From March onwards, in the UK we are starting to see some elements of lockdown gradually being lifted having a positive impact on businesses. Within the last few days, the economy is starting to see signs of growth and optimism, which the Bank of England are referring to with caution, but noting that recovery will be quicker than from previous recessions (1980s and 1990s).

As things start to switch back on, it’s a great time to reassess your plans in light of the pandemic and changes that your business and customers are making, to ensure your return is the most effective it can be.

Step 1: Acknowledge where things are and how things have changed

It’s pretty likely that you’ll have made plenty of adjustments already in response to the pandemic. From digital transformation, improved or enhanced customer support mechanisms (such as via social media messaging) and changes to shipping and remote options for product-based businesses. You’re likely to have also restructured operations, reconsidered your products and service offerings and maybe even your target customer, as well as revised your communications messaging in light of Covid.

Now would be a great time to research, check in with your customers and prospects, discuss challenges and if their requirements are changing further as lockdown gradually starts to ease. For many businesses, adjustments made for the pandemic opened up a long-term improvements, such as remote viewings, site-visits, virtual shopping and virtual tours, which will remain valuable to customers as an option moving forward.

Industries such as hospitality and some retail sectors (especially those whose businesses are less suited to online) are putting into place the mandatory changes set by Government, alongside considering how they can bring some new procedures into play to help retain the safety of staff and customers alike.

In hospitality, TRG Group which owns chains Wagamamas, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito has fundraised, restructured and kept half of its restaurants open for delivery and takeaways (click and collect). The performance of those sites has been termed “extremely encouraging”, with weekly delivery and takeaway sales for Wagamama two and a half times higher than pre-Covid levels during February and about five times higher at leisure locations. With outdoor seating offering dining options from 12 April before dining-in options are permitted, the industry is planning ahead with increased and improved outdoor seating, digital ordering and payment options and improved customer communications.

With all the changes necessary to facilitate economic improvement it would be easy to forget your market differentiators and planning, but revisiting these will help ensure that reopening is as successful as possible.

Restaurant chain Almost Famous developed ‘Almost Famous at Home’ to offer fans of their burgers home delivery, with fortnightly sell-out launches on Instagram, a with a reduced menu of favourites, true to their playful tone of voice across their communications, helping to retain their differentiators. (Their Covid statement even includes the hashtag #washyourf*ckinghands!)

Key takeaways for your marketing strategy:

  • Audit your customers, messaging, products and services (if you haven’t done so recently)
  • Consider how the adapted requirements impact on what you need to provide from a marketing perspective, and how you can best support customers and their journey

Step 2: Revisit your marketing plans, budget and resources

Here’s where your research and planning comes together. Gather all of your customer feedback, business priorities, brand bible and resources together (alongside the Government lockdown restrictions roadmap if this applies to your business).

How this looks for your business will be very individual, but some key points to consider are:

  • For businesses heavily effected by the current lockdown restrictions, each of the four stages will be very critical and require individual campaign plans and aligned messaging. The messaging and copy will need to be carefully checked to ensure that it is consistent within each stage and the Government guidelines.
  • If furlough and staffing are likely to effect your plans, ensure that your marketing action plan for each stage includes a resources / responsibility column to check that resource is available to successfully deliver your planned activities. Should in-house resource not be available, but it is time-critical to capitalise on opportunities, you might want to consider outsourcing or adjusting staff schedules to accommodate.
  • With the financial year coming to an end on the 5th April business owners and marketing teams would be wise to complete financial matters ahead of time, so that this kind of work doesn’t impact at a critical time when focus would be better spent on roadmap stage 1 promotion or stage 2 planning.
  • Ensure that your comms align with the above, but also meet your business goals by aligning with your strategic pillars, as we explain in this blog post.

If your research (market or customer) is indicating a change to your marketing plan, or your business has needed to adjust products or services it is important to check against your marketing plan, action plan and goals. Some radical changes might be necessary! For example, if you are targeting a different customer to this time last year, you might need new customer personas. Revising your marketing plan, strategic priorities and getting clear on your ROI (which may be quite different) will be time well-spent to help ensure you can efficiently meet your business objectives.

Key takeaways for your marketing strategy:

  • To make best use of resources ensure that all elements of your marketing plan are assessed in light of business changes from the last year and make the necessary updates.
  • Ensure that action plans cover each stage of the lockdown roadmap, each point of the customer journey and overarching strategic priorities, adjusting messaging as required.

Step 3: Relaunch plans and prepare for flex

All marketing action plans will need to include contingency and an element of flex; as we know progressing to each stage of lockdown release will be dependant on the data allowing, so there is a possibility of timings of each stage needing to change.

Your business will also likely have its own factors to bear in mind, as well as potential post-Brexit issues for product or service based businesses handling transactions with European businesses.

As always, we recommend keeping a close eye on results and testing and adjusting as necessary across creative, copy, ad placement and channel.

Customer feedback and centricity remains a priority, now so more than ever. Be sure to involve your customers and where possible and safe, be lead by their needs and recommendations. The most successful brands are embracing feedback via the most convenient channel for the customer, whether this be social media, video call, web chat, email, call, or text message.

Key takeaways for your marketing strategy:

  • Allow contingency time in your plans
  • Test, iterate and revise to optimise your digital marketing activity
  • Continue to keep communications open with your customers, seek feedback and implement recommendations

Next steps

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