How Businesses Can Continue Marketing During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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  • Many of us are glued to our computers, phones, digital tablets and televisions during this time of social distancing and the new work from home reality.


    Clients, colleagues and students have been asking me to help them understand how to continue to message customers, clients and prospects in a sensitive and effective manner through digital channels.


    It is true that the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic will be enormous and disruptive. It is important, however, for businesses to continue marketing activities if possible in order to be better positioned for growth in the future.


    I recommend adopting the following phased approach to marketing and communications messaging.


    1. Highlight Your Availability Send communications via texts, phone calls, social media and emails to your current clients and customers to inquire as to their health, the health of their families and their current personal needs. This is the time to demonstrate your humanity and avoid sales driven messages.


    1. Provide Helpful Information Follow-up that inquiry with details about how your business is currently operating under today’s conditions. It is also valuable to provide links to information regarding ways businesses and individuals can find useful government and private sector resources.  This communication needs to be relevant to your audience and will vary by industry sector. Think out of the box, as messages may become redundant over the next few weeks with so many agencies and news sources providing an abundance of daily communications.


    For example, I have seen clever messages from non-fitness companies offering self-care tips, including complimentary yoga and meditation videos. Other businesses have sponsored online group get-togethers including virtual happy hours and lunches to foster connection during these isolating times.  I offer tips to my social media followers on the best ways to minimize technical disruptions while hosting a Zoom meeting.


    1. Donate Products and Services If your business can afford to contribute resources to aid the healthcare industry, it will allow you to show a commitment to your community and inspire others to find ways they can help those in need. While many of us are not in a position to manufacture ventilators, I have been impressed by examples of local businesses sending food to hospital workers from struggling local restaurants as a way to demonstrate social responsibility. Remember to acknowledge the serious challenges people everywhere are confronting along with describing your own philanthropic activities.


    1. Show Your Creativity Many businesses have implemented innovative strategies to provide products and services safely and remotely to their customers and clients. Showcase your employees, their stories and their creative solutions. Consider this type of messaging as a way to humanize your company and build a positive connection with the public. People are seeking personal and professional relationships that are built on trust. I have seen excellent examples of CEOs, managers and their colleagues using video to share their business advice in a caring, sensitive way.  These can be distributed through emails and social media stories and posts. Recent research by Pew and EMarketer indicates a dramatic increase in social media usage especially on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn usage during the past few weeks.


    1. Update Your Online Presence Now is the time to review and improve your online presence including your website, social media, video messaging and Google My Business profiles. It is also the time to formulate and implement a marketing plan to increase your email/SMS lists, reach out to influencers, test search and social media advertising and be ready to help customers and clients when they return to their offices and open their doors to the public. Everyone will be running hard to restart their company’s activities.


    While some may recommend that businesses cease promotional messaging during this difficult time, I think that is a mistake. Many businesses offer products and services that consumers and businesses need currently and when conditions improve.


    Professional service providers such as attorneys, bankers, insurance agents, realtors, accountants, coaches and financial planners are well-positioned to produce a regular flow of  “valuable” content in the form of webinars, podcasts, live-streams, blog posts, tutorials and newsletters to provide helpful advice to current clients and their referrals.  Helping beats selling. This type of messaging reinforces the company’s values and its relationships with clients.  This may also be the perfect time to explore new verticals that may benefit from your services.


    Consumer products and discretionary service businesses should continue communicating with current customers, even if it’s at a reduced level of frequency.  Customers and clients will remember how businesses demonstrated their values during this challenging time. Since digital and social marketing should always be customer-centric, ideally, each business should develop a customized marketing plan for this time.


    Don’t hesitate to connect with me if you need guidance on how to create the right marketing message at the right time in the right channel. I am here to help.


    I wish you, your families, colleagues and staff continued good health. Most importantly, I hope everyone stays safe, recovers quickly and finds strength, comfort and resilience during these trying times.