One of the worst things you can do in tough times is stop marketing – don’t stop sending email. That’s true even if we had not hit a global pandemic.
Harvard Business School ran a yearlong project analyzing corporate performance from three previous recessions. Studying 4,700 public companies.
The project looked at data for each company for the three years before a recession, the three years after, and the recession years themselves.
There were big differences in company performance.
Setup Future Success
The best correlation for those that did well were companies that reduce costs selectively by focusing more on operational efficiency than their rivals do, even as they invest relatively comprehensively in the future by spending on marketing, R&D, and new assets.
Massive change is scary but it’s also a time of new beginnings.
The English proverb states Necessity is the mother of invention. Which the Oxford Dictionary defines as “When the need for something becomes imperative, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it”.
The most obvious is the explosion in doing everything remotely. Education finding new ways to keep children learning, companies co-ordinating distributed teams, the whole fitness and exercise industry moving to home based virtual classes.
It’s fascinating. Now is a great time to try out new things in your marketing. With previous consumer habits broken people are willing and keen to try out things they would never have before considered.
In many ways being relevant to your audience has never been easier. What is happening to them, their lives, their attitudes, their needs, is easier to predict now than before COVID.
Adapting Email Marketing
What does it all mean to appropriate email marketing?
I’m seeing three broad situations emerge based on
- The market has collapsed. The obvious are travel, tourism, experiences, restaurants. Find ways to be helpful and stay in touch.
- The market has changed. The audience needs have changed, or the target market has shifted. Market with a modified message.
- The market is still strong. In some cases, the market is even stronger. Those brands can and should continue with marketing largely unchanged.
At a time of great change and recession the question is not whether to send email but simply what email to send.
Pivot and Change
Some innovative entrepreneurs have been able to pivot into new products and services. The most obvious of which being items such as PPE.
Numerous Gin brands have been using their stills to make hand santizer. Brighton Gin, 6 O’Clock Gin, 58 Gin and many more. Other examples include wrist-mounted disinfectant sprayer, half gloves for knuckle-pushing of buttons and devices to open car doors without touching the handle, aimed at cab users.
Pivoting isn’t the only option.
The more enterprising travel brands have found ways to help people cope and entertain them whilst they are stuck at home.
This example is from HomeAway.
Even when people can’t travel, they want to dream. Whilst trying to sell a holiday is not appropriate finding other ways to talk about travel is.
Not only appropriate but smart. Be the brand that is remembered when conditions allow travel again.
HomeAway are using virtual holidays, travel themed games and just some distraction to help families make the best of their stay at home.
Starbucks suffered a total collapse. But still found a way to relevant and appropriate in marketing.
An email with how to make a Starbucks experience at home. They certainly weren’t the only brand to move in this direction with their email marketing.
Several brands are adding virtual events to connect with customers.
Beer Hawk have continued to sell beer online like hot cakes(!) but also seized the opportunity to build their community further. Offering events like virtual pub, virtual beer tasting and pub quiz.
FreeAgent, a provider of an online accounting system, mixed their normal helpful content and feature promotion with community building events. Including a virtual coffee morning.
BUPA Dental sent an email they probably never thought they would ever send. Featuring information on how to relieve common dental pain at home. On any other occasion this would have been a message of come to the dentist quickly!
But they also squeezed in some home fitness tips, on message for living a healthy life, and an emoji quiz – with dental focus.
The Growth Areas
Generally online and eCommerce has been buoyant. The brands already setup for shop from home, deliver to home.
It’s been business as usual for many and in some cases, a significant increase in business. Promotion and marketing continuing at a pace for these brands. But with revaluation the type of promotion. Big discounts when you’re already struggling to fulfil orders makes little commercial sense!
Some bricks and mortar businesses have been jumping into digital and they are unlikely to leave again. The reduction of the high street has been accelerated and the long-term increase of mixed channels is set. Physical businesses offering pickup from the curbside / click and collect are likely to continue this into the future.
Fresh Relevance published data on the growth areas in eCommerce from pre to post COVID. Just about every eCommerce area has grown.
Being able to communicate with your customers directly, cheaply and effectively, even when they are stuck at home is a major competitive advantage. Anyone who felt building an email list was not valuable must now be regretting their choice.