Last week, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that a “second wave” of COVID-19 seemed inevitable. We have known about the pattern of viral infections for centuries, so it should have been no surprise to our leaders that this second wave was coming.
The problem for businesses is that all the noises coming from national leaders have been about being at “war” with the virus and “defeating” it to avoid it coming back. It has encouraged businesses to believe that the worst was over and that they could get back to work. There have been campaigns urging people back to work for fear that the economy would plunder even greater depths.
Many businesses, therefore, are probably not as prepared as they could be for the inevitable. Already a third of the UK faces significant “lockdown” from the start of the coming week. The Government has hinted several times in the past few days that a national lockdown is coming. That means closing businesses again. It will see enormous drops in demand for transport and other services. The economy will take a further nosedive and the much lauded “V-shape” recovery will be a dream.
However, even though the predictions are grim, there is hope on the horizon. In the past six months, for instance, online sales have risen by almost 51%. Demand for services that people can get over the Internet is growing substantially. There is a genuine opportunity available now, for those wishing to take it.
The issue for many businesses is whether they are ready to do that. In times of crisis like this, people spend less on marketing and advertising, as they think these are “nice to have” rather than essential. So you will often find business “gurus” telling you to do the opposite and spend, spend, spend in a time of crisis. The theory is that when other people cut their advertising, yours will be more noticeable.
Given that the opportunity for your business in the coming weeks and months is going to be online, that could be poor advice. It may have worked in the “real world”, but the online world is different. Recent research confirms, once again, that advertising online and using social media to promote your business are the worst things you can do. These forms of marketing perform poorly (you may have heard me say that before…!).
What works better than anything else is getting direct traffic to your website. That’s about “being known” in advance. Where do you see “reminders” of business websites that you frequently visit? It’s not search engines, nor advertising, and it’s not their social media posts.
Instead, you get reminded of these companies in print media, in conversations you have with other people, or when you are “out and about” and see their logos on buildings or trucks. Now, with a second-wave lockdown, two of these are less likely to happen. There will be fewer conversations where people can share your business website with others. And people won’t be going out, so even if you had your logo plastered all over your car, people wouldn’t see it.
So that leaves one option to prepare for the second wave lockdown. Print. Start writing letters, or sending out leaflets or promotional items. Governments classify the mail as an “essential service” so your marketing messages can still get out there in a lockdown.
It’s a reminder that old-fashioned, traditional marketing is what the most successful online businesses depend upon. So, in the second wave lockdown when you will be in your bunker, sitting at your computer all day and night, it could be easy to get sucked into that online world. Yet it is “real world” marketing that is most likely to save your business.
You can survive the second wave, but you’ll be more likely to do that if you don’t get sucked into online advertising and social media. They are not your saviours.