Back during the first weeks of the pandemic, thousands of well-meaning organizations emailed their customers about their COVID-19 business strategy. Soon, it became something of a running joke. But that doesn’t mean companies were wrong to send them – the joke was that there were so many.
Those emails have largely slowed to a trickle, and now most companies are trying to figure out a more long term marketing strategy as the COVID-19 pandemic becomes a long term challenge.
As we’re all figuring this out, here are a few ideas to guide your marketing efforts for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.
- Empathy rules the day. With more than 30% of people currently or soon to be out of work, and with businesses suffering, it’s crucial that your marketing reflect your customers’ daily reality. Now more than ever, the relationship aspect of the business relationship needs to be front and center. Rather than be angry at how COVID-19 has impacted your business, approach the problem with empathy toward your customers. They – perhaps like you – have less money to spend, are overstretched at work and at home, and have less social support than ever before. For some, their hopes and dreams are on the line. Address those concerns in your marketing and communicate how your business is stepping up to help. Show customers that you care about their concerns. Now is the time to engage your customers on a human level.
- Listen to your customers. Even if your marketing budget has shrunk or your business has been forced to close temporarily due to the pandemic, now isn’t the time to disappear on your customers. Now’s the time to listen with an ear toward how you can provide value – even if that looks different than it has in the past. In-person meetings may be off the table, but phone calls, surveys and emails are a good way to find out what challenges your customers are facing and to ask them how you can help. This is a great time to incorporate social listening – not just monitoring accounts and posting content – into your social media strategy as people are spending more time online.
- Focus on creating value. Approaching these challenging times with empathy and listening to your customers will deliver insight into the value you can be creating for customers right now. Focus your efforts there. A great example of this is Seattle’s world-famous restaurant Canlis, which in the wake of the pandemic has been unable to open their dining room for fine dining. For 60 years, the value of Canlis has centered around the experience of eating there. However, as Canlis states on their website, “fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now.” Instead, Canlis has been providing value through a different type of experience altogether: catering, “pop-up” dining experiences in their parking lot that respond to their customers’ desire for fun in troubled times (while still allowing for social distancing) and even a livestream of their piano performers in their famous dining room above Lake Union.
- Agility is key. During good economic times, companies may be able to afford to take their time making decisions, but in a pandemic, a slow response to changes in the business climate could spell the death knell to your business. So, get in the habit of making decisions and implementing them quickly. Specifically – update that marketing plan and execute now. But be prepared to adjust your plans as conditions change. Here locally, Lombardi’s in Everett did a great job with this in the early weeks of the pandemic, switching their restaurant dining business model to boutique groceries and catering to allow customers to recreate the Lombardi’s experience at home.
- Re-consider the 4 P’s. When business environments change, successful businesses look at how those changes impact their strategy in terms of the “4 P’s of Marketing”: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Like Canlis, you may discover after listening to your customers that the product you normally offer isn’t right for these times; perhaps there’s an ancillary product you can offer instead? Like Lombardi’s you may discover that the place you normally do business isn’t going to work with social distancing guidelines; is there a way to do business online, or offer your services in other locations – such as delivery or cash and carry? If your marketing promotion efforts have usually centered around in-person events or conferences, is there a way to make those efforts virtual (the answer is often yes!). And finally, if your customers are having trouble paying or if your rates are too high – consider adjusting your price, bundling services or waiving fees for shipping, handling or delivery.
These are just a few tips to help you update your marketing plans as we deal with the pandemic. Got thoughts or examples of great post-COVID marketing efforts you want to share with us? Share them in the comments or tag us on social media: IG @seekbuzz or Facebook @seekbuzzagency