Marketing your way through the great COVID crisis

With COVID-19 set to spark the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, new research by the World Federation of Advertisers says 89% of large international companies have put their marketing and advertising campaigns on hold. Global marketing and advertising spend is plummeting at the fastest rate since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, leading to uncertainty and trepidation within the sector.

During these times of financial strain, we can see a similar picture for SMEs (of which there are now almost six million in the UK): marketing, often seen as more a luxury than a core necessity, becomes one of the first overheads on the chopping board.

Whilst cutting marketing spend to preserve the viability of the most essential business operations may seem an obvious measure, the importance of maintaining some type of marketing output during the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be overstated. Doing so will create trust, further build your community and remind customers you are open for business.

Here are ten reasons why maintaining your marketing presence during this period is so important, and how to most effectively do so on a reduced budget:

  1. Simply put, failure to market yourself at all during this period may well lead to the assumption that you have folded. According to Opinium, one in seven SME owners are using personal savings to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic; in current circumstances, a brand’s silence will lead to a vacuum – and one that will quickly get filled with the perception you are no longer trading.

    By continuing to produce content and output – even just the absolute bare bones - you are letting your customers you know you remain open for business.
  2. It would be easy to assume that, with the vast majority of SMEs under the cosh, everyone is in the same boat and cuts to marketing will be seen across the board.

    Not necessarily so. It must be assumed that your competition will be continuing to market themselves throughout this period. Ultimately, after the Covid period, it is the brand that has maintained a marketing presence throughout that consumers will remember and be drawn too. Continuing to market throughout Covid-19 is therefore crucial to fending off the competition and maintaining your market share.
  3. It may go without saying, but for those SMEs whose current budgets may limit them to only one method of B2C marketing during the pandemic, social is the way forward.

    According to data insights company Kantar, social media engagement has increased by 61% over normal usage since Covid-19 broke out. With the vast majority of the working population either furloughed (with more free time on their hands) or working from home (and without their bosses glancing over their monitors), social engagement has skyrocketed – making it the best possible means of communicating with and marketing to your customers right now.
  4. Furthermore, there has arguably never been a better time to be engaging with influencers. According to a new report from UK-based performance agency Attain, influencers and Instagram creators are losing on average 33% of their revenue due to Covid-19. One in ten creators have said their earnings have completely disappeared.

    Coupled with the loss of revenue for influencers is the increase in numbers of those scanning Instagram during lockdown. The result therefore is a great opportunity to take advantage of influencer marketing at lower-than-usual cost to a larger-than-usual audience.
  5. From a B2B perspective, many businesses will be taking this time to take stock of current operations and plan ahead. The pause in activity caused by Covid-19 may have provided a long overdue opportunity to evaluate services and suppliers, for example.

    This makes the current period - a period of reset and reflection - a golden opportunity to be marketing yourself, in the knowledge that many businesses may be looking to shake up the way they do things. With these businesses potentially in need of your products and skills, now is the time to be making yourself visible to them.
  6. Remember that it is remarkably cheap and simple to continue marketing your company or product in some means – even on a reduced budget, or no budget at all. The power to do so is in your hand: all you need is a quality camera phone and a decent set of headphones.

    The content doesn’t need to be ground-breaking – you could simply talk about what is going on in your business, the current state of the market or what you are doing with staff. Doing so will ensure both your staff, your customers and the wider industry are kept up to date with developments within the business, whilst you continue to demonstrate outward confidence in the brand.
  7. When producing content for your customers, don’t be afraid that your marketing efforts during Covid-19 will appear budget and low-grade in comparison to your usual set up. Those you engage with will understand that it is a lot harder to produce slick content under the current circumstances. Even large organisations who are used to producing £100k adverts have been undertaking their marketing over Skype, whilst still maintaining great engagement.

    The most important point is to ensure you are getting content out there. Something is better than nothing, and the quality will be excused.
  8. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that, as the person typically ‘in charge’ of marketing and content (whether you be the CEO or CMO), all the responsibility of maintaining a marketing presence during Covid-19 relies on you.

    Actually, diversity here is key. If you have a slightly larger business (in SME terms), take advantage of your staff and their creative offerings. Ask your staff to create their own marketing content for your channels – this will empower them to get creative and take the pressure off you. It will also offer a great insight into not only the makeup of your workforce, but also into how they are being supported and adapting through this period.
  9. Even if your creative juices have run completely dry, there are ways in which previous marketing campaigns and assets can be rehashed and given a new lease of life.

    By revisiting a previous campaign to explore how it developed and worked out, who it benefited, what the outcomes were and what has happened since, you can add a new angle and perspectives to old content. This is a far more engaging way to repurpose old content rather than simply reposting or a ‘throwback’.
  10. Nobody could have predicted Covid-19 and the knock-on effects for SMEs, but this period has served as a reminder to always plan ahead, including with your marketing content.

Building up a bank of content to keep in reserve is one way of ensuring that, should it not be possible to professionally produce new content for a while, you have a pipeline of ‘rainy day’ content to push out. Video interviews or podcast interviews that aren’t time-sensitive are a great example of this.