Targeted marketing critical during pandemic

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Most business owners appreciate the benefits of being targeted with marketing campaigns. But during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to reach out to customers in new niches or in specific geographic areas is more important than ever.

I was reminded of this recently while working with a client who has done incredibly well selling high quality equipment to sports clubs and competition organisers in the USA. More than half of this business’ revenue has come from the US in recent years and earnings been skyrocketing as awareness has been growing.

Unfortunately, the USA’s poor management of the COVID-19 outbreak has cut this clients’ US revenue off at the knees. Sport is, by its nature, a social endeavour and it’s difficult to sell products designed for team sport when many social and competitive leagues are suspended and a large number of people are isolating at home to reduce the virus’ spread.

The impact of COVID-19 on US sales has forced my client to shift focus to other markets where social sport looks closer to being able to resume. By re-allocating budget to marketing campaigns targeting clubs and league organisers in countries like Australia and New Zealand, this client has been able to make enough to get by in the short term.

They have also looked at which of their products they should promote in the current environment.

While equipment for senior sports competitions has been the best seller in recent years, my client also sells an impressive array of equipment for junior sport, including inflatable football, rugby and hockey goals. In the past these have been popular among clubs running programmes for younger players, but during the COVID-19 pandemic this market has been a tough sell.

By changing product messaging and shifting focus to promote the goals to parents for backyard use, a previously untapped niche has been discovered. Changes like these are proving critical for business continuity.

Of course, businesses in many other industries are facing equally towering challenges. In the Bay of Plenty, many tourism and hospitality businesses have been reliant on international visitors – including the many thousands who have traditionally arrived on cruise ships during the summer season.

“The united focus for these hospitality and tourism businesses is on encouraging New Zealanders to explore and enjoy their own country, ideally with the help of a local expert.”

Many of these businesses are understandably struggling. To survive, some that may once have relied primarily on international visitors are turning their attention to domestic tourists and locals.

This hasn’t been lost on Tourism Bay of Plenty, which has stepped up its efforts to promote Bay businesses to locals and visitors from nearby regions as part of a dine and experience local campaign.

Making this change is a big shift for some hospitality businesses and many tourism operators who have, in the past, priced and positioned their products for overseas buyers. Success involves being able to quickly adapt their product offering and messaging, and shift their targeting to ensure it resonates with New Zealanders or even Bay of Plenty locals specifically.

Rather than using international travel websites and targeting their social media advertising globally, many are now harnessing advertising and stories in regional publications and interest-based magazines.

On Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, they are geographically targeting their marketing to nearby regions in the hope of attracting people who are willing to make a day trip. While some New Zealanders are willing to fly, others are still limiting their movement and remaining cautious about air travel during COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

The united focus for these hospitality and tourism businesses is on encouraging New Zealanders to explore and enjoy their own country, ideally with the help of a local expert. It’s a difficult task but by adapting quickly and using a bit of Kiwi ingenuity, some are forging a new path to success.

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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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