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How to Keep Marketing During Crisis

by Alyx Holder

As uncertainty and debate regarding re-establishing normal business continue across the country, making decisions about your business can be challenging. Helping to relieve financial strains for your employees may sway you to re-open your storefront as soon as possible, but the public health risks of rushing to do so can be serious. It is important we all continue to do our part in preventing further spread of COVID-19. While the anticipated timeframe for returning to "business as usual" is ever-changing, maintaining your marketing efforts is crucial.

Here’s why:

Your Services ARE Essential

The terms ‘essential worker’ and ‘essential business’ have been floating around a ton lately, but what does that actually mean? The definition varies by state, so check your specific guidelines, but in general, essential businesses:

  • Provide healthcare

  • Provide support services for healthcare providers

  • Manufacture necessary essential equipment

  • Provide food and necessary goods

  • Transport goods and people

Many businesses may not fall into these categories, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to reach your audience and provide value. With the majority of Americans sequestered in their homes, now is the time to find new, fun, and inventive ways to promote your product and services. Millions of social media users are scrolling-- give them a reason to remember your company. Teach them something valuable, or just offer a few words of unity and compassion, staying connected and active during this time is crucial.

Not sure how to engage your audience when it isn’t business as usual? Here are a few options:

  • Host an AMA (ask me anything) on Facebook Live

  • Answer commonly asked questions about your field in short, easy to follow videos for your profile’s story

  • Do a short ‘Work From Home with Me’ video showing your audience your current home office

  • Make a fun “Employee of the Month” post featuring a pet-- or, highlight an actual employee

  • Respond to news and trending topics pertinent to your business to stay relevant and visible

  • Share how-to content that may help your customers: maintenance around the home, a popular recipe, simple arts and crafts, etc.

Staying Relevant in Stasis

Life feels like it’s on pause right now, but that doesn’t mean you should stop efforts to help your business flourish and grow. Suspending marketing efforts may seem like a good way to save money right now, but it could leave you starting over at square one. Americans are looking for ways to support local small businesses right now; make sure yours is at the forefront of their minds.

Your website and social media are for more than announcing sales or housing a portfolio. Use your online presence to engage with your audience or draw in new customers. Strategic blogs and social posts keep your brand fresh in the minds of consumers everywhere.

Staying relevant and visible online doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. Your audience just wants to know there’s someone human on the other side of the screen, not just a faceless corporation.

Garner Local Support

Simply hoping your business will survive the current economic uncertainty isn’t enough to secure its future. While nothing is guaranteed, continuing your online marketing efforts now can minimize future impacts on profitability. One great way some businesses have found to combat loss of profit is in allowing customers to purchase gift cards or otherwise prepay for services at discount rates. Marketing such options for support to your local customer base can help minimize profit loss and protect your business during these financially uncertain times.

There are a few avenues to consider when optimizing your local marketing outreach. Joining local business groups on Facebook is a start. You should also research your local news stations, radio broadcasts, and government bulletins for opportunities to draw local businesses. Many of these resources are looking for small businesses to help support during the COVID-19 pandemic and have the large, local audience you need.

Crisis Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Given the current state of the country due to COVID-19, your marketing tactics may have to change, but they should not be abandoned. If your business has been heavily impacted by social distancing and self-quarantine guidelines, adjusting your marketing plans for this new normal may seem difficult. Don’t panic-- marketing during the lockdown simply takes a bit of creativity, ingenuity, and insight into your target audience.

During this widespread crisis there are three things people are seeking universally:

  1. Information

  2. Entertainment

  3. Stability

Times of uncertainty bring forth humanity’s natural proclivity toward pattern and routine. For some, that means finding ways to keep daily life as normal as possible: sticking closely to the same schedule and finding in-home alternatives for things like going to the gym or out for weekly date nights. For others, distractions work better: binge-watching old favorite TV shows or finally checking out what the ‘Tiger King’ Netflix docuseries is all about. Understanding this facet of human behavior can help you determine your next steps for marketing during the pandemic.

How? It’s simple: give your audience what they crave. Depending on your industry, demographic, and goals, you can achieve this through a few different avenues.

Information: Building Authority

Keeping your audience updated and informed on new information about COVID-19 and related topics relevant to your industry can help to improve your stance as an online authority. For businesses operating in or adjacent to the healthcare, legal, or finance industries, this approach can help build trust and confidence in your company. This includes:

  • Urgent care clinics

  • Mental health professionals

  • Physical therapists

  • Dental health professionals

  • Veterinary clinics

  • Attorneys and law professionals

  • Accounting professionals

  • Financial planners

  • Real estate professionals, and more

If you can provide valuable insight into things like proper hygiene, social distancing best practices, or otherwise help your customers better understand our current situation, they are more likely to return to you in the future.

It is important, however, to ensure any information you put forth is accurate and factual. Do your proper due diligence before sharing any articles or advice to avoid spreading false information and damaging your reputation. You don’t have to pretend you’re an expert on viral mutations or pandemics; just use your platform to keep your audience responsibly informed.

Entertainment: Building Morale

Not everyone wants a minute by minute update on all the newest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. Constant exposure to negative news can be bad for one’s mental health. Because of this, more people are turning to the internet for entertainment and escapism. The uptake in TikTok views and new accounts reflects this need for light-hearted fun, so why not get in on the craze?

Creating fun content for your social media marketing doesn’t require any crazy talents, but if you have some, giving your audience a peek into who you are as a person can help build that sense of human connection. Join in on a dance craze, show off your vocal talents, or test out of those viral hacks for a bit of fun stress relief.

Video platforms like Instagram or Facebook stories are also great tools for teaching your customers something new. For example, if you own a barbershop or hair salon, showing your customer how to properly trim their hair or why home hair coloring may not be the best idea right now can be good for engagement. Own a yoga studio? Set up a free virtual demo session to help people unwind and focus inward! Once things get back to normal, you’re more likely to retain your new audience and see some new faces in your classes.

Comfort: Building Unification

During times of uncertainty, people seek comfort through connection and shared experience. A pandemic of this magnitude is unprecedented in recent history, and as such, no one is truly prepared for the implications. In a time when it's easy to feel alone and isolated from others, use your platform to help others feel connected. Sharing uplifting, feel-good content to help get everyone’s mind off of the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic is a great way to increase engagement and connect on a human level with your customers.

How do you connect with your audience and get them to engage with your posts? Try polls or open-ended questions they can respond to in the comments.

Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • ‘Would you rather?’ questions

  • Polls about post-quarantine plans

  • Ask your audience what kind of content they want to see

  • Post an open call for cute pet photos

  • Offer a free or discounted service or product to healthcare workers

  • Partner with and cross-promote other local businesses

  • Host a virtual happy hour

Above all, the goal here is to show your customers that we are all in this together. As businesses begin to open their doors once more, make sure yours is one your audience remembers and wants to support as we recover economically.

How has COVID-19 impacted your marketing tactics? We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments.

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