When an unexpected event of national or global scale dramatically changes the marketing environment, such as what’s happening now with the coronavirus, how should marketers respond? How do you get your best salespeople in front of clients and prospects when events are cancelled, travel is restricted and most people are working from home?
The marketing environment normally changes at a snail’s pace. There’s usually plenty of time for most companies to adapt. But when things happen fast, it’s important that companies respond quickly to rebalance their promotional mix.
The one promotional mix channel most impacted by social distancing is personal selling
You’re not sending teams to expos and events. You can’t even sample consumers in grocery stores. What you lose in personal selling marketing power, you’ll have to make up in marketing power using other promotional mix channels.
Beefing up publicity efforts is a quick way to replace some of the face to face contact that will be lost with the lack of personal selling. That’s one place you can still reach the big groups. Publicity as a sales tool is underutilized by most companies and it is relatively easy to ramp up. Putting your best salespeople in front of reporters and producers who have big audiences is always a win. Plus, unlike expos and trade shows, your competition isn’t right there beside you. I see a lot of trade show money shifting toward publicity and media coverage.
How can you squeeze into the media’s conversations if your product seems unrelated to the headlines?
As the coronavirus spreads, there’s going to be a market for stories that take people’s minds off their troubles. Instead of worrying about protecting themselves or when toilet paper will be available again, people will seek out fun, interesting stories as a means of relief. As people get burned out and begin to turn away from the bad news, the media will be looking for ways to change the narrative so they can hang onto their audience share. We’ve arranged tens of thousands of product new stories over the last 30 years so we’ve seen this demand for good news stories to offset the bad ones many times before.
We’re also going to see some of the marketing horsepower absorbed by websites and social media as well. Marketing through the internet is, after all, a great way to maintain social distancing!
When you’ve got to change marketing strategies on the fly, you’d better have the basic marketing concepts down pat so you can make intelligent marketing decisions
Many marketers ride the wave in good times without fully understanding what underpins good marketing.
In my best-seller, “The CEO’s Guide to Marketing; the book every marketer should read before their boss does,” I’m telling on the industry. Most CEOs would be shocked at how little their marketing teams actually know about marketing concepts and process.
The marketing environment will have long-lasting social implications, but economically we will return to normal relatively quickly. As for promoting your company and products in the short term, now is no time to be shooting from the hip. Know your marketing terms and concepts, and how they relate to one another. Understand what’s happening with the marketing environment and how that relates to other concepts such as the marketing mix, where your product is in its life cycle and the innovation adopter curve. Whether it’s in response to this pandemic or the next major event, understanding basic marketing concepts and following a sound marketing process will make your business agile and responsive.