You’ve rethought operations, personnel, and customer service, so it’s natural to rethink marketing. “Rethink” doesn’t necessarily mean “reduce,” however. You may indeed wind up reducing your marketing budget, but start with a strategic question: What must you do differently? Here are some questions to help you get there.
What’s different about how your customers find you?
This is the biggest question of all because it will inform how much you invest in marketing –and how you invest it. For example, with the sudden rise of home delivery, more customers may find your restaurant in sales channels you never had to use before, like Uber Eats or Doordash. Customers may be shopping your category directly instead of using a referral source. In some markets, radio and OOH will be less effective because people aren’t out and about as much. The point is to identify how the consumer decision journey has changed and make sure you’re allocating your budget accordingly.
When did you last review your digital basics?
Understandably, we all get busy, and sometimes set-and-forget our digital basics. If that’s you, then this is an excellent time to look with fresh eyes at your website, your Google business listing, your SEO strategy, and your social media feeds. For example, if you started delivering a product or service, or if you extended or changed hours of operation, you’ll want to make that clear when people find you online.
Is your online content and point-of-sale material right for the times?
This is going to be tricky as the world recovers from the pandemic, because we’re likely to see things get better at one time or place and worse at another. You want to strike a balance between great customer experience and safe customer experience.
How strong are your customer retention efforts?
It’s old wisdom that acquiring customers is several times more expensive than retaining existing customers. It’s also said that recessions are times when customers may switch brands. Do what it takes to keep the customers you’ve always had, especially if you’re in a category that slowed down during quarantine, because customers may forget about you. Provide information that may help them in an uncertain time. Tout a new product or service. Email might be a very effective medium; in fact, email response rates rose during the pandemic.
How can franchisors help franchisees come out ahead?
We’ve thrown out some important questions here, but in a pandemic or recession, it’s more important than ever that everyone representing the brand be rowing in the same direction. It’s more than likely that the first question (remapping the customer journey) will be successful if franchisors and franchisees analyze it together. Similarly, franchisors can work with franchisees to establish best practices for refreshing the digital basics, making sure messaging is right for the times and for retaining customers. If your brand doesn’t normally row in the same direction… well, don’t waste a crisis. This is an excellent opportunity to make that happen.
Steve Schildwachter, an advisor to franchisors and franchisees, previously was CMO at BrightStar Care and represented franchise brands while at Leo Burnett and FCB Global.