A recent AdAge article evaluated what post-9/11 marketing efforts could teach both marketers and business owners as a whole today.
Their example? Immediately after the 9/11 tragedy, many businesses and marketers put out pro-USA, feel-good messages. There was an overwhelming feeling among every industry that trying to sell products or services during that time was—for want of another word—offensive.
Auto behemoth General Motors, however, took another path. Yes, they put out a positive American message, “Keep America Rolling,” but they combined it with an offer for 0% financing on their vehicles. It rocked the industry.
Was it a risk? Absolutely. Did they take some level of criticism for it? They did. But their action in a time when others weren’t taking any led U.S. auto sales to break a record in October of 2001—just a month after the 9/11 attack. Other companies followed suit, including Apple, which introduced the iPod in October of 2001. And by the end of the year—one which had begun in a recession—economic recovery had begun.
“We’re in This Together”
Turn on TV right now, and you’re likely to see at least 2-3 ads within minutes of each other focused on the message “we’re in this together.” We’re reminded of social distancing combined with a bit of “rah-rah” designed, it seems, to make us all feel good about the many changes we’ve undergone in the last few months. Our collective compliance in altering the ways we do business. We celebrate—and rightly so—healthcare workers and others who have done everything in their power to keep people safe and toilet paper on the shelves.
It’s no secret that the biggest hit in all of this has come to small businesses. Too many have been deemed “non-essential,” leaving them—at best—to adjust HOW they operate and, at worst, leaving them unable to function. Virtually every business owner is feeling some level of insecurity about marketing in these uncertain times.
At Avitus Group, we believe that every small business is essential. We also believe that those who plan, act, and market strategically in the short-term have the highest likelihood of success in the long-term.
Communicate with loyal customers.
When the market gets back to normal—and it will—your most significant opportunities will continue to rest on the shoulders of your most loyal customers. Don’t let this downtime allow your relationship with them to slide. Let’s face it: customers are EXPENSIVE to replace. Get in touch by phone, send a letter or give them (and only them) exclusive offers. In short, keep reminding them why they choose to do business with you.
Get more out of every dollar and gain new customers.
We don’t know of very many businesses that don’t face some level of competition. Now is the time for you to take strides ahead of your own—especially in the world of digital advertising. The bidding wars for specific keywords and phrases that are commonplace in fast-moving markets are almost non-existent now. Use this time to dip your toe into digital if you haven’t yet. If you are in the digital space, keep your spend consistent or slightly increase it, as your cost per lead or sale is likely to plummet.
Digital is an ideal option for many companies right now simply because of how much time people are currently spending online. A Forbes article shared that “total internet hits have surged by 50% and 70%, according to preliminary statistics” in the early weeks of stay-at-home protocols. If your customers are online, you need to be there too, either to build awareness or find new ways to sell products and services.
Regardless of whether you’re choosing digital or traditional tactics, keep investing in marketing to build your target audience. Studies have shown that cutting your marketing budget during a downturn will only have a short-term benefit and will ultimately place your brand—and company–at risk.
Solidify your brand now.
A Harvard Business Review article noted, “Building and maintaining strong brands—ones that customers recognize and trust—remains one of the best ways to reduce business risk.” If there has been a slowdown in your day-to-day work, consider using that time to build, strengthen, and reassess your brand. When is the last time you dug deep into how you communicate with existing and potential customers? Do you know how your competition is positioned? Does the look and feel of your brand show who you WERE – or does it show who you ARE today? Is your website up-to-date in terms of look and content? Are you clearly and boldly communicating your value? Now is the time to invest in making sure your brand is rock solid.
This is not the first economic downturn that most companies have weathered, and it won’t be the last. The key to surviving and thriving in times like these is found in your determination to identify and pursue the opportunities that continue to arise and—like General Motors—take a different path than your competition.
Questions? We’d welcome the chance to talk to you.