We believe that the COVID-19 crisis will be in two parts.
Part One is from "here" to "there". This is where we are now. Problem is, no one knows when "there" will be. As sales and marketing people our job now is to help our clients through this uncharted time. What do our customers' customers need to hear? What messaging should we be delivering? How flexible must we be in dealing with our clients? Do we reduce rate? Give extra commercials? Announce messages for free? Stations I've spoken with have done all of the above.
Those of us who reached out to clients up front have been able to mitigate damages for our stations and for our clients. Radio has the advantage of being able to change copy quickly. That advantage was highlighted as the crisis progressed and situations changed daily or in some cases hourly.
As the lock downs continued, our clients segmented into several types:
1. Those who reacted with fear but were open to our help and suggestions. Many of these clients stayed on the air and we changed their messages to fit the need.
2. Those who cancelled advertising. Some did this out of fear. Some truly did not have money. They were on the edge of staying in business and this crisis will put them out of business. It's unfortunate, but true. The strong survive.
3. New categories of business that have benefited from the crisis and have stepped up to take advantage of the opportunities presented in every crisis.
In the next few weeks we will move into Part Two: After the crisis. Will it be a V Curve? A U Curve? Experts don't agree on how quickly our economies will rebound. But things WILL return to normal. Will it be a "new normal"? We don't yet know. Some people believe that the shopping habits formed out of necessity during this time will continue. Digital will increase. People will be scared to be around groups of people. Others believe there will be a pent-up demand for brick and mortar shopping. Customers will have been starved for personal contact and will rush to the stores. Perhaps the reality will be somewhere in between.
However the rebound happens, it will happen. It's time to talk with our clients about what their messages will be post-crisis. How will their business have changed in the way they serve customers? We will need to shift messages again.
Some experts believe that the public will be more sensitive to buying from companies who have a good image: those who have contributed during the virus. We do believe that the community spirit we have seen over the last few months will continue.
The sooner our clients ramp up their advertising, the quicker they will rebound. This should be done before the grand re-opening occurs. While some of their competitors are silent, they can have a greater share of voice without spending a lot of money. Greater share of voice leads to greater share of market.
One thing is for sure: the longer the locomotive is disconnected from the train, the slower the train will be. And, it will take a long time for the train to regain top speed once the locomotive is connected again. Those businesses who have stopped advertising have disconnected the locomotive.
Start now: talk with your clients. Develop a strategy with them to reopen and ramp up.
We need to be the guides. We have walked through the crisis with our clients. Now we need to walk with them through the recovery. Brighter days are ahead!