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5 things marketing agencies and consultancies can do to counter the COVID-19 crisis

Julie Ewald FAQ, marketing strategy

COVID-19 has a significant social and economic impact on people, businesses, organizations all over the world. As an agency owner, you are likely feeling some of this impact, and if not you, your clients.

So, what should marketing agencies and consultancies do to address the immediate challenges so they can continue to move forward during these difficult times? We’ve assembled a list of things we’ve seen others do successfully to weather hard times—and a few we’ve done ourselves—that you can do right now to counter the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and sustain business growth. 

1) Make the hard decisions right from the start

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During these hard times, it’s especially important to support and protect your employees the best way you can—but that doesn’t mean you should proceed without caution when it comes to your finances. Before deciding that payments and benefits will go on as if nothing is happening, do the math and see whether you can commit to your current structure without putting your agency at risk. 

The ugly truth is many marketing agencies may be forced to scale down before they can even think of scaling back up. If clients put their efforts with you on hold and the work isn’t there, you’ll have to change your team’s processes and procedures, dial back hours, or even lay collaborators off to survive. Not everyone will be happy with your choice, but balancing employees’ expectations with the needs of the business is crucial during any crisis. After all, despite the unfortunate circumstance of losing a few employees, it pales in comparison to losing all of them, along with your business. 

2) Expand your service offerings 

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Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen that some industries are much more vulnerable to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 than others. The virus has hit 83 percent of businesses in the recreation and personal sector, 78 percent of companies in manufacturing, and 74 percent of operators in wholesale trade. Segments like travel, tourism, and real estate register similar numbers that show the terrible effects, not only of the coronavirus, but also of limitations on mobility. 

If your marketing agency targets clients in these industries and verticals, try to expand toward a tangential but less affected industry, like insurance. It’s a small turn that could keep the lights on and give you a path for growth. 

It’s also a good idea to add related services to your current offerings, as expanding could make you a better partner for existing clients and attract more business. This strategy can increase the revenue from current and future engagements by giving you the opportunity for an upsell, and with more skills under your collective belt, you likely can charge more for your services. 

In general, this approach may leave you better positioned for what’s next—just make sure you don’t overextend. It’s still hard to predict how competitive the new business environment will become after the crisis, but anything that makes you more valuable to prospective clients is undeniably beneficial. 

3) Look at different avenues for finding new business 

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New challenges require new approaches, so if you’re running into issues finding consistent work, it’s probably time to look for other opportunities in places that you likely hadn’t considered before. 

That doesn’t mean you should rethink your entire strategy or stop nurturing your existing leads, but given everything that’s going on, it’s important to keep in mind that decision-makers may need more time to move down the funnel. Forcing a decision or focusing on cold selling when everyone’s mind is on COVID-19 is counterproductive and worse yet, usually comes off as insensitive or even tone-deaf—so it’s best to lean-in on less intrusive alternatives. 

As an example, a small marketing agency could start an Upwork account. Gig economy platforms are excellent places to find warm leads looking for help. These potential clients are ready to spend money, so you’re more likely to close a sale right away than by cold selling or waiting for inbound leads to become sales-ready.

4) Get your house in order 

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With less work on your plate and all industry events canceled or postponed, you can use this spare time to reorganize your agency and create a foundation for growth. As we say at Impressa Solutions, it’s time for you to become your best client. 

Many marketing agencies and consultancies are incredibly behind with their own sales and marketing strategies—lots of cobblers’ kids without shoes, so to speak. If you’re one of them, use this time to make a cohesive marketing strategy to ensure business growth. 

Follow all the advice you routinely give to your clients. Start with setting or adjusting SMART goals, especially if your resources have recently shifted. At the same time, take a closer look at your sales processes and streamline communication between marketing and sales. This isn’t the time to allow any leads or deals to fall through the cracks. 

When you start treating your agency as though it were your client, you have a path for growth—not just survival. 

5) Give as much value as you can 

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Sure, you’ve always given value to your clients, so the idea you should be doing this isn’t exactly new to you—but this isn’t necessarily a time for a business-as-usual approach either. How and where you provide value may need to change.

Your normal audience may not be into reading about, watching, or listening to the same things they were before the pandemic. To ensure you’re still reaching them effectively, practice social listening to discover what your audience actively wants and needs, as well as how to best deliver it to them in a way that’s mutually beneficial.

At this point, most people aren’t in the mood for receiving outbound marketing messaging. Heck, people hated to be sold even before COVID-19. Now, more than ever, they need your support and helpful advice through valuable content that they’re seeking out, not salesy copy and aggressive ads. 

Take the time to analyze other companies and how they handle the situation—not just your clients, but also competitors, as well as entities that are known for setting best practices in the industry. 

Many businesses don’t know what to communicate during the crisis or aren’t able to cope with such an extreme situation. Some had to lay people off and are now struggling to cover the loss while still attempting to maintain, let alone bring in business. Others are forced to digitize or automate parts of their processes overnight—stuff that marketing agencies are (or should be) pretty good at, by the way. 

But we should be more than marketers. We can use our experience to provide guidance beyond our standard offerings. For example, if you have been running a remote team, consider offering your clients advice on how to better function with their new, remote structures. If they are in crisis, give them actionable advice and insight on your own proven processes, even if you were only retained for some organic SEO and PPC. Be there a partner, assisting with things that may not be in your SLA if that happens to be what’s needed to keep their organization in business.

In short, instead of helping your clients thrive, the value you give now may be helping their businesses survive. 

What’s Next? 

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To be frank, no one really knows what’s next. Even so, if you’re waiting for better days to take action, you’re putting your marketing agency at risk. While it can be a daunting process to make big decisions in the midst of turmoil, it’s important to understand that doing nothing can be just as dangerous. 

If you want to go beyond simply surviving and continue toward making progress, let alone growth, you can’t stick to providing the same old web copy, blog posts, or PPC campaigns when the rest of the industry and those they service are changing by the day. 

It’s time to step outside your comfort zone and start practicing what you’ve preached all these years. Update what you know about your audience, learn their new pain points, and start giving them what they need ASAP. 

Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has changed everything for marketing and so much more. No one knows whether we’ll get back to the way things were before or if we’ll have to learn to live with a new normal. What’s for sure is that we all need to be responsive, adapt, and help each other along the way. 

And we’re here to help.

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