Yet, despite what may seem like dismal economic prospects, there’s opportunity for innovation and disruption tucked away in all of this. In fact, COVID-19 will certainly be the catalyst for some of tomorrow's greatest companies.
Business giants like Mark Cuban and Paul Mampilly have even discussed the emergence of America 2.0 as a result of COVID-19—a version of American business that will not revert to “normal,” but will instead drastically change the business landscape towards innovation.
Businesses, and more specifically marketing professionals, have the potential to lead the way to business solvency and, in turn, to global solvency. While marketing a business seems to change on a dime in these unusual times, change does not have to mean incertitude.
97th Floor has created a model that allows nearly every business the opportunity to place themselves into one of four categories and map out their trajectory to pandemic marketing success based on that category’s specific challenges and requirements. When a business understands what it lacks — and what it needs — from a marketing standpoint, marketers are able to make decisions that drive the bottom line.
Based on these two factors, any business can determine their position in this system. Each quadrant has its own set of unique, but discernible, hurdles, along with an individual forecast of its market’s movement. Not to mention actionable marketing and business strategies each quadrant should be making as the world shifts to a new normal.
These businesses may not have cash on hand for big campaign investments, but they do have the current business environment on their side. They’re scrappy and ready to innovate, which means they’re well-positioned for the make-it-or-break-it opportunity in front of them. For Opportunists, there is no time quite like the present.
Houseparty, Club Vino, and LubbDubb are examples of companies who operate on a low financial runway and are seeing a rise in current demand due to the pandemic. While there is a slight decline in ease of transaction for these companies, they are still able to reach their customers, and more importantly, customers are willing to sacrifice in order to have their products. If Opportunists make the most of what they have, they stand to reenter the economic scene with new vigor as social distancing measures slowly return to normal.
Businesses with products or services that meet new demand need not be scared to compete with bigger players, but they will need grit and innovation.
"Most independent bookstores weren’t really participating in e-commerce. When covid hit, all these bookstores had to close their stores, and we had this massive influx... My goal is to get just 1 percent of Amazon’s sales."
Andy Hunter | Founder of Bookshop
Many of the businesses may not have filled a realistic need a few months ago, but today they are just what the public wants. As these businesses pick up customers, their need to scale their business and marketing efforts will increase.
Opportunists need to move quickly and adapt to new circumstances by creating some marketing infrastructure that allows these businesses to scale growth and retention. We may be seeing a rebirth in local economies as local businesses are providing local solutions to these unique and challenging times. Businesses with products or services that meet new demand need not be scared to compete with bigger players, but they will need grit and innovation.
Opportunists should be the ultimate light in times of uncertainty, with their product or service as the centerpiece. Content marketing for Opportunists should be less about building the brand, and more about building the products and services. Normally this can be tricky, but in this climate, people appreciate straightforward marketing that meets a need. For small to medium sized Opportunist businesses, founders themselves can champion content marketing.
While ad dollars are cheap, Opportunists are finding themselves bootstrapped and even cheaper-than-normal ads are still a hard cost to swallow. Opportunists at this time should invest small amounts into targeted ads on their relevant platforms. For some, that’s Facebook, for others, Reddit.
Opportunists need to scale, and marketing automation does just that.. These are businesses that need to interact with more customers everyday, and adopting an automation system at this stage will allow them to scale with their growth. By automating marketing emails, onboarding processes, sales inquiries, customer support, website management, and the like, Opportunists are going to increase their likelihood of success when things return to a new normal.
This is not the time for a full fledged assault of SEO for Opportunists. If their businesses last through the pandemic and thrive in the new normal economy, then they can devote time to true holistic SEO. Their immediate SEO strategy should include barnacle SEO, which means attaching themselves to a bigger fish and holding on for the ride.
Run of the mill updates on social media can wait for now. Opportunists should be focusing on growth-hacker mindset: making use of organic social media such as featuring the founders on a Reddit AMA, answering questions on Quora, or building influencer partnerships.
In other words, these are established businesses that have products or services that are meeting current demands.
Thrivers have customers pouring in, and are doing all they can to capitalize on the influx. However, it is just as essential to retain the influx. Some companies may see a surge in the current climate that bottoms out once things return to normal— unless they think about customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention now.
Thrivers that implement timely retention strategies are perfectly positioned to flourish during this momentary economic silence.
Companies like Sweat, Zoom, and Netflix have easily continued to provide a product or service, and are now even growing in demand and revenue. Thrivers that implement timely retention strategies are perfectly positioned to flourish during this momentary economic silence.
"With all kinds of businesses creatively learning to adapt to coronavirus, it should come as no surprise that some traditional businesses have seen success in this new landscape as well."
US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Successful Thrivers are acquiring new customers at blazing speeds, sometimes at higher than previously negotiable costs. It’s a hot race for Thrivers to earn the business of as many clients as possible during this time, followed by steep investments in their customer experience to retain newly earned business.
Many Thrivers already understand that advertising is critical right now, but programmatic remarketing isn’t enough. For relatively low ad dollar cost, albeit more personnel hours for setup, Thrivers can reach relevant audiences who have shown intent for their products or services. In a time where Thrivers are all fighting for every last customer, programmatic advertising is a way to ensure your message follows your audience around the web.
Thrivers are facing fierce competition, and with consumers forced to make a choice between two Thriver companies, their decision may not fall to price or features, but rather the perception of the company. People do business with brands they know, like, and trust. Thrivers should continue to focus on content marketing pushing out content that supports their business’s core values.
As the saying goes: easy come easy go Customer retention is critical for Thrivers at this point in time. Thrivers should be using email as a channel to communicate with customers as well as potential customers. Of course while products, features, benefits, and the like are all worth touting in email campaigns, the rule of bringing the message back to the receiver is truer than ever. Email is a platform for Thrivers to build trust with their audience.
Businesses that can afford it see the importance of SEO during this pandemic. We're sure to see some kind of new normal. SEO specialists for Thriver companies need to understand the trends of their keywords and how those are sure to change as things progress towards that new normal. This calls for fresh batches of content to be created and optimized intended to capture the fast paced trends of individual Thriver landscapes.
While living in “survival-mode” may not be ideal, there is still much that these companies can do to ensure they are poised as favorably as possible to return to business once the storm clouds pass. Survivors will have to be especially mindful of their marketing efforts in coming months in order to keep their businesses alive at the lowest possible cost.
“The retailers who were wandering around aimlessly pre-pandemic are going to be substantially less likely to muddle through than they were before."
MARK COHEN | DIRECTOR OF RETAIL STUDIES, COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL
Think of your local restaurant, boutique retail shop, or an event hall. These companies do not have the excess cash to wait out the storm on their own terms. Instead, they must trim down and operate leanly, while simultaneously exploring new avenues of gaining revenue and customer transactions. If they want their businesses to see tomorrow, they must prove they are invaluable, even in trying times.
"Store-based retail was already struggling with internet consumption trends before coronavirus, and now will be faced with accelerated demand shifts to the internet."
RANDAK KONIK | ANALYST AT JEFFERIES
Survivors find themselves at a critical moment in the life of their companies. The speed, cost, and execution of their marketing efforts could be the defining factors of their future.
Social media is free, easy, and personal. Use social media platforms to display authenticity, expertise, or business-related updates. Loyal fans of these Survivors will appreciate it, and it will attract a new audience as well.
Ads are reaching historic lows costs, but Survivors don’t have the funds to be spending frivolously. Platforms like Facebook and Google excel at targeting specific audiences that either show intent or act similarly to core customers.
In just a few hours, small businesses can take advantage of the unique markup and SEO plays that are specifically designed for the coronavirus pandemic. By optimizing their Google My Business accounts, Survivors can ensure they aren’t losing opportunities from local organic search.
Waiters are businesses that have a long history of demand and would retain that demand if they did not face serious challenges in providing their products or services to customers. For some, there is no ease of transaction, because there’s currently no way to transact. In most cases these businesses are large enough that they are not facing immediate failure, and can instead turn their attention toward disruptive campaigns, or else scale down and wait out the storm. Waiters are elective disruptors, these are the businesses that have the choice to either innovate, or wait.
Think of Delta Airlines or your favorite NBA team—people want to travel and watch the NBA finals, but in the current climate they are barred from doing so. Waiters can either just burn cash or they can innovate new means of doing business with their customers in order to drive revenue.
Waiters are elective disruptors, these are the businesses that have the choice to either innovate, or wait.
“But it warms my heart to see how several players and team owners have chosen to help their team staff in these uncertain, unprecedented times. Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans has pledged to cover the salaries of the Smoothie King Center employees for 30 days. Milwaukee Bucks star player Giannis Antetokounmpo announced that his family is pledging to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. Blake Griffin announced on Twitter that he would be donating $100,000 to the staff of Little Caesars Arena where his Detroit Pistons play. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declared that he would continue paying hourly employees who work at the American Airlines Center while games are suspended.”
SHARAN BHANSALI | The Tufts Daily
The brand is everything for Waiters. The Waiters’ target consumers may not make another purchase for quite some time, giving consumers ample time to be swayed by competitors and shift their brand loyalty. It’s imperative, therefore, that Waiters capitalize on that time by earning trust with their existing audience while simultaneously attracting a bigger crowd. Empathy is tomorrow’s currency for Waiters.
“You’ve got 3,000 to 4,000 people at home and they need a community. We have been creating online communities that have nothing to do with how much you’re going to sell this week.”
MOHAMMAD ALI | CEO of International Data Group
Storytelling and reminding customers about the business’s core values has never been more important. Use your content to highlight pivots in the business that showcase long-time core business values, applied to today’s unique situation.
Searches are down for most Waiters, and if total searches haven’t dropped, you can certainly bet that transactional searches have. SEO doesn’t require resources beyond manhours, making it a cost-effective investment that Waiters cannot disregard.
With customers and audiences spending more time online, it’s important for Waiters to stay top of mind with relevant messaging. Using apps, emails, and interactive content, Waiters should be capturing the attention and hearts of their audience in order to build both trust and empathy.
Companies of virtually all sizes and shapes are decreasing ad spend right now. Which means that right now, ad spend can reach a wider audience with less budget. Waiters can exponentially accelerate their reach with effective and targeted ads on the cheap.
A renewal of revenue for Waiters depends on customers’ return once Waiter industries begin running at closer-to-normal operation. A substantial focus should be placed on creating sophisticated marketing campaigns that inform customers how your company will run transactions and handle safety measures in order to ramp up demand for your products and services once they become available again.
The storms of recession are uncertain, and no doubt there are unforeseen hurdles ahead for each of us. However, strategy is all about staying on your toes and pivoting to face the newest challenge. Not every business will be able implement these strategies perfectly, but the tools laid out in this model place power back in the hands of marketers to move forward with a well-thought out plan in the face of struggle, no matter their company’s uncertain economic circumstances.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”