Over the past few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve received an increasing flurry of calls and emails from business owners asking for my marketing advice. What is the right way to promote my business during this significant health crisis? How can I get customers when my business is at risk of closing? How can I increase my network when all events are canceled? What can I do now in my marketing to make sure I still have customers when the pandemic is gone?
I get it. As I shared in my blog post about my daughter’s Italy COVID scare, our collective priority right now needs to be self-preservation. In fact, nothing else really feels important. Sending a follow-up email for anything besides COVID seems trite, almost insensitive. Especially while you are trying to implement a remote work plan, reduce meetings and travel, shift to digital services and prepare for the long-term effect of this crisis on your business. Some of my clients feel that promoting their business just feels wrong right now, so I have put together a few strategies you can use to successfully promote your business during this coronavirus pandemic.
Be Relevant in Your Ad Placements
My clients have been scrambling these past few weeks to adapt their ads due to the coronavirus. Out-of-home (OOH) and events ad spending is likely to see a negative impact due to social distancing and isolation measures. Online advertising and video streaming will most definitely see an increase with the schools closed and families bored of self-isolation.
It is imperative that you pull and update all current and scheduled ads to ensure they are considerate, compassionate and most importantly relevant, or you will run the risk of significantly damaging your brand.
According to the New York Times article, “Cruise Line Ads Get Caught in a Coronavirus News Cycle”, there are numerous examples of awkward ad placements trying to reach skittish customers while protecting their brands from becoming collateral damage in the growing coronavirus outbreak. “Many of the ads have ended up alongside unflattering reports about cruises, positioned next to stories about quarantines and government warnings. Disneyland ads appeared on Twitter next to news alerts about neighboring Los Angeles County’s declaring a local health emergency. The delayed James Bond film “No Time to Die” was promoted near headlines about the coronavirus death toll.”
Watch Your Coronavirus Messaging and Frequency
Ensure the content you are generating is addressing your customers’ needs, now. Pivot to your customers’ emotional needs. Our need for safety and security is paramount. What can your business offer your customers to make them feel more safe and secure? This global pandemic has quickly shifted our life priorities and made self-preservation our primary concern. Your marketing and advertising needs to address this in a respectful and helpful way. Find ways to be encouraging in your content marketing. There is so much scary, negative news out there!
Shift Your Sales Strategy Online
Consider how you can offer your services online. What digital platforms can you leverage to reach and connect with your customers? Can you create a training program for your services or turn your offline event into a digital one? As storefronts shuttered their doors, savvy business owners have shifted their sales strategy to avoid heavy losses. For instance, in Wuhan, the cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan closed 40% of its stores — but the brand’s 100+ beauty advisors took to digital platforms like WeChat to engage customers virtually and increase online sales. “As a result, its sales in Wuhan achieved 200% growth compared to the prior year’s sales,” writes Harvard Business Review.
Make Your Services More Accessible and Impactful
As a marketing consultant who specializes in revitalizing and creating competition proof brands, I’ve adjusted my services to help business owners, so they are positioned for success during and after the pandemic ends. I adjusted my traditional consulting services to now provide online consulting and training sessions to business owners by donation and reduced fees. Yes, I need to pay my bills, but perhaps I can help people who can’t afford my usual fees, by providing more affordable services and be able to support the COVID19 Solidarity Response Fund at the same time.
Partnership and Strategic Alliances Power
As reported by eMarketer, “Online alternatives have helped limit the fallout from canceled conferences, but tech industries will likely still suffer a period of stifled innovation due to forgone in-person business opportunities. Conference attendees do not have the same opportunities to network via live streaming as they do attending in-person events.” Speak to your suppliers, investors, partners, and local business owners to discuss possible partnerships or collaboration projects.
Help Yourself with “Negativity Distancing”
I’ve experienced the negative effect of the coronavirus headlines on my own mental and physical health and so yesterday I put a plan in place. I call it “negativity distancing”. My husband and I made a pact to not purposely seek, scroll or watch the news during the day and together before dinner, we would support one another as we go through the daily coronavirus updates. As a business owner, create some space between the news alerts and your social content posts to minimize negative sentiment and reactivity.
Stay Connected and Support People
During this pandemic, we all must work together. Find ways your business can help people affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Create or engage in social online groups or remote working networks (i.e. Challenge Factory) to support your team, community, and country. Stay connected to your potential and existing customers by providing a forum for them to share their concerns and questions. Share what your business is doing to benefit others during this crisis. Your customers will remember how your business responded when times were difficult. It’s our response to the challenges we face that truly matters.
As coronavirus continues to spread, companies will have to figure out whether to advertise and where. My hope is that this article helps you to find ways to promote your business in an ethical and successful way during this pandemic. Stay safe everyone xo