Coronavirus (COVID-19) has turned the business world on its head. The economy is struggling, and consumer behavior changed seemingly overnight. If you’re caught wondering how you should adjust your marketing strategy as a result of these recent developments, you’re not alone.
Note: Before we dive in, we want to make sure we clarify one thing. There is no one size fits all approach to marketing. Marketing strategies are very case-by-case because there are so many variables that must be considered like company size, industry, and business type (B2B vs B2C). Because of this, we do our best to speak in broad strokes in this post. There are exceptions to every insight we offer, so always consider what is best for your specific business before implementing a new strategy.
While EMPIST is often recognized as an IT provider, we also offer digital agency services like website development and digital marketing. We’ve been working very closely with all our marketing clients over the past few weeks in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and have gotten a good gauge of what’s on everyone’s mind right now. Here are some FAQs from those conversations.
Question 1: Should we stop spending money on marketing during this pandemic?
No, not necessarily! There are a few factors to consider here. First, if you’re a B2B organization with a long sales cycle, turning off the marketing spend now could have a lasting impact on your business. Don’t forget: this crisis will end. Set yourself up for success when it does.
Ask yourself: “Am I being too shortsighted?” Let’s say your sales cycle is 6-12 months. Turning off your marketing spend today might help your bottom line this month, but it could also result in a dry pipeline for your sales team later this year once things are (hopefully) back to normal. Make sure you consider the long-term impacts of the decisions you make during this time. Be calm and calculated, not skittish.
The second thing to consider is that we’re lucky enough to work in a time when certain businesses can still operate in a remote environment. This means that many businesses are still operational (76% of small businesses as of April 3rd, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), so demand is not completely gone. While many businesses are on a spending freeze right now and may not be ready to pull the trigger on a new contract or product right away, that doesn’t mean they aren’t shopping for when things go back to normal.
Also consider that your competitors may be pulling back their marketing spend during this time. If that’s the case, the decrease in competition can make your dollar go further.
All this said, you will likely need to adjust your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). In other words, don’t expect to get the same results from your marketing campaigns as you normally would. This is no time to strive for the “ideal” metrics that you may be used to striving for. For example, where your marketing efforts may typically generate an ROI of 10x, you may need to settle for 5x during this time. This may not be what you’re used to, but you are still acquiring new business. A lower (but still positive) ROI is better than no ROI at all.
Question 2: Is it ethical to market my business during a crisis like Coronavirus?
This is the question we’ve been getting the most by far, and I’m actually really happy about that. It shows that most business owners understand that making a dollar is not always the most important thing.
I need to start by saying that I believe the answer to this question is very subjective. As I stated above, this is something you and your team(s) need to address specifically for your business. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. If you closely assess your business’ landscape and decide that you want to continue marketing during a crisis like Coronavirus, I do not personally believe that is unethical. That said, it is entirely dependent on how you go about it.
If you are going to continue to market your business during a crisis, don’t mislead your audience in any way. This is not the time to launch a promotion with a lot of fine print. Everyone is already a little on-edge, so be as transparent and honest as possible in your marketing. Don’t make people jump through a lot of hoops to take advantage of something you’re offering.
Also, needless to say, don’t make light of the situation. This is not the time to be cutesy with your copy. There is a big difference between being cautiously optimistic vs. being ignorant, and consumers are very sensitive to it. If you have even a sliver of concern that your messaging might be insensitive, change it. How you market yourself is incredibly important during a time like this.
Question 3: How do you market during a crisis?
This is the million-dollar question! The true answer will depend on your business, so we have to speak in some broad strokes.
First, be creative. You have an opportunity right now to establish yourself as a thought leader in whatever it is you do. This is not the time to just stick with your standard marketing strategy. Brainstorm some new ideas on how you can reach your audience in a genuine, relevant way. Consumer behavior is different right now, so make sure you adapt. Think outside the box and “wow” your audience.
Next, be helpful. Now more than ever, your content needs to be helpful to the reader. Write about insights you have that you think would be useful and relevant to your audience right now. Consider offering free webinars where you speak on a topic that you’re knowledgeable on. Even an insightful social post can be enough to get some attention. The more actionable and relevant the content you’re offering is, the better.
Also, be human! This isn’t the time to be rigid and overly corporate. Let your guard down a bit and show the human side of your business. Is a client going to have a hard time paying their bill this month due to the crisis? Be understanding and flexible. This will pay dividends for the long-term relationship.
To this point, many people view marketing as simply acquiring new business. This is a mistake! Your marketing efforts shouldn’t end at the sale. How you market yourself to existing clients/customers is just as important (if not more important) as how you acquire new business. In fact, it’s 5x – 25x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one (source: HubSpot). So, don’t just use your marketing expertise to acquire new business! Use it to keep your existing customers/clients happy and engaged as well. This will help reduce client churn and improve customer advocacy (i.e. FREE word of mouth referrals). This is even more true during times of crisis. How does a CPA of $0.00 sound?
One last piece of advice for marketing during a crisis: don’t leave your clients/customers in the dark. Let them know you’re still there and how operations are changing, if at all. If you don’t communicate with them, they will assume the worst. It’s human nature. Make sure you keep them in the loop.
That said, if you don’t have anything helpful or relevant to offer your audience, just be quiet. We’ve all received those emails over the past couple weeks from businesses who really have nothing to say. Don’t make your brand speak just to speak. Consumers can tell when you have something to offer them and when you’re just talking. Keep them updated with relevant info without over-communicating.
Still have questions about how to market your business during a crisis? We’re here to help! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and an EMPIST team member will get back to you shortly.