Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are rethinking how much they will spend on advertising in 2020, and the forecast in mid-April seems a bit more stable than numbers gathered in late March.
During the next six months, 36% of SMBs plan to spend about the same in mid-April on advertising as they did during the past six months -- up from 20% in late March. Some 39% of SMBs plan to spend less on advertising -- down from 54% in late March, according to data from Borrell Associates.
Borrell’s monthly panel of SMBs examines their activities and opinions on marketing.
The April survey, conducted between April 14 and 23, 2020, shows SMBs are using marketing to substitute other forms of communication such as face-to-face interactions.
Some are using brand awareness to connect with consumers. In April, 29% said they increased brand awareness, but there were many other ways that SMBs communicated. Sixty percent informed customers of new precautions, while 51% adjusted messaging, 46% offered new options, 33% replaced hard-sell messages with emphatic messaging, 31% reduced print advertising, 29% increased brand awareness, 25% reduced spend on digital advertising, 21% stopped advertising, and 17% reduced outdoor advertising. About 11% said they are not making any changes.
While SMBs increased brand awareness, respondents also believe the impact of COVID-19 on their business -- measured by revenue, sales and leads -- may be felt for eight months.
Some 62% of companies said they have seen more than a 30% revenue decline in the period from April 14-23 -- down about 1% compared to the March 23-29 period. Some 20% of SMBs said they said the pandemic somewhat negatively impacted their business between 10% and 30% in April vs 27% in late March.
Interestingly, a very small percentage of 3% said that in mid-April they saw a significant positive impact on revenue and 3% said they saw a somewhat positive impact during the same time frame.
Companies are changing their business to maintain their relationships with customers. Twenty-one percent say they have implemented video events, while 20% say they have made changes in customer messaging or increased it; 17% are using email, 17% are improving online processes; 16% are using phone calls, and 12% are adopting social media. Other changes include curbside pickup or delivery, special offers, change of payment terms, mobile messaging and virtual tours.
While marketing advice is more likely to come from colleagues and trade organizations, but respondents said they are just as likely to glean marketing advice from social media as ad from local media providers.
Most companies have changed and adapted their business model to maintain their relationships with customers. For example, many arts and entertainment venues cannot have live, in-person events, so they are trying to do more online.
Construction workers, contractors and landscapers are keeping up on social media, while health care has converted most of its in-person visits to telecommuting when possible.