Why marketing is important even during a pandemic

Many companies cut advertising spend as soon as a downturn hits giving those who continue the chance to be more visible

ANKARA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 04: Icons of WhatsApp Messenger messaging and voice over IP service, Instagram social networking service, Social network company Facebook, YouTube video sharing company, Snapchat multimedia messaging app, Twitter news and social networking service, Swarm mobile app, Facebook Messenger messaging platform and Gmail email service applications are seen on a screen of smart phone in Ankara, Turkey on September 04, 2018. 
 (Photo by Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The economic fallout as a result of Covid-19 has raised a number of concerns among my entrepreneur friends. Some have decided to pause all of their marketing for the time being, while others decided not to introduce any new products until the pandemic is over.

This has reminded me of when I started my entrepreneurial journey and faced my first financial challenge. I thought that when times were tough I shouldn’t be spending money on marketing. When facing uncertainty, cutting costs and withholding all “unnecessary” payments sounded like the right thing to do.

But then my mentor gave me great advice. He told me that while I didn’t have control over the financial situation I was facing, I did have some control over marketing and it wasn’t wise for me to become invisible when I needed customers most.

He asked me to improvise, and to look for ways to continue marketing my business even when my advertising budget was low. I went back to basics, and used WhatsApp to send offers and advertise my business to my contact list. I leveraged my email list and my social media pages. Through that, I was introduced to new clients, and I worked on a few projects that helped me recover from my financial situation.

As we are facing times of uncertainty, more and more entrepreneurs are wondering whether they should pause advertising their business. Should they be advertising at all when their consumers aren’t buying? The answer would be yes.

I’ll give you two reasons why you should market your business even during slow economic periods.

It will help you to stand out

Slow periods require us to evaluate our expenses, and for many entrepreneurs, marketing and advertising budgets are the first expenses that should go. Your competitors are probably thinking the same thing. They, too, may be withholding their advertising spend, which gives you more reason to be visible.

Marketing could be done in a creative way that won’t strain your budget. Consider social media marketing, asking your friends to do a shout out on social media for your business, or sending an email to your customer list. This is where PR comes in handy. Approach relevant blogs, magazines and newspapers and seek an opportunity for an interview, or tell them about an interesting product or feature you are offering.

With so many people staying at home and consuming content, many publications are supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs as their way of being socially responsible and giving back to the economy. You could also approach social media influencers to do a shout out for you. Some regional social influencers have pledged to support small business owners during the pandemic, and that is a good opportunity to expose your business to a wider audience.

Think of it as a long-term investment

A friend of mine just moved in to a new house, and because of the pandemic and her fear of catching the virus, she decided to postpone fully furnishing it for the time being. While she’s not shopping right now, she is browsing many furniture store websites, and narrowing her options. She sends me photos of sets she loves, and tells me how she would like to purchase this piece or that piece a few months down the line. Just like my friend, while many people aren’t shopping right now, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t looking and taking notes. This is why you should think of marketing as a form of a long-term investment that can take a while to yield rewards. The key is to be patient, consistent and to continue raising brand awareness in a creative way that will make potential customers remember you.

Though the pandemic has forced us to take things slowly, reprioritise and cut unnecessary expenses, marketing shouldn’t be on top of that list. Take advantage of the fact that so many businesses are withholding advertising spend, and that media and social influencers supporting businesses to stand out and easily be seen by potential clients.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi