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Brands cannot, buyers don’t want to. What revolution in marketing has COVID-19 provoked

Taras Gorbul, the founder of Superheroes marketing agency, tells how marketing experts can help brands stand out and reorganize.

The human organism is able to react to a threat in three ways: to fight, to run or to stay motionless. In our case, the pandemic is a threat, and business is the organism which met up with it. Business already stayed motionless in Q2 and Q3 of 2020: according to Admixer research, most of companies reduced budgets in all the channels, except for social networks. Now time has come either to run — to leave the market, or to fight — that is to adapt to the new customers’ behavior. 

My team and I have chosen the latter. Our agency has increased the workforce by one and a half since the beginning of the quarantine and the number of projects by two times. Besides, we have united with three more agencies into one consortium. The format of consortium minimizes costs of production. Each member works on the task where he reached the highest level of skill, and covers their own scope of work in the best way — with good quality, fast, using minimum of resources. In a critical situation it is especially important. 

We are helping our partners and their businesses to fight. There are their own anti-crisis measures for each company, but I can distinguish a few general recommendations.

1. Reconsider your relationship with the audience

It is worth for a company to set all the focus to its client. Do you know all these jokes about a man with temperature of 37.2? It’s no coincidence that the word “client” in Ukrainian is male, and the word “company” is female. Now the company shall take care of the client, like a wife takes care of her beloved husband who caught a cold. 

It may be fulfilled by creation of new products in order to meet needs about health and safety, by notifications about the already existing, but not yet evident value for the client, or by the development of a new entertaining or educational online-content. 

Companies should become close to their target audience as never before, both emotionally — for example, with the help of email-marketing, and physically — for instance, making delivery of goods more comfortable or launching distance services. 

By the way, some information about email-marketing. According to the data of Omnisend platform, email open rate in 2020 increased by 30% comparing with 2019 and conversion grew up by 20% respectively. Though it is worth relying on this channel of communication only if you increase the email-content quality. HubSpot found out, that 17% of people unsubscribe from emails which seem too promotional, 10% — if the content, in their opinion, lost the value,  and 5% — because the e-mail content doesn’t correspond to their expectations. 

Customer behavior research says that people until now follow the policy of economy and “choose with the help of money” only “their own, native” brands. That’s why the task of a brand is literally to become family with the customer. One of the ways to do it is to personalize your audience. According to ON24 research, only 33% of marketing specialists think that their business copes with this. The situation that has arisen is a perfect moment to finally correct this.

2. Change the channels of communications 

It’s evident that everyone has gone online. And namely through online-instruments it is worth communicating nowadays: both informing the audience and taking orders. Companies should reconsider costs for printed and outdoor advertising, the same as advertising on TV and radio. Nevertheless, expenses on SEO, search advertising and social networks should definitely be increased. With this, you need to remember: in such a strained environment you should not spam people. You should let them understand within the first couple of seconds that you know about their real needs.

Your advertisement must be like an airplane’s signal “I am a friend”.

3. Optimize expenses

Decrease possible household and representational expenses; negotiate with the landlord a lower rent payment for the period of quarantine. Also, now it is a perfect time to streamline processes inside your company: review the salary budget; tie the salary to fulfillment of KPIs for each position; look for positions where you can combine the duties; make each employee cross functional. At the same time, it is very important to carry out all these measures not in a demoralizing way for your colleagues, but, on the contrary, convey to them the key idea – crisis is the time to become more effective.

4. Make research and analysis

Theatre begins with the cloakroom, treatment — with the diagnosis, and the marketing expert’s work shall begin with analysis. It has always been like this, though now it is crucial as never before. It is sad to realize, but the analytics we relied on before the pandemic, is not relevant any more. The behavior, needs, habits and likes of users have changed. You should start all over again. Carry out A/B-testing and run focus-groups, research the range of problems using feedback from clients and directly “in the field”, take opinion polls, conduct cold calls and questionnaires. Analyze and change, look how the situation has changed, and then again analyze and improve. For some time this process will be constant. Everything that is possible to improve, you should optimize; everything that is impossible, you should get rid of. 

You will have to monitor changes and new trends and to correct your mistakes according to them almost every day. 

Quick adaptation now will replace a rock-solid five-year plan. 

It is important for the managers now to turn to the anti-crisis mode of management with a short horizon of planning.

5. Develop the new strategy

The strategy for 2021 is needed, but now it will more probably set the motion vector than be a rigid frame which may become useless at any moment. And in this strategy I would recommend to shift focuses from increasing brand awareness to lead generation, from attracting the new audience to retaining the existing one, from researching competitors to researching users’ experience, and from dealing with objections to working with loyal clients. 

Upsells, cross-sells, loyalty programs, brand advocates are the things which can rescue a business in crisis. 

Now it is not the time to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut and to use the aggressive advertisement because everyone is already stressed. You should invest in relationships with active clients and stimulate them to give recommendations, thus making them an additional channel of attracting clients. Crisis is also a perfect time for alliances with partners or competitors: mergers, partner marketing actions, co-branding, mutual use of assets and so on.

A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow ©
George Patton

The plan is needed, but you should be ready to re-play your plan in the real time mode at any time. Flexibility and anti-fragility now will become a new strategy for managers of business.  

Source: MMR

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