With promising news about COVID-19 vaccines, we’re hopeful that an end to this pandemic is within sight. But we’re not out of the woods yet, and 2020 has taught us always to be prepared for the unexpected.
We thought we’d share what we’ve learned so far about marketing successfully during a pandemic. We think this information will still be helpful over the next six months or so as we head into the “great re-opening” (fingers crossed).
1) Don’t Stop Marketing
We totally understand the natural inclination to let your communications “take a backseat” when tons of information is flying around and what you have to say seems a bit trivial. It could be that you’re not sure what to say. It could be that you’re worried what you do say will come off poorly. Or maybe you just think customers don’t care right now.
But if your product can serve a real need during this time, it’s important to get your message out there. And even if what you sell isn’t in high demand right now, you don’t want your audience to have forgotten you when this crisis is over.
This applies to non-profits, too. Don’t be afraid to continue to share what’s going on in your organization and what your needs are, though also don’t be surprised if you see donations fall because people are reducing discretionary spending. Be sure to show your relevance. Adapt your messaging to show that your work is even more critical now.
Look, we understand that budgets are tighter than ever this year, and that you quite possibly haven’t been able to keep up the same level of marketing. Keep doing what you can with what you have. And don’t go straight to axing the marketing budget when you need to reduce costs. It’s a short-term fix with long-term consequences. See if there are other areas in which you can cut back too.
2) You Can’t Over Communicate
Okay, don’t send 100 emails each containing the word “unprecedented” every day, but don’t be afraid to communicate. People want to know your plan, how you’re addressing safety, what your current offerings are. Don’t think one social post sent in March detailing your COVID plan is enough.
You can help your customers feel safe and confident by telling them exactly what to expect. Remind them of what you’re doing to keep them and your employees safe. Share about updates to that plan. If you happen to still have in-store options, put signage everywhere that tells customers what’s expected of them.
Have you pivoted your offerings or created new ways to shop? Make that information obvious on your website, through pinned social posts, and through other channels.
A good way to make sure you’re addressing customer concerns is to make a list of common questions you’re getting. Make the answers obvious through your main communications touchpoints.
3) Create Value & Sow Goodwill
When marketing during a pandemic, it’s important to not come off as opportunistic or tone deaf. Don’t play on fears. Don’t make it all about you. Instead, put your customers and community first. How are you helping customers live better during a pandemic? How are you supporting the community? If you’re there for your customers and community in the bad times, that will leave an impression that lasts well after the pandemic is over.
4) A Plan Goes a Long Way . . .
We know “plan ahead” isn’t the most original tip. But we saw plenty of organizations scrambling with a pandemic response in spring. And still, many don’t have a robust crisis communications plan. While we hope we won’t have to deal with another pandemic or shutdown of this scale, unexpected things happen on a smaller scale all the time. If you have a general crisis plan already, kudos! If not, get to work. Being prepared will help you respond quickly and confidently, in turn inspiring confidence in your stakeholders that will help you weather the crisis.
5) . . . But Be Ready for Change
Even the best-laid plans can’t account for every scenario. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan or try something new when necessary. There was a lot of pivoting going on in the early days of the pandemic. The organizations that adapted soonest had the edge on their competitors.
What did you need to change to offer solutions to problems your customers are facing right now? Could you be making other changes?
6) Digital is Everything
A good digital marketing presence was important before the pandemic. COVID-19 made it critical. Those who were ready with robust websites, solid SEO and SEM, great social, and strong email strategy were set up for success. They had a head start on those who realized they were far behind and then had to face a steep learning curve.
We hope you were one of the prepared ones, but if not, now you have a digital presence that you can continue to leverage and strengthen.
Our digital dependence won’t fall back to pre-pandemic levels. Does your marketing strategy reflect that?
Marketing, like life in general, has been hugely affected by COVID-19. These are just some of the overarching lessons we’ve learned about marketing during a pandemic. We hope the lessons are helpful as you craft your 2021 marketing plan, but we also hope you don’t need them long!