As we navigate through uncertain times, many questions run through the minds of not only the nation, but communities around the globe. Cities, states, and countries continue to escalate restrictions, slowing down operations and marketing to a crawl worldwide. We continue to watch the news and social media for updates on the Coronavirus and its impact in order to determine the best course of action for ourselves, our families, and our businesses. No matter where you stand in the political climate or the concern spectrum, there is a widespread need for many businesses and entrepreneurs to continue making strategic decisions on how to best move forward with marketing their business.
So, how should you market during this crisis or recession? Where do you start?
Here is a quick guide on marketing strategy during emergencies:
1.Pause and evaluate your current marketing efforts. What do you have scheduled or on autopilot on various platforms and mediums? Do you have ads running or email campaigns scheduled to go out? Identify all queues and put a stop to them immediately if it makes sense to do so. It will be much better to delay communication from your brand to evaluate and update it, rather than risk the interest, trust, or even respect of your follower base due to messaging that is not relevant, tone deaf, or in bad taste.
2. Update your customers and followers on what your business is doing. Yes, we see news about it everywhere, but it’s important to let your customers know what to expect during the foreseeable future. Make sure you update your Google listing, website, and social media pages with adjusted changes (i.e. hours and closures). If you are able to assist those in need, be sure to have clear information on how customers or community members can take advantage of your products or services. Even if you are unsure of how you will move forward long term, acknowledging the circumstance and informing your followers with updates goes a long way in keeping your brand relevant.
3. Be real and genuine in your efforts. Address your employees, teammates, and consumers with a caring message. No matter what industry or vertical in which you operate, nor the size of your company, people’s lives are being affected. Almost 89% of American consumers say that they are loyal to brands that share their values, so it’s wise to emphasize your core values in your messaging and how you will be handling what the future holds. Communicating empathy reinforces qualities that are human, and offers a chance to reinforce an emotional connection with your audience. Messaging using “we”, “us”, and “together” shows solidarity with your company culture and gives a positive message of resilience.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
4. Know your audience to understand and predict consumer behavior. We are seeing first-hand how individuals and groups act in crisis and uncertain situations. A lack of trust in media and news outlets, combined with an overload of information sources, causes confusion, fear, and distrust that drives people to act in ways they normally may not. Economic uncertainty drastically changes financial and buying practices for everyone.
Understanding your audience and their decision-making process allows you to create a strategic marketing plan that aligns with what is most important to them. Focus more on how you can help your consumers and what problems you can solve more-so than simply what your company does. Something like, “Got your hands full? Eliminate the stress of planning meals by ordering online!” will speak to your restaurant audience more than, “We are open and deliver”. Communicate what consumers could miss out on if they wait, let them know about how a product could be helpful during stressful times, and let them know you’ll be there for them whenever they are ready. Use this time to lay a foundation to build brand loyalty as the economy improves.
5. Look for other creative ways to connect as consumer values and attitudes shift. If your company hasn’t modernized yet, it’s crucial that you do so now. Adopting videos, webinars, and video chat in communications will allow you to keep connected and top of mind. Find unique ways to reach out with a personal touch like handwritten notes to top clients. Send big supporters a private message on social media and let them know you are there for them. Think about parts of your experience that you can share to relate to your consumers. Our social media feeds will continue to be saturated with stressful information. Sharing a bit of humor on your feed can stand out to your followers and reinforce a positive sentiment, loyalty, and conversions when the time is right. Creating engaging content like polls and asking consumers to share photos is a good example of ways to connect.
6. Stay focused and update your goals accordingly. While operations are slow, you will naturally have more time for other things. It can be a golden opportunity to PLAN! Make sure you are still paying attention to how you’re spending your time, even with adjusting habits to accommodate work-from-home dynamics. Think critically about projections. The business landscape will shift dramatically, but that doesn’t mean opportunities don’t exist. As competitors cut back, there may be opportunities to take advantage of lower marketing costs to increase market share.
Make sure your operations are ready to handle increased interactions digitally. Make sure your website is optimized to be found on google. Take advantage of organic social media tactics to grow and connect with your audience, and provide a high level of customer service. And when you see a good story, pass it along.