There is no doubt that the spread of the coronavirus has taken an incredible economic toll.
In fact, in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the top six largest daily losses were in March of 2020, and eight of the top 10 have been due to the pandemic.
The S&P lists March 16 as the 3rd largest drop in history.
Yes … it is a bad time to be in business.
Or is it?
The Q1 And Q2 Reports Are Going To Hurt
The first thing we all need to accept is that the next quarterly reports are going to hurt. As someone who’s had some fun with low-level day-trading during reporting periods, I’ll be sitting this one out.
Companies like Purell, 3M, Netflix and Amazon are going to be posting amazing results, and the rest … not so much.
It’ll be a question of meeting revenue loss projections, not posting gains.
So, we need to take a collective breath as company owners, consultants, executives and shareholders and recognize that like it or not, we need to take a “long view” of the current environment and invest in that.
The One Who Loses, Is The One Who Blinks
Let’s pull out our history books, and travel back in time.
The year was 1929, and the stock market crashed … hard.
At the time there were two companies making cold cereal, Post and Kellogg’s. Until 1929, Post had innovated and clawed its way up the market share chain, pitting it toe-to-toe with Kellogg’s.
But the two responded very differently to the Great Depression. Post did what many companies do, they cut back their marketing.
Kellogg’s took the opposite approach and a longer view, and doubled their ad budget, moving aggressively into radio at a time when it was a primary source of entertainment.
In 1933, at the same time FDR was sitting down to his first fireside chat aimed at soothing a nation deep in a depression, Kellogg’s was reporting 30% profit growth.
Seems they followed the old adage:
“When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.”
There are multiple benefits to this approach, but it takes a strong vision with an even stronger leader to pull it off.
Having that, they become the company associated with strength and stability. The one that is with you, through good times and bad.
Kellogg’s exited the depression strong, and to this day is the market share leader in cereals.
The lesson? Don’t blink.
Do You Want To Lead, Or Follow?
The question every business owner or executive needs to ask themselves in times like this is whether they want to lead, or follow.
A leader displays strength and authority. A follower travels in their wake. Safe. But never in front.
Assuming you can afford to invest in the future, and that your shareholders and investors want to see increased market share, market share that will be incredibly valuable when the economy returns to its glory, there is only one path.
Lead or follow … the line is drawn here.
Marketing In Uncertain Times
There are significant monetary advantages to marketing in uncertain times, advantages that can be carried into the good.
For those investing in online marketing, the cost of clicks on Google and Bing are on sale at heavily discounted prices. As other companies scale back their spending, the cost for impressions and clicks declines.
This leaves a lot of room for product and brand awareness campaigns at incredibly good prices. Campaigns that will reinforce that you are there. That your company is strong. That you are a leader.
In the organic search space, the clicks cost the same, as free is free, but how you attain those clicks is a different matter.
Given that most of my marketing experience is in the digital space, I have many peers in it. Peers who are right now losing clients as your competitors, the followers in this story, scale back.
Those peers, some of the best in the world, are looking to fill that vacuum in their incomes and have more time on their hands to do it and as such, are cutting their rates. Supply and demand playing out as expected.
People like Alan Bleiweiss, an SEO auditor for major brands, are cutting their audit and training rates by 50 and 60%.
There’s a growing list of freelancers, and web marketers who find themselves out of work being updated here that contains talented folks, working for reduced rates to make sure they can make their rent.
And there’s a good chance your own internal team has extra time, certainly in dev, as I know many of the developers at companies we work for ourselves are finding themselves available to take on our larger “to dos”.
So, if you’re an executive, talk to your marketing managers and have them dig into what your competitors are doing. Likely they have cut back. Find where they’ve cut and target the cheap advertising left behind.
Then start thinking of where you want to be, not just as we pull out of this, but a year-or-two down the road. What market share will you need to have to get where you want to be?
Now is the time to go for that.
While everyone else is pulling back … lead.
But the world is obviously not entirely digital, or at least, on the computer.
TV, radio and print all have their place in this equation.
In fact, one of my favorite examples of a company being bold during the COVID-19 crisis is Hotels.com.
They are facing the incredible challenge their sector is in head on, with the following TV ad in rotation:
Brilliant. They are strong enough to advertise when they aren’t asking for business.
And it goes against the grain, in that it advertises where others aren’t. While digital is losing some advertising, TV, radio and papers are losing and set to lose more if we follow the trend of Asia which seems likely.
While their sites may not reflect it, contact the media outlets you want to advertise in and get a quote. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
You may also want to get them to commit to a long-term contract, to carry that discount into the post COVID-19 world.
Essentially the same thing you are doing with your mortgage, given the current interest rates.
Now Is The Time To Lead
There is a quote from John C. Maxwell that captures this time well:
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Now is the time when companies win or lose market share. While the profit may be low this quarter, you know what it translates to when things recover.
Never will market share be cheaper than it is right now.
Will you capture it? Or will you follow those who do?