At the time of writing this article, COVID-19 continues to spread across the world. And while some countries have had more cohesive responses than others, one thing remains for certain everywhere: how you market your business during this time is important. Not only to combat possible revenue loss but also stay in communication with your customer base.
However, it’s not enough to just send out an email blast that says something to the effect of, “In these uncertain times, we care about you.” That will not suffice.
Instead, it’s vital that you craft a marketing plan that speaks to the very real needs of your customers while also boosting business. Here we’ll explore how to do so not just during the pandemic but also in future times of turmoil.
Take a Step Back and Make a Plan
Before you take any action, it’s imperative that you take a little bit of time to prepare. Your goal is to create a plan that’s both practical and sensitive. You need to generate business but you also need to ensure the safety of your customers and attend to their needs and concerns. With that in mind, here are a few ways to plan to market during times of uncertainty.
1. Evaluate Existing Content and Graphics
First thing’s first: take a long hard look at your existing content and graphics. What message do they convey to site visitors? Would they be out of bounds for addressing the current moment?
Basically, you don’t want the images and graphics you use to be insensitive to what your audience is dealing with. People are having a hard time and if all of your content conveys a carefree mood, it might read as a bit in poor taste.
The same applies to the phrasing you use. A flippant attitude or talk of vacations and luxury probably aren’t the best angles right now. Instead, put some feelers out and see how people in your community are talking and behaving. Then make adjustments to reflect their tone. Basically, let your customers guide you.
2. Be Mindful and Sensitive in Your Messaging
This is directly related to the above but warrants its own section, too. Any messaging you put forward on your website, social media, in mailers, etc. needs to reflect the needs of your customers. The last thing you want to do is appear as though you’re just out to make a buck.
Instead, show compassion. Acknowledge how hard things are for so many and offer words and imagery that show-case this empathy. Don’t leave up the photos of an international vacation on your homepage. Don’t show off people eating maskless in restaurants. Ensure your graphics and messaging reflect the times and maintain a level of sensitivity.
Basically, now is not the time to be cute or clever. Being straightforward and compassionate will get you so much farther with your customers than any sort of cleverly concocted marketing plan ever would.
3. Consider Offering Payment Plans
If your products are on the pricier side, you may be able to preserve some of your conversion rate by offering payment plans. This can be helpful to get your products into people’s hands even when funds are a bit tighter. Services like Affirm or AfterPay are good options for that.
Consider doing this even if you have a service-based business. It can help keep cash flowing toward your company and will allow you to maintain customers that might otherwise have had to take a hiatus. Plus, once things settle and the crisis passes, those customers you showed empathy toward will remember that.
If You Have the Means, Give More
If you’re comfortable in your business right now, then it’s wise to strongly consider giving away more for free if you can. For example, Neil Patel offered additional premium features of his SEO tool as businesses using his services were losing money. This resulted in more people signing up for free trials and also made it so those who could afford to, upgraded to a premium account in support. Other companies did similar things.
Helping out has a way of coming back to you. By reaching out and going that extra step for your prospects and customers, you will only add to your company’s good reputation. People are making long-term opinions about businesses right now. Make sure your actions have people walk away feeling positive about your brand and that your company stands does the right thing even when it’s hard.
Post on Social Media More
Though you should always post on social media as a part of a cohesive digital marketing plan, it’s even more important in times of crisis. Right now, when many of your customers are stuck at home (or should be, at least), posting to social media and actively engaging with your followers is a great way to bolster connections and forge new ones.
As people spend more time online, it’s vital that your company have a prominent presence. It helps you stay top of mind. But it’s also important that people’s experience with your posts are positive. You don’t want to post so much that you’re obnoxious. You also don’t want to post insensitive things or stuff that’s out of touch with the real-life experiences of people right now.
Instead, you can engage authentically with your audience and social media is the place to do it. Why? Because that’s where the people are.
A great example of this is the Getty Museum challenge, which launched in March 2020. In it, the museum asked their fans to recreate famous artworks from their online collection using household items. It was wildly popular and sparked some brilliant outcomes.
How to Get It Right
Here are a few quick tips for using social media more and doing so in a compassionate way:
- Post more often. Sounds simple but making the effort to do this can make all the difference in how see your business online.
- Ask your followers questions and engage in discussions with them.
- Post to popular hashtags in an authentic way and more actively contribute to online conversations.
- If you would make an announcement about your business on your website, post that to social media as well. This also makes it easier to answer frequently asked questions in real-time. You could even compile these questions and responses into a blog post to share later.
- Use sponsored posts or ads to get the word out about your business and to build your following.
- Hold contests and giveaways to increase customer engagement. This also helps bring a bit of excitement and fun to people’s lives during a trying time.
The great thing about these tips is they apply to those who’ve never used social media for their businesses before and for those that are old pros. Take this time to craft a social media marketing plan that speaks to the needs of your customers.
Content Marketing Tactics
Related to social media posts, revising your content marketing tactics is a good idea as well. Yes, you should absolutely still be blogging. In fact, posting more frequently is likely a good idea. What you post there will depend a bit on what type of content you shared in the past. However, the empathetic approach is never a bad choice.
Here are a few ideas for engaging in compassionate content marketing that gets the word out about your business, promotes your products or services, all while emphasizing that your company is made up of real human beings that are dealing with this crisis, too:
- Have team members write blog posts that discuss their work processes and their at-home life a bit. Nothing too personal but it’s a good opportunity to showcase how your team members are coping and offer some actionable advice to your audience. It also puts a focus on the human element here. By giving your team members (and even yourself) a platform to discuss successes and struggles, you instantly make your company that much more relatable.
- Write content centered around work-life balance tips and a general acknowledgement of the difficulty that so many are currently presented with. No one should expect to achieve the same level of output as they were capable of outside of the period of crisis. Acknowledging this and being empathetic to this fact again makes your company feel human, relatable, and trustworthy. For example, here are some tips on how to stay sane during lockdown.
- Create blog posts about what your company is doing to help. That is, what are you doing to make this time easier for your employees and to help the community at large? Identifying the policies you’ve put in place (working from home, flexible shifts, access to free services, etc) can serve as a model for other companies and signals to your customers that you care about those who work for you. Conscientious shoppers will appreciate this. Showcasing what you’re doing for the community and even your customers can act as a bright spot in a customer’s feed as well as encourage other businesses to do similar things. Spreading the goodness around is never a bad thing.
- Offer downloadable content filled with freebies. Now is not the time to be stingy. So, if you have downloadable ebooks, guides, templates, or other media that’s usually behind a paywall, remove that for now. Show that you care and want to help. If you provide a subscription service, follow Neil Patel’s example above and include more premium features in the free version. While you might lose some money in the outset, you’ll more than make up for it in positive reputation building. Plus, many times people with means will be more than happy to splurge for premium products from companies that go the extra mile for their customers. Generosity is often rewarded in ways you don’t expect.
Add Compassion to Your Email Marketing
If you regularly send out email blasts or newsletters, adapting your messaging immediately is imperative. That is, press pause on whatever promotions you’ve got going on and craft new messaging that relates to the moment. Acknowledge how hard this must be. Address how this will impact your employees or team members. Then swiftly discuss how you will be dealing with it. Be clear, upfront, and transparent.
You can also use your email newsletters to quickly update customers and prospects on what’s happening with your company. If you have a physical location, update customers about your operating hours and any new rules that are in place. And whenever you have to make changes to these guidelines, send out an email with an update. As always, use a kind and compassionate voice in your messaging here. Now is not the time for an “all business” approach.
Make Full Use of Paid Advertising
Businesses are really hurting right now. One effect of that has been dramatically cheaper paid advertising opportunities, especially with regard to CPM or cost-per-impression. So, take advantage of that fact and promote using paid ads as much as you can. You’ll never see ads go for this cheap and it can boost your conversion rate dramatically since more people are spending longer time online — especially on social media. The number of ads over the past few months for really interesting yet small shops has skyrocketed. Let your business stand amongst those.
Marketing in Uncertain Times is a Delicate Matter
Time’s are difficult right now. There’s no denying that fact. And marketing your business might feel like it’s in poor taste. However, how you approach it is everything. That’s why taking the time to formulate a sensitive plan is so essential.
Be thoughtful in your messaging, offer up payment plans, give away more for free if you can, and take the time to connect with your customers via social media, email, and blog posts.
Now is not the time to sit back and try to ride out the crisis in silence. Step up, speak out, and stake your claim in your industry as a compassionate company that truly cares and has a cohesive plan for moving forward with its customers through this difficult time and beyond.
What is your favorite example of a company responding to a time of crisis in their marketing? Let us know in the comments below!
About the author: Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur, online marketer, and professional blogger from Germany. He found WordPress when he needed a website for his first business and instantly fell in love. When not building websites, creating content or helping his clients improve their online business, he can most often be found at the gym, the dojo or traveling the world with his wife. If you want to get in touch with him, you can do so via Twitter or through his website.