Marketing in the Time of COVID-19

How are you doing in your part of the world? How are your family and friends? How’s business going? You may not want to answer that. I get it. COVID-19 is particularly cruel to B2C businesses, but cruelty at a time like this has a way of spreading. It trickles to affect the entire chain of business; B2B companies included.

It’s a confusing time right now, all across the board. On an individual and personal level, people and teams are naturally reshuffling priorities, tasks, projects, and so on. 

We live in a different time right now, and it’s a lot to digest. Plans we’ve set out in December or January are now derailed for the first quarter, and the second quarter…and probably the third quarter…and let’s just say there’s a lot we don’t know.

There’s a pandemic. It’s hard to focus. When it comes to marketing and selling, it can be overwhelming to compartmentalize, to shift from your personal concerns (family, friends, quarantine) to professional (addressing customers’ concerns and reassuring them). 

In this post, I’m not offering advice — as marketers, we’ve all probably done and continue to do our research — but know that you are far from alone if you are finding yourself part of a concerted effort to reset the company strategy for the year.

There’s no playbook for what we’re going through. This is unprecedented. We’re living through what could well be a big note in our history for future generations. 

What it means to recalibrate when the sky is falling

It feels that way. But it isn’t. The best thing we can do is not to give in to panic or fear. We’re going to need our wits more than ever. When we’re calm, our clients and audiences are also calm. We all need assurance that those we depend on will forge ahead so we give that assurance. 

We adapt and align ourselves with a world struggling with a pandemic. 

Read the room: check for context 

Right about now you’re probably looking at your marketing and sales outreach plans with a different perspective, and that’s completely right. The content we worked so hard on to nurture prospects and customers through the buyer’s journey now seems…a bit hollow. 

While medical facilities the world over are desperate for personal protective equipment, it’s out of touch and callous to keep marketing and trying to sell a product or service without first or also addressing such a critical need. 

So maybe don’t hit the send button on a campaign right now. Or edit your messaging, definitely do your part in contributing to the global, national or local community effort. It’s called cause marketing. While the big brands and corporations in Chief Marketer’s article all have the money to fund big outreach and charity campaigns, even small brands can do their part. 

Strategies and plans that we planned for this year will need to be revisited and more than likely, scaled back. It’s not forever, it’s just temporary. Read the room, be relevant, or your message will disappear into oblivion. 

Think With Google has a succinct 5-point media principles for this time we currently live in. Context is number one, and the rest of the four stems from it. 

Context makes you reassess, makes you considerate, makes you want to contribute. It makes you adapt faster. It helps you act right and treat what we’re going through as the current “new normal.” 

Continue giving support: be there 

A lot of business leaders are asking, ‘What do I do? How do I react? I need to keep doing what I do to make money…but I can’t do it the same way or I’ll lose money.”

Just like you’d launch a new product beta to innovators and then to early adopters (versus laggards), you can apply the same concept to a crisis situation — first, identify “the innovators,” whether they be customers, employees, or peers.

Ask them what they need to adapt

Ask innovators what they need to get through this; there’s a good chance what they need will be what others do, too. Because of who they are by nature, the out-of-the-box thinkers, they are more likely to have novel ideas rather than be grounded by paralysis.

This feedback is invaluable and can subsequently help you navigate the crisis with empathy, relevance, and the appropriate tone in every messaging. 

We can’t stop moving forward, we have jobs to do, but we need to be thoughtful and deliberate at this time. 

This is also why Think With Google’s 5 principles are good compass points to direct your priorities and decisions. For marketing and sales teams, this can be a good test as any of the essential ability to connect with target audiences. 

Every day brings new news, which means constant change. All we can do is be ready to pivot, balancing consistency with brands’ voices and recalibrating that voice at the same time to speak with hope and helpfulness.  

It’s not about completely ditching marketing or sales. We have to do business. Doing business can help us help others. It’s about staying relevant, as always. 

Dan Baird

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