Marketing Strategies for Print Companies During COVID-19
There is no overstating the overwhelming effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our personal and professional lives. “Physical distancing” or “social distancing” have quickly become everyday vernacular and will likely influence the way we move through our day for many months – even years – to come.
The good news is that we’re adaptable as human beings and especially as print and graphics providers. The Great Recession taught us a few valuable lessons that guided our comeback then and can serve as a playbook now.
The transition from print-only to print and marketing services providers opened new sales opportunities for those who could reimagine their businesses. At Alliance Franchise Brands, it was one factor that drove us to invest heavily in technology. By automating operational processes, it frees up our franchise owners to spend more time cultivating customer relationships as solutions providers (e.g., consultative versus transactional sales strategy).
So, now we’re faced with something new. We are all equally inexperienced in it, with our teams working remotely and some of our best customers deemed “non-essential” and unable to operate at all. What can we do to continue to serve those customers we already have while anticipating the need to fill the pipeline to fuel our recovery? How can we adapt to meet these previously unknown challenges?
Prioritize Current Customers
We know it costs more to find new customers than to retain the ones you have. The reality is that some of your best customers may be unable to buy right now or spend what they typically would. Use this time to strengthen your ties by offering sound advice. Business relationships are built on trust, dependability and fairness. The payout may come a little later than you would like, but it is more likely to manifest in long-term loyalty.
Continuing to market their businesses during a downturn when their competitors have paused has proven to be a solid strategy. Many have pivoted to provide services specific to COVID-19, whether that’s commercial cleaning to sanitize office buildings, or restaurants offering takeout or delivery services.
For most business types, the make-up of their marketing and allocation of marketing dollars is likely to evolve in the coming months. Organizations that have relied heavily on live events may be reassigning that budget to online meetings or ramping up other channels, like direct mail. Be a resource that can adjust, and you will maintain the value you can provide.
Manage Your Own Marketing
If you and your team have the capacity, revisit your marketing strategies and materials. Do you have old brochures, outdated catalogs, or inconsistent logo usage and branding that you have meant to revise but couldn’t find the time? Chances are, you have it now.
Do an inventory and prioritize. Bring a fresh eye to the design and messaging. It will get you to a better place at present and for the future, when you will want to hit the ground running with post-pandemic marketing outreach. Spend time cleansing your customer data, as well, to save money and reduce waste later.
Any adaptations you are making now in your business marketing should be tracked so that you can go back to prior tactics, when needed. For example, if your web marketing budget or campaign keywords have changed to address the current landscape, be ready to re-adjust down the road.
Perhaps now, more than ever, there may be an opportunity to cross-train your employees in all facets of your organization, including your marketing.
Be More Aware of Messaging
Just a word of caution: When in doubt, choose extra sensitivity in sales conversations and marketing messages. Emotions are running high, and you can’t be sure if you’ll unintentionally hit a hot button with language that would have been entirely appropriate three months ago. Why risk it? Care and compassion never go out of style.
A softer selling approach may be in order as we navigate this “new normal.” If you haven’t developed formal buyer personas, do it now. It will help you define your customers’ pain points – they may have changed – so that you can tailor your sales conversations and marketing messages accordingly.
Look for Partnerships
The closely connected ecosystem of a local business community is never more evident than during economic challenges. Small businesses need to stand together and find ways to support their neighbors.
It might make sense to donate expertise, products or services as a gesture of goodwill to the broader community as part of your recovery readiness. You may be able to leverage tactics that are specific to your local market that neighboring businesses are finding useful.
A network of like-minded professionals is built-in for our franchise owners. If you don’t have that, seek support from your professional networks. This stuff is hard; there’s no reason to go it alone.
Prepare for the Post-Pandemic
Conducting business face-to-face may be a long way off. Do you offer online ordering? There is no time like the present to make your business more valuable by removing barriers to working with you. And diversifying your services to enable cross-selling, like adding promotional products or branded apparel, will allow you to deliver more solutions to your existing and prospective clients.
There is a bigger picture to be aware of: the economic fallout of COVID-19 may have profoundly changed the trajectory of your business, including your exit strategy plan. If you are looking to sell your company or would benefit from extra support, you might consider joining a franchise.
Be creative. Be nimble. And be ready to ramp up. While it may not return to “business as usual” any time soon or ever, take that as a positive call to action. If we meet today’s challenges head-on, we will be better positioned on the other side.