In the first half of 2020, businesses everywhere got a crash course in crisis marketing. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to the racial justice protests across the U.S., to the current economic downturn, companies have found that their pre-planned marketing content feels out-of-touch and even tone-deaf in the current climate.
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 an ongoing 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.
Since the start of COVID, most businesses have adjusted their hours, updated their policies, and implemented new practices/protocols (among other things), and they’ve had to communicate those changes with their customer base. Others, especially those that already operated virtually, haven’t seen many changes to their day-to-day operations, and it’s 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 last few months.) However, it’s important to share this information with your customer base, as well as any updates as the situation evolves.
Regardless of changes you may or may not be making to your daily operations, the bottom line is this: if your customers or clients are being impacted by the crisis, so is your business. You need to address the ongoing situation in some way and acknowledge the impact it’s having 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 these 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.
2. Highlight any new or amplified components of your business.
Challenging situations often necessitate innovation. Use this time 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 right now, 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, faced many event cancellations in the wake of coronavirus earlier this year. They pivoted their marketing strategy to promote services like wedding livestreaming, backyard movie screenings, and “curbside DJs” for outdoor dining and events. As New Jersey continues reopening, Hurricane has 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 are changing 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.
The small business community should come together in support of one another in times of crisis. Lightning Media Partners is here to help with your marketing needs during these fast-changing times. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our co-founders about your marketing needs.