Lee Petts, managing director of 52M Consulting, outlines his top tips for maintaining brand visibility during lockdown and keeping your business ‘fit’. When people talk about creating a ‘fit for the future’ business, you’ll often hear them talking about making it ‘lean’. This is the business equivalent of going on a diet – and usually means slimming down by cutting costs. But there’s only so much this can achieve; you can’t save your way to success just like a sprinter can’t diet their way to a win on the track – they have to train, perfect their technique, and build muscle. In business, marketing is muscle. It’s what powers you out of the starting blocks and keeps you moving.
When it's ‘business as usual’, this combination of low costs and great marketing returns healthy profits, but it’s just as powerful when you get into trouble – whether that’s because of a problem of your own making or one of those uncontrollable external shocks that come along from time-to-time. Like coronavirus.
When things go wrong, a leaner business is one that is going to be more resilient because, if its sales take a hit, its lower cost structure will mean cash flow won’t come under the same pressure. The trouble is that, in a crisis, people’s natural tendency is to cut spending even further and faster, practically to the bone. That's not lean, that’s unhealthily skinny. It's not just excess fat that disappears but muscle too. Imagine our runner stumbles and injures their ankle.
Restricting their calorie intake even further and just resting isn’t going to help them get back out on the track any faster – for that, they need to maintain muscle mass and do some exercise. The point here is that even in a sudden crisis and economic downturn like the one we're currently facing, cutting back too much will make it harder for you to recover. If you reduce your headcount, for instance, you might lack capacity when the situation eases (better to reduce salaries, by negotiation, rather than lose good people). If you trim your marketing muscle too much, you'll lose brand visibility and have to work so much harder to win that back later.
So, what’s the answer? Reduce your marketing activity to save some money, yes. But don’t neglect it altogether. A modest investment in your marketing now will pay dividends later when you’re launching yourself forward again in the race to win business and restore your income to pre-crisis levels. It’s crucial to maintain brand visibility, here are four low cost ways to do that:
If you’re doing something to help the national effort to fight coronavirus, perhaps by supplying medical goods to the NHS, or turning your hotel into a makeshift hospital or providing rooms to key workers, tell the local media about it. They’ll be on the look-out for coronavirus stories like this with a local angle. Your customer audiences are likely to be paying more attention to the news right now as well, and so media mentions of your business will stand out more. Just remember, if you’re doing stuff purely to create a bit of attention, that's not cool and people will see through it.
It’s been around for so long now, it almost seems like it’s not worth mentioning, but it is. You may not have any products or services to ‘sell’ right now (if your prospects and customers aren’t spending) but there’s all sorts of other stuff you can do with email marketing. You could, for instance, share details of any new innovations you come up with during the lull which might benefit your customers when they're ready to emerge from the crisis, showing how you're still thinking of them.
It was originally intended to bring people closer together, although we all use it a lot these days to share our digital content in the hope of attracting new customers, so use it to keep in touch. Keep posting regularly, but also spend more time actually engaging with other users – a lot of people working from home for the first time are going to feel isolated, so let them know there's an online community they’re part of and chat with them. It’s a great way to elevate your brand.
Are there businesses you know that offer complementary, non-competing products and services to yours? When you’re emailing your customer and prospect audiences, why not introduce a few of these other businesses and get them to do likewise when they communicate with their business contacts? Look for clever ways to plug into one another’s networks and, while you’re at it, maybe think about how you can keep collaborating in the future too.
Remember, you can trim costs to conserve cash but just be careful you don't lose muscle too – it’ll be much easier to rebound from a setback like coronavirus if you can keep up your marketing and maintain brand visibility, even if that's with a lower spend and less activity.
52M Consulting specialises in the art of perception, using a unique set of tools, strategies and approaches called Black Dot Thinking. It is a member of Boost & Co – a group of public and private sector organisations that can help Lancashire businesses grow.