If you’ve been following what I’ve had to say when it comes to marketing during tough economic times, you’d know I’m a keen follower of history and the importance of increasing your marketing spend during challenging times. The reason? It’s a rare chance to grow your market share at the expense of those who pulled back when the going got tough.
2020 has been a tough year for marketers, and today I wanted to share how we’ve managed our own marketing and what we’ve learnt from it.
As a reference, we’re an independently owned digital marketing agency with a team of about 30 people. We have three founders who all work in the business full time. Bottom line, sink or swim, it’s all on us. There’s no angel investor or distant and wealthy owner ready to bail us out if needed.
The first quarter of 2020 was off-the-charts good for us. Our marketing generated record numbers of sales opportunities and we were landing excellent new clients on a regular basis. Like a lot of businesses, we had big plans for 2020.
COVID hit in early March and immediately new leads came to a grinding halt. Fortunately, our strong sales pipeline meant that new clients were still being onboarded at pace until the end of March, but this then slowed down as well.
Leads in April and May were at about 40% of where they would otherwise have been. Sales themselves remained low from April through to June.
None of this is very surprising.
By June, leads were back up to around 75% of where things had been in Feb. And July and August were both strong months for landing new clients. Our pipeline of new clients in September is also very strong.
All in all, we’re very happy with where the business is at, given the crazy year that 2020 has been. As a business, we’ve not had to lay anyone off and we’re currently looking for new people to join the team to help manage our growth.
We’re still mindful of the virus, the economy and the gradual reduction in JobKeeper for many businesses, but we can see things continuing to improve for Rocket.
Our own fortunes have been heavily impacted by how businesses reacted to the crisis. As a digital marketing agency, we’re also fortunate to work with marketers, business owners and senior managers across a range of industries and company sizes.
Early on we noticed that businesses we dealt with fell into five categories when it came to marketing post-COVID:
It’s been tough times for The Impossibles. In many cases cutting budgets was the smart or only move. If you were unfortunate enough to be running a business that no longer had any chance of generating revenue then options are limited. However, we also saw a lot of businesses who behaved as if they were part of this group, when in reality they simply were not creative or aggressive enough in understanding where the money now was in their industry (or where it was going to be in a few months' time).
For the most part, The Reducers have missed the opening part of a significant opportunity. Sure, they might have taken less risk since March, but in reducing their marketing spend they have also reduced the chance of a fast recovery or even grabbing marketing share as things improve. If you are a Reducer, and you have a competitor who is an Aggressor then take notice. They will almost certainly be taking some of your market share now and in the future. It’s never too late to fight for your market share even if you’ve given others a head-start.
There are very few industries where the audience sees life the same way as it did in February this year. To The More-Of-The-Samers, if your marketing is saying the same things in the same places as it did earlier in the year, you need to ask yourself if you’re getting the most out of your marketing dollar. Have your customers really been unaffected by everything that has happened this year? If not, it’s time to look long and hard at your marketing starting today.
The Boomers had their own set of challenges. Faced with rapid growth and a market behaving differently to ever before, they’ve focussed on ensuring their recent success is sustainable in the future. Arguably, great marketing is as important to these businesses as it is to those who have faced serious challenges in generating revenue. The alternative is risking demand going back to pre-2020 levels, possibly very quickly.
As you might have guessed Rocket is one of The Aggressors. We wrote heavily on the topic in our Recession Marketing Manifesto and have followed our own advice. Our industry was heavily hit with marketing budgets being reduced by roughly 35% from the very first month so it’s not like this was an easy financial choice for us.
It’s pretty simple though. Our leads and sales are bouncing back and we’re feeling buoyant about the future even though our industry is still heavily impacted by reduced spend and job losses. We’re landing new clients and seeing increasing demand for our services. I have no doubt that had we left our marketing on auto-pilot or reduced our spend that we’d be right in the middle of a lot of pain right now.
Keeping a strong focus on marketing this year has brought with it a lot of learnings. Here’s a few of the key ones as they apply to us:
Every business has had its own journey in 2020 and its own unique set of challenges. These challenges, for the most part, continue to reflect the challenges and changes being experienced by your customers.
One thing you do have control over is how much demand is generated for your products and services. And this is where great marketing comes in. Get the marketing right and the sales will flow.
What are your perfect customers experiencing right now? How can you reach them and how can you deliver them value? This is what effective marketing is all about, especially for those in your market who are not ready to buy just now.
David Lawrence is the MD and Co-Founder of Rocket, an award-winning Australian digital marketing agency. He is also the co-author of the Amazon #1 best-selling marketing book 'Smarter Marketer'. David has presented at several events including Inbound, Search Marketing Summit, Mumbrella360, CEO Institute and a variety of seminars and in-house sessions.
David has built his expertise from a diverse career, starting with an economics degree before jumping into all things web in the late 90s.
Today, David is Rocket's Managing Director and is known for his ability to find clarity in the bigger picture. He is highly respected as a digital marketing authority, sharing his expertise with an extensive network here in Australia and around the world.