Marketing in the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Meghan Belluomini, on Apr 10, 2020 6:46:56 AM
Times are uncertain. With many companies closing their doors to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they may be facing the choice between paying their employees or continuing their marketing efforts.
Although the world seems to have shut down for the foreseeable future, now is not the time for your business to go silent. The best investment you can make right now is in your digital marketing, digital presence, and online engagement. It’s time to shift your focus and concentrate on providing value to your customers online.
Marketing during a pandemic may be uncharted territory, but much of the guidelines for building a digital presence applies even now. Here are some helpful guidelines businesses can use (and are using) to shift their marketing plans, reaching current and potential customers, and ensuring through continual efforts their business will survive.
Shift Your Marketing Plan
Should your business strategy change with the reality of the new pandemic? The short answer is yes. The drastic change in how society continues to run right now during the pandemic — however long it lasts — is something that should be carefully considered. A campaign you planned, possibly months in advance, could have little relevance in today's climate. In fact, it could be detrimental to your company’s reputation to run an advertising campaign that’s out of place or now viewed as insensitive or inappropriate. The importance of shifting your marketing efforts during this time is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to keep your business afloat.
There are many great examples of how other organizations and companies have shifted their marketing efforts by remaining relevant to their customers. These are the common threads between them:
- They focus on being a resource.
- They support their community.
- They have become a source of positivity rather than pushing a sale.
This gains trust in the eyes of the consumer and they will reap the benefits now and in the days to come. Many brands have postponed their plans and shifted their focus in lieu of the coronavirus, but there are a few that stand out with their positive impact. If you want to see a full, updated list of how brands are reacting and evolving at this time, AdAge has done a great job creating an up-to-date list, but here are a few notable ones.
Seemingly overnight, the hotel industry was struck and forced to change their approach to marketing. Hotels.com was one of those companies. Their original ad included their mascot Captain Obvious in an airplane invading another passengers space and sneaking handfuls out of their bag of snacks. It was very obvious that they would have to put Captain Obvious’s agenda on hold and change the focus. Faced with the fact that many of their customers would be forced to cancel their travel plans and avoid flying, Hotels.com put a hard stop on their campaign and released a new spot with Captain Obvious following CDC guidelines by social distancing and using hand sanitizer before snacking.
Another company that had to drastically change their campaign was KFC. KFC originally had a spot that showcased one of the brands most popular phrases: "finger licking." After receiving complaints for the brand being insensitive in this time of being safe and practicing good hygiene, KFC changed their tune and marketing efforts to one more conscious and to promoting good hygiene practices – quite the opposite of their original campaign.
As brands navigate the new landscape that is the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear the right way to go about marketing in this uncertain time is to show compassion and most importantly, shift your campaign and marketing strategies to reflect the new reality.
At a time when people nationwide are practicing social distancing, it shouldn’t be a surprise that face-to-face interactions and networking is out (or at least on hold). This has forced the majority of businesses to change the way they’re communicating with clients and new leads. Connecting with potential customers has turned to social media, in-person business meetings, and video calls. But this shift to technology-based communication shouldn’t be anything new! It’s especially not surprising to us (inbound, digital marketers) who are used to digital communication – the only thing that’s different is the scale! But if your business relied heavily on face-to-face prospecting and networking, you may be feeling left behind. There’s no reason to fight the change and adapting now will be beneficial for your business even after the pandemic is over.
There are many ways to adapt your current business to being fully digital and operational and your customers and clients will expect that in the months to come. Here are a few ways to keep up the communication while stuck in quarantine to keep business flowing:
- Use technology to communicate with current clients and potential customers. Though many of them may be lying low and keeping their spending in check at the moment, keeping them in the loop about your business will keep you top-of-mind and ready to do business with you once things return to normal.
- Many companies have changed business models entirely to show that they are contributing to the community while they’re unable to continue their normal operations. Create something inspiring – videos, messaging, designs – everyone needs it (especially now) and it’s sure to keep you top-of-mind when business starts flowing again.
- Now is a great time to reach out to current and former clients digitally to ask for a review or testimonial. Doing this now builds your reputation up in advance, putting you ahead of the competition post-pandemic.
- LinkedIn is another platform you shouldn’t sleep on. It’s currently where all CEO’s are gathering, communicating, and making headway with their networking. Don’t skip other social media platforms either. Social media marketing is extremely important now with people staying home. It’s how they’re socializing while practicing social distancing!
- Was your main source of marketing and finding new clients through conferences and trade shows? Host a virtual event! A virtual webinar is a great way to reach out to potential clients and release great resources that your audience will want to get their hands on.
These are just a few of the ways to reach your customer base and gain the attention of prospective clients in a time when you can’t meet with others face-to-face. So don’t go dark, and keep that line of communication open!
Future-Proof Your Business
You may be shifting your campaigns and changing the ways you reach out and communicate with customers, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon improving what you already have! Make sure what you're offering right now stands the test of time and allows you to bounce back once things return to normal. Many current marketing strategies and models that you were using before still apply and cutting them now could prove disastrous for your business. This fact has been proven time and time again, most recently in studies done after recessions where it was shown that companies that didn’t completely drop the ball when it came to their marketing efforts came out on top.
There are many things you can continue to do and more importantly, improve upon during this time. One of the most important? Improving your SEO and optimizing your website. Doing this now will not only improve your current situation by allowing more customers to find you and your services online but it will continue to help you later. This also applies to PPC advertising. PPC is a great way to help potential customers looking for your services find you easier and can very easily get you new business and better results! It’s a great time to make sure your Google My Business is up-to-date as well.
Although times may be tough right now and doing business in the traditional way is out of the question, that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. There are so many ways your business can reach out to current and potential customers in this digital age and though they may not be buying at the moment, it’s important to remind them that you're willing to do your part in these hard times. By doing your due diligence in shifting your marketing plan, digitally communicating, and optimizing your current digital footprint, you're helping those looking to find you, find you, and letting them know that you’ll be there to see this through.