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COVID-19 Advertising & Marketing Guidance

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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