For many organisations, COVID-19 has turned the 4Ps of marketing—product, place, price, and promotion—into 4Cs: confusion, calamity, chaos, and complexity.
The situation calls to mind Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, which describes how, from operating rooms to aircraft cockpits, organisations use checklists for mitigating and managing complicated conditions. Though not a checklist per se, the 4Ps that provided many of us our first framework of marketing can also serve as simple but meaningful checkpoints for assessing and, if needed, adjusting marketing strategy when severe and unexpected disruptions surface.
First, though, let’s agree on a common definition. Despite variations and nuances, at its core B2B marketing strategy is an organization’s overall approach for reaching prospective buyers and converting them into customers of the services or products the business provides.
As the coronavirus pandemic has shown, many businesses are grappling with how to adjust their strategy, while others are exemplifying effective and decisive action.
Reassessing and readjusting the 4Ps
Balancing short- and long-term needs is one of the most pressing challenges of product-related decisions compelled by disruptions of such significance.
The question for many is this: What product changes can we implement now to best serve our customers and communities without negatively impacting what we can contribute in the longer-term?
That has taken the form of temporarily narrowing selections to focus on “essential items” and reduce supply chain burdens, as well as allocating some portion of production resources to deliver crisis-related goods.
Sudden changes to user behavior will also compel adjustments in product road maps. In this regard, Facebook’s pivots in the wake of COVID-19 provide an excellent example, as Bloomberg details. After first focusing on stopping coronavirus misinformation on the network, Facebook shifted resources away from in-person focus areas, such as Facebook Events and Facebook Marketplace, to provide more support, security, and functionality to areas such as Facebook Live, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, where user demand spiked significantly.
How buyers physically engage with businesses and receive products and services has also been dramatically affected.
The primary question for brands and businesses is this: How can we adjust employee and customer interactions to maximize safety and still deliver what customers want and need?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, considering the differences in respective businesses and their models, but here too some recurring approaches have surfaced:
• Implementation of chat where not present before, or expanded chat and phone support hours
• Virtual alternatives to previously in-person or sales-guided activities (e.g., self-guided demos, how-to videos)
• Expanded delivery and touchless options for product receipt and service implementation
• Increases in online educational content and FAQs to support ngagement and information gathering activity from afar
With economic uncertainty and adversity, buyers are understandably exercising more caution before saying yes to purchase decisions. Though price is sometimes paramount, expenditure timing and conditions are also crucial factors.
Businesses and brands need to ask themselves, What pricing adjustments, offers, or changes to buying terms can we extend to put prospects more at ease with procuring what they need?
As many would surmise, this is not simply a marketing question; rather, it will need input from multiple functional stakeholders, from Operations to Finance. Though companies continue to unveil creative approaches to enticing purchases, these are themes that have surfaced date:
• Removal of or changes to ancillary fees (e.g., shipping and handling) to encourage buying channel shifts
• Allowances for delayed payments and expanded financing options
• Extended free trials and broader cancellation condition options
• Lowered or bundled pricing to support higher average order volumes, even at lesser margins.
Organizations need to assess not only the tactics or mediums they use to engage their audiences and deploy their marketing strategy but also the context of the messages they’re transmitting via those channels.
That elicits two related questions:
1. Will audiences seek out information related to my product or service in the same ways they always have?
2. What do they need to hear from us in those messages?
We know, for example, that B2B who that have become accustomed to getting information via conferences and in-person exchanges are having to turn to digital channels even more.
Marketers will need to make obvious shifts in promotional spending, and some not as obvious ones, as well, by paying close attention to performance metrics that can signal where other changes need to be applied across the various tactics they use.
As for what messages are being promoted, B2B organizations should take care to blend commerce and compassion.
QuickBooks provides a good example. It reallocated previously planned media time and spend on an ‘80s-oriented campaign aimed at businesses that serve as “the backbone of our economy” with a “salute to their grit and determination.” The commerce aspect was subtle, but QuickBooks made it clear that its “doors are open” and it’s there to provide support.
Understanding and adaptation
Marketing strategies were not conceived with disruptors like the coronavirus even remotely in mind. But responding to the business challenges the pandemic has wrought is something that marketers are well-suited to help address.
That’s because as marketers we’re daily driven to understand and adjust to our customers’ needs and pain points, find creative solutions to address their needs, and meet them where they are with messages that show “we know what you are going through and we are here to help.”
The speed at which leaders and marketers are having to come to grips with the current climate and craft effective responses requires cutting through the 4Cs of chaos, calamity, confusion, and complexity. A deliberate review of the 4Ps of marketing in the context of this temporary new normal is a helpful construct to ensure your marketing strategy remains on the best possible course.
•Raymond is executive director of client engagement for Austin-based Launch Marketing
5 things advertisers should consider amid COVID-19 pandemic
The current COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for the business community, including those in the advertising industry. Amid the huge human toll and ongoing suffering, businesses are having to change the way they operate, as well as the way they market their products and services.
Given the gravity of the current situation and the worldwide panic surrounding it, it’s easy for advertisers to make critical mistakes – blunders that could stay with them long after the coronavirus crisis has passed. Here are five things all advertisers should consider when navigating the tricky waters of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The public is deeply worried
Marketing in the midst of a global pandemic is always a delicate proposition. First and foremost, you need to know where people are coming from and what they are focused on, because their needs have understandably changed. For the time being, people are rightly concerned about their health and the health of their families, and everything else is taking a back seat.
You can respond by ratcheting back sales pitches and providing reassuring messages instead. Let people know what safety and sanitation precautions your business is taking to alleviate their concerns. There will be plenty of time to sell products when the COVID-19 crisis has passed, but for now, a more understanding tone is the right approach.
People are concerned about finances
The COVID-19 crisis has had a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the economy that has sent the stock market reeling. This means that even as people worry about their personal health and that of their loved ones, they’re also stressed about their finances – from credit card bills to owed taxes.
As an advertiser, you can respond to these concerns by offering special pricing, new financing deals and other incentives designed to set people’s minds at ease. From car dealers offering a break in payments for COVID-19 patients to landlords being flexible on rent, these messages resonate strongly in these troubled times. Being human and transparent is key.
Businesses are expected to do their part
If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that everyone is in this together. From the restaurant on the corner to the big airlines, every business is navigating this crisis in its own way.
At the same time, businesses are expected to do their part, so use this opportunity to talk about what you’re doing to help. Many businesses have already announced that they are continuing to pay their employees and providing additional sick time, and these marketing messages can be very powerful.
Shoppers are focused on the basics
As the COVID-19 crisis ramps up and people practice social distancing, consumers are pulling back. Shoppers are focused on the basics – the items they need to sustain themselves and their families in this time of travel restrictions and worries about disease transmission.
You can respond to this new reality by focusing your marketing efforts on the products in highest demand. Prioritize your online shopping channels to serve customers who are staying in. If this is done well, you might even see your cash flow improve during these challenging financial times.
Branding can set the tone for future sales
Demand is likely to remain subdued during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away. Indeed, financial experts expect a spike in shopping and product demand once a vaccine is developed or a solid treatment is found.
As an advertiser, you can prepare for that pent-up interest by building your brand and creating bonds with your community. From helping out with local needs to being visible and active on social media and other online channels, there are things you can do to enhance your brand awareness and be ready for the shopping spree to come.
The COVID-19 crisis has created a new landscape for businesses everywhere, with some firms prohibited from operating and others working harder than ever to meet demands. Advertising in the heart of all this has created its own set of challenges, but following the five guidelines listed above will help.
•Tinubu is CEO of out-of-home advertising company, Loatsad Promomedia Ltd
Eat‘N’Go Foundation strengthens support in fight against COVID-19
With the continuous increase in number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across Nigeria, Eat’N’Go Limited, the master franchisee for Domino’s Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery and Pinkberry Gourmet Yoghurt, has said that through its foundation, it will continue to provide maximum support to the federal government in the fight against COVID-19.
Since the launch of its charity initiative during the pandemic, Eat’N’Go has catered to the feeding of over 6,500 essential workers with products worth over N23 million, and has continued to reaffirm its commitment to reach even more people across the nation.
Patrick McMichael, CEO, Eat’N’Go Limited, while commenting on the organisation’s support said, “We acknowledge that this is a tough period for all Nigerians and the government and we cannot over emphasis how unprecedented these times are. Lots of businesses have been hit, the economy is almost at a halt, and most disheartening is the loss of some of our brothers and sisters. We sympathize with everyone who has been affected by this virus and this is why through our continuous food donations, we are actively supporting essential workers who are vital to containing the spread of the virus, while helping people recover.”
“As a firm that prioritises the happiness of its customers, we will not stop supporting the government and so far, we have donated over 13,600 slices of pizza, 10,000 cups of ice cream, and 800 cups of yogurt. Since the outbreak, we have found our strength as an organization, in the uniqueness of Nigerians; we are resilient and together we will overcome this,” he added.