In today’s rapidly changing environment, finding the right marketing message and taking the correct actions can be challenging. As a result of the pandemic, the world looks much different than it did at the beginning of 2020. Manufacturers are trying to mitigate COVID-19’s economic fallout, ensure employee and workplace safety and keep supply chains moving.
As the novel coronavirus spread, and states across the country increasingly enacted lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the question at the forefront of the minds of many manufacturing executives shifted from “How can we grow this year?” to “How can we survive this year?” Anchor Harvey – a 100-year-old precision forging company – understood that the two questions were the same in a time of unprecedented market disruption. This article discusses why the company decided to double down on aggressive marketing at the beginning of COVID-19 and the benefits it is now seeing.
During the early stages of the pandemic, the decision to go all-in on marketing was not an easy or straightforward one to make. In February and March 2020 – just as COVID-19 was taking hold – the National Association of Manufacturers conducted a Special Coronavirus Survey that found that nearly 80% of manufacturers were expecting the pandemic to impact their finances.
Uncertainty swirled around how bad the outbreak could get, how long mitigation measures and lockdown orders would remain in place, and what the state of the economy would look like moving forward. Many companies moved to slash their marketing budgets, lay off noncritical workers and cut costs wherever possible in an attempt to ride out the pandemic, hoping to emerge battered but not broken at its end.
Anchor Harvey (AH) took the opposite approach and recognized early that COVID-19 was elevating the role of marketing. A notable benefit of being a 100-year-old company is that of experience. History has shown that the companies that thrived during the Great Depression were those that continued marketing and didn’t wait for demand to increase.
While there was discussion about whether AH should scale back or push forward, the company nevertheless recognized it was committed to investing in marketing for the long term. At a time when it saw competitors cutting their marketing and advertising budgets, AH recognized the opportunity to benefit from doubling down on aggressive marketing to ensure it would be able to survive the pandemic by growing throughout it.
Getting Out Ahead
During the early weeks of the pandemic, the trends were already becoming evident. In-person events were increasingly being postponed or canceled, and rising numbers of people – wary of seeing each other in person – steadily moved toward digital communications and collaborative online workspaces.
In marketing, it is essential to lay the groundwork for your potential customers so that they have somewhere to meet your salespeople, who can then go on to develop a long-term relationship. The sudden digital shift in interactions meant that AH needed to adapt to the “new normal” by placing a greater emphasis on harnessing the power of online marketing and advertising. To retain customers, build brand value and continue company growth, AH resolved to go all-in on digital marketing and meet people where they increasingly were – online.
Once the decision had been made, AH started calling customers it knew would be deemed essential by the government to secure an exemption letter to ensure that AH would be able to continue operations in support of those companies. AH contacted several of its customers in the medical, defense, military and aerospace industries, among others, and had secured 11 letters of exemption in less than 24 hours. Exemption letters in hand, AH informed its marketing team it would remain open for business, and they began a quick pivot and subsequent full-court press.
AH knew that nonessential industries would have to close their doors for an indeterminate amount of time and that it would lose their business in the short term as those companies were temporarily forced to cease operations. AH started aggressively marketing to companies and industries that it knew would be deemed essential with that understanding.
Marketing efforts zeroed in on essential industries, offering assistance through extensive digital outreach to medical companies and other critical businesses that saw a sudden disruption in their supply chains. Simultaneously, AH began expanding the content on its website and updating it with new pages and additional resources with the goal of making it as easy as possible for customers to obtain as much information as they might require about aluminum forgings. Simultaneously, AH began refining its email marketing strategies, stepped up the use of pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, increasingly promoted content through news outlets and trade publications, and became more active on social-media platforms.
To drive further engagement and increase awareness of its brand, AH dove headlong into Facebook and LinkedIn. The company established a regular posting cadence on both platforms and used LinkedIn’s targeted display ads and customized InMail messages to employees working at companies in essential industries. Buoyed by aggressive digital marketing tactics, AH has experienced more than 30% growth in its social-media channels throughout the pandemic, which has allowed salespeople to connect with target audiences, establish direct connections and bring in new customers.
The marketing team has also been doing an incredible amount of public-relations work, reaching out to trade publications, industry podcasts and even the local news to ensure that AH was kept front-of-mind throughout the pandemic. Taking a proactive marketing approach has allowed the company to stay ahead of the mandated shutdowns and economic turbulence caused by COVID-19. Following the quick marketing shift to essential industries was a broader pivot to the importance of reshoring supply chains.
As the pandemic wore on, companies around the globe found their supply chains wracked with sudden pressures and unprecedented instability. While pricing, availability and the demand for materials and labor fluctuated wildly across the global market, AH seized the opportunity to promote local manufacturing and 100% domestic material sourcing.
For a growing list of reasons – from economics and logistics to security and quality – companies had steadily been reshoring their supply chains and bringing operations back to the U.S. in the run-up to the pandemic. Nevertheless, COVID-19 provided the final push that many companies required to wrestle back control of their supply chains in order to reshore and restore their operations. By seeing the market trends and implementing another aggressive marketing push, AH was placed in a prime position to work with newly reshoring companies as they moved to establish dependable stateside supply chains.
Anchor Harvey has been able to thrive during the coronavirus pandemic with the use of an aggressive marketing strategy that re-emphasized digital platforms. By staying ahead of market trends, doubling down on social media and digital marketing, and shifting focus to essential industries, 2020 has seen the company receive the highest number of quote requests in its 100-year history. AH is currently setting record sales numbers and has expanded its operations to around-the-clock shifts, seven days a week, to keep up with demand. Marketing during a pandemic can be fraught with challenges, but where there are challenges there are opportunities.
Author Tom Lefaivre is President of Anchor Harvey, Freeport, Ill. Having served in this capacity for over 17 years, Tom has spearheaded the transformation of the 100-year-old forge shop, evolving its next growth stage with deep integration of advanced technologies and entrance into a global array of new markets. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-367-4464. For additional information, visit www.anchorharvey.com.
NAM’s Special Coronavirus Survey referenced in this article can be accessed at https://www.nam.org/coronasurvey/.
All images/graphics supplied by Anchor Harvey.