Marketing our way through Covid-19

There’s nothing like a global crisis to force you to reflect on your business strategies. Something of this magnitude can either destroy a business or prompt it to thrive. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this make or break conundrum is exactly what we’re are faced with. Whilst there is some solace in the fact it has affected businesses universally, it doesn’t change the impact that we are all feeling personally.

One of the main strands of businesses that has been affected is marketing. Companies are cutting back marketing budgets (in some instances, making redundant the entire marketing team) to try avoid any ‘unnecessary’ spending at this time; while others are using the ‘break’ in normal working life to be more creative, investing money and energy to come up with interesting ways of engaging their audience during these difficult times.

If you want to stay in business, you can’t afford sit still for long however you deploy your marketing efforts. Whilst it is understandable many entrepreneurs wanting to cut down completely on marketing activities (being careful can feel like the safe choice when there’s uncertainly about how long the crisis will continue) but balancing financial responsibility whilst keeping consumers informed and engaged when things get tough is still really beneficial to staying afloat.

Long-term studies show that the right approach during economic uncertainty is to increase — not decrease —  your marketing spend. The last thing you want is to be left way behind your competitors when the economy starts up again.

Interestingly, consumers are happy to engage with some marketing at this time and if done correctly, can even find it comforting. A recent study found that 43% of consumers find it reassuring to hear from brands. In addition, 56% said they like learning how brands are helping their communities during the pandemic. Only 15% said they’d rather not hear from companies.

This is positive news for using marketing to keep the conversations going about your business but bare in mind that marketing during these times requires complete sensitivity to what’s going on in people’s lives and the flexibility to keep up with immediate changes.

Start with customer empathy

COVID-19’s impact on consumer attitudes should be a primary consideration. A study recently found that 76% have recently picked up new habits, behaviors and routines in the wake of COVID-19. Of those people, 89% said they plan on keeping some of their new habits. Consumers are also trying new products, with 36% planning to still use new brands they’ve tried after COVID-19.

Now is not the time to rely on pre-conceived ideas and assumptions. Any data you have from a few weeks ago—let alone a few months ago—is already old news. Constant reflection is required when faced with times such as these; we’ve witnessed how rapidly things can change and with that comes a change in people’s mindsets and opinions too.

Businesses can still move forward, however, but they must do so with genuine empathy. Marketers can help businesses take the right action by acting as a lighthouse for consumer understanding. Many companies have existing ‘Voice of the Customer’ and research strategies in place—these can be really helpful to uncover the emotions underlying people’s shifting attitudes and behaviors. Paying real interest in customer engagement and listening programs can help provide insights on how to best move forward.

But how do you start?

Impressively, some brands have already produced outstanding campaigns that speak to the realities of the pandemic. Dove, for example, created a spot shining a light on the courage of health care workers. Some brands are focusing their efforts on social distancing and encouraging people to do their part by staying home.

It’s inspiring to witness such creativity in storytelling at this time, but marketers must push their companies to go beyond this. This is the time to ‘pay it forward’ and provide as much value as possible to your customers and communities; relating and coming together in shared experience.

Every organization and person has the capacity to contribute in their own way. The most important question companies should ask themselves is this: “what can I do to help?”.. It doesn’t even need to be on a large scale either, just giving something back or doing anything is better than hiding in the shadows until its all blown over.

Giving back can take several forms. From removing subscription costs to a percentage of sales being given to charities.

These moves transcend marketing and may not increase sales immediately, but they’ll certainly build goodwill and help cultivate long-term loyalty. Giving back is not just simply the right thing to do, it’s a key component to placing your business in the real world with your real customers. It shows you care and also demonstrates a kinship and that we are all in this together; because ultimately.. we are. The quicker the world can beat the COVID-19 pandemic, the better chance all companies have in surviving the crisis and thriving beyond it.

Upon reflection, current and relevant data and accurate insights have never been more important. In these uncertain times, relying on instinct and hope alone is dangerous. If you haven’t reached out to your customers and contacts in the past month, now’s the time to do so.

While it’s important to recognize the concern surrounding COVID-19, don’t let this crisis ruin you and your business. By encouraging and giving your team an opportunity to better understand your customers and act based on listening to them and understanding, you are giving your company an opportunity to make its way through this crisis and out the other side again.