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Now that the way in which you sell your goods has changed (or even stopped all-together) how should you approach your marketing?

In this blog, I outline how adopting a sports-team mentality to a marketing strategy can help, and how two amazing businesses have already adapted their marketing to suit this ‘new normal’. They will be the businesses that survive the coronavirus pandemic.

P.S. I also did a YouTube video (below) on this subject. But if you’re one of those people who would prefer to read rather than stare at my face for 12 minutes (I completely understand) you can get a more polished version from the text below. 

Now that the way in which you sell your goods has changed (or even stopped all-together) how should you approach your marketing? In this video, I outline how…

Two weeks ago, I went away on holiday and, though the coronavirus was an increasing concern in the UK at the time, it really wasn’t changing much about the way we live our lives. When I got back, everything had changed. First there was a week of restrictions, followed by a week in which almost everyone has been told to stay indoors, work from home (where possible) and try not to spread this COVID-19 virus. 

That’s meant we’ve had two weeks of pretty intense volatility in the economy. The government has stepped in several times, guaranteeing to cover wages. And it’s been tough for small business owners, tough for staff and tough for those who provide goods and services to companies large and small. I know this because I work with people across that entire spectrum.

And I know that one of the industries that is being most severely hit right now is Marketing. Business owners of all sizes are thinking, ‘If we can’t sell our goods and services in the same way anymore, why should we do marketing?’

I know where this comes from. It comes from a mentality that puts the cart before the horse; that says ‘we mainly sell our product through Tactic X (social media, Google Ads etc etc) and so that is our marketing strategy’.

It should be the other way around. You need to buy into the concept of marketing in general (because you understand that people need to know about your company in order to interact with you) and then you attach the tactics of social, ads, video etc. afterwards.

If you have a tactics-first approach then, of course, the minute those tactics are no longer relevant, you’re going to quit/pause your marketing altogether.

But think about it differently. Think about your marketing activity as if it were a sports team – a football team as an example. In a sports team you have attacking players and you have defensive players. Your attacking players are designed to score and assist the scoring of goals while your defensive players are designed to provide a solid foundation on which your attacking players can build.

In marketing, your attacking options are those that are designed to bring in revenue/sales, either directly (e.g. having a shop / e-commerce website / pro-active sales team / distributors) or through assisting that process (e.g. online ads guiding traffic to your site, direct marketing encouraging local customers to visit your shop). Meanwhile, your Defensive options are those that – if done correctly – don’t directly result in sales but do provide the basis for all your attacking options to function; things like a strong Tone of Voice, Visual Identity, Value Proposition that means that your posters, ads, website all look and talk the same way and help the customer know what you stand for – driving loyalty and stability when times are harder.

During the course of the season – often even during the course of a single game – a good manager will adapt his tactics to be more defensive or attack-minded, depending on the situation he/she finds themselves in and the scale of the task immediately in front of them. Perhaps they have a slender lead late the game and therefore prioritise defence to ensure they don’t concede. Perhaps the opposition has a man sent off and they’re behind so they go all-out attack for the last 10 minutes. Perhaps they’re playing a team at the bottom of the table or even a Championship rival so the emphasis between scoring goals vs grinding out any type of result changes.

This is the situation we find ourselves in now. Coronavirus has changed the game plan for pretty much all businesses and our marketing tactics have to adapt accordingly.

Let me give you two examples of companies that I’ve noticed doing this already – one of which is a client of mine and the other isn’t.

Company 1 (my client) has an online presence and a store on the High Street. Over the four or five years I’ve been working with them we’ve developed a pretty well-rounded strategy that uses lots of different marketing tactics to both increase sales and build loyalty and reputation. With a solid, defensive base the focus in the last few years has been on how we ‘attack’ (bring in sales) most effectively.

However, coronavirus has meant that we’ve had to shut the shop and can no longer sell online. We can no longer ‘attack’ (imagine our two main strikers have been taken out of the game) so we must focus on defence.

What we’re doing is focussing on social media community management, on our email marketing and on reviews sites; answering people’s questions regarding their orders and when our shops will be back online. In addition, my client is in the health and wellbeing industry so we’re sharing helpful (but non-salesy) tips on how to keep fit and active while self-isolating. All of this is with the aim of protecting their reputation and maintaining customer loyalty so that once things have returned to normal, building up sales won’t be a long and difficult process.

Company 2 – not a client – that is taking a similar attitude, albeit focussing on ‘attacking’ rather than ‘defending’ is a bakery here in Cornwall.

They too have high-street shops but a significant proportion of their sales come from hotels, bars and restaurants; all of whom have been forced to close. So, what have they done? They’ve shifted their attention to consumers who, co-incidentally, have an increased need for bread at this time with supermarkets running out and shopping trips being less easy and frequent than before. This bakery has gone into attack mode. They’ve brought some subs on – tactics they didn’t previously use – and tasked pre-existing ‘players’ with operating differently.

So now, customers can order ‘care packages’ on their website – a tool that has never previously been used by the bakery to sell. In addition, a new ‘bread van’ offering has been set up and is being sent to remote parts of the county so that those who don’t have easy access to a Tesco or an ASDA can get hold of bread. The result? The hit they’ve taken on the trade side is being subsidised by the surge in customer orders, protecting staff jobs and, interestingly, enhancing their reputation and customer loyalty – an example of how attack can support defence.

The take-away here is this: if you’re thinking of pausing or stopping marketing all-together because of COVID-19, don’t. Just adapt. Bring on subs, use your current players in different ways. Do anything to stay on the marketing field.

Because when this is all over in one month, three months, six months’ time, the businesses that stayed afloat won’t be those that took their team off the pitch and forfeited a few matches. They’ll be the ones that adapted their strategies to get draws where they needed to, or showed their fans that they were putting all their effort into reducing the scale of their losses.

If you need a ‘manager’ to come in and help you re-organise your team, give me a shout.


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