COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. In a matter of weeks, whole industries ground to a halt. Employees adjusted to working from home — or not working at all — and business leaders started looking at how they were going to weather the storm. Everyone was focused on getting through the crisis. Very few were thinking about a pandemic marketing strategy.
But the virus has been here for a while now. And experts predict it’s probably not going away anytime soon. Cities, states, and countries are lifting restrictions and we’re all trying to figure out how to adapt to this new normal. If you haven’t already, now is definitely the time to work on a new pandemic marketing strategy.
Why Should You Change Tactics?
No matter how significantly the pandemic has affected your industry, odds are very high that your audience has felt the impact. Channel partners may be adapting to a new business model or figuring out how to maintain operations with staff working remotely. Consumers are facing job losses and dealing with kids out of school, health concerns, and overwhelmingly, stress and anxiety.
Studies show 62% of marketers say marketing has become more important during the pandemic. Yet situations, challenges, and priorities have changed. You simply can’t switch your old marketing campaigns back on and hope to engage the same audiences. You also can’t just hit pause and wait for things to get back to the way they were.
It Could Hurt You If You Don’t
When customers’ motivations and behaviours change, companies who don’t adapt risk appearing out of touch or tone-deaf. And that could hurt you in the long run. Customers who viewed you as a trusted partner before the pandemic need to feel that trust was justified when a crisis hits. They need to know they can count on you when the chips are down.
- Demonstrate that your relationship with customers isn’t just financial. Whether or not your profits have taken a hit amid lockdowns and quarantines, resist the urge to focus on increasing revenue and focus on how you can help meet your customers’ needs.
- Spend time figuring out what new challenges customers face and how you can address them. The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented event in our times; Your marketing team couldn’t have planned for this. Avoid throwing together a pandemic marketing strategy that doesn’t really address your clients’ needs — and ends up looking the same as everyone else.
- Pay attention. Listen to what your audience is saying. 76% of consumers have developed new habits or routines during the pandemic. Respond with empathy, support, and solutions that meet their changing needs.
Customers Want Something More
Simon Sinek has long been telling marketing teams that they should “Start With Why” (and we wrote about it years ago). That advice is doubly important in times of crisis. Amid uncertainty and division about how to proceed, customers want to buy from companies who stand for something bigger than the bottom line. Showing clients they can trust you is crucial to a successful pandemic marketing strategy.
“I believe that brands are really going to be judged for a long time by how they behave through COVID-19. Consumers are calling for a change, so the more empathy you show, the more you understand what a customer wants and desires, what hurdles they aim to overcome, and what opportunities are ahead of them. Be there, check your brand, and listen up, and you will be remembered long after COVID-19.”
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report found that 81% of consumers say choosing a brand they can trust to “do the right thing” is a major factor when making purchase decisions. How will your audience feel about how you responded to the pandemic?
You Could Uncover New Revenue Streams
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. And while you shouldn’t be entirely focused on how you can boost revenue right now, be aware that changing your marketing strategy in a pandemic could actually improve your bottom line long term.
As I mentioned earlier, consumer behaviours and habits have shifted as people adjust to living with COVID-19. A significant portion of those people — 36% — say they will maintain those new habits after the pandemic ends and continue running their small business from home. That means that every new customer you reach now who converts could potentially be loyal to your brand well after the crisis ends.
Online engagement is up right now as social distancing continues and many businesses remain closed or operate at reduced capacity. People are turning to the internet for news, shopping, education, entertainment, and engagement. Social media is an established gold mine for marketers, and your audience is already there, ready to engage with you.
How to Develop a Pandemic Marketing Strategy
Realizing the value of adapting your marketing strategy in a pandemic is a crucial step. But your organization may be facing outbreak-related challenges as well. (And if you aren’t now, don’t discount the possibility that you might in the future.) Avoid missteps by following these guidelines.
- Focus on establishing trust and long-term brand building. Avoid anything that comes off like a hard sell.
- Have contingency plans in place for operational impacts. The future remains uncertain and you don’t want to promise things you might not be able to deliver.
- Maintain your standards. Don’t rush to push something out before it’s ready. Deliver high-quality content that offers value to your audience.
- Use the assets you have. Old content that could use a refresh can be adapted to deliver a fresh message.
- Avoid cutting back on marketing in the face of a budget crunch. Your marketing dollars can go much further right now, so invest wisely!
- Be prepared to pivot. A Brandmaker study shows previous investments in marketing innovation and automation made it easier for companies to adapt rapidly when the outbreak began.
Need Help Adapting Your Strategy?
Developing a pandemic marketing strategy can be challenging as you work to balance your organization’s concerns with the rapidly changing needs and behaviours of your target audience.
At TPM, we help clients like PayPal, Adobe, Magento, Sierra Wireless, and Intelisys tell their stories to the right people, via the right channels, at the right time. We can help you adapt to marketing in a pandemic or anytime. Contact our team today.