Marketing Strategy

Marketing during times of uncertainty: Navigating the implications of the coronavirus

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated impact on our economy, most of us are standing on the brink of uncertainty, and it can feel paralyzing – as if we are collectively holding our breath… and waiting.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen firms make the shift to doing business online vs. face-to-face, investment firms advising portfolio companies to spend judiciously, and many of our clients asking how to navigate from a marketing standpoint – from how to message to their customers and prospects, whether or how their marketing programs should morph, and how to best keep pushing forward, knowing eventually this situation will be behind us.

In the end, most of our advice boils down to the human factor: practicing empathy in the way we communicate, exhibiting confidence to our employees, customers, and prospects through our actions and understanding resiliency will be required to rebound. This isn’t just advice, it’s also what we are doing in our own business.

So below are just a few ideas for any firm trying to work through how to best move forward as it relates to marketing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Communicate, but don’t forget the empathy

As we strive to continue to grow our companies, we still need to communicate externally. It’s time to put a little more of the ‘human’ in your brand. Now is the time to have a personal message from the CEO or leadership team, not full of marketing-speak and sales pitches, but full of heart. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be on every page of the website, but it should be posted on social and sent to your customers/clients. Show you care, show you are with them for the long haul… show up.

Speaking of empathy… be patient

Now is the time to be a bit more accepting that your sales email or call wasn’t returned. You might not be the priority at this moment. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes – the leadership team may be consumed with how to keep the business up and running with remote workers vs. adding the latest technology. Yes, this means your sales cycle may have just gotten longer – but it doesn’t mean the prospect won’t return. The same goes for marketing campaigns – rather than barrage prospects with your standard cadence of emails (many of which are likely going unread), re-examine whether time is better spent on creating new thought leadership you can share to help your target market or how your firm can ramp up on webinars now that in-person events are on hold and people will be consuming more content online.

Boost your brand… by doing good

Get more in the long run by giving back, paying it forward, collaborating more, and supporting others. Most of us are part of a broader ecosystem – is there something your industry can be doing collectively? Support new initiatives, band together, even create or drive these initiatives yourself. The connections made during this time will be long lasting.

Real-life social distancing increases online social interaction

Until life gets back to normal, we’ll be spending more time online. This means your customers and prospects are more likely to be reading more, seeing more and consuming more content digitally. Leverage this timeshare and mindshare wisely.

Invest in your business, but invest smarter

Unfortunately, a common reaction to uncertainty is to bring things to a screeching halt. We’ve seen it before during recessions, September 11 or other world and economic events. The problem is that these decisions have long-lasting effects that can unintentionally do harm and take longer to undo than is often anticipated.

Marketing is an investment, and it should always be evaluated, not managed in a static manner. So it is smart to think about whether there should be a shift in where and how to allocate your investments, but as we outlined in our Forbes article on alleviating risk during times of economic uncertainty, it’s about spending smarter, not slashing. This can mean lots of different things, from assessing which segments of your market to focus on, how to evolve your offering to meet current needs, or reallocating spend towards activities expected to have the greatest impact in the current climate.

Uncertainty today is a given, there is no way around it – only through it. All of our businesses are human-based—built by humans and managed by humans. Using our hearts and minds to make rational, intelligent and empathetic decisions is the best we can do for ourselves and others. Here’s hoping for some good news soon in the face of this adversity and doing what we can to do right by those around us.