Crafting your marketing message during a pandemic

With the current pandemic severely limiting how much we can go outside and meet other people, many businesses and people are undoubtedly being hit hard. Restaurants, bars, clubs, and parks are temporarily closed, and events are being canceled or postponed. With every other social media post and news broadcast telling us to stay inside, that means little opportunity to show off an app that locates touristy hotspots. Job losses mean limited budgets, so any “BUY NOW” messages can seem obnoxious and insensitive. Aside from the essentials, most purchases and services aren’t at the top of people’s minds.


This doesn’t mean you should cease all marketing efforts. Remember, marketing nowadays isn’t always about pushing sales, it’s about providing overall value and genuine connections. Even if you can’t expect too many purchases during this time, you can still retain your previous customers or attract new ones who will show up once the situation calms down. Since consumers prefer to buy from brands that align with their values, it’s extremely important to be sensitive to your target audience’s situation and needs at this time. Right now, empathy and positivity should come first, even before profits. Instead of making sales, you should use your power to keep cabin fever low in your own unique way.


Once you update your status -- informing your customers of your limited hours and/or closed stores -- here are some tips for reaching out to current and potential customers:


1. Don’t push for sales, especially if you’re a non-essential brand.


Since many individuals are worried about being laid off or have been laid off, a much smaller portion of your audience will have the budget to make non-essential purchases. Even if they’d like to buy, opportunities to use your products are limited anyway. And, if you’re a B2B software company, don’t forget that many businesses are currently on hiatus or only partially operating.


Don’t forget to acknowledge current events and show how you can help. If possible, introduce discounts to accommodate limited budgets. Free useful content would be even better, such as infographics, whitepapers, e-books, webinars etc. For example, Google and WhatsApp have both put together COVID-19 resource hubs on their sites. No matter who you are, make sure your messages are sensitive, kind, understanding, and positive.


Even if you’re an essential business, you have to be extremely careful to not come across as too opportunistic or as exploiting the situation. Just because a lot of people are buying 20 years worth of your products doesn’t mean you should slack off and grow complacent. You’re still here to help, not just capitalize off desperation. People may need you no matter what you do, but don’t forget that this pandemic won’t last forever. Once things have subsided, customers may choose competing brands that showed compassion and sensitivity during a crisis.


If you’re a non-profit serving a cause relevant to this event, such as a food bank or domestic violence shelter, you need to be more careful than ever to make sure your marketing isn’t too much about you.


2. Encourage your customers to stay inside and how you can help with that.


Staying inside as much as possible is crucial for limiting the spread of the virus. You can help encourage this in subtle ways rather than a glaring “STAY HOME” sign. If you’re a brand made for being outside and social, such as a sportswear brand or a health app that tracks steps, emphasize how your brand can be used productively at home.


If your products are typically used out of the home, you should highlight anything you have that could be used at home for Zoom conferences, date nights in, or just binge-watching a new show on Netflix. Talk about how those products can help lighten up being quarantined. Remember, you’re there to help them, not simply sell to them. Take note of your target demographics’ typical activities and suggest how they can be done safely and inside.


Eg: Social Media Post By Nike




Encouraging your customers to stay inside should also be accompanied by removing any images or text that suggest close physical contact, even if it’s not meant to be taken literally. You might want to avoid any imagery of several people being in one room or making physical contact with one another.


3. Keep it virtual.


You’ve probably got your staff working remotely. Now all your customers are remote too, but you can still reach them.


Look towards forms of content marketing that don’t require social contact, such as webinars, blog posts, infographics, or videos that don’t require a team to produce. This is especially important if you’re an educational resource. Even if you’re not, now is a great time to expand your content marketing strategy to be helpful and entertaining during stressful times. Now is the time to push beyond what you normally do and maybe break out of your comfort zone. If you’re a dental clinic, you can make some infographics or even host a webinar on dental hygiene. If you’re a nonprofit, you can post some statistics about the community you serve and how this pandemic is affecting them. Maybe host an interactive Q&A session on Instagram and Facebook live!


4. Build community with user-generated content.


With plenty of people going nuts from being cooped up inside, seeing other people in the same situation can help. Don’t hesitate to post photos of your employees working from home alongside tips on how to do so. You can encourage user submissions on social media showing how they quarantine. This can include photos of their workstation, home-cooked meals, home workouts, or other ways to stay productive. Show that we’re all on this floating rock together and that we’re all helping each other get through this. Don’t forget a custom hashtag!


5. Encourage charity.


Are you losing your mind from running out of shows to binge on Netflix? Are your neighbors complaining about your loud home workouts and guitar solos? Staying at home can have many negative consequences. For some individuals already in precarious situations, it could be terrifying. There are millions of fellow humans who are living with abusive family members and/or are dealing with distressing mental health issues. If it’s in your budget, you should consider donating to nonprofits that can provide much-needed assistance to all who need it. Identify causes that align with your brand’s mission and the current crisis and make a donation while encouraging your followers to do the same. You can either encourage them to donate directly or take a portion of your sales.


If any of your followers leave a distressing comment on your social media, make sure your response is warm, friendly, and informational. If it could help, you can direct them to a relevant nonprofit.


6. Keep up your SEO.


SEO is a long-term process. It’s not something you can expect immediate effects from. By the time you’re on the first page of Google search results, people will be going out again.


You can use the time typically reserved for more in-person forms of marketing to invest in SEO. Instead of influencer campaigns, redirect your marketing efforts towards blog posts and refining your website copy to be keyword-rich without succumbing to keyword stuffing. Going back to point #3, content creation will give you plenty of link building opportunities. If your content is useful, high-quality, and/or entertaining enough, that’ll get plenty of people organically linking to you.


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This pandemic won’t last forever, and one day we’ll be back outside and gathering with each other again. However, this doesn’t mean everything will be exactly the same. Your brand will be judged on how you handled the pandemic. Being tactless, money-driven, and insensitive could have some of your customers refusing to come back. Being sensitive, friendly, empathetic, and mindful will permanently shape your reputation in the long run.


This time will leave a mark in history books forever, and how you cope with it will be remembered.


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