By Ricki Hudson — 19 Mar 2020
Written by James Lawrence – Co-Founder of Rocket Agency| Author of Smarter Marketer | 2019 B&T Marketer of the Year Finalist | 15 Yrs Agency + Client Side
My heart goes out to workers in the tours, activities, attractions and experiences industries. For reasons beyond your control your industry has been decimated and none of us know how long this will last. This must be a time of great fear from a personal income perspective along with the health concerns we all have about the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am just a digital marketer so can’t really help with the macro-economic or health issues which are impacting you. But outlined below are some small, hopefully practical, ways that we can bind together.
Firstly, it feels like lots of small business owners, employees and marketers in travel are unfortunately going to have downtime. I am happy to ship out a copy of my book Smarter Marketer to anyone in Australia that is impacted. The book is designed to help Australian business owners and marketers get the most from their digital marketing. If you have downtime at present it might make sense to start planning and strategising on business growth plans for when these terrible conditions dissipate. I’d love to think Smarter Marketer could help in some small way. Click here to request a copy free of charge:
Get yours here.
Secondly. I have included below six steps that we are encouraging our clients to take during these horrendous times. I appreciate that not all will be relevant to you given the high degree of disruption you are currently experiencing. That said, if there is one idea or action item for the points below that can help in any way it would make reading through worth your time:
This might be a really hard mindset to take when your business is struggling to survive and/or pressure is being mounted on long-term viability. But you need to understand that recession and catastrophic economic conditions are the equivalent of Darwinism for businesses. Study after study in the USA after the GFC showed that the strongest and fittest businesses in most verticals thrived on the way out of a recession and the weakest businesses went under during the recession. The weakest businesses cut investment in things like marketing whilst the stronger businesses were able to double down on long term activities. This meant that weak businesses got hit twice, first in the weakening economy and secondly (if they did survive) when they lost ground when the economy picked up. I understand that for many businesses in travel and experiences the coming weeks are a roll of the dice for survival. But where possible it is a time to make decisions that will put you in a better position than your competitors after this inevitably subsides.
Watch your demand generation/acquisition budgets like a hawk in the coming weeks. In some verticals, search volume will dry up. If this is the case, as long as CPAs are consistent you don’t need to change budgets, eg you are at the mercy of intent so budget won’t be wasted. But in other verticals we expect a rash of competitors to activate short-term channels like Google Ads and Facebook Ads which will likely blow out CPA’s for existing advertisers. You will need to be doubly diligent (or have your agency) look at campaigns performing within target range and those outside. Things will change quickly, don’t wait months to review performance. Have calm and rationale discussions with internal stakeholders about potentially resetting acceptable marketing KPI’s and targets. Increased competition for market share should mean less aggressive targets.
In 2008 Marcus Sheridan owner of River Pools in Maryland was under severe financial distress as a result of the USA’s worst economic conditions in a generation. Rather than fold like many of his competitors he used digital marketing to scale his business in a declining economy. Marcus knew that the demand for new pools in the USA was going to decline but he knew he only needed to grow his very small part of the pie and he would thrive in horrendous business conditions. His team wrote an article ‘How much does a fibreglass pool cost?’. In plain language, River Pools answered their prospects’ number-one question about pools: price. This article was directly responsible for over $2,500,000 of pools sales for River Pools due to customers finding it on Google. This and a broader investment in content, SEO and digital marketing transformed his business. This is a central theme we are offering to clients and performing ourselves in coming months… Demand for your services has plummeted, but they will come back in coming years. Do not waste this opportunity to best position your business for when circumstances change. Many businesses will blink during this crisis and cut investment in long-term activities. Hold course and keep investing. Given the short-term outlook of competitors, you will actually be in a better position than you would otherwise in 12-18 months’ time.
Each of us will have different challenges in our businesses. Some of us will likely have excess capacity open-up, some of us will be scrambling to keep things together. But now is the time to direct excess resources into long-term valuable projects that have been neglected in good times. In terms of sales and marketing departments (where we work). This means things like; implement that new CRM, fix that database project, have your sales team finalise that sales playbook, have the marketing team finally get sign-off on the email marketing workflows which have been delayed since 2018. Your industry will start to grow again, it might be a month it might be 14 months. But when it does be in a position to take more market share than you previously took. Don’t look back at this time as when you panicked, cut-deep and set the business back two years.
From the Harvard Business Review “It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times” (https://hbr.org/2008/09/how-to-market-in-a-recession) For many businesses in your industry this advice is not correct and now is absolutely the time to cut back on the vast bulk of media and advertising. But where possible try and maintain longer-term brand building activities which will pay dividends in 12 months+. The example I used in the original version of this article was saying that it makes total sense for airlines and events businesses to slash spend in direct response channels right now. No point advertising cheap flights to the USA if no-one is buying. But now is the time to continue to invest in sensible marketing activities. Buy cheap impressions, grow awareness and take greater market share.
If you believe that marketing budgets are going to be cut which are to the long-term detriment of your business here are some thoughtful and sensible posts to share into your C-Suite:https://hbr.org/2008/09/how-to-market-in-a-recession
How To Approach Marketing In A Recession
There is no sugar coating it. It’s a terrible time and we don’t know when things will get better. Let’s try and bind together as best we can, and be as well positioned to get back to normal when the curve inevitably starts to pick up.
If you found ‘Travel Marketing In This Terrible Time’ useful, you may also like ‘Cash flow opportunities for tourism: Responding to COVID-19‘.