How to Market a Business During a Coronavirus Downturn

As we all make work-from-home arrangements and see our inboxes fill with event cancellations, it is easy to get caught up in the drama and forget what being in business actually is. At the end of the day, business owners are organised people who, on a daily basis, call the shots that need to be called and make plans — that is why we are in business. It is also in our nature to find the opportunities, and in truth there are many.

Here at Universal Media Co we are talking to multiple sectors that are experiencing the same weird mix of cancellation and silver linings. We are also talking to businesses that are setting up to aggressively acquire market share while they can.

Here are just a few stories from the coal face:

Supermarket sales are sizzling!

It’s been better than Christmas and it’s more sustained. Certainly, anyone who hasn’t tried Edamame Pasta may well have by now, as familiar items disappear and consumers find themselves tracking to alternatives. In our own magazine sales figures, we are seeing almost every publication up – the obvious ‘feel-good’ brands like WellBeing or EatWell, plus those that are more orientated to ‘project-research’ like Backyard magazine.

Travel money is available now… “We’re spending that budget for the holiday on the kitchen”

This was literally the feedback given by many, MANY consumers who attended the HIA Home Show and purchased copies of Kitchens & Bathrooms Quarterly on the weekend in Sydney. Time at home means time staring at those same walls that you’ve been ignoring for years. Granted, some consumer renovators are shying away from project commitments if they have uncertain work prospects, but it is clear that there are plenty of newcomers floating around the market with money ready to spend. Travel is a HUGE sector in the Australian economy, and those travel dollars just aren’t being spent. These consumers are older, established, and have the money in the bank – the only barrier is other priorities getting in the way.

“We’re spending our trip money on a new kitchen” – Shoppers at the HIA Home show in Sydney Mid-March 2020 buying magazines to find ideas for impending renovation projects.


Inboxes are the primary interface

As an increasing number of Australians head home to work, inboxes are becoming the primary interface, not the annoyance that would normally get checked later in the day. This actually yields opportunity for any business frustrated with open rates that have lowered over the past five years. It also provides a way to create brand awareness in markets that are traditionally represented by individuals or event demonstration. A work-from-home community just works differently. More than ever before, we are all using our inboxes as a way of being kept up to date.

It’s hard to get spenders to give you some of their time, but easier now

Say you’re a middle manager and in a good groove; you’re ahead of the traffic and at the gym by 6am, work by 8am, then off to the theatre or a restaurant that night or engaging with family activities. There just isn’t much time for progressing the outdoor makeover. The irony, though, is that this is probably the kind of person who has the money to spend on the home project. This is the single biggest issue for many providers of renovation services in Australia – it’s a nightmare to pin down the customer to measure up and quote. It’s even worse when they have to have the kids out the door at 7am in order to meet your team and provide backyard access, every day for 14 days. People’s schedules are changing and this creates opportunity. You might be dealing with a customer who has to work from home, and new work arrangements are far more flexible and amenable to getting things done in non-peak periods.

e-Commerce is up

A similar phenomenon is being experienced in e-commerce right now. There is good evidence to suggest that people who didn’t have time before, do now. Cart abandonments are weirdly down. This is not in all categories, and it’s not just for hand sanitiser; it seems the frivolous and feel-good pursuits are getting more than their share of the action – fashion, cosmetics, books, magazines, craft and hobbies.

Social media engagements are up

It’s not just the headlines that are drawing us in — it’s the mix of talk, reaction and shared experience. But this is not the time to go experimental and buy “just page likes”; rather, it is a time to go precise and use your skills to hunt real buyers. They will be out there. If you don’t have the skills to load up a pixel or can’t get granular, then don’t bother – but have a teleconference with an advisor who can connect you to an audience that is actually looking for your kind of product or service. These services don’t have to involve a monthly retainer; in fact here at Universal Media Co we offer them on a one-off basis. Try one or two markets and see how it goes in this new business climate.

Public sector spending is ongoing

Capital works are palpably still progressing in parks and gardens throughout the major cities of Australia. While the overseas situation for construction workers appears to be worsening, in Australia our construction industry is still talking control and mitigation. While this may change, it is clear that outdoor construction workers are far less exposed than office workers, provided they are not getting to work on public transport. These big projects are drivers in the economy.

In a downturn, make people feel good

Humans are weird. We love to lap up the drama of the headlines, and we love to pretend it’s all not happening over an Italian meal with a glass of wine and loads of garlic bread. We want to look good so we buy cosmetics and order fashion. We want to feel good so we do our yoga and buy the nice natural hand cream. We create family dinners, do hobbies together, read and play. The game for business is to create brand awareness and market products with an appeal that talks to people’s experiences in these uncertain times.


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