Guest post by Mark Dunn
Covid-19 might have seriously rocked marketing spend, but the pandemic could be seen as a great equaliser from a marketing point of view. Very few (if any) marketers have ever worked under lockdown and in the situation the oft repeated mantra ‘business as usual’ can feel disingenuous.
Some UK marketers may feel the pandemic has also given them the chance to redefine their campaigns and strategy and provided the opportunity to show their importance to the business, both in terms of lead generation and brand perception.
LinkedIn surveyed around 300 UK based marketers from B2B and B2C sectors, and the results show how marketers are reacting to reduced budgets and are shifting their strategy to do more with less.
The research also sheds light on exactly how marketers are pivoting their strategies and adapting to keep costs down including taking control of more functions with over half (52%) stating they will take social media strategy in-house, while shifting media strategy (50%), traditional ad buying (48%), production work (44%), advertising (43%) and programmatic ad buying (41%) is also on the cards.
Another very apparent change that had to happen swiftly for both in house marketing teams and agencies was adapting content or advertising messages.
Things that had been relevant or amusing pre pandemic were suddenly trivial or down right inappropriate, the survey showed that almost half (46%) of marketers adjusted their content marketing strategy immediately, and chose to place the focus on their company vision and mission statement. Whilst a further two-fifths have changed content to be more authentic or emotional in nature.
And this trend shows no signs of stopping as two-fifths (42%) of marketers polled agreed that they will have to change the tone, content, or messaging of their marketing over the next six to twelve months.
That is the lesson many teams have taken from the situation, be agile, be responsive (if you weren’t able to be proactive) and not to be precious about creative if it doesn’t serve the current climate. Rip up the rulebook, rip up the work and start fresh if it gets better results.
The ability to be agile both with messaging and product offering has benefited companies marketing departments but being agile with actual products and services has been imperative too.
For example, an Experiential Marketing Agency will have needed to adapt their offering to include virtual events and experiences once the lockdown prohibited large groups meeting or gathering.
Invest in marketing early and consistently
The survey findings also show that during the Covid-19 pandemic, B2B marketers overall have faced more budget cuts than their B2C counterparts (74% vs 61%). As a result, marketers have been forced to shift priorities, the budget cuts are understandable and are making sure that companies can stay solvent and afloat through a reduced cash flow period.
However, a slow and steady approach to marketing and advertising spend overall would have been better adopted. Invest in campaigns that encourage growth and loyalty early and help buffer the impact of events such as the pandemic.
Short term wins in this climate are essential but there is a note of caution to take from this
Then when the need arises you can adapt those messages and the spend quickly to suit the new challenges you are faced with. Similarly many brands are considering that they had possibly should have invested more in customer service and CRM before the coronavirus crisis hit, meaning that these changes would have been easier to implement and retained customer easier to communicate with.
Better systems mean a better experience for your clients and hopefully more consistent spend with you as a business.
Looking to the future
As we attempt to forecast our way out of this crisis, marketers say that they are planning to spend less on channels associated with long-term brand building such as out of home, events/experiential and account-based marketing. Instead they plan to increase spending on channels that deliver short term wins, like online video, online display and paid social.
Short term wins in this climate are essential but there is a note of caution to take from this where the foundations of your business, website and strategy must be solid first. We must not neglect the benefits of an excellent CRM, a great customer service strategy and fully optimised SEO for your website, driving the traffic to your site consistently and improving brand perception through familiarity.
In spite of the added pressures from budget cuts and the added stress of furloughed teams, marketers across all disciplines hold a positive outlook as the downturn hits us all harder. Of those surveyed around two-thirds felt optimistic about the future, and a further two-fifths felt optimistic about the speed of recovery overall.