Important Things to Consider about Marketing in Crisis
Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is here. Notwithstanding the potential loss of life, one of the biggest victims of this crisis will be small businesses, many of which may not have the resources to weather the storm.
We’ve had clients ask us about what they should do (or should postpone doing) in terms of marketing through this crisis, and we thought we would share some insight.
Although what we are currently experiencing is largely unprecedented, it is not the first time that businesses have been forced to take a close look at their marketing efforts and communications in times of crisis. In the days following 9/11, many companies weren’t sure what they should be saying or how to say it. Depending on your business, particularly if your product is perceived to be a commodity, marketing at times like these might seem callous or insensitive.
But marketing during a crisis is critical to ensure that your business will survive.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare your company to market through the COVID-19 crisis:
- Communicate effectively: Provide resources and support for your customers (and employees), and update your customers about your plans for the future. Some examples:
- Do you have a restaurant and can’t offer in house service? Offer delivery or curbside pickup. Encourage people to use it not only for themselves, but for others who may be shut in, elderly neighbors who may be afraid to leave their homes. Offer discounts or free delivery for large orders.
- Or do you have a hair salon and you know that people are nervous about coming in? Communicate what you are doing to maintain a safe and clean environment for your patrons and your staff. Offer special one on one hours for the elderly by appointment so that you can assure them that they will not have to wait in a crowded waiting area, and they will only come into contact with their stylist.
- We see that many businesses have plans such as these…but they are not communicating them for fear of appearing too focused on themselves.
- Communicate with the right tone: A crisis (large or small, this one or the next) may impact each of us personally, and may impact our businesses in ways that other people may not realize right away. This is not the time to start taking to social media with negative messages about the great impact it has on us. Nor is it the time to make light of the events (no funny memes!), or to downplay its significance. Finally, be mindful of not appearing exploitative in your messaging. Strive to maintain an even, non-confrontational, professional tone on social media and in all of your digital interactions.
- Be flexible: If your message falls flat, check your messaging, and try again. People may be momentarily focusing on negative news that is impacting their area or just taking a break from communication platforms to avoid all of the hype. Don’t assume that it was your message that was the issue. Be consistent, maintain regular communications, and focus on the positive.
- Be forward-thinking: If your business is one of those that simply can’t offer services to your customers today, use this time to position yourself to do a massive re-launch! You can sell gift cards for future services (we can help set up a way for you to do that online!) Look at your digital presence, and make sure that you are easily found on search engines. Check your online listings, look at SEO on your website, and maintain your presence on social media so that you retain relevance with your audience. If you haven’t established a digital presence at all, now is the time to lay that groundwork! Whatever you do, develop a plan so that when the time is right, and the urgency of the crisis has passed, you will emerge with a strong, sound marketing strategy that will allow you to hit the ground running.
The bottom line? Businesses can’t afford to sit idle and do nothing in times like these. Marketing is all about the message. Who are you as an organization and why should your customers choose you? Use these unprecedented times to make a clear statement about who you really are to your customers and potential customers, and you will be rewarded with future business.
For more information about how we can help develop or refine your marketing messages and strategies, or establish or review your digital presence to position your business for success, please contact us at [email protected] or by phone at (509) 842-0782.