The Importance of a Marketing Strategy During COVID-19 and Beyond: Part 1

Smart Planning During a Time of Pause

05/19/2020

 

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Few would dispute that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on our personal and professional lives. Like many others, the printing industry changed almost overnight—and more disruptions will surely come as we continue to navigate through these uncertain times. Businesses are now thinking very differently about their bottom lines, profit projections, and revenues than they were just a few months ago. We all know that smart marketing is required for business growth, but what’s the best way to market during a pandemic? Keypoint Intelligence’s research has confirmed that most print service providers (PSPs) have seen a drop-off in sales and/or an uptick in cancelled orders due to current market conditions. In times like these, it’s actually more important than ever to focus on the marketing element of your business strategy. With so many people wondering what their businesses will look like in the future, there are things that we simply can’t control or won’t be able to achieve. Rather than sales results and profit margins, the conversation must shift to strategic marketing practices.

 

Developing a Solid Marketing Plan

It has been said that we’re in a great moment of “pause” right now: Stay-at-home orders remain in place, many businesses are temporarily closed, and even those firms that remain open have largely gone virtual in response to the need for social distancing. There has never been a better time for PSPs to take a step back and assess their marketing practices. Think about what your marketing practices should look like right now (during a pandemic) and what they might look like moving forward. It’s important to design a marketing plan that will develop solid, long-lasting relationships with your intended audience. Keep in mind, however, that these efforts must be ongoing. It is not enough to focus on marketing during COVID-19 and then shift it to the back burner once we’re back to business. Regardless of the business climate, company growth will likely stall or slow if there is not a solid marketing plan in place.

 

One metric of a solid marketing plan is how well it translates to sales, but the current situation is forcing many PSPs to measure their marketing plans without corresponding sales numbers to back them up. Developing or adjusting your marketing plan in today’s environment requires a different focus. Sales and revenues are likely down, but you can always measure engagement. Engagement involves driving more traffic to your website, getting more people to respond to your posts, or convincing them to view your social media profile. Ultimately, however, it is impossible to create customer engagement if you don’t first improve your marketing strategies and messaging.

 

Websites and profiles are often set up as industry placeholders, but an “if you build it, they will come” mentality is not enough. The creators of these websites and profiles must also take the time to think about how they can impact the audience’s view of our company and its capabilities. According to recent research from KL Kimerer & Associates, 61% of PSPs were only updating their websites or profiles once or twice a year. This is not frequently enough to enable the creation of engaging content.

 

 

Before you can accurately measure the results of a marketing campaign, you must ensure that you’re truly engaging with your intended audience. Take the time to get everything in order, create strong messaging, and try to make an impression within your target market.

 

Although many businesses—especially smaller ones—are focused on cutting costs right now, a solid marketing plan is essential for PSPs of all sizes. Investing the time in your marketing plan now can help generate web traffic and engagement. Furthermore, when we come out on the other side of this, it will also help drive revenues and sales profits. All firms must take a disciplined approach to marketing their businesses by connecting their offerings with the intended audience. No one can be all things to all people, so targeted marketing is essential. You have an opportunity to pick the audience you want to reach and paint a compelling picture about what your company can do for them.

 

We’ve already established that driving engagement is key, but even businesses that have solid marketing plans in place can make improvements. It seems like everything has gone virtual in a very short span of time, and trade shows have been a huge loss for our industry this year. Rather than thinking about the missed opportunities associated with not attending trade shows, use this time to examine the marketing messages that you’re sending out and develop a content strategy to improve engagement. The practice of developing a content strategy is not a new idea by any means, but it can help you identify content that will put your clients at ease and encourage them to engage in a conversation with you (virtually or via the phone). To develop a content strategy, start by examining your current resources. If you don’t have access to people who are comfortable writing blogs or handling podcasts, partner with firms to obtain the expertise you need. Once you’ve brought these resources in, develop a calendar for how you’re going to roll information out to clients.

  

Education Is Key!

Right now, there’s also a huge opportunity to develop an educational campaign for your customers. Help them understand how print can be valuable for connecting with customers now and in the future. Instead of focusing on sales and promotion campaigns, shift more of your attention to knowledge sharing. In addition to educating your customers, don’t forget about your employees! Businesses are currently offering a wealth of information free of charge, so always be a student of the industry and encourage your team members to do the same. Now is a great time to develop a better understanding about the value of using a marketing platform, or maybe finally getting trained on that software you bought a while back! Use the slower pace of today’s world to your advantage—challenge yourself to take just one hour a day to learn something new. Then think about how you want to roll out your strategy to create more revenue-generating activities for the future. Enterprises, software companies, and equipment providers alike are working overtime to help their customers get through these unprecedented times. They’re also offering lots of great advice on how to be prepared for the next round of business when things begin to turn around. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of virtual resources, so get online and start learning!

 

Strategies to Plan for the Future

In the midst of so much uncertainty, some PSPs are wondering how long this pandemic is going to last and what the long-term ramifications will look like. A good starting point is taking a step back further to really determine who you want to do business with as we move into the future. Make an honest assessment of your business so you can separate the strategies that are paying off from the strategies that are not. This is a great time for business reinvention. How do you want to be perceived when we come out on the other side of COVID-19? If new skills are required, put a plan in place to access these skills now. Think about your top customers, then consider what you are selling versus what you could be selling. This is a great way to quickly identify any gaps in your marketing plan or market perception. Another strategy is performing a white space marketing assessment. Ask yourself about the areas where you are selling well, and where your customers are engaging your business or its offerings. Use the answers to these questions to develop a marketing strategy for the future. 

 

The Bottom Line

If you’re seeking more guidance on navigating your business through COVID-19, Keypoint Intelligence is currently offering a marketing and sales consulting package that can help businesses stay in touch with their clients. We also spend a lot of time helping our clients develop marketing plans and go-to-market strategies so they can stay connected now and in the future. As mentioned previously, there is also a wealth of information on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media networks. Take this time of pause to get the word out, engage, and stay connected. Make sure your customers understand that you’re dedicated to helping them when the time is right!

  

 

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