We have all witnessed over the last 5-7 weeks, the world/economy/business landscape as we know it, come to a screeching halt. We are seeing local businesses that we know and love–shutter their doors, many of them gone forever. The impact of COVID-19 is moving at such a rapid pace, that we don’t have time to process the information before we are hit with new developments.
Doug Ford, Ontario’s Premier, has just announced a further 28-day shutdown, which will seal the fate for even more businesses, as they simply cannot withstand another month with little or no revenue.
This goes way beyond your neighbourhood bars, restaurants and boutiques. It extends to a multitude of service-based businesses such as spas, salons, and a variety of non-traditional healthcare modalities, sporting facilities, dance studios, martial arts, childcare facilities, summer camps, art studios—the list goes on and on. Not to mention the entire travel and tourism industry, which has shuttered airlines, cruise lines, hotels, theme parks, entertainment venues and beyond. The travel industry is expecting a global loss of 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue.
From a marketing chair, the entire ordeal is at once, equal parts terrifying and fascinating. We are operating day to day, in fear for our income and jobs, while trying to help the companies we support, to pivot and innovate—so that they can come out intact, and possibly even more successful, on the other side of this pandemic.
There has never been a better time to be in marketing. I feel this in my bones. I have lived through the tech dotcom bust of 2002. I have marketed through the 2008 US financial crisis and subsequent market crash. During both times, the companies that I supported were massively impacted and it propelled me into a self-employment model. I had to personally pivot and shift my business mindset—in order to personally financially survive.
I will tell you this. The pandemic and subsequent impact will create new industries and lead to massive innovation and the birth of new, innovative ways of business and life.
In recessions, some of the biggest and best brands have been launched. In 2002/2003 we saw the birth of: GoPro, Wayfair, Sonos, PayScale and Tesla. In 2008/2009 huge brands such as Uber, Venmo, Air B&B, Sirius XM were launched.
If you are in B2B marketing, the biggest mistake you can make is to STOP marketing. There is always a knee-jerk reaction in a time like this. CEOs and CFOs look to immediately cut spending and eliminate all non-essential “services” within the company. All too often, marketing is on that short list.
We currently have immediate budget relief in (physical) events marketing and corporate travel, which are often two of marketing’s biggest line items. Take this spend and reallocate it elsewhere.
Rather than cutting marketing altogether, focus on where you can WIN.
- Empathetic content marketing for your customers and prospects. Tell those stories, share how your solution HELPS them. Blogs, articles, social media, podcasts. Crank it out as fast and as often as you can.
- Webinars. The entire world has shifted to Zoom webinars, so you are fighting for more eyeballs and attention now. But the good news is, people have time on their hands. So get BUSY planning and executing useful and timely webinar content. Work with partners, customers and influencers to quickly plan and execute.
- Community support and goodwill. Give back in your communities. Show how your company is contributing, even in the smallest way, to the betterment of others.
- Lean into digital marketing. B2B purchase decisions are highly influenced by digital. With Facebook, Google and Twitter(among others) being major content providers around the crisis, social advertising will become more important in the short-term marketing mix.
- Virtual Events. With the entire event industry in a complete limbo state, physical events are on ice for now. There are many platforms for virtual events, such as oDash/tentimes—whether its sales kickoffs, customer/user forums or global training—embrace virtual, as this is likely one seismic shift that won’t abate anytime soon.
- Keep Management Positive & Informed. Leaders in other departments need guidance on how marketing can help them during this critical time. They may reflexively dismiss marketing as an unnecessary strategic tactic—show them how marketing can help the company not just survive but thrive.
There is not a single company that has the luxury of going dark right now. Those that act quickly, decisively and intelligently will win when we come out the other side (and we will eventually will!).
I wish us all Godspeed and good luck as we navigate this chaotic time in our lives. Share your stories from the trenches with me, I’d love to hear how you are pivoting and innovating during COVID-19!