An irony of the pandemic is that while customers are watching 60% more media (Nielsen) including local news, advertising is drying up. In fact, 25% (WSJ) to 52% (Borrell) of local businesses surveyed are suspending or reducing advertising budgets, while 44% will remain the same or spend more.
Local media can take action now by identifying opportunities to proactively help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) negotiate their own crisis marketing. One of the best ways is to bring them creative ideas (Borrell survey, March 22, 2020). In fact, help with creative ideas was the leading request (28%) from local businesses in the same report.
As Street Fight Magazine puts it: “We can no longer think…in the same ‘brand vs. demand’ framework. Now is the time for brand assurance — to actively fulfill brand promises, to help customers, and to maintain brand reputation.”
Below are five solid marketing strategies SMBs can use to engage customers as the crisis evolves: give practical information, provide community service, use video to personalize messages, set up new vertical promotions and begin to look at comeback strategies that incorporate these.
1. Providing practical information for customers during the crisis.
Is the small business open? Do people know that? What products are available? What are the pick-up or delivery options? What kind of precautions is the company taking? Have in-person appointments been replaced by phone contact? Are orders now available online?
Local consumers are also interested in supporting their neighborhood businesses and need to know who is still open and how to buy from them during a period that is confusing for everyone. Media sellers should know how to advise their SMBs on these direct messages that are super relevant now, as well as provide ways to distribute the message efficiently. Simply saying “we’re local and we’re open, please continue to support us” is a powerful message in these times.
2. Community service messaging.
Many local and national companies are more interested in messages that help serve the community, and avoid any perception of exploiting the crisis. For Ford, this means marketing a new Credit payment relief program. For Walgreens, it is promoting drive-thru virus testing in several states. Uber Eats is promoting its waiver of delivery fees.
Some local businesses are also interested in this path. Distilleries are retooling to manufacture alcohol for hand sanitation, T-shirt companies are retooling to sew masks. Many businesses are waiving fees and have special offers/pricing for first responders and hospital workers.
Maybe your business is helping raise funds to help the community through the crisis, or donating goods and services to those in need. Gently highlighting community support from your business is an appropriate message to share right now.
Work with your local advertisers who are interested in this approach to narrow down the best ideas they want to use to support the community now.
3. Deploying video to personalize messages.
Face-to-face interaction with customers is now all but impossible, but some advertisers worry that traditional ad formats seem out-of-touch with the moment of crisis. Video will be a key benefactor of this trend.
Not only has video cropped up as an essential communication tool in our personal and professional lives during the pandemic, it also provides a way for semi-shuttered businesses to communicate authentically to sheltered-at-home customers.
Fortunately, the quality of the video is no longer as important as the message. We are used to seeing news anchors and late night show hosts in their homes, instead of polished studios. We know their dogs and have seen their kids photo bomb while they are on air. Even McDonalds Philippines, promoting new precautions they are taking, is using a video shot of the CEO that looks more like a very good Zoom conference than a slick agency-produced ad.
Along with messages and native video content from advertisers, local media can promote live online performances from the local theater, using video formats, as well as videos of cars and houses that are replacing extended in-person shopping.
Local media can help show companies how to distribute video through multiple channels, from targeted email to programmatic and social.
4. Bring new ideas for verticals and new vertical ideas to the table.
Verticals like Real Estate and Automotive are still active, if subject to lower sales, and they need fresh ideas to reach buyers and the shelter-at-home community.
Other verticals are changing as events go online, retail turns to e-commerce, and professional services adapts to phone-only service contacts. Even the finance industry is using new and changing offers.
iPublish Media Solutions AdPortals offer custom turnkey self-serve advertising platforms to support almost any vertical.
One example is the digital-only real estate portal at the Bay Area News Group. A Realtor can now design, place, fulfill the orders DIY, without an in-person sales rep, and cut almost 5 people on average out of the process. Costs on both sides are so reduced that even a $99 message is profitable for the media company to sell. Over the last 36 months, BANG sold 3,000 real estate campaigns via self-service, averaging $147 DIY.
We welcome your new ideas: a print/online page of restaurants with delivery services and Facebook/email push marketing, a digital page of online theater performances like the one at Taos Daily News, a virtual automotive sale, or any other idea that makes sense to you in your town. Best of all, with vertical DIY solutions, sales reps are freed of the paperwork to become true advisers who can work by phone and email to support and advise SMBs on these programs at scale.
5. Planning for comeback strategies that incorporate these elements.
The economy will recover. What message do local businesses want to share when they re-open? Borrell’s survey shows that companies do want to think about this, and to start making plans for how they will let the community know they are reopening. These emerging messages – whether in a month or later – will also need to incorporate these kinds of messages: new hours, restrictions and precautions, along with continuing mitigation efforts available such as online availability, phone services, and community service.
We hope these ideas will help your media company navigate today’s advertising challenges for your SMB community. If we can be of assistance or help provide solutions, please contact us and we will be happy to setup a call to brainstorm ideas with you.