From shelter-in-place orders to widespread layoffs, the COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental for many businesses. As a result, companies everywhere have paused their marketing and promotions.
While you certainly don’t want to attempt to capitalize on a crisis, now is not the time to go dark. All this does is jeopardize the relationships you’ve built with your customer base. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”
Times of uncertainty are the times to communicate with your audience. And customers want information: Are you open? Do you have products in stock? How are you mitigating risks?
Besides, it’s not as if purchasing has stopped altogether. Social distancing caused in-store visits to drop by 90% in one month, but a large percentage of that traffic moved online. It’s now just a matter of following suit and shifting your communications from traditional channels to digital options. Social medial, for one, is an ideal location to get creative with engagement.
Marketing During a Crisis
Great brands market through disruptions — and subsequent recessions — no matter the cause. Over the next few months, you might have to make some drastic changes to your marketing to serve your customers better. It’ll require you to adjust campaign messaging to reflect the circumstances, keeping interactions both empathetic and authentic.
Though the strategies will vary from business to business, here are a few good places to start:
1. Address consumer concerns about safety.
Businesses must respond to any crisis, and COVID-19 is no different. Keep your messaging informative by communicating proactive measures you’re taking to mitigate risk to consumers and staff members (e.g., store closures, policy changes, delivery options, curbside pickup, etc.). Additional signage may also be necessary for retail locations. Many grocery stores, for example, display information as it pertains to safe distancing, current inventory, and cleaning practices.
For B2B companies, the messaging may look slightly different and include information, case studies, and reports regarding reasons for strategy changes. No matter what, your messaging should assure clients that they can depend on you as a partner. Facebook, for example, has seen an increase in traffic — mostly in private messaging and video calling. What might this mean to a partner’s marketing strategy? You’ll want to explain how to adjust accordingly.
2. Adjust digital marketing campaigns.
During a crisis, it’s important to review all marketing currently in your pipeline. The last thing you want to do is release an ad that might seem inappropriate or insensitive. As you take stock of what to adjust and prioritize, determine whether you may also need to pivot some of your strategies.
Here are a few adjustments you could make:
Pay-per-click campaigns. Include new negative keywords that help prevent your ads from showing up in irrelevant searches as trends change. Negative keywords do a great job of ensuring your ads are triggered only by relevant searches, ideally increasing your click-through rate and your quality score.
Remarketing. Expand your remarketing lookback window from the default of 30 days to 180+ days. This will help you remarket to more people who have previously shown interest in your brand, and it will keep your message top of mind for anyone who hasn’t been to your website in 30 days. This is especially important for smaller dealers who might have smaller audiences.
Social media. Leverage the sight, sound, and motion of Instagram, Facebook, and other outlets to connect with customers.
Beyond these suggestions, don’t forget about your business listings. Update your store or business hours on your main profiles across the various search engines. Google is even allowing businesses to mark their locations as “temporarily closed.” The change appears in search results and Google Maps, helping notify both mobile and desktop traffic. Do the same thing for your social media pages. While you’re at it, highlight any special hours or offers for essential or at-risk customers, including medical professionals, service workers, and seniors.
3. Look for e-commerce solutions.
It’s only natural for people to move even more of their shopping online at this time. Follow consumers by partnering with an online marketplace. Set up your own online store with an e-commerce platform. You also might want to leverage internal logistics to “deliver” products and services.
4. Continue to plan for the future.
Though you may find yourself pausing certain campaigns or pivoting your messaging to reflect the current state of affairs, remember that this too shall pass. Strategize on your next steps for when the outbreak is contained. A direct mail piece that says, “We missed you” or “Thank you for your loyalty” could be a welcome return to business. A special offer can be a welcome addition to any campaign, especially for anyone who has been financially impacted during the pandemic.
When done right, you can capitalize on the massive flood of consumers ready to buy once life returns to normal. Just recognize that messaging still needs to be sympathetic and focused on offers. And if you’ve used the pandemic as a time to prospect new clients or customers, you may end up reaching an entirely new demographic.
When nothing is business as usual, customer concerns need to be addressed as quickly and as delicately possible. That’s where your marketing comes in. Don’t abandon the people who helped build your brand. Stay connected, offer information, and let them know you’re always there.
For more tips on how to best communicate with your customers online during the pandemic, download the Crisis Communications Best Practices guide.
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