The Business Of Pandemics: Can Marketers Survive?

News about the Covid-19 pandemic is pouring in almost by the minute. And some of it relates to marketing: 

  • The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has cancelled the ANA Media Conference scheduled for March 25-27 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, FL 
  • Almost 50% of retailers expect a revenue downturn because of the virus, Digital Commerce 360 found in a study. And while 30% foresee an ecommerce upturn, 32% predict a decline.
  • The Washington Post announced in a tweet that it has launched a free daily email newsletter to keep readers posted on virus-related developments.

What's more, as we reported yesterday, 20% of industrial marketers are cancelling plans to attend or exhibit at events. Today, we caught up with Pete Hoelscher, CEO of IEEE GlobalSpec, the provider of the research, to determine whether that 20% is worth worrying about.   



“20% is a big number,” Hoelscher says. “And that survey was conducted last week — if we did it today, we would see those numbers have shifted. Major shows have been cancelled in the last seven days. It puts the marketers on their heels.” 

The study also found that of those changing their plans, 28% will shift money into digital advertising. Does Hoelscher really see event dollars being shifted to digital?

“Right now, there’s no uptick,” he says. “Everyone is in a holding pattern. They want to wait and see how much more significant all this becomes, and they want to make sure they have the cash on hand when this passes.”

What about the stock market — is the downturn affecting industrial marketers? Not for the privately owned smaller firms that largely make up the base, but news of the decline does depress confidence, Hoelscher reports.

Another issue is the supply chain — many parts and components are manufactured overseas. Companies lose clients when they can’t fulfill. 

In this environment, email is a perfect channel is for sharing information, but the content “has to be targeted, it has to be relevant and it has to resonate,” Hoelscher says.

He adds that “webinars are a great tool if you have a product you want to introduce.” Above all, though, take an omnichannel approach. “There’s no one single way,” he continues. 

IEEE GlobalSpec is in a position to see all of this because it is an online catalog listing tens of millions of parts from a dozen verticals. And it produces content for clients, ranging from email newsletters to whitepapers. 

What advice does Hoelscher offer marketers? First, don’t panic. 

“Go to your office and take a deep breath,” he says.

Next, ask yourself, “What am I going to do when this situation passes?” Plan for the second half, when it is likely that events will start being rescheduled and budgets refreshed.

And if you’re targeting Hoelscher’s audience, remember that “engineers don’t want to be marketed to — they want to be educated.”


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