Marketing through uncertainty

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The year ahead is one of hope for many businesses. The initial shock of Covid-19 is behind us and the tantalising prospect of a vaccine that could bring relative normality is on the horizon.

While the future looks brighter, 2021 will still be filled with uncertainty. In addition to the usual winds of change that come with running a business, we all need to be conscious that a community outbreak of Covid-19 could occur at any time in New Zealand.

If that happens, many of us may again struggle to bring customers through our store doors. We may, once again, have to grapple with the logistics of goods and service delivery posed by disruptions to supply chains, limited courier availability and office closedowns.

Agility and gauging the mood of customers will be more important than ever this year, so it’s important to be prepared.

Communication with customers will play an important role in your success, as well as the ability to quickly tweak your marketing messages if the need arises.

Have a Plan B

It’s sometimes said that running a business is a bit like chess. You need to think ahead, consider all the permutations and have a plan in mind for every eventuality.

As the spectre of Covid-19 continues to hang over us, this rings truer than ever. We need to have a plan B for all aspects of our operation.

When it comes to marketing, it’s worth giving thought to who we will promote our products or services too if Covid-19 limits our ability to reach our normal clientele.

The tourism operators that have survived in the Bay of Plenty have found a way to shift their focus from the international market to the domestic. Many hospitality providers moved to a takeaway or delivery model during the

New Zealand lockdown last year and this may once again be required.

The way we promote our products and services may also need to change at short notice. If your marketing is focused on the value of face-to-face interaction with friends or the excitement of being part of a large crowd, then it will likely need to pivot for the duration of any Covid-19 lockdown in future.

Read your audience

With anxiety levels high and uncertainty nagging on people’s minds, authenticity is more important than ever.

Consider any new challenges your target customers are facing and tailor your marketing messages for the year ahead accordingly.

If your target customers are likely to be going through a tough time – perhaps financially, or because of worry about their family members’ health – then acknowledge that in your messaging.

Keep it conversational, rather than salesy, and don’t be afraid to share your own challenges too. If your customers feel like you understand them and you are all in it together, they will find it much easier to relate and your promotions will be much more likely to resonate.

Don’t forget to continually review any ongoing advertising you run to ensure it is placed in the best possible locations and written in language that will resonate with your customers.

When times get tough people tend to think local, aiming to support businesses in their immediate area. And if we head into another lockdown, then online shopping will skyrocket once more.

With this in mind, it’s worth focusing on digital marketing, your online store, and your locally focused marketing efforts, including ads in community newspapers and other promotions designed to engage with your local community.

The uncertainty caused by Covid-19 adds an extra layer of complexity to everything we do.

But with some thought and a bit of extra planning, 2021 can be the successful year we’ve all been hoping for.

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James Heffield
James Heffield
Director of Bay of Plenty marketing and public relations consultancy Last Word. To find out more visit www.lastwordmedia.co.nz or email james@lastwordmedia.co.nz.

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