The Covid-19 pandemic has put us all in uncharted territory as individuals, communities, and businesses. All indications are that the economy will slowly start to reopen. Some areas across the country will open faster than others, but all businesses are faced with the same challenge – how do businesses market themselves when consumer behavior has changed so drastically and we don’t know when or if life will return to the way it was?
The reality is people’s needs don’t go away even if they aren’t buying, your services and products are still needed. Your customers are spending more time at home and on social media listening to messages that demonstrate leadership and empathy in the context of the gravity of their situation we’re all enduring.
Many businesses are asking if they should stop marketing entirely or just market differently. How can businesses use marketing to emerge from this pandemic stronger?
Should I Stop Marketing?
When the money stops coming in the thought of spending on marketing is difficult. You probably are thinking, “why should I advertise if nobody is buying?” It’s a fair question to ask. The important thing to keep in mind is that people want to buy and many are ready to buy, but the current lockdown and quarantine environment is preventing them.
The point here is that now, more than ever, you need to stay in touch with your customers. They are more connected to marketing channels than usual. They’re looking for news about how their life will change or return to normal. They’re listening and planning. If your voice is silent, your customers will assume you are closed, forget about you, and engage with a competitor.
Your Competitors are Asking the Same Questions
“Why should I advertise if nobody is buying?”
Your competitors are trying to make the exact same decisions as you. Many of them will decide to not spend money to stay in front of their audience right now. That means this is an unprecedented opportunity to capture a greater market share of consumers with your message.
It Will Cost You More Later
People are spending more time online in general, and even more, time browsing social networks (for example, https://www.searchenginejournal.com/snapchat-usage-up-during-covid-19-data-shows-how-user-behavior-is-changing/364368/). Now is the time to engage them.
You can be growing your audience and future customers even when people aren’t buying. Continuing your marketing isn’t just about maintaining your current customers, it’s about growing your list of potential future customers. You can come out of this with more customers than you had before it started. It just won’t feel like it until people start spending again.
To stop marketing now will cost you more later when you try to build your audience back up. It’s much more cost-effective to stay engaged now and have your audience ready to buy when the time is right, rather than fall behind now and start over later.
How should I Market Differently During the Covid-19 Crisis?
Your marketing should be sensitive to the context of the environment. Many people are living in a state of fear and anxiety, many have lost their jobs, and some have experienced the loss of loved ones. This is not the time for hard selling. Your marketing should be helpful above all else. Education, humor, and support are all great vehicles to use to share your message.
Reassure your audience that your business is responding appropriately, following best safety practices, and that you’re open for business if you are still able to provide service and or products.
Avoid the Hard Sell
A hard sell is when a salesperson applies pressure on a potential buyer by creating a sense of urgency. Often it’s conditioning pricing, such as “This price is only good for today”. It’s based on the assumption that the buyer is indecisive.
It’s generally a good idea to be smart when hard-selling even in normal times, but even more during an economic downturn. You want to let your audience know what you have available, but when promoting directly tie your message to a solution to a particular problem and highlight the benefit.
Focus on trust-building. Be helpful, patient, empathetic, and respectful. If you can solve a customer’s problem without selling them anything that may create greater lifetime value when they return to you or tell their family and friends. Maybe you gave them a troubleshooting tip that helped them avoid getting a costly repair. But when they need the repair they’re going to come to you. You’ve created customer trust and loyalty with more long-term repeat sales.
Communicate More than Ever Before
The Coronavirus has made it very difficult to know which businesses consumers can do business with (Ted made this overly clear in our Facebook live discussion, follow this link for his experience: https://youtu.be/5Zl6cls2AhU?t=160). Communicating must be part of your approach. We emphasize overcommunicating because sufficient communication will likely fall short in terms of frequency and clarity. The idea is to keep your audience informed so that when they’re ready to buy, they can buy from you. If you go silent now, you may lose them forever.
What should I be doing so I can bounce back strong when life returns to normal?
Now is the time to be planning and preparing for when the economy picks back up. Whether it slowly turns on or surges after months of consumers being on lockdown it will return and you need to be ready.
Here are 5 p’s that are adapted by Harvard Business Review that can be used to help guide your marketing now. Answer these questions in the context of during the crisis, immediately after things open, and when the new normal arrives:
- Position – Where do we want to go?
- Perspective – What can we see?
- Plan – How will we do it?
- Projects – What will we prioritize?
- Preparedness – How do we get ready?
Don’t Remind Your Customers About What They Already Know
There’s no need to launch new coronavirus marketing campaigns that remind people that times are tough. Everyone is living it, and more than anything, people are ready to get back to normal and are ready to do their part to help their local economy get back on stable ground. You want to strike a healthy balance between selling and overly empathetic branding. At the end of the day, your customers are going to return to you because you’re solving a problem they have. Focus on solving your customer and how you solve their problem.
Respond to today’s crisis by adjusting your message to our context, then distribute your content. We’re already getting back to normal, but emerging from today’s crisis requires planning. Doing your homework today will allow you to emerge into a position of strength. Don’t stop marketing, remain visible and available. And most importantly, keep solving your customers’ problems.