Marketing through change

Published: Friday 22 May 2020

The world around us has changed and for many companies the routes to market will have changed too. This puts additional focus on the effectiveness of your marketing and what needs to change in order to survive, grow and have a #BusinessForTomorrow. As part of our #BusinessForTomorrow campaign to support businesses of all sizes, we are going to take a look at how marketing can help.

It is common for companies to operate a yearly marketing planning process, setting out their objectives for the year in-line with the business strategy, agreeing activity and then measuring the output. As with many things, it is now more challenging to plan that far ahead.

Becoming agile

For marketing activity to thrive and achieve results, a company’s approach needs to adapt to become truly agile. Although there is a need to plan for the medium to longer term, for perhaps busier times, a focus on the short term will mean you can react and turn that into pro-active activity. This is alien to many of us and takes some getting used to, as well as buy-in from everyone involved, but it is a reflection of running a business in such transformative times.

To shake up the marketing plan framework a new two-step strategy approach can be used. A twelve-week planning model will enable you to focus on the short-term and a medium to longer term campaign plan. Within this window you should really challenge your beliefs in what you ‘should’ be doing and flip that to what you ‘could’ be doing.

5 steps to take as part of the planning process:

  1. Set or refresh goals - think where you want the business to be in in the next few months and then in next 5 years? For example, it could be to enter a new market, gain more repeat custom or have grown by X%. These goals then need to be drilled down into marketing objectives and tactics, such as the objective to develop more brand awareness and the tactic to achieve this could be to start Google advertising.  
  2. Know your customers – who, what, where and when. Write down: who they are; if they fit into groups (segments); what do they buy from you and importantly what could they buy from you; where do they interact and purchase from you; when do they do this; and how often. This might entail doing more research into the type of customers you have or wish to have.
  3. Review your ‘shop window’ – for many businesses this is now online, for example your website, social media, online reviews etc. Look at all the places online or offline that you are visible. Make sure these are aligned to how you want people to see your brand e.g. tone of voice on the website, imagery and logo. Ask contacts for opinions too as it is all about interpretation. Often, as soon as you sit back and do this exercise you spot a lot of opportunity to develop or change areas. Simply start by looking at your business through a search engine and the same can be conducted for the business leaders too for their ‘personal brands’.
  4. Set out activity – once you know the direction you want to go in, you understand your customers, who you are targeting and have reviewed what needs work on your brand, then the next step is to join them all together in a manageable plan. A breakdown of monthly activity, such as refreshing the website or regular PR, will help you stay of track and establish costs that will be incurred too. 
  5. Settings KPIs – now you have an activity plan you can get to work and set key performance indicators (KPI) to measure your progress. For example, if you did work to your website then your KPI may be to see website traffic increase by 30%. Again, reviewing these monthly will help inform what is working, what isn’t and help develop new ideas.

All these tips lend themselves to a marketing plan, with many formats freely available online. However, if you are short on time and resource, starting with getting these basics right will help you set out a path to grow. 

Delivering

As a company, you may have the resource internally or need additional support; a good place to start when looking for advice is to find a freelancer, with LinkedIn search being a valuable tool in the first instance for seeing who is around and available. Do look out for professionals that have Chartered Marketer status or Charter Institute of Marketing qualifications, as this will give you reassurance that they have the right skills and expertise to advise you.

Marketing in a recession

From looking back at previous recessions, we know many companies cut marketing spend, and ‘disappeared’ from sight. They lost profile, engagement and ultimately income. Yes cutting the spend is needed to lower investment and help your cash flow, but by being clever and utilising activity that will cost you time (for example social media and PR) but not cost you money, then you can maintain your brand. Get back to basics, get planning and be agile.