When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, businesses everywhere got a crash course in crisis marketing. Many companies discovered that their pre-planned marketing content suddenly felt out-of-touch and even tone-deaf.
Whether you’re facing a company-specific issue or a global one, you’ll need to be flexible and adapt your strategy to the current situation. And while marketing during a crisis can be daunting, it’s necessary to stay connected with your customers and ensure they stick around through (or after) the storm.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to crisis marketing; how you proceed will depend on the nature of your company. Size, location, industry, and target audience all play a role in how you and your customers will be affected and should be considered when developing your individualized strategy. However, any small business can implement these three steps to successfully navigate challenging times.
1. Communicate with your customers/clients every step of the way.
In the wake of the pandemic, most businesses adjusted their hours, updated their policies, and implemented new practices/protocols (among other things), and they have needed to communicate those changes with their customer base. Others, especially those that already operated virtually, did not see major changes to their day-to-day operations — and it has been just as important to communicate that, too.
Yes, it’s a lot of noise. (Think of how many “company statement” emails you’ve received from organizations over the past few years.) However, it’s important to share this information with your customer base, as well as any updates as situations evolve.
Regardless of changes you may or may not make to your daily operations during times of crisis, the bottom line is this: if your customers or clients are being impacted, so is your business. You need to address the situation in some way and acknowledge the impact it may have on your customer base. Being empathetic, compassionate, and mindful should be your top priority. Let your customers know that you care and that you support them.
During challenging times, your customers and clients will probably have questions for you. Be sure to ramp up your communication and customer service, expanding into the digital realm as needed. Social media is a great place to start; you can also use instant messaging as well as phone or video conferences to bridge the gap between your business and your clients.
Related article: 5 Tips for Managing Social Media During Challenging Times
2. Highlight any new or amplified components of your business.
Challenging situations often necessitate innovation. Use times of uncertainty to develop new services or modify existing ones to not only diversify your revenue streams, but also to better meet your customers’ needs. If your brick-and-mortar store or restaurant has limited capacity, offer options that will allow customers to support you from their homes – think gift cards, discounts, and other incentives for booking in advance or shopping online.
You can also adapt your existing services by offering digital/virtual versions of those services. For example, one of our clients, a New Jersey media and entertainment company called Hurricane Productions, has faced many event cancellations throughout the course of the pandemic. The company pivoted their marketing strategy to promote services like wedding livestreaming, backyard movie screenings, and “curbside DJs” for outdoor dining and events. Even as the state began reopening, Hurricane kept pace by developing innovative ways to adapt their services while still maintaining social distancing and event capacity guidelines.
3. Take things week by week (or even day by day).
In the midst of multiple ongoing crises, it’s impossible to plan your marketing content weeks in advance, since these situations can change very quickly. Take it week by week, or even day by day. Check in with your customers consistently to see how you can help, and most importantly, pump the brakes on hard selling – after all, people don’t want to be sold to in a time of crisis. Try to be relatable, empathetic, helpful, and above all else, human.
Related article: Managing Mental Health While Working from Home
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