Every business around Australia, and indeed the globe, is feeling the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19. Some will be fighting for survival; most will be reconfiguring longstanding business models to adapt.
As we move through this together, the role of marketing should play an even more critical role in the business. Marketers should be looking at everything from marketing communications to pricing, distribution and the product and service offer with customers in mind. These are all functions to drive profitable revenue, both for the short term and the long term. As a strategic part of the organisation, marketing should be responsible for the management of these areas, making them able to pivot and invest in the most appropriate areas.
This is a highly testing time, but one that won’t last forever. Organisations do need to address the immediate issues at hand, with all business leaders doing that right now, and organisations should also be acting with the long term in mind. It can be a difficult balancing act and no two businesses will be the same.
While a global pandemic surely requires business leaders to think on their feet, there’s evidence to suggest that those organisations who invest in marketing now do better in the long term. Many organisations grow strongly when a crisis has passed because they maintained a strong investment in marketing and were able to adapt to changing customer’s needs.
Reducing investment and inaction will only stall growth once we come out the other side. Those who place onus on marketing will emerge in the optimum position to grow.
During periods of uncertainty and crisis, organisations should be flexible enough to pivot to where the opportunities are. At a time where consumer trust in brands is already depleted, businesses are being placed in the spotlight and handed an opportunity to strengthen their reputation. The potential is significant, but businesses must be mindful of getting the tonality right. Obvious or tenuous sales plugs will feel tacky and fail to convert, whereas supportive, inclusive messaging will resonate and drive brand health. How organisations react during a crisis will be remembered by consumers for a long time to come.
Agility is crucial, but it cannot be achieved by boardrooms alone. Empowering employees at every level of the business is imperative. Cultivating a culture of care needs to be fostered as all of us are working in these uncertain times. Internal communications must be consistent and transparent, and teams should feel they are all on a collective journey, together. As they transition to working from home and develop remote communication skills, each employee should feel recognised and supported, to maintain productivity.
While the conditions of the coronavirus outbreak are ever-changing, the role of marketing is paramount throughout. Those who use this time to regularly reflect, review and make clever marketing decisions will ultimately reap the rewards of consumer trust, loyalty and subsequent growth.
Lynda Cavalera is the chair, Australian Marketing Institute