The ongoing pandemic has had an enormous impact on business worldwide, and entrepreneurs have been left scrambling to adjust their marketing strategies in a constantly-changing environment. Navigating these challenges requires a soft touch, an open mindset, and a willingness to quickly adapt to almost every aspect of your operation. So what kind of strategies are proving effective?
One of the keys to effective and ethical marketing during times of crisis is understanding the underlying psychological and emotional needs of your audience. When people feel powerless or anxious, it’s important to recognize the desire to feel in control and to have a sense of solidarity with other people going through the same challenges, and your messaging should reflect that.
It may seem counterproductive, but most of your potential customers don’t want to be reminded of their problems, and a great example of how this plays out in a marketing context can be found by looking at pharmaceutical commercials—notice how drug manufacturers are almost never direct about what their product is treating, preferring to use euphemistic language and focus on more intangible benefits like feelings of happiness, health, and freedom to live life.
If your sales messaging is discrete enough to make people feel good and forget about their problems for a little while, they’re much more likely to listen to your pitch.
With social distancing keeping everyone apart, it is more important than ever to find ways to make personal connections through your brand. Make an effort to keep lines of communication open with your audience, and take time to reassure them that you’re still ready and willing to provide the products or services they expect from you. This is the time to keep your email marketing schedule consistent and your content flowing.
Keeping in touch with customers can also directly benefit your business by providing you fresh insight into shifting market needs. If you are able to stay on top of the problems that customers are facing, you have an opportunity to cater directly to those issues as part of a new marketing strategy. The ability to prove that you are reliable, responsive, and actively aware of the challenges your audience is facing is an invaluable asset even in the best of times.
As is always the case when applying lean methodologies, you may even discover that you need to pivot in order to meet new demands or fill a new niche—for a great example of this, consider the pet costume manufacturer Pet Krewe, who rapidly pivoted their factory production to make masks and other PPE during a time when those products were facing nationwide shortages. The company was able to move out of a market that suddenly found itself with almost no demand and into one that addressed a very important need on both a national and local level, all while communicating with customers and reassuring them that they would be back to their usual business once the pandemic was over.
Spending on marketing as a percentage of overall budget has increased almost across the board for US businesses, and for good reason—as customers increasingly turn to digital shopping, effective marketing plays a more important role than ever before in retaining customers and building brand awareness.
According to a CMO Survey conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, almost 85% of marketers observed that customers have been more responsive to online marketing during the pandemic, while more than half of respondents claim that their customers are doing more blogging, researching more purchases online, and leaving more product reviews.
These statistics highlight the importance of social media and online advertising to drive engagement, and businesses that aren’t willing to adapt to these changes in behavior will likely find themselves being left behind or losing market share to competitors who are making a focused effort to shift more of their marketing online.
Part of being an ethical and socially responsible business is using that platform for a good cause, and this crisis presents an opportunity to show your audience your true colors. That doesn’t mean you need to make grandiose gestures—many brands have worked with the resources they have available to create thoughtful campaigns promoting safety measures and solidarity, while others have donated to charitable causes or offered discounts to essential workers.
Take the social media management tool Hootsuite, for instance: they offered several months of free professional services to businesses impacted by the pandemic, including restaurants, hotels, and event venues. Not only did they directly help the communities that their product is servicing, they also significantly increased brand awareness and product familiarity, making those businesses much more likely to turn to them for their media management needs in future.
In today’s saturated market, audiences have no shortage of businesses competing for their attention and loyalty. The goal is to make your business stand out from the crowd, and to do that you need your marketing strategies to be more than good—you need them to be exceptional. By applying the strategies above, you can create genuine connections with customers and highlight the value your products and services offer them in a challenging time. Remember, we’re all in this together.
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Nectar is part branding powerhouse, part consultancy, and part digital marketing agency based in Manhattan.