The coronavirus pandemic has affected every single business in the UK and beyond over the last few weeks. Some have prospered; for some it has had catastrophic implications. Whatever category your business falls under, when we come through this pandemic, business owners will surely think differently about how they market their businesses. PR and marketing inspiration will become even more important in the fight to keep businesses going.
I have found lots of marketing inspiration in the ways businesses are getting through this crisis and my level of trust has increased dramatically for some brands. So, it is possible to turn this challenging situation around.
Here are some nuggets of marketing inspiration that I hope you find helpful for your business:
Check the Tone of Message
During these times, more personalised and sensitive communications often cut through the noise.
For example, Waterstones (I really admire their marketing anyway), has emailed me with a change in their usual tone of message. I really appreciate their email with practical updates about what to do if you have any enquiry or have any returns and how to buy books online.
Plus, they sent me a handy guide on ‘indoor entertainment to keep you occupied’, which includes a selection of jigsaws, colouring books, toys and games for the children; links to home learning resources; new books coming out, suitable for people in my household; family ideas books; working from home accessories; and cookbooks. All of which I would consider buying as they are so tailored to the situation and to me. It’s very clever marketing by keeping me informed whilst offering me helpful suggestions to get me through the weeks ahead.
Another email I received, from a clothing company, gave me suggestions on some ‘wow’ tops for zoom calls (whilst potentially wearing pyjama bottoms on the lower half!)
Change the distribution method
A Hampshire-based orchid grower, that usually only sells into supermarkets, has seen its trade slow down dramatically during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, rather than let its 1,000s of orchids go to waste, it has quickly changed its distribution methods by selling them online for the first time in its company history.
Facebook posts for the company have gone viral and the company is now selling their orchids via their website, distributing them throughout the UK.
This story (via Daily Echo, Bournemouth) shows how quickly a business can turn itself around by adapting to the situation and reviewing the distribution channels available.
Offer advice and help
At difficult times like these, many companies or business people are offering a product or service that might be useful at the moment. There have been many self-employed workers that already work from home, offering advice to employees who suddenly find themselves working from a makeshift office on their kitchen table, for example.
Here is an article from the BBC; I personally find these tips a little condescending and unhelpful. I think these business-based tips from Hubspot work much better and this blog from Office Arrow on working from home is also great. Getting the tone of message right in these times is essential for building on customer trust and loyalty.
Other businesses that have done well with offering help are fitness-related: hands up who hasn’t tried working out with Joe Wickes?! It’s a great way to build your customer base by offering a free sample of your expertise whilst the end user benefits from it, too. Marketing inspiration at its best!
Give Back to the Community
Companies, which are able, have donated or provided their goods or services to benefit frontline staff or charities. For example, Lush has donated 1,500 bars of soap and 1,500 pots of hand cream to Dorset Healthcare staff across the county working day and night to support patients.
Meanwhile a consortium of UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses in the UK has come together to produce medical ventilators for the NHS. Other smaller companies and even schools, who already own a 3D printer, are volunteering to 3D print essential PPE equipment for NHS frontline workers. However big or small the action, these gestures create lasting positive memories and associations for brands.
Keep Your Online Profile High
According to a survey carried out by Global Web Index, “over 80% of consumers in the US and UK say they consume more content since the outbreak, with broadcast TV and online videos (YouTube, TikTok) being the primary mediums across all generations and genders.”.
Online consumers are hungry for content to read whilst on lockdown – this creates an opportunity for brands to prepare interesting and relevant posts. Instagram has even launched a ‘thank you hour sticker and story’ that showcases the various things that people are appreciative for amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Check out this excellent article by WPP that sums up what brands should consider for its social media presence during the pandemic.
As well as social media and web content, keeping your online profile high also applies to blogs and emails. Now is the ideal time for organisations to grow their databases further and keep in the minds of their consumers, so when the pandemic eases, the brand will be at the forefront of their minds, as long as the tone of message is appropriate.
Adapt to What Customers Need
One of my clients, a food packaging company (Aegg Creative Packaging), has seen a rise in demand in some areas of its business including pasta sauce jars, helping keep supermarket shelves stocked with essential food and drink items. However, there are inevitable decreases in orders within other areas of the business, namely the hospitality and travel sector being hardest hit.
The company has had to pull out all of the stops in order to deal with this shift in demand with very short turnaround times, putting its logistics infrastructure to the test. Because the company has excellent relationships with its suppliers and customers, backed up by investments in its infrastructure, it has been able to respond and adapt to the shift in demand. In addition, Aegg has volunteered to 3D print essential pieces of PPE equipment for NHS workers. Being agile in times like these is essential and its customers are very appreciative.
Keep Customers in the Loop
There is nothing worse than ordering products online then the company not being able to deliver them. This is damaging to the brand’s reputation now and in the long-term. I had to order some textured-hair products for my daughter, that weren’t available in the supermarket – they arrived 3 weeks later.
I wasn’t informed how long it would take for them to arrive when I ordered them online, so I just presumed that they hadn’t been sent or had gone missing. An automated email or confirmation to state that they had been posted on xx date and should reach me by xx would have made the process a lot better.
On the other hand, Next temporarily closed down its warehouse during the pandemic to ensure that its systems were safe. When it re-opened, it sensibly put a limit on the amount of orders it could feasibly and safely deal with. This not only reassures the consumer that Next is looking after its staff properly, but that it also wants to be able to look after its customers properly by providing a good level of service by not over-promising and under-performing.
Therefore, businesses should consider prominently displaying on their website and social media platforms whether they are open for business, how to order and expected delivery times.
Plan for the future and develop your own marketing inspiration
At the time of writing, it feels like the conversation is beginning to shift and people are starting to envisage post-lockdown. According to Marketing Week magazine, 55% of marketers are delaying campaigns or have put them under review, which of course is very sensible.
There isn’t an exact date for when the lockdown will be lifted or when the pandemic will start to ease, but we can look to the future and fine-tune campaigns now so that we are ready to press the ‘go live’ button when the timing is right.
So, in summary, hang on in there wherever you can. Look at what other companies are doing to help develop your own ideas for marketing inspiration. Adapt to what your customers need. Stay relevant. We can get through this…
Written by Emma Estridge, Founder of Mushroom Marketing & PR
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