Staying Relevant by Building Communities

When COVID-19 began disrupting lives in the United States we knew that our clients (and many other businesses) would need new strategies to navigate this “new normal.” As part of our commitment to helping businesses survive and thrive, we were asked to be interviewed by The Hustle, a daily newsletter served up to more than one million subscribers. Below please find the full article from their Trends report (which we can’t recommend enough!).

Amid Widespread Cancellations, a Marketing Agency Looks to Stay Relevant by Building Communities

The business: Scout Collective, a brand strategy and digital marketing studio
The challenge: Projects placed on hold; clients’ marketing budgets will likely shrink
The solution: Develop brand messaging that builds customer loyalty, community, and empathy

Early last week, Troy Monroe received a Facebook notification highlighting a memory from 5 years ago. It was a post he had written about leaving a full-time job and how nervous and excited he was to launch Scout Collective, his brand and digital marketing studio.

Hitting the 5-year mark was a major win, Monroe says: “Everybody says if you can stay in business 5 years, that’s the tipping point. And then a day later, everything imploded.”

The implosion, of course, came in response to COVID-19. Connecticut-based Scout Collective specializes in brand strategy, brand activation, and digital marketing. In Monroe’s words: “connecting businesses with customers.”

They’re a team of 4, and they tend to work with small, founder- or owner-led businesses in Connecticut, often in the restaurant and entertainment spaces. They recently worked for an ax-throwing outfit whose business was “going gangbusters” before all this happened.

Last year, Scout Collective brought in $260k. Monroe expects a 10-25% drop in business this year — unless they pivot to new opportunities — but says it’s extremely difficult to predict right now.

Clients like Monroe’s are especially reeling from mandated and recommended closures aimed at slowing the spread of the disease.

Yesterday New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut took the CDC’s recommendation and banned all gatherings of over 50 people; closed movie theaters and gyms; and limited restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery only. The closures will stay in place “until further notice.”

Ohio, Illinois, and D.C. have announced similar restrictions on bars and restaurants, and the Bay Area ordered everyone in 6 counties to stay home for the next 3 weeks except to meet essential needs.

Clients recently tabled 2 of Scout Collective’s major projects, and Monroe says they lost a couple of retainers from clients in the restaurant/entertainment space. Within the past week their monthly projections dropped 15%. He’s concerned about his business, as he knows marketing is often the first line item to go when budgets tighten.

But he’s also seeing an opportunity to support businesses that are likely hurting by doing what his team does best: marketing with emotion and connecting people to brand messaging.

“I think messaging more than anything else is what’s going to keep us together,” Monroe says. As a result, he anticipates his business will shift from brand identity to brand management.

Last weekend his team crafted a message to customers of one of their clients, a small tech resale company. Monroe is hoping to win more of this type of work: opportunities to help businesses communicate with their customers authentically and explain what they’re dealing with.

“When businesses are communicating in an open and honest way, customer loyalty becomes apparent,” he says. “People may not be able to support your business financially during [this time], but ultimately I think that’s going to lead to much deeper relationships and appreciation for those businesses once they do open — if they’re able to survive this.”

Monroe is also seeing the outbreak as an opportunity to build community and help each other out. “I think compassion has been lacking in our society for quite some time and sometimes it takes something like this to refocus… on what’s important… and bring people together.”

Monroe spent the weekend assessing how Scout Collective can be most helpful to their clients during this tumultuous time. “We may not make a huge dollar on doing it, but if a dollar is spent, we’re hoping to help people spend it wisely,” he says. That includes brainstorming with clients about how to adapt to consumers’ current needs.

They’re also looking to approach businesses whose services are in higher demand at the moment, like cleaning companies and restaurants working on ramping up delivery and take-out businesses. “It’s really about helping people see a pathway,” he says. Scout Collective, included.

Last week Monroe had a hard conversation with his team and let them know he needs to consider every option, including reducing hours or temporary layoffs.

“When you run a small business it’s not just about numbers, it’s about people,” he says. “The people matter to me more than the financial side of it. The only thing I can guarantee right now is honest and open dialogue and complete empathy.”

[Article originally published in Trends on March 17, 2020]


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