In this guest post, co-founder and director of Rocket Agency, James Lawrence (main photo), says in this COVID-era, it’s the agressors who’ll come up trumps in the marketing war. Find out why here…
2020 has been a tough year for marketers. Many businesses have cut their marketing budgets. There have been extensive job losses across the industry. For many businesses, prospects are simply spending less than they did last year.
I run an independently owned 30-plus person marketing agency and have noticed patterns in our clients and in the various businesses who come to us for advice. I don’t have blanket advice I can give to every business, but I can see patterns in terms of the approaches being taken and how businesses are bouncing back.
There are typically five marketing responses to the current challenges
Early on we noticed that businesses we dealt with fell into five categories when it came to marketing post-COVID:
The Impossibles: These companies were hit hard back in March or in subsequent lockdowns. They were faced with the reality that their audience was no longer buying and financially they were not able to invest in marketing for the future. These businesses stopped or greatly reduced their marketing.
The Reducers: Whether through perceived necessity or fear, these businesses have looked on marketing as an expense. Just like rent, cleaning or office supplies. Their approach was to reduce spend, save some money and possibly pick marketing up again later when the return on investment for each dollar spent would hopefully be higher.
The More-Of-The-Samers: Generally through a lack of resources or time, these companies continued marketing the same way they always have. Same audience, same message, same channels.
The Boomers: These businesses saw demand for their offering increase during 2020. As a result they made the decision to invest in marketing to make the most of the current opportunities, and to also ensure they could hold on to as much of their new market as possible if things return to normal for their industry.
The Aggressors: These businesses looked at the current situation and made the decision to increase marketing spend regardless of the short-term return on investment for each dollar spent. They typically aggressively changed their marketing to take into account the ways their prospects lives had changed in 2020.
What are we seeing for each group so far?
It’s been tough times for The Impossibles. In many cases cutting budgets was the smart or the only move. If you were unfortunate enough to be running a business that no longer had any chance of generating revenue then your options are limited. Unfortunately, we also saw a lot of businesses who behaved as if they were part of this group, when in reality they simply were not creative or aggressive enough in understanding where the money now was in their industry (or where it was going to be in a few months’ time).
For the most part, The Reducers have missed the opening stage of a significant opportunity. Sure, they might have taken less risk since March, but in reducing their marketing spend they have also reduced the chance of a fast recovery or even grabbing marketing share as things improve. Today’s marketing is tomorrow’s sales. If you are a Reducer, and you have a competitor who is an Aggressor then take notice. They will almost certainly be taking some of your market share now and in the future. Luckily, it’s never too late to fight for your market share even if you’ve given others a head-start.
There are very few industries where prospects see life the same way as they did in February this year. To The More-Of-The-Samers, if your marketing is saying the same things in the same places as it did earlier in the year, you need to ask yourself if you’re getting the most out of your marketing dollar. Have your customers really been unaffected by everything that has happened this year? If not, it’s time to look long and hard at your marketing starting today.
The Boomers had their own set of challenges. Faced with rapid growth and a market behaving differently to ever before, they’ve focussed on ensuring their recent success is sustainable in the future. Arguably, great marketing is as important to these businesses as it is to those who have faced serious challenges in generating revenue. The alternative is risking demand going back to pre-2020 levels, possibly very quickly.
As you might have guessed Rocket is one of The Aggressors. We wrote heavily on the topic in our Recession Marketing Manifesto and have followed our own advice. Our industry was heavily hit with marketing budgets being cut. The reality for us and most other agencies is that many industries who traditionally invest heavily in marketing simply stopped spending over the space of a month or two (think travel, hospitality, property and more).
What does being an Aggressor look like right now?
It’s pretty simple for Rocket. Our leads and sales are bouncing back and we’re feeling buoyant about the future. This is despite our industry still being heavily impacted by reduced spend and job losses. We’re landing new clients and seeing increasing demand for our services. I have no doubt that had we left our marketing on auto-pilot or reduced our spend that we’d be right in the middle of a lot of pain right now.
We’re seeing the same for our clients. Smart, well-resourced marketing is paying off. Ideally, you’ve been an “Aggressor” since day one, but it’s never too late to start.
Every business has had its own journey in 2020 and its own unique set of challenges. These challenges for the most part continue to reflect the challenges and changes being experienced by your customers.
One thing you do have control over is how much demand is generated for your products and services. And this is where great marketing comes in. Get the marketing right and the sales will follow.
What are your perfect customers experiencing right now? How can you reach them and how can you deliver them value? This is what effective marketing is all about, especially for those in your market who are not ready to buy just now.
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