The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and humanity has changed the world as we know it. The borders are closed and social distancing is the new norm. At present, the virus has affected over 200 countries and the confirmed cases figure sits at 859,032 globally, which is rapidly increasing every minute. Besides it being a health and humanitarian crisis, the business implications of coronavirus are also being felt globally.
Experts predict that the impact of COVID-19 might lead to over $2 trillion loss and more than 30 million jobs are at stake. Understandably, the predominant emotion in the business and marketing community is fear and uncertainty. But we are also witnessing a rise in empathy, solidarity, communication and innovation. As we find ourselves in a peculiar situation that is subject to rapid change with no handbook, we have identified key points that can help businesses to market their product and services during a pandemic.
In uncertain times like these, meaningful engagement with target prospects is at the forefront without focusing on conversions or hard-sell. Being tone-deaf with messaging of marketing campaigns can permanently destroy your brand value, so be mindful of that. The purpose of engagement should be to educate, create awareness, and help clients deal with the COVID-19 situation.
For instance, an email with ‘COVID-19’ in the subject with no connection to it in the email body section and only a hard-sell message would go straight to the bin and attract a permanent block. On the other hand, an email informing your target consumers about an industry-specific podcast or webinar that addresses the pandemic-related challenges will help you establish a long-term relationship.
Engage with your audience through webinars, LinkedIn, social media channels and emails. Ensure that engagement at all platforms acknowledges the challenges of navigating uncertainty and prioritizes things that matter. Joshua Spanier, Google’s global marketing VP for media rightly said, “Our guiding principle as a brand, particularly at this moment, is to be helpful.” This should be every brand’s guiding principle.
Pay Special Attention To Local Context
It is a pandemic, yes. But how has it affected your local target markets? What is the situation in all your target markets, what are the instructions laid out by the local authorities and what can be deemed as insensitive or inappropriate in your specific geographical market? It is important to address these questions before implementing the strategies devised by the parent/global team.
The trick is local context, according to Google. The search engine giant that operates on a global scale is doing the following:
- Abiding by ‘direction from the centre, but decisions on the ground’ rule
- Evaluating its marketing campaigns to measure its impact locally
- Has created a centralized, shared spreadsheet for all paid and owned tactics across markets
- This spreadsheet is available in real-time to every Google team around the world
“As interest in news surges around the world, there are many more ad impressions being served in the news category. We’re having to ask ourselves, “In what instances are we comfortable putting our brand alongside news content?” This debate, and local nuance, has helped us make choices, especially around the use of paid social media. Local context is key,” asserted Spanier.
Dynamic marketing initiatives like account-based marketing always required businesses to assess their campaigns consistently. But the sheer scale of this approach has changed drastically during this pandemic. Facts, figures, findings, decisions and observations are turning obsolete overnight. Therefore, reevaluate your marketing channels and content constantly. A campaign that you approved last week might not fit in today. To reassess.
From the visual imagery of your campaigns to the copy of your ads, from the keywords inserted for SEO purposes to the hashtags crafted for social media, every piece of content should be reviewed meticulously to weed out insensitive messaging triggers. Because the placement/use of even a single insensitive word (as per context) in the messaging can lead to a backlash.
Communicate How You Can Help
Can your products and services be re-engineered to help your clients address concerns arising from Covid-19? If so, market that.
For instance, due to the lockdown and social distancing, many organizations were compelled to greenlight work-from-home arrangements without adequate preparation. If you sell solutions that can help companies to set up a seamless digital workplace, realign your marketing campaigns to communicate this message. B2B businesses rely heavily on physical events to connect with their buyers. As all events stand cancelled due to coronavirus, offer solutions that can help your clients host virtual events.
Identify the pain points and challenges that your target consumers must be facing right now and adjust your sales pitch accordingly.
Build Website and Content Repository
We entered the digital age a while back, but your company’s digital infrastructure will be truly put to test right now. It is not an understatement to say that most of the world is online currently. The traffic on platforms like Google, YouTube, Netflix and other social media platforms, which has hit an all-time high is an excellent indicator of this.
Therefore, improve the performance of your website, work on buyer’s journeys, and fine-tune the SEO tactics. Leverage this situation by utilizing this time to build content repositories. Prepare for the post-lockdown period in advance by working on outreach programs and promotions.
Absorb The Shockwaves By Building Product Muscle
One can understand the force of Covid-19 volatility by comparing the confirmed cases figure mentioned in this article with the figure it reaches a day after it is published. Similarly, new discoveries – about the disease and possible treatment methods – are being made at a wild pace. In such a volatile situation, it is difficult to have answers to every question, and solutions for every problem.
But what’s clear though is that businesses that are hellbent on weathering the storm are keeping themselves busy by working on their product and developing good product practices right now. By doing that your business will be ready to bounce back harder as soon as the market stabilizes.
This includes focussing on an honest marketing assessment, target customer segments, existing advantages, long-lasting strengths and processes. Based on the results, fix what is broken, and invest in resources that are lacking.
Most importantly, practice empathy towards your clients, suppliers, and employees – through actions, words, commitments and contributions. Listen closely to your customers and adjust the brand messaging accordingly. Adapt to the changing needs & demands and personalize your products/service solutions to match that needs.