Hospitality

Read Time: 5 Minutes

 

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases now in the millions, and with more and more countries going into lockdown, the question on many peoples minds is ‘When will it all be over?’.

Whilst we should spare a thought for those suffering and their loved ones, I don’t think there’s any shame in thinking forwards to what the marketplace will look like when this crisis is over, and I think it’s wise that business owners not only plan their recovery strategy, but be prepared to execute it at short notice.

None of us knows whether this crisis and lockdown are going to last 3 weeks or 3 months. Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer gave the indication that the lockdown could be 6 months, with others suggesting up to 12 or even 18 months.

The uncertainty of the current situation is without a doubt a contributing stress factor to both individuals and businesses alike. For many, the lack of there being a light at the end of the tunnel is troubling. It stifles optimism and drive, and of course, it makes planning for the future difficult.

It’s like being made to go out on a run, but not knowing exactly how far you’re going or for how long you’ll be out. At some point, your motivation is going to wane, but you may only be 100m from the finish line…who knows? Given the number of people who’ve taken up daily marathon-length training sessions on my Strava feed in recent weeks, that was probably a bad analogy.

I think it’s fair to point out right now, we’re marketers here at Invoke Media, not public health experts. We aren’t going to be making any predictions in this article about when this crisis will be over or the impact it’s going to have from a health or political perspective, we’ll leave that to the Facebook warriors looking for a bite.

What we do know about is business, and I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss with you some predictions about how businesses and consumers are likely to act when the lockdown is lifted. Let’s have a look firstly at how consumers may act.

Consumer Behaviour

When will the market return?

Hospitality Manchester

It’s difficult to say how exactly people will react without knowing when the lockdown will be lifted, and what that will look like. There are suggestions that we could go into full lockdown, whilst others say we’re likely to go into a ‘semi-lockdown’ scenario, with most industries returning to work but certain activities and industries being prohibited, such as sporting events and restaurants reopening. The fact is, we don’t know what’s going to happen.

It’s essential to note that many people, are experiencing a reduction in wages or income, but that could be offset with reduced costs as they travel less and learn the benefits of cooking meals at home instead of eating out. Again, it’s difficult to quantify the impact on individuals personal financial situations, when there are so many variables at play and people in such different circumstances.

What we do predict, however, is a quick rebound in the market for hospitality & leisure in the days and weeks following the lockdown. After weeks or months stuck inside, we predict Brits will be flowing to restaurants, bars, spas and hotels to enjoy all of the creature comforts and small luxuries that they have missed. As a species, we place high value on resources that are limited. Scarcity as a marketing and sales tactic is one of the most powerful motivators in persuasion, and it is one that has been deployed effectively to the population in recent weeks without any effort from marketers or business owners. We expect a short period of hedonism, as those with expendable income ‘blow off some steam’ after months in the house with their three-year-old on constant repeat. Expect meals out, nights out, weekends away and general ‘treating oneself’ to be one of the first orders of business.

This obviously provides an opportunity for those in the industries affected to recoup some of their losses from an inactive period.

On the flip side of that coin, there is also the possibility that people may be apprehensive about engaging in pursuits that place them around others, as they practice extended social distancing until they are confident the threat has passed. It’s hard to say, these are unprecedented times and there’s no rule book to follow, what we advise is to prepare for both eventualities.

It is also of note to mention that this period of hedonism and spending could be short-lived, as some economists predict a looming recession.

Broken Habits

Let’s quickly take a very simplified look at the habit formation process.

Credit: Blue Oceans. Based on Charles Duhigg’s “Habit Loop” in The Power of Habit.

Reminder: The Trigger or Cue 

Routine: The Behaviour or Action

Reward: The Benefit from the Action

Humans are creatures of habit. We know what we like and when presented with too much choice (or too little!), we’ll often go for the safe option. Let’s use a meal at a restaurant as an example.

Let’s say I go for a meal out every Friday with my girlfriend for ‘date night; (Trigger/Cue). I get to the restaurant(behaviour/action), being greeted with a warm smile from the Maître D and swiftly directed to my table, I have a great meal and on my way out get another glowing smile and farewell as if from a lifelong friend. I’ve had a great experience (benefit/reward).

The chances are that I’m going back. There’s been a positive feedback loop and the habit-forming process has begun.

The following week we go on date night again, we look online at the vast array of options of where to eat and can’t decide (a very real problem with my girlfriend!), after 20 minutes of trying to make a decision we select the restaurant from the week before (the habit is formed).

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and we won’t want to eat at the same place every time. After a month of eating there, we might decide to try somewhere new, have an experience that isn’t necessarily bad but just isn’t as good, and then go back to our original restaurant the following week.

Let’s break this down to the restaurant example again:

Reminder (Trigger/Cue): Girlfriend/Friday

Routine (Behaviour/action): Visit Favourite Restaurant

Reward (Benefit): Have a Great Meal & Experience

Habit: Return to Restaurant Following Week

How does this affect your business?

Being in lockdown means that many of our habits are broken, not by choice, but circumstance. In my example above, date night itself is now broken as a habit, not just the choice of restaurant.

This means that when the market does return, you may find that many of your customers take the opportunity to try a competitor or alternative solution. They may have been forced to find alternative ways to get the reward that you once provided and in fact now prefer it due to the experience or its cost. They may not even restart ‘date night’ or the habit that brings them to you.

On the flip side of that coin, you may also find that you have a completely new pool of people open to trying your business who were previously loyal to a competitor. We’ll come on to this in a minute.

As I keep saying at the moment…treat adversity as an opportunity.

What can you do to make it work for you?

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to keep the positive feedback loop going if you’ve been forced to close during the lockdown. The restaurant example I gave earlier couldn’t be more apt. Whilst some have opened a delivery service, for most people the actual experience of going to the restaurant is as important as the food itself.

You can, however, do the next best thing…stay front-of-mind and build desire. Front-of-mind (also called top-of-mind) awareness is essentially brand recognition and recall, it’s staying in front of your customers and being the first brand in your industry that they think of. We wrote an article on in recently that you can read HERE. When I talk about building desire I refer to teasing the benefits of what you offer in a tasteful and situationally aware manner. See this post we created for a client as a good example (if we say so ourselves).

By keeping your customers engaged, across multiple channels, you are keeping the embers of their habit cycles burning. You’re staying at the forefront of their minds and maintaining their loyalty. You’re also raising awareness in those who’ve become disengaged with their usual provider, providing an opportunity to capture their loyalty when the market returns.

Clamber for Market Share

Have you ever been paintballing?

As a man with a military past, I normally fare quite well. One of the tactics I employ in the classic capture the flag scenario, one I’ve had to utilise in a real-life scenario, is to dash forward in the opening minutes, to find the best cover and launch my attack or make my decision as to the next best course of action. One thing that is hammered into you when conducting attacks as an Infantryman is to keep the momentum going, and the same principle applies in paintball, as it does business.

It’s about gaining ground and putting yourself in the most favourable position to launch your assault, keeping a rate of fire that puts you on the front foot and the enemy (or competition!) on the back foot.

European empires of bygone centuries used the exact same strategy, albeit on a larger scale. Grabbing land and carving it up amongst themselves, providing them with resources as well as strategic advantage and thrust.

I use the military analogy purposely, as business strategy is directly modelled on military strategy. The words and concepts have been directly brought over from centuries of military knowledge into the corporate and business world.

How does this affect your business?

When the market returns, it will be a ‘land grab’ situation, with businesses clambering for market share. Everyone will be dashing forward to gain ground (the customers!) and put themselves the best position to capture the flag (customer loyalty).

This is why it is essential that you not only invest in engaging with existing and prospective customers but plan an aggressive marketing campaign that can be executed at short notice.

What can you do to make it work for you?

There’s a saying that’s I consider to be a little cliché, but accurate: “Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail”. I’m sure you’ve seen it on a boardroom wall somewhere, accompanied by a picture of a soaring eagle or some other ‘motivational’ image…but there’s a lot to be said for it. If your business is unable to trade, then you need to be planning for when it is able to. Use this opportunity to get your plan in place, get prepared to execute it and when the time is right you’ll be ready to pounce.

Capture The Flag

The game has already begun, it’s time to make your advance forward and gain ground. It’s up to you to execute some of your own positive habits to give your business the best chance of survival and success post COVID-19. To summarise, we recommend you adopt the following strategy:

  • Keep your current customers engaged with regular (and appropriate) communications across multiple channels. Agitate the problem and build desire. Remind them why you are the best at what you do, and what a great experience you provide. If you can spare a budget for ad spend, then do so. Investing in keeping your business in front of as many people as possible is a wise move.
  • Mitigate the loss of loyal customers and those who have ‘broken the habit’ by staying front-of-mind, positioning yourself as the caring, responsible business that you are, and treat your customers well in uncertain times. How you treat your customers and staff now will be how you are remembered in 3 or 6 months time.
  • Be prepared. Get your recovery plan in place, make it aggressive and bold. Be prepared to invest in advertisements and get in front of as many of your target audience members as possible, in as short of a time as possible. Develop offers and provide them with the cue/trigger to undertake the action/behaviour so they can receive the benefit/reward that your business provides. Use the adversity you are presented with, as an opportunity to win loyal, habit-driven customers, and put yourself in a better position than you were before any of this happened.

If you’d like us to help you do this, or to ask any questions about the article above & business in general, please get in touch.

Email us at: hello@invokemedia.co.uk and myself or one of the team will be happy to help.

In times of uncertainty, your marketing activity may be the last thing on your mind, but maintaining an active online presence is incredibly important. Now is the time to reassure customers, share positive news and provide company announcements. 

There’s a multitude of things you can be doing to keep your brand/business/organisation front of mind, aside from selling or marketing messages. 

What is Front of Mind Awareness?

First of all, you may be wondering what Front of Mind (FoM) even is. Front of Mind Awareness (also known as Top of Mind Awareness) is defined as the first brand, product or service that comes to mind in a specific category. 

Here’s a quick exercise for you, what’s the first brand that comes to mind when asked the following?

Sofa?

Coffee?

Luxury Cars?

Marketing Agency?

Soft Drink?

I tried this with our marketing assistant Nina and this is what she said:

Sofa? DFS

Coffee? Costa

Luxury car? Ferrari 

Marketing Agency? Invoke Media 

Soft drink? Coke

Chances are many of these answers will be similar, simply because big brands have curated a large mass of relevant and cohesive content, memorable adverts and have spent top dollar on advertising. 

Now, lots of small businesses don’t have multi-million budgets but there are many ways you can stay front of mind with an SME budget and achieve big brand awareness. 

5 Steps to Keep Front of Mind

Be different

Start with what makes you different as a brand. Consider what makes your company special. Is it market niche? High service level? Clearly articulate this message to customers across social media channels and email. If you’re struggling to determine your key USP’s we’d advise on performing a competitor analysis using SWOT as a framework, to learn their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This will clearly help you define who you are as a brand and your key unique selling points. A competitor analysis helps you learn the ins and out of how your competition works, and identify what they’re doing wrong and how you can do it better. We regularly run these for our own business and for our clients, and they’re a great way of keeping on top of the market, and understanding what is working (and isn’t!) for others. 

 

Connect emotionally

This is a huge one for all businesses. By doing something small, it proves to your customers that you genuinely care about them, creates memorability and it resonates with the public. If a social media feed is full of negativity, a positive post really can hit home with many consumers. How you do that will depend on your type of business but here’s one that really struck a chord with us: 

Local Preston restaurant The Silk Route delivered free food to frontline health workers. This small gesture will stick at the forefront of many customer’s minds and they’ll likely order from there again. We know where we’ll be getting our next office takeaway from 🙂 

 Of course, it is essential that you act appropriately and any goodwill gestures are genuine, and from the heart. Your customers aren’t daft and they won’t appreciate it if they think you’re taking advantage of the situation to further your own ends. 

Check with someone and see how it looks from an objective eye. We’re more than happy to help you at no cost if you just need us to look at something and give our opinion.

 

Edgar the Dragon: John Lewis…experts at connecting with their audience emotionally.

Build an email list

Building an email list takes time and a solid strategy, but it’s well worth it to be able to market to your customers and stay front of mind, with one of the most cost-effective digital marketing channels. 

Here are some ways you can build your list: 

  • Offer value-added material on your site or social to capture email addresses (a free recipe, a discount code)
  • Launch a competition on your social media or website
  • Ask your existing contacts and customers if they’d be okay going on your list
  • Put an exit-intent popup on your site

If you’ve already got a loyal following of newsletter subscribers, you’re halfway there. By emailing your subscribers regularly with fresh and relevant content, you’ll stay front-of-mind and ultimately will keep your customers’ engaged. The inbox is one of the most direct ways to connect with audiences, as long as emails are consistent and packed with value. 

 

Use consistent branding

Use any downtime your teams may have currently to re-evaluate your branding. Look at your brand identity as a whole, your website design, the look and feel of your social media channels, the quality of images, infographics. All of these contribute to brand recall. You may have the best product or service out there but if you have branding that isn’t consistent or looks poor, your business may not be front-of-mind. 

One of the key starting points for many businesses is to consult their Style Guide/Brand Guidelines. If you haven’t got one take a look at some fantastic templates. We’ve created two versions for you to look at, see the corporate style HERE or the more modern style HERE.

The Style Guide will act as your bible for all things branding, take the time to re-evaluate your fonts and colour choices. Are there any colour contrasts? Is the header typeface legible? Something as simple as a colour can really impact your brand, according to Forbes Magazine “Color improves brand recognition by up to 80%”. Take note of some of these questions when you are looking at your branding strategy, if you do require any additional help, please contact us and we’d e happy to help.

By having a clearly defined set of brand guidelines you can ensure consistency across your marketing communications and business as a whole. This becomes all the more important when you hire new staff or outsource elements of your marketing to other businesses.

 

Create freebies

Everyone loves a freebie – either a free trial, free download, free eBook or free advice. It’s a great starting point for brands to connect with a consumer on the buyer journey. Once you have their trust there is a much higher likelihood that they will buy from you or re-engage with your services again. Please do ensure that this tactic is part of an overall marketing strategy, to effectively manage your results. 

Will you be trying any of the tips above? If so let us know, it’d be great to hear some success stories. 

As we like to practice what we preach, we will be providing a series of free guides, articles and resources in the Lancashire area, advising on how best to mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on their business. We will be happy to provide you with advice or help in any way that we can assist your business, just get in touch.

 

Kirsty Doyle

Marketing Executive

Invoke Media

01772 921 109

Local Businesses Affected By COVID-19 Pandemic To Receive Free Support

Preston marketing agency Invoke Media offers free services to local businesses to help them survive the impact of COVID-19

Cotton Court Business Centre based marketing agency Invoke Media, are offering a range of free services to local businesses affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic, to help them survive the difficult economic climate.

The move comes as the future of tens of thousands of businesses in the county is brought into question as a result of the pandemic and the associated measures aimed at curbing its spread.

Free support for Lancashire based SMEs

The services are being offered free of charge, and without a catch, obligation or any attempt by the agency to sell services. The charitable move comes as Invoke themselves suffer in the current climate of uncertainty.

Invoke moved their business to Preston from Manchester in June of 2018, in part, to support and be a part of the growth and development of the Central Lancashire area; a move that Invoke Media director says has been massively beneficial to the business.

 

 

Jack Barron, Director of Invoke Media said:

“We moved the business to my home town nearly 2 years ago to be a part of its growth. Financially it was the best move we could have made, and we have been working with some amazing clients from the local area. There’s a great business community around here and we have a lot to be grateful to Preston and Lancashire for.

I think now is an opportunity for us to pay back into the local business community and local economy when it needs it most. We’re here for the long haul, that’s got to be through the tough times as well as the good ones. Now is the time to get stuck in and help others in the area who find themselves struggling or set back because of recent events”.

Many businesses have found themselves without cash flow, and have therefore stopped marketing or disengaged with their agencies. Invoke Media intend to provide an alternative option, that allows businesses to stay at the forefront of their customer’s minds without any financial burden.

Their ability to provide these services free of charge is owed largely to a comprehensive business continuity and resilience plan written earlier in the year. Key members of the team will not be furloughed, instead, any additional capacity created as a result of COVID-19 will be put to use helping the local business community.

Invoke Media Director Jack Barron

Jack Barron added:
“We aren’t expecting to onboard any new clients over the next three months at the very least, and we ourselves have been hit hard by recent events, with 80% of our revenue disappearing within a week. What better way to use the capacity generated over the coming months than to help others and build bridges in the local community.

We have been humbled by the kind acts of other businesses and we’d like to pass that goodwill forward”.

Services include group conference calls with local business owners, one-to-one support and consultancy, social media management, marketing health checks and much more.

The services are available immediately with monthly reviews. Some services are expected to be in high demand, so you are advised to enquire as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

 

 

 

To take advantage of the offer visit: http://www.invokemedia.co.uk/coronavirus-business-assistance/

Press Contact
Kirsty Doyle, Marketing Executive
Invoke Media

Email
Kirsty@invokemedia.co.uk

Telephone
01772 921 109

The threat of disruption comes in many forms for the modern organisation. Things like viruses, earthquakes and cyber attacks are bigger threats than ever. With technology playing an ever-increasing role in business processes and consumer expectations, there are more things that can go wrong. You’ll rarely be given any advance warning when a disruption occurs, so the only way to be prepared is to have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). But what is a BCP, how does it work and how do you create one?

What is a BCP?

A BCP gives comprehensive guidance on the procedures and processes that must be followed in the event an organisation experiences a significant disruption. It must identify the risks that could cause issues for the organisation, such as:

– Economic issues
– Civil unrest
– Internal vulnerabilities
– Cyberattacks/Cybercrime
– Technological problems
– Extreme weather events
– Public health issues

Business disruption can come in many forms.

Every identified risk should be followed by a set of temporary measures and/or quick fixes to keep as many important business operations as functional as possible. Most organisations will prioritise their technologies, as things like online systems, network connections, phone lines, servers, business applications and network drives are all vulnerable to disruption. Furthermore, if something goes wrong with any of these technologies, it can cause serious problems across the entire business.

That said, business continuity planning is about more than just protecting IT functions. It centres around the critical activities that could instantly jeopardise your services and productivity if disrupted. Thus, IT is one of several resources that are essential for the preservation of those activities.

Restoring your IT could take some time, so it’s important to have plans in place for how business can keep going in the meantime. Temporary solutions can be low-tech ones, like carrying out processes with good old pen and paper. Whatever solutions you plan, they should be thoroughly documented in a BCP to inform employees of how to proceed.

What should be included in a BCP?

There are certain things any good BCP should cover. These are:

Purpose and scope:

You must establish the purpose of the plan and what it covers, particularly if your organisation includes subsidiaries and/or multiple locations. You may want to consider making separate plans for each subsidiary/location.

Responsibilities:

You must identify the employees who will be responsible for enacting the plan. Smaller organisations might only need a single leader, while larger organisations may need to nominate a group. You may also need to give authority to anyone who needs to handle the financial costs of disruption.

Plan invocation:

When and how will the plan come into effect? It’s not always clear whether a disruption meets the criteria, so you will need to document who starts the process and how to mobilise the response teams.

Development of the BCP:

This is where you put the meat onto the bones; the actions needed to recover from the disruptions you identify. You will need to carry out a risk assessment and a Business Impact Assessment (BIA) to identify threats and the impact they will have on your organisation. With this information to hand, you can outline the steps required for each disruption to protect people, contain the disruption and prevent further disturbance to priority activities.

Communication:

Plan for how internal and external communications will be maintained. This might include how to notify next of kin if your employees’ wellbeing is at risk. You will also want to plan for communications with the media.

Stakeholders: Your BCP should contain contact details of stakeholders, as they will need to be notified immediately following a disruption.

Document owner, approver and record of changes:

The BCP is owned by the business continuity manager, who takes responsibility for reviewing and testing the procedures.

Managing changes:

The plan should be available in both hard copy and digital formats, and all staff should have access. If changes are made, the digital and hard copy forms must be updated.

Doing it right

If you include everything listed above, the other key consideration is to test, or ‘validate’, it. You should test it at least twice a year to ensure it is still relevant. Having a business plan for preserving continuity following a disruption will help protect your organisation’s reputation, boost employee morale and strengthen relationships with third parties and subsidiaries. Every organisation should have a BCP – you will be glad of it if/when something happens. If you don’t have a BCP in place already, you should address that immediately to ensure your organisation can remain productive at all times.