APM Marketing after COVID

Coming out the other side – marketing after COVID-19

As lockdown eases and retail, business and tourism begins to reopen, we consider what your marketing and business strategy should look like.
Our survive and thrive article at the start of lockdown talked about what to do then, this is a new article for right now.

Marketing Strategy Post COVID

As the UK slowly begins to ‘get back to normal’, where normal means most shops re-opening, pubs and restaurants welcoming back customers – albeit with special measures – and leisure destinations such as zoos re-opening their gates, marketing your business will need to take a new turn.

Obviously you’ll want to let your customers know how your business has changed and what it means to them – whether it’s as simple as new delivery plans or different ways to get in touch, or more complex changes such as deleted stock lines or a new account manager. You’ll also need to let them know if they can expect longer wait times, or whether you are still running at reduced capacity, as pre-warning is key. Look at McDonald’s, for instance, which opened drive-thru lanes but made it clear that they would be offering a limited menu because of the social distancing that needed to happen in their kitchens. This didn’t put anyone off if the queues we saw were anything to go by, but it did manage people’s expectations in advance!

Changing consumer behaviour

While your business has been shut or working at a lower capacity, the world has changed. People’s attitudes to spending have changed – just take a look at this report, which divides people into four categories; those who have cut spending, those who are carrying on as normal, people who are staying home but spending online and those who are stockpiling and saving because they don’t know what the future holds.

The way people interact with businesses has changed as well. We have gotten used to getting everything from cocktails to cream teas, garden plants and ready-made party boxes delivered directly to our door. We have been engaging with companies online more than ever before – the only way with offices closed and phones just ringing out. Take a read of our previous article on the importance of ‘conversation marketing‘.

An emerging trend pre-covid that is still evident now is the requirement for transparency and trust – genuine messaging is critical to re-engage with those customers that you may have lost and to maintain a relationship with the new customers that have arisen over the past few months.

Revisit your strategy

We’ve discussed your strategy in the past and hopefully you had a clear vision for the start of 2020 if not now! There’s no need to rip that up and start again, but definitely blow the dust off and take the time to review it for relevance in this new world.

Question what it is your customers will want going forward and how you will gauge the success of your marketing campaigns. As always, ROI (return on investment) is key.

  1. Update or re-create your business goals for the next 3-6 months to see you through to year end
  2. Clearly identify the critical steps that you will need to focus on in order to deliver these goals
  3. Revisit your market data and review your current customers alongside your target audience as both may have shifted
  4. Motivate and engage with your employees, they need to be on the same page for the success of point 2 above
  5. Monitor, measure and realign as necessary

One of the benefits of revisiting your strategy before you re-open your doors is that you’ll be able to consider whether those new revenue streams or sales channels you created are relevant and sustainable long term. Can you continue to run (free) deliveries for instance and will there still be the demand going forward? If these new ways of working have been successful for your business, you need to consider how you will keep the momentum going. It will be very easy once everyone is back to work to let them slide, go on the back burner and revert to pre-lockdown. In reality, this could see a reduction in revenue and lost customers.

What is normal?

We must also remember that the new normal is unlikely to be like the old normal for some time. Social distancing will continue – for how long we don’t yet know. And many people will, no doubt, feel vulnerable and wary about spending time out and about, especially in crowds or busy shops. If you’ve not already done so, then now is the time to consider how you market your business to suit these people.

As we have pondered, you may have gained a new kind of customer during lockdown. For example, frozen food stalwart Birds Eye has gained more empty nesters and pre-family consumers during this period. Your strategy needs to look at how you can retain these customers going forward. Like Birds Eye, some of your competitors may have been shut during lockdown or working at a low capacity, and you have swept up some of their clients. Now you need to consider how you will retain them if and when their old favourite comes back onto the scene.

You will also need to understand your new audience and create new customer profiles, if appropriate. Then think about strategies to keep them coming back to you. Drawing up your customer engagement strategy will be vital, so consider what might be suitable for them and you, such as loyalty and referral schemes.

Customer research

There are lots of ways to find out more about your new – and old – customers. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. You might be able to pivot your business offerings to provide more of what your new customers want. Now is the time to go on the offensive, using survey and polling tools such as Survey Monkey, Mailchimp, email and social media to find out as much as you can about them, their current needs and desires. Find out what they have liked/disliked about your products and services during lockdown and plan strategies and actions that will help you make the most of this information.

And don’t forget those customers you lost during lockdown. Consider what can be done to get them back. Will you use some new promotions, or do you need to offer them a new service or different stock?

Marketing activities

With so much of the world running online over the past two months there is no going back now. So, if you don’t yet have a decent online and social media offering as part of your marketing strategy, now is the time to rectify that. If you had a social media marketing plan, this may need revisiting – some content may have to be binned, some repurposed, some used later, while more content relevant to post-lockdown should be devised and identify with your customers.

Some businesses continued with their paid advertising during lockdown, but changed their campaigns; some cut back and completely withdrew. There is no right or wrong answer, but looking at how you want to manage paid advertising, both in print and online, should be part of your new marketing strategy. Be realistic with your budget, consider who you want to target and what part of your business is most important to promote at this time.

Make use of PR to keep in touch with your peers, local chambers of commerce, relevant associations, radio and local press and magazines. They are all keen for proactive, inspirational, good news stories and will help promote your company free of charge. (Remember there is no guarantee though that a press release will be published).

Stay safe

As part of your plan, remember that you will need to consider best practice for staying safe – for both staff and customers. Ensuring you get the message out to everyone sooner rather than later will help them to feel safe and confident in your commitment to their wellbeing.

Finally, if your staff have been on furlough for some time, remember that although they may be keen to get back to work, they have been off for a long while, and it could take a while for them to get back into the swing of things. They may fear for their job security, be worried about being back in the ‘real’ world again, concerned for their safety and have other issues such as childcare and the welfare of family members to consider. Think carefully about how you can get them motivated and onboard with your plans for the future. One way of approaching this – in case they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about their concerns – is to create an anonymous survey.

If you would like to have a chat about your marketing requirements, please call Alison Page on tel: 07963 002065 or email: hello@alisonpagemarketing.co.uk. You can of course browse our website to see what our existing clients have to say about our work.