Your Business, Marketing and COVID-19
During unpredictable situations, such as the current outbreak of COVID-19, it can be difficult to estimate the adverse impact. This guide, your business, marketing and COVID-19 looks to explore some of these impacts and their solutions.
However, we believe that with planning, proactive communication and a can-do attitude any risks can be significantly minimised.
You have little control over the wider situation but it is your actions, as a business owner, manager or member of the management team that will make a difference to your trading success.
Below is a quick guide to help you plan some of your marketing activities and links to helpful resources online. Please remember, you are not alone. Our team are at hand to advise you personally and if needed provide bespoke marketing plans.
Understanding COVID-19 : Government Resources
Our objective is to explore positive marketing activities that will aid your business over the coming months. Therefore, if you wish to know more about COVID-19 and wider governmental plans, please use the links below.
Gov.UK: Guidance for Employers and Businesses
Guidance for if members of staff present symptoms of COVID-19. Useful for understanding your roles and responsibilities if you employ staff and the impact infection may have on business operations.
Gov.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Action Plan
Documents outlining the UK governments action plan if the outbreak was to progress. Useful for trying to determine what adverse effect the escalating situation may have on business trading allowing for the development of operational and marketing plans.
Likely outcomes during an escalation of COVID-19
The stages below have been created using official UK Government plans and our predictions. To see the full document yourself please click here. Use the following stages as a quick summary and as a tool for planning your upcoming business operations and marketing.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Below is a plan and examination for the worst situation but just like you, we are hoping for the best.
Your business, marketing and COVID-19 with the UK Government staged responses.
Stage 1 – The current situation, Containment phase moving into Delay phase.
The UK Government try to slow down the spread of COVID-19 to dissipate pressure on the NHS. Their objective is to delay a wide-reaching outbreak until Summer when seasonal pressure on the national health system is reduced. This will allow them to put more resources into the effects of COVID-19.
- Sporadic panic buying as people try to prepare for an unknown situation.
- Businesses begin to discuss possible impacts.
- Business spending reduces as market confidence falls.
- SWOT analysis to establish current position and manoeuvres for subsequent stages.
- Define processes if the situation worsens (how will customer calls be routed to staff working from home?)
- Marketing plan. How will you encourage sales and repeat business during subsequent stages? This plan can be a summary or a fully in-depth document.
Stage 2 – Escalation of situation, Delay Phase in full implementation.
The spread of COVID-19 can no longer be contained with the outbreak only being able to slow down. “If the disease becomes established in the UK, we will need to consider further measures to reduce the rate and extent of its spread.”
- School closures lead to increased child care needs.
- The government encourages greater home working.
- Reduction in large-scale gatherings in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus.
- Key operational messages. Telling customers via website, social media and email newsletter how to contact your office and if appointments are continuing. Reassure your market by communicating your situation.
- Prepare to digitise processes (EG. Paper statements or reports now sent via email, meeting via online video chat).
- Revaluate marketing. Use the decrease in demand to develop future marketing for when trading conditions return to normal.
Stage 3 – Mitigation phase
The UK government has stated this stage will be enacted when the transmission of the virus becomes established in the UK. The main point of this stage is a shift in focus to provide essential national infrastructure services.
- Legislative options are used to more effectively tackle the outbreak. This could mean national and border quarantine.
- Expect increasing pressure at work as well as personal illness or caring responsibilities
- Implement business continuity plans which will cover plans to reduce the impact of absentees during the pandemic and systems to lessen the impact of disruption to society and the supply chain.
- Implement work from home processes and communicate relevant information with customers.
- Digitise processes to reduce interpersonal contact.
- Build anticipation for services when the situation returns to normal (EG. Taking bookings or scheduling work for the future).
The above stages may or may not happen. The UK Government have stated on several occasions that these plans may change as more is learnt about COVID-19. Some early research has led some to believe the outbreak may happen in seasonal waves, year after year.
Marketing During Uncertainty
Uncertain trading conditions will be difficult. Many businesses may suffer cash flow issues and an exhaustive list of critical operational problems. In this chaos, it is easy for marketing tasks to fall down the list of important jobs. However, marketing and good communications will be essential.
See the following sections for just a few marketing considerations that will made a difference.
This is a powerful way to analyse your current business position. Understanding where risks may lie for your overall operations and marketing will put your business in a stronger position.
When adding ideas to your SWOT Analysis think about your business overall, its current position and project forward for the worst-case scenario.
Use the following four sections to build your SWOT analysis.
S – Strengths
Thinking about the escalation of the UK Government’s plan, what parts of your business are strong and robust? Think about operational processes, marketing, products or service elements that won’t need to change or will only require slight adaptation.
W – Weaknesses
Which part of your overall operations and marketing is at risk? Maybe your business is events orientated or relies on many daily appointments? Are there going to be any potential and significant stock issues?
O – Opportunity
Wēijī, the Chinese word for crisis means danger and opportunity. Think about possible opportunities that may arise from this situation. Maybe your competitors are not as well-positioned as you and will struggle to deliver a good service? With a change in behaviour nationwide maybe this is an opportunity to push a new product to market or advertise a side service?
T – Threats
Look back at the weaknesses you have listed in the previous section. How will these develop into significant threats? Also, use the opportunity section to inspire ideas. Look at your opportunities and think about their opposites. Maybe one opportunity is the failure of a competitor to adopt? Is there a threat from other competitors adapting quicker than yourself and gaining market share?
If you have a team use them to generate ideas for all these sections. If working from home this can be done via email. Preferably it should be done sooner as this would allow for a dynamic workplace-based ideas session.
Once you have completed the SWOT analysis you know where to place your energy and efforts. Strength and opportunities are great places to develop further marketing. Promote the factors that make you stronger than others and drive your opportunities.
Use the weaknesses and threats to mitigate potential issues. Now you have identified threats you can work on reducing their overall effect on your business operations.
Communication of Contact Information
If the COVID-19 situation develops many aspects of UK life will be thrown into turmoil. As a result, basic messaging will take on extra importance.
Design a clear call to action that you can use during the outbreak. Tell current customers and those seeking information about how to contact you. Think about the following:
- Are you still going to accept visitors to your place of work?
- Will your opening hours change?
- Can customers contact you via the usual means? If not, what is the new system, number or email?
- Have your systems changed and if so how?
- Will you require extra information from customers due to changes in the business or systems?
- If service or products do come to a temporary halt when do you expect them to start up once again?
Keep everyone informed and make sure this key information is disseminated via your usual marketing channels. On social media, we would recommend placing some of this information into regular weekly schedules.
Think about the motivations and psychology of your customers. Maybe in this time of crisis, they will no longer feel the motivation or need to purchase your product. They may wish to save money by putting your service on hold.
Combat this with core messaging. Make sure you are strongly marketing your USPs. What makes your business unique? How are you different from competitors? Why should your customers continue to buy from you?
Think about your marketing opportunities. If your competitors have their heads down worried about survival it gives you a unique opportunity to push a strong message on all media. This situation will pass and markets will return to normal. Plan for this and deploy your marketing now.
Increase the motivation to spend money on your service or product by developing a compelling promotion. Cut prices, offer discounted add-ons or tweak your offerings to suit the short-term change in overall market needs.
These are especially important strategies if you anticipate cash flow issues.
The current COVID-19 situation will pass. Although it may seem all-encompassing at the moment there will be a time when all of this will be a distant memory. As a business, it is up to you how you cope with these developments over the coming weeks.
Be proactive, plan and continue to work hard. See solace in your local community as they too are experiencing the same. Put effort into your marketing and keep everyone informed about your situations.
This could be a great opportunity to develop your brand and to stand out as a leader within your sector.