Time to reopen and reconnect with customers, but read the room

(article as appeared in British Business Group)

“On average, increases in marketing spending during a recession have boosted financial performance throughout the year following the recession.” (Harvard Business Review)

According to the Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the emirate aims to gradually reopen its economically crucial tourism offering by July 2020. Meanwhile, in the US, Starbucks has announced it will boost marketing activity as it reopens stores that were closed during the coronavirus outbreak, planning to spend its existing budget for the year within an accelerated schedule, focusing more on mobile ordering and pickup.

Whether it’s where we spend our holidays and leisure time or how we consume our coffee, the world is moving into a new way of operating, for at least an extended period until a vaccine is approved, which will change the way we approach marketing organisations, products and services.

Company leaders, most of whom are still dizzy from traumatic restructuring and organisational pivoting, need to take some time now to consider their marketing approach as they reopen and get back to work. It will not be ‘business as usual’ for many organisations, and how they approach the second half of the year could prove crucial to their success, or even survival, in incredibly competitive markets during an unprecedented global recession.

Brand awareness and sales generation may have never been more important than now, as organisations simultaneously begin reaching out to customers, but all must take care to ‘read the room’ given the sensitivity and widely varying views this period has evoked among us.

While no one is saying brands should hold back in how much they communicate, customers should be approached with caution in coming months. It is important to listen to customers and communicate with customer service departments to obtain feedback and overall sentiment, but also to keep track of needs and demands, which can help create the right marketing content and tone of voice.

This is also not a time to make promises that cannot be kept. Logistics and downsized workforces simply may not be able to cope with the same demand as previously, so this needs to be considered when choosing what to promote and when. Long-established reputations can be quickly tarnished through lousy service, and it can be difficult to recover a damaged reputation – so face reality and adapt your messages to fit your objectives now more than ever.

Great marketers understand three things:

  1. Their audience
  2. Their company’s objectives
  3. How and where to deliver messages with audience and objectives front and centre

With this in mind, adapt your plan and budgets to focus on the areas that require more promotion. Let’s take another look at Starbucks. Instead of cutting its marketing budget during a difficult time, when it arguably needs to attract more customers than ever, the coffee giant has instead refocused its activities on areas that will add more value to the business in the pre-vaccine period.

Also, consider where your customers are looking. For example, if 50% of your customers are working from home online, then what’s the point in continuing with outdoor advertising? Perhaps you had event budget allocated – now it’s time to consider how you could use this to create content or provide value to your customers in other ways, as they spend more time on social feeds, consuming content and making purchasing decisions online.

When was the last time you spent some marketing budget on your online assets? The likelihood is more people will be spending much more time at home for months to come, browsing brands, products, goods and services. What are they finding when they land on your website and social media channels? Where do you appear in the results when they Google your products and services? How do you stack up against the competition?

It’s been reported there has been a rise of over 60% in social media engagement globally since the pandemic hit. However, another report on the impact of COVID-19 found over 70% of brands surveyed are communicating less through social media. Of course, most organisations have had more pressing priorities, but this is undoubtedly an opportunity and, now reopening as started, it is time for many brands to readdress their social media offering.

Reengage with your customers. There is no limit to the creativity that can be injected into your brand through creative content. From videos, design and animations to working with influencers or online ads, nothing has changed in terms of the online content that can be created – the only difference is the audience is larger and alternative marketing options are more limited.

The consumption of news and online content is currently through-the-roof. A recent study shows 95% of consumers say they’re now spending more time on in-home media consumption activities. People are desperate for new information and to see, hear and read what experts have to say on a variety of topics from all industries. Not everyone wants to sit and listen to the constant mainstream news churn of COVID-19 stories. Isn’t it about time you started that podcast you had been thinking about or finally got around to trying out some personal PR or brand media outreach?

Insight from the retail sector suggests email open rates as of April 14, 2020, are up 40% from levels before March 1, 2020, so it might be time to look at how you can provide some value to potential customers who might have more time on their hands to read your email blasts or newsletters. These can be a particularly effective way to reconnect with people, especially if they are targeted and not sales focused.

While some countries, such as the UAE, haven’t been hit as hard by the pandemic as others, it’s still prudent to recognise the fear and apprehension that many people still feel. Your reopening marketing strategy shouldn’t appear to gloss over what’s happening. Allude to ways your organisation is addressing the situation and doing things differently with empathy and and respectfully in a way that keeps people safe in the wake of Coronavirus.

Reset, restart, reach out – but read the room, as you look with positivity into your reopening marketing strategy and create engaging content that resonates with your audience and aligns perfectly with your new business objectives.

All the best,


Contact ian@ih-c.com if interested in discussing your brand’s reopening marketing.

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