From layoffs to forced shutdowns, brands are facing unprecedented challenges because of the Coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, so are customers. Living under lockdown has changed their state of mind, purchasing habits, as well as their expectations and perception of brands, so now more than ever, you need to realign your marketing strategy.
For many brands, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first test of resilience and the fact that this is the first pandemic to occur at the height of the Internet can be both an opportunity and a challenge. There’s a lot of talk from brands these days, but not all of it is good and many brands have already done huge marketing fails that will be difficult to recover from.
We talked to Scott Levy from award-winning Boston digital marketing agency Fuel Online about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on businesses and what they can do to overcome this challenging phase. Scott is a best-selling author and world-renowned digital marketing expert, influencer, and philanthropist.
Levy is considered one of the best marketers in the world, and a savvy proven entrepreneur. We thought he’d be a great person to talk to in the face of economic turmoil and that his insights can help us understand the implications of the pandemic for businesses.
We keep hearing the phrase “the new normal”. What is the new normal for businesses in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic?
A: The new normal when it comes to business is interesting and not necessarily a bad thing. We’re going to see companies get creative, pivot, and evolve. We’re also going to see companies become more profitable! Yep, due to this awful COVID19 situation we’ve proven the model that companies can successfully operate with a large percentage of their workforce home or not in the office. You will see smaller offices and less overhead. Streamlined and efficient will be the new norm.
What do you think are the biggest threats that businesses face these days?
A: I think it just got exposed. Not having enough cash on hand to make it through a down turn, it could be a global pandemic or even just a down turn in your sector. So many companies were out of business with no revenue just after 1 month. Truthfully you should have enough to get by on for no less than 3-6 months, if not more. Which means not splurging, not overhiring, less “expenses” to get where you need to be cash-reserve wise. Having a diverse workforce, being able to work from anywhere, and being multi sector will be the key to risk reduction.
How should businesses communicate during this crisis?
A: Video chat platforms such as Zoom and others have proven very effective, though we find that really eats up time and often productivity. Chat tools like SLACK, which we’ve always used, are outstanding for quick answers, organizing, and collaboration.
What about the customers? How have their expectations changed?
A: Interesting question, I’m not quite sure yet. While human nature is to be patient and understanding right in the middle of a crisis such as this pandemic, I think we as people have a very short memory. I believe standard operating and customer service practice expectations will wind up right back where they were. The only difference is that it will become reasonable to customers that the person on the other end of the phone might be working from home.
Is there a way for companies to thrive, not just survive, during the pandemic?
A: It’s all about adapting and pivoting. Work tenaciously to identify paint points and needs. When you have a people-oriented perspective and work towards solving their problems you will thrive in any situation.
How do you think post-pandemic advertising will look like?
A: I think we’ll see a more human touch, and marketing that pull on heart strings for the next 12 months. But then we can expect it to resume prior pandemic strategy and concepts.
How has the coronavirus changed the activity of digital marketing agencies?
A: Well most digital agencies and traditional marketing agencies got hit hard. While my digital marketing agency, Fuel Online, has a lot of large clients, just about everyone put freezes on spending and paying invoices. Just the nature of the beast. Marketing is almost always one of the first things to go at any time when a business feels financial pain. It’s a catch-22 because they wind up shooting themselves in the foot, by losing traction, branding, and the filling of their sales funnel during that time. Many try to take it in house to save a buck and wind up severely regretting it.
I think digital agencies typically know and understand this unless they are on the newer side. That being said, those that survive, you’ll see them run leaner and meaner. But you’ll also see many go out of business.
As we circle getting back to normal it’s time for companies to get aggressive and go all in on their SEO, Social Media Strategy, and Paid Media & PPC. You need to let people know you’re here, you’re thriving and ready to do business with them. Better to start sooner than later and wish you had as your competitors outpace you.
No matter what your business is, it’s time to get really creative and interesting. There’s going to be a lot of noise. Do something to separate yourselves from the pact. Live videos, podcasts, demonstrations, tips, crowdsourcing R&D, etc.
You can find out more about Scott by following him on Twitter @FuelOnline, Instagram @RealScottLevy or contacting his top-rated agency https://FuelOnline.com.