It’s pretty clear we can’t escape the coronavirus at this point – at least not its effects. There’s no more toilet paper to be found, Arizona State University and other universities are switching to online classes and most events have been canceled. But, aside from the clear health, social and economy-related impacts, what about marketing? This is a chief concern for marketers and business owners alike.
Keep in mind, as you read the following four suggestions, that your employees are going to be watching you closely to see how you handle this situation. If you focus on the negatives, they will get scared. However, if you are honest with them about the issues and show you have a plan, they will feel less concerned, and in turn, the customers they are talking to will also feel less scared. Here’s what every business should do in these unprecedented times.
1) Be human.
The reports about COVID-19 are everywhere. Some of what’s swirling around is proven, some is skewed. Either way, people are scared. The common thread we share is that we’re all human. If you want to relate to your customers, recognize the fear factor in all of this.
You should send a message to your customers to ease their fears about what your current and enhanced policies are and what you’re doing to protect them, but stick with the facts. Make sure to also update your website, such as an FAQ section. Don’t go too far toward fear-mongering OR to make light of the situation. Neither will land well with the vast majority of people.
Also, write as if you’re speaking directly to a friend, instead of using legalese or medical terms. This, and empathy, will help you connect with those on the receiving end. Remind your employees to take the necessary time to talk through concerns your customer is facing. This will go a long way to turning a customer into a raving fan.
2) Prioritize your customer’s experience.
In marketing, we all know that customer experience is imperative. During such a rocky time as this, it becomes even more crucial. Even though we’re not all in industries that are directly impacted by the coronavirus (like travel, events, restaurants, etc.), we’re still all tangentially impacted. We’re in this together.
Whether your customers are slower to make a decision, pulling back on their budgets temporarily, or your vendors are concerned they won’t be able to produce enough for you, think about how each of these things will impact the customer experience. Is there something you can do to keep that experience positive, despite all the chaos? Can you help relieve customers’ stress right now, rather than add to it? If not, honest communication might be all you can do. But it’s worth doing whatever you can.
3) Be patient.
We have to recognize that consumers are making decisions differently in this present moment than they did even a few weeks ago. Because of this, many people are certainly feeling the squeeze. Businesses are losing money, and the economy is in a tough place. We felt the same way after 9/11, 2008 financial crisis and many others. But we bounced back, even stronger, and will do that again.
It’s not fun but try your best not to get overly frustrated. How you interact with your customers (and employees) now, when times are scary, says a lot about you and your brand. Are you showing care toward everyone? Being mindful of their fears? Don’t pressure them to make a decision they’re nervous to make. Instead, help them. When the economy bounces back, your customers will remember how you treated them, and you will be their first choice since you were so patient with them.
4) Run toward the danger.
From a marketing perspective, there may be a reduction in people searching for your solutions right now, but the worst thing you can do in a time of economic downturn is to stop marketing and making rash decisions. If you stop your marketing efforts altogether, your losses will be even more significant. If anything, you should look for opportunities and do more!
So, don’t stop marketing. Yes, you’ll need to adjust your strategy and what you say. You’ll need to reprioritize how you’re spending money and which tactics are going to get you the best results. You’ll need to put enhanced systems and processes in place to track every dollar being spent to determine what’s working and what’s not. You can’t afford to be frivolous and need to be able to pivot quicker than before.
If events you were planning on attending have been canceled and you were able to get a refund, you should invest that into other marketing opportunities. Strategic business leaders who aren’t slashing their marketing budgets to address short term loss of revenue will find that their media spend can go a lot farther due to the reduced noise from competitors who were scared and turned off their marketing. Due to more people heading online to make buying decisions, the need for an online presence is critical. You’ll likely find the cost for digital marketing tactics, like Google Ads, are reduced due to short-sighted competitors.
Also, you want people to know you’re still in business and here for the long haul, especially from a perception perspective. If you stop marketing altogether, you stand to lose even more sales (and reputational capital) during this time. This will leave you playing a costly game of catch up later, once there’s normalcy back in the world.
The coronavirus is impacting all of us, and there’s no avoiding that. But it won’t last forever, and we look forward to eventually getting back to life-as-usual. In the meantime, let’s roll with these wild punches together. Keep your empathy and patience high. Adjust your strategy and tactics, but whatever you do, keep marketing. Follow the above suggestions and instead of surviving, you are going to thrive.
We understand this is an uncertain time so we’re offering a free 1.5 hour consultation to help you plan out your marketing strategy for the next 45 days. If interested, please let shana@stringcaninteractive know so we can schedule some time