• Koncepte

The coronavirus has presented us with an extremely challenging situation. It's something most of us have never seen in our lifetimes and it has certainly created a fair amount of chaos. If you're a business owner, you have plenty on your mind already. While we can't tell you when things will go back to normal, we can help when it comes to the concerns you have regarding advertising and marketing. We're also more than willing to work with you and be flexible when it comes to your costs and budget, so please reach out to us if that's something you're worried about.  With all of that having been said, here are some key questions and our guidance on marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any that weren't covered here, please don't hesitate to ask us.  What are the most important steps I should be taking right now?

The biggest concern, of course, should be the health and safety of you and your fellow colleagues, employees, etc. At this point, unless you're running a business deemed to be “essential,” you’re either operating remotely or not at all in many states (particularly here in the tri-state area). If you are operating your business out of its physical location, it’s crucial that you follow the advice and best practices put forth by health and government officials.

Second, you need to make sure that your business can remain afloat during this storm. Take care of your employees to whatever extent possible, see where you can cut spending, and so on. The main objective right now is to survive.

Should I be cutting my marketing budget and ad spend?

Well, it really depends. But in several cases, yes. Many ad agencies and people in the industry will tell you that the worst thing you can do is cut your ad budget during a time of economic uncertainty. We feel differently about it, especially under these specific circumstances.

If your business provides a service or resource that is of extreme importance right now — whether you’re a restaurant offering takeout and delivery, a pharmacy, a grocery store, or an online retailer (among others), you absolutely need to be, at minimum, maintaining your marketing efforts. People need to know that your products and services are available to them and that they can rely on you in a time of need. This is important from a moral standpoint, but it’s also important for the future; people will remember which businesses were proactive, helpful and accessible during this crisis after it passes. That will be to your benefit.

However, in the case of a “non-essential” business that relies heavily on foot traffic, or is currently shut down (even if temporarily), you should be cutting back, yes. Anything that encourages people to congregate and leave their homes for unnecessary reasons is a disservice to society at the moment. Let people know you’re there and will be there for them when this is all over, but now is not the time to be aggressive from an advertising perspective. It is the time to focus on other marketing efforts, as we'll explain below.

Not every business can remain financially solvent in these situations without cutting back. If you know that marketing should be a priority for your business but need flexibility in terms of managing the costs associated with it, we are more than happy to accommodate you. Right now, we all need to be there for each other. Talk to us, we’re here to help.

What’s the best approach “essential” businesses can take when it comes to advertising and messaging during this pandemic?

Rule #1: Don’t take advantage of the situation. 

There are plenty of right ways to distinguish your business and make it clear to consumers that they can rely on you without using scare tactics or trying to convince people to buy your products at higher prices (not to mention the fact that price gouging is illegal). There are also lots of wrong ways to go about it. Don’t practice the latter. To revisit and take the flip side of a point that was made earlier — aside from being immoral, people will remember which businesses were unhelpful and just trying to cash in by taking advantage of the crisis. 

Speaking of messaging, what can we do to show that our business is there for the community and our customers/clients?

There are lots of things you can do to accomplish this. Whether it’s offering extra assistance and flexibility to customers or donating masks to a hospital, your business can make a difference. And though the main motivation should be caring for our fellow citizens, there are clear benefits to your business from a PR/marketing standpoint as well. 

What other steps should our business be taking right now when it comes to marketing?

There are a lot of negatives that come with the situation we currently find ourselves in, but there are also silver linings. Now is the time to double down on business development, networking (not in-person, obviously), forging strategic partnerships and relationships, and so on. It’s also a good time to run a check-up on your business and fine-tune the model. What services are you not providing that you could be? What’s working and what isn’t? What can be done to improve business performance? What are our marketing objectives and what strategies can we implement going forward? We have more time to ponder and analyze these things right now than we may ever have again. If you’re sheltering in place and business is slower, make the downtime count. Don’t waste it away. Make sure you’re not first starting to pick up the pieces when normal everyday life resumes. 

Something on your mind that we didn't cover here? Feel free to reach out to dfriedman@koncepte.com.

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Updated: Jun 14, 2019

You can also view this article on the 5 Towns Jewish Times website.

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When I started Koncepte, I knew I was entering a crowded field.

All you have to do is search for “social media marketing companies” on Google and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

Do it more than once and you might even start seeing ads from agencies on your Facebook news feed, the same way you see ads almost exclusively depicting shoes after you browse or buy shoes online.

My point is, there are A LOT of these firms popping up. And, while more choices and competition is generally a good thing, it only really helps if you can filter out the noise and recognize which agencies are actually worth looking into.

There are a plethora of reasons why the digital marketing industry has grown exponentially over the past several years. The benefits of maintaining a social media presence are numerous for businesses of all shapes and sizes and it should be noted that there are, of course, digital agencies that produce high-quality work for their clients. This article is not about them.

This is about the dime-a-dozen agencies that charge low monthly fees and profess that marketing is suddenly the easiest thing in the world. All you need is basic content, funnels, influencers, and algorithms. It’s all about capital letters, exclamation points and, apparently, ad copy that only briefly describes your business and/or product as “the best,” or something to that effect.

Better yet, just throw the whole playbook out the window and focus solely on influencer marketing. Who needs to strategize or be creative?

You might get a spike in sales or interaction each time one of these influencers promotes your product, but you’ll never actually understand why your current and potential customers like your product or what makes them respond to your branding. So, the truth is, influencer marketing can be helpful, but only if it’s part of an overarching marketing strategy.

A lot of these firms appear to have convinced business owners that they don’t really need unique or creative content, mostly because they’re trying to cash in on the social media gold rush despite lacking the creativity or imagination necessary to produce truly great marketing ideas that allow their clients to stand out.

They’ve declared that Mad Men-esque advertising is a relic of a time gone by, mainly because they wouldn’t stand a chance during that era. The minute you realize your business needs something better than what they’re peddling is the minute their usefulness ceases to exist.

And the best way to see how great advertising is still alive and well is to look at what the bigger players are doing with their social media ads. They’re still very impressive, with witty writing and eye-popping graphics. The landscape may be different, but lots of parallels still remain.

It is extremely important that you ask these firms how they’re generating content for their clients. I’ve seen cases where an agency literally posted the same exact articles and pictures to each of their clients’ Facebook pages within a specific industry. I’ve seen examples of agencies just posting generic graphics that don’t even attempt to incorporate any sort of company branding. I’ve seen agencies just share a couple of Google reviews each week and then consider it a job well done.

And, heaven forbid you should want more than four or five posts a week, you’ll be nickeled and dimed to no end while continuing to receive lower quality content — just more of it than you were before — because that would require more than a minimal effort, which should beg the question:

Why is a minimal effort being tolerated, let alone offered?

Ask yourself why they’re charging so little for something that should take a lot of time and energy. When it’s done right, marketing takes hard work and attention to detail. There’s also a higher cost for agencies to produce higher-quality content in terms of design tools and research, among other things. If someone’s charging you a monthly fee that looks more like your cable bill, they’re cutting more than just their own expenses.

In what is likely the worst offense I’ve seen, there’s a firm out there that is advertising on Facebook to other digital marketing agencies, trying to convince them to OUTSOURCE THEIR CLIENTS’ SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT TO THEM for under $100 per month.

So, to summarize: The client would be paying to outsource their social media efforts to an agency that would be paying to outsource those social media efforts to an agency.

This is really happening and, when we entered the marketplace, we looked at what all of these other agencies were doing and proceeded to base our business strategy around doing precisely the opposite of what the competition was. For example, other firms offer pricing packages based on specific numbers of weekly posts; we don’t. Who’s to say how many weekly posts your marketing strategy needs, as if there’s some one-size-fits-all approach that works for every business?

We also saw that there wasn’t much of a middle ground for smaller businesses; that you either had to pony up for real marketing or settle for cookie-cutter content. You shouldn’t have to make that kind of a choice. There should be a more flexible option that still provides you with quality creative and a marketing team that actually gives a damn.

Almost every client we’ve worked with has mentioned a previous negative experience with another digital agency prior to our engagement. That has only served to reaffirm what we’d already learned from talking to business owners around the time we first started up: Nobody likes the way these social media marketing agencies are operating and dealing with their clients.

For us, it was a no-brainer to take a decidedly different approach. We’ve learned from the mistakes of others and developed a business strategy that took everything business owners hated about these agencies and threw it in the trash.

Marketing has never been easy and it never will be, no matter where companies are advertising or how much we continue to advance digitally and technologically.

Creativity and the ability to tap into what truly interests people will always be the heart of this business and that’s not something you can just walk right into. You either have those talents or you don’t. There’s no such thing as “growth hacking” when it comes to marketing.

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise — or take your money after doing so.

Daniel Friedman is the Founder & CEO of Koncepte Digital Marketing. He has previously written for SI.com, CBS New York and Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @danjfriedman

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