Many years ago, when I was studying marketing in evening classes, we learned about PEST. At the time, I didn’t really get why it was important, or how it fitted into real world marketing.
That probably says quite a lot about how marketing was taught – there is a much bigger focus on commercial translation and real world examples these days. But, I digress…
Fast forward a few years, in the early days of running my own agency, and I met a client who was launching a business delivering Home Improvement Plans. At the time, they were to be compulsory for all home purchases.
I recall asking the client what his plan was if there was a change in ruling and these plans were no longer needed. He confidently replied it wasn’t an issue, and beside he would get work as a surveyor. When I suggested there could be a downturn in housing sales, he laughed.
That was in 2008. The year of the housing crisis… You get the picture.
It was only in later times that I suddenly realised I had been implementing the PEST analysis to this client’s business. Not by getting a model out but just by consciously recognising the client needed a Plan B.
And frankly, in the current climate, never has that been more essential.
Who could have predicted we would be facing a global pandemic that would necessitate closing business premises, and being told to stay at home?
It’s unlikely that many, if any, business continuity plans had planned for a crisis to that extent. After all, it was the stuff of Hollywood films.
But being flexible, doing a U turn, coming up with a Plan B, is how businesses have survived. And small businesses have often spearheaded the innovation.
Artisan gin makers, suddenly facing a reduction in sales due to pub closures, turned to manufacturing hand sanitiser. And, in some cases, made a substantial success of it too.
Pubs looked at different options… Setting up a make shift farm shop offering produce and items in short supply, including loo roll! Offering a take away service, so customers could still “eat out” at home.
Wine merchants offered an online wine tasting – customers buy a ticket, get sent the booze and then taste while watching a Zoom session talking through each bottle.
The list goes on.
But it’s not just about global pandemics. Time and again there are lessons to be learned about shifts in technology – Betamax versus VHS (Millennials – ask your parents!), video/DVD versus Netflix, iTunes, the smartphone. Businesses who underestimate the disruptors do it at their peril.
So what? Why does this matter for you?
Because you need a Plan B – for your business and your marketing. So, yes, you need to consider other products or services, if something should happen in your sector, or to your customer base.
But equally, you should reflect on your marketing, and what happens if that “dries up”.
If you always advertised in printed magazine or newspapers, you’ve already had to face falling circulation figures. And that’s before the decision not to print that a number of trade publications have taken during the lockdown when nobody went into an office.
If you rely on Facebook to broadcast your messaging and don’t have a website? Who owns your customers and communication – you or Facebook? (Hint: It isn’t you!)
Those businesses who always relied on Yellow Pages to get their business suddenly had to find an alternative.
The moral? Spread your risk – and don’t put all your eggs in one marketing basket.
The reality is in nine times out of ten, potential customers have checked you in various forms, even if they were recommended to you. Be that on social channels, on Google, on your website etc.
So the rules are:
- Have more than one marketing tool
- Be consistent across them all – so it all adds up
- Have a Plan B
I am sure we will be coming back to this subject, but I think we’re done for now.