Marketing During COVID-19
The challenges we face from the Coronavirus will define 2020. More than 175 countries have reported cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Simultaneously, it’s having a growing impact on the global economy.
COVID-19 has made us change the way we conduct business. As the general public follows the social distancing guidelines set by the CDC and our government, it’s imperative that businesses innovate and adapt to survive the ‘new normal’ of this existing climate.
When a cultural moment shifts as dramatically as it has in the face of the coronavirus, it’s important that brands address marketing strategically with insight, empathy, mindfulness, and positivity.
Consumer (COVID) Behavior
Right now, approximately 300 million people in the US are self distancing at home. While this brings great challenges to businesses like brick and mortar retail, theme parks, travel, and other businesses, it means that consumers are spending more time and money on digital and streaming services, food, home improvement and decorations.
A recent survey conducted by MFour revealed that 48% of consumers said they’re open to new brands, and only 7% said they’re buying preferred brands. This suggests you have to amplify your defensive strategy to retain customers while attracting potential customers as they are trying new brands.
Adapt Your Marketing Plan
If you haven’t adapted your marketing plan, it’s time to review and evolve. Decide what campaigns or projects should be paused immediately. According to emarketer, 49% of marketers held back campaign launches, while 38% have paused all advertising until later in the year. Reexamine your marketing plan. Push timelines back on campaigns likely to be eclipsed or suspended if content is not timely or appropriate. Also, consider what messaging the brand should prioritize at this time.
Have A Strategy
Some businesses will adapt and thrive, while others will stagnate and become obsolete. To be on the winning side of this equation, it’s vital to have a strategy and be determined to follow through and execute your plan.
A good strategy is both defensive and offensive:
Defensive – First, ask yourself, “How can I retain as much of my existing business as possible?” Through your marketing channels, especially digital and social, be sure to stay in touch with your current customers to inform, engage, and highlight how your brand can help. This is the simplest, most fundamental way to help retain your customer base.
Offensive – How can you adapt and innovate to engage your customers in a new and progressive way? Find new, exciting mediums to promote and sell your products or services, such as utilizing eCommerce, digital, and social media...then expand and capitalize on these new marketing opportunities.
Remember to communicate with your customers frequently. Use digital and social networks to let customers know exactly what is going on with your brand. Be an open, resourceful channel for people to get breaking news, brand info, product updates, and so forth. It’s important to keep a constant line of communication to retain trust, interest, and loyalty to help your brand stay relevant.
You can grow your brand with currency beyond your current revenue. Showing empathy, charity, and goodwill as a company has a powerful emotional influence on people. Embracing a give back strategy will endear customers to you, turning a current or potential customer into a customer for life.
Find A Positive Message
Look to your brand heart for guidance. In times like these, people are searching for an honest, positive message to help them through the uncertainty. Use your brand values, vision, and purpose to remind people of what your company truly stands for, and what it means in context of the current situation. Be personable, hopeful, and optimistic…lean into human stories without being afraid to be vulnerable.
Focus On Information, Not Fear
While this applies to any crisis, it’s particularly important now more than ever to remember this philosophy. Focus on keeping people informed as opposed to being overly alarmist or dramatic. Be mindful of your tone and the information you’re sharing or posting with your audience. Be a leader - stay calm, composed, and forthright.
According to Forbes, in the next few months, businesses are going to become more reliant than ever on digital marketing. The unprecedented, almost-total disappearance of channels relative to live events and increasing barriers on face-to-face business pose an enormous challenge. In light of the ‘new normal’…embrace digital! These times will stimulate the shift to digital business and that shift will remain going forward well after the coronavirus crisis.
Look for opportunities to create digital products such as eCommerce, digital content, streaming, and virtual experiences. Consumers are engaging with digital at an all time high. 87% of US consumers are consuming more content with a majority going to streaming broadcast TV, online videos and streaming. Live streams and podcasts are extremely popular, especially with millennials.
Social Media Lives
When it comes to marketing channels that drive attendance, hype, and engagement, social media does it the best! An easy way to activate streaming content for your business is through social media live events. With social event marketing, knowing what to post and where to post it is crucial in reaching a certain market. Try doing a live stream on Instagram or Facebook and engage with your audience in a meaningful, authentic way.
Focus on your eCommerce experience, make enhancements, and communicate with customers on fulfillment and delivery information. It’s important to use this time to run effective promotions and adjust your messaging and merchandising to be in sync with the ’new normal’ way of life.
Boost Team Morale
We’re all in this together! That is the simple truth. So make sure your marketing team is in good spirits to help you grow the brand. Take extra time to check in, see how they're feeling, and give them a boost of inspiration. Sometimes just hearing the words, “we’ll get through this” from a leader can make a big difference. Be patient, show support, and maintain flexibility as a leader. Motivate your team toward the best case scenario as opposed to being intense while driving for perfection. Handing these times with grace will definitely build your stock as a leader.
Also, try to find ways to have some fun and break up the cycle of negativity during the work quarantine. Have frequent live video meetings with your team and try to start each meeting with some light hearted dialog. Maybe even host a virtual happy hour every once in a while to boost morale!
Even with all the uncertainty around, it seems almost certain that the ’new norm’ could last a while. How long? Who knows. It’s obvious that we’re not going to snap back to pre-COVID times instantly. So plan for the unknown, adjust your expectations, know that you’ll be challenged along the way, and stick to your marketing strategy and communications to see your brand through to a better day.