consumers the image of corporate stability during challenging times.
- The cost of advertising drops during recessions. The lower rates create a “buyer’s market” for brands. Studies have shown that direct mail advertising, which can provide greater short-term sales growth, increases during a recession.
- When marketers cut back on their ad spending, the brand loses its “share of mind” with consumers, with the potential of losing current – and possibly future – sales. An increase in “share of voice” typically leads to in an increase in “share of market.” An increase in market share results, with an increase in profits.
Many well-known companies like Kellog's and Amazon became the uncontested leaders in their space by increasing marketing during recessions. And we all know how that worked out for them.
A decision to make
So what should you do? That's something only you can answer for yourself. There are many very real considerations to work through including cash flow and financial situation. But if it's feasible and realistic to continue your marketing or even increase it right now, it could pay off exponentially in the months and years to come.