On the 24th of February 2022 the BBC reported the end of all legal covid restrictions in the UK. Marking the end of almost 2 years of turmoil (the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020).
Now three years on, the dust has settled and the business world is up and running again, the Covid-19 pandemic might seem like a long way off – but we’re still feeling its effects and there are lessons to be learned.
In this blog we’ll revisit one of our previous posts, How to Adapt Your Marketing Strategy for Covid-19 and Beyond. We’ll bring the benefit of hindsight, and ask which companies have managed to successfully adapt and how they’ve done it?
According to the Financial Times, the three biggest winners during covid were Apple (+123%), Microsoft (+110%) and Alphabet (+108%) a conglomerate holding company that owns Google. Other companies to come out on top during the pandemic were online retailers and often tech firms and their supporting industries.
The really interesting cases are the ones who made significant changes to their business strategies in order to survive and that’s what we’ll be looking into here.
In the previous blog, we talked about niche acquisition campaigns and the importance of finding new markets for our existing products (market development). This is just as good sense as it ever was and we’ve got plenty of great examples to illustrate.
One of the worst hit sectors during covid was air transport. McKinsey reported a 40% drop in revenue and 90% cancellations, the sector is still not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for a few years, yet there were some winners among them.
During the pandemic, the airline industry collectively took on $180bn worth of debt. The list of airlines that filed for bankruptcy during that 2 year period is very long indeed. Big names ceased trading, like Virgin Atlantic, Flybe, Avianca and many more.
The airlines that survived did so because they adapted and pursued a market development strategy. Instead of transporting people, they shifted to cargo. America’s United airline made the switch almost immediately after the restrictions were imposed and they’ve made such a success of it they’ve no intention of going back.
When you think about it, that opportunity always existed, Covid had nothing to do with it. The pandemic merely gave United the push to search for new opportunities, and that’s a lesson we can all take away.
We must continually put our marketing strategies under the microscope and search for opportunities, because they exist and if you don’t take them your competitors will. Whatever line of business you’re in, can you be certain there isn’t another untapped market for your products?
In the previous blog post we spoke about neglecting the existing gold in your database. The technical term for that strategy is market penetration, selling more of your existing products to your current customers. The companies that were able to do this were the biggest winners of all.
The covid pandemic saw buyer behaviour change dramatically overnight. The demand didn’t change at all. We all still wanted the same products, we just had to find new ways to buy and consume them.
Inevitably the online retailers and the tech firms came out on top, and we we’ve previously written about how Dell changed their strategy during the pandemic to great effect.
Dell managed it by adding more value their products. They began helping organisations use tech to cope with the changing business environment. But there are plenty of other ways to maximise your sales to existing customers, especially during a pandemic.
Organisations had to find new routes to market and new channels of distribution. We started seeing more companies offering their products online and now post-pandemic this trend is accellerating. Perhaps the biggest example is in SaaS (software as a service) where providers are increasingly working to the same model as Microsoft’s Office 365 or the Adobe Suite, where you buy a license and you can download whatever parts of the software suite you want. It provides predictable revenue as your customers renew their subscriptions, it has lower upfront costs and much greater flexibility for the consumer and the supplier.
Perhaps the greatest example of finding gold in your existing database is the activities of Amazon. During the covid pandemic they pursued a classic penetration strategy and as a result the company grew dramatically.
Amazon tweaked almost every aspect of their marketing mix to make the most of the pandemic. The tactics they used to achieve the strategy included expanding their product ranges by offering fresh foods and groceries. They offered preferential pricing on their now famous “Amazon Prime Day” and it’s not just B2C, they also introduced the “subscribe and save” feature which targets SMEs making repeat orders.
Now, three years after the pandemic we can look back and see who made the correct decisions, and who didn’t. We can identify the winning strategies. With the benefit of hindsight, that’s easy. The challenge we all faced back then, and still face now (although the pressure is off somewhat), is to do it in real time. That’s what distinguishes a world class marketing manager.
Understanding business strategy is all about seeing and understanding what’s going on around us right now, in the moment, and asking why.
In our day-to-day lives, we all look at what companies are doing. But how often do we stop and ask why they are doing that activity. Why have they adopted this new messaging framework? What is the intention behind a new pricing strategy?
The pandemic forced us to put our marketing strategy under the microscope and it taught us a valuable lesson in a relatively short time.
But now I want to hear from you. Tell us about your post pandemic experiences, what have been your successes and what have you learnt? Please share this blog with your social networks and join in the conversation.