How to Market During a Crisis

There’s nothing we could have done to prepare for this moment. No college course, no contingency plan could have accounted for it.. Everything is unknown. The most honest thing we can do is acknowledge that.

As a marketing professional, I’m often called upon for my expertise, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it is to say: I don’t know. That’s something I’ve had to tell my coworkers, something I’ve had to tell my kids.

I don’t know how long this will last.

I don’t know how this will affect my business.

I don’t know how this will affect the world.

If one thing is clear, it is that everyone is in the same place, and we’re all in it together. When it comes to marketing, nobody is an expert on the matter anymore. That means our business has to change. The emphasis must be on “helping, not selling,” according to Deb Gabor, CEO and founder of Sol Marketing.

Customers appreciate transparency. That was true before all this, and it’ll be true after. The real trick to connecting with people is by being a person yourself. Let your personality come through your business.

“It comes down to being human and understanding what’s going on in people’s lives,” says Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, Retail. “A social conscience has become more vital, how you’re serving the community, the country or the world as a whole.”

People—consumers and businesspeople of all stripes—are in a fog. They’re apprehensive for their kids, their jobs, their futures. The last thing people are thinking about is clicking links or blowout sales. The brands that stand out, right now, are ones taking steps to take care of their customers and employees. The ones helping people.

The most important thing you can do during these uncertain times is to be more human and be patient. Lead with empathy.

Here are a few steps you can take to accomplish that:

Communicate.

Turn off pre-scheduled social media posts, emails and reminders that have nothing to do with COVID-19. Don’t post any self-congratulatory content or launch a new product. Hang onto these items for a later date.

Use this time instead to get to know your customers. Your priority should be to understand their new priorities, goals, fears and hopes. Things are changing—so a good best practice is to be ready to change with them. This is the only way to restore consumer confidence.

According to recent research from Unruly, only 2% of respondents say brands should pause advertising during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, 96% say brands should change their content to address the situation.

Consumers say they want to see content from brands that makes them feel informed (49 percent cite), warm (37 percent) and inspired (33 percent)—far more than amused (18 percent) or amazed (12 percent).

Be flexible.

This might be a good time to loosen up a bit. It’s important to be prepared to innovate and have a practice of encouraging innovation at all times. In a lot of ways, we’re all at the drawing board right now.

Take stock of what you can and can’t accomplish; but above all else, take care of your people. Go overboard in giving them time and space to think, feel and process.

Look forward.

Don’t focus so much on the here and now that you forget to look forward. We’ll come out of this eventually; and your company needs to hit to ground running.

So be prepared for the future. Create a communications plan that anticipates different scenarios that might occur and be ready to execute.

The truth is, we will get through this. Maybe not tomorrow—but soon. The brands whose empathy and patience resonates now will continue to resonate in the coming months. That’s how people work, after all. We remember the people who get us through things.

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