Should you continue marketing during the Coronavirus crisis?
Is it insensitive? It probably feels awkward. But is it necessary all the same? After all, we all have livelihoods to think about and businesses to protect.
If there is one thing we’re lacking during this crisis, it’s certainty of any kind. One minute you feel bold enough to engage that British stiff upper lip and embrace the war time spirit of keep calm and carry on. The next we crumble, paralysed by our concerns about what’s happening in the world. We’re seeing the impact of this relentless uncertainty in how businesses are communicating at the moment.
In many ways marketing during the Coronavirus crisis is no different to how we communicate as businesses during more normal times. So, let’s strip things back to the basics.
What is marketing?
If you look marketing up in a dictionary, you’ll get a definition along these lines:
I don’t like this definition. OK, it’s technically not incorrect. But, for me it misses the point. Marketing isn’t about being bolshy about how brilliant you or your products are. In fact, it’s not really about you that much at all. It’s about your market (yes, the clue is in the title). More specifically, how you communicate and interact with the people you want to engage in business with.
One of the biggest misconceptions about marketing is that it’s all about getting people to understand your products and services. It’s not. It’s about showing you understand your customers. The goal of your marketing should be making a meaningful connection with your audience by helping them to understand how and why what you offer meets their needs.
But on a practical level, what is marketing?
Marketing is how you present your business to the people you want to buy from you. For me, it’s any content or materials you produce that talk to your market as a whole (or in defined segments). Other people may disagree. For example:
- Some would say coming up with a new product idea is marketing. I call that product development.
- You may see client presentations sneak into the marketing paradigm. But if you’re pitching to a specific customer, I call that sales.
But let’s get practical and talk about the outputs of marketing. Here are some examples of popular methods of communication used in marketing:
- Social media
- Blogs (your own and guest posting on other blogs)
- Events (real life and virtual)
- Speaking slots
It’s about making a connection
Your marketing should aim to build a relationship between you and your customer base. And more than ever, right now they need to feel like you get them. This is where for me likeability comes in. Marketing should make you more likeable to the people you want to like you most.
And this amiable appeal can come from many different angles: humour, empathy, providing comfort, clarity or inspiration. Make people nod in agreement. Energise them with your enthusiasm for their cause. Give them the security to cry with relief. Leave them feeling informed. Invite them to laugh with you.
Do this, and then you’ll capture not only their intrigue, but also build rapport. And that’s how marketing can help great relationships to flourish.
Bringing me neatly back to marketing during the Coronavirus crisis.
So, should I still be marketing during the Coronavirus crisis?
This week, I’ve been asking people to share with me what their marketing priority is during the Covid-19 lockdown, via a survey. One answer is coming through loud and clear.
Maintaining visibility comes with so many challenges, both ethically and practically during these troublesome times.
Yes, you can (and should) continue marketing during the Coronavirus crisis, but you can’t expect this to be marketing as normal. Your market has changed, so your marketing needs to as well.
Firstly, your focus and messaging will probably need to shift
Everyone’s priorities have changed in the last few weeks. In every way imaginable. What previously was an aspirational luxury, now feels like unnecessary frivolity. And this shift in priority effects every single interaction we make, and influences each buying decision.
For example, on a personal level, I can see that small businesses at the moment probably won’t have the funds to hire a copywriter to create content for them. A sad fact for me, as this is my core business. However, these very same small businesses are also probably feeling under more pressure than ever to create marketing content and stay visible. This could be refreshing their website, experimenting with PR or upping their social media presence.
So, I’m looking at how I can shift my focus from my comfort zone – the ‘I’ll do it for you’ outsourcing model – to developing more supportive learning resources and coaching options. The aim being to help people to learn how to do it themselves.
Secondly, you’ll need to get creative with how you deliver your communications
Things that were previously always best delivered in person, now have to be communicated over virtual channels or online. Luckily, there are lots of options – from using Zoom to host seminars to networking on social media rather than over brunch.
And finally, think twice before re-using old content
Jokes that were hilarious a month ago could now come across as thoughtless. I’m usually all for repurposing content, but this may not be the right time.
Crisis changes our mindset and you need to be mindful of this with every communication.
Talk to your audience as they stand today, not a month ago. As a guide, great marketing content is the start of a conversation so don’t say anything in your business communications that you would feel awkward saying to anyone in real life.
Don’t be too hard on people who get it wrong
It’s a crisis. We all feel a bit lost. Cabin fever is blurring our perspective and constantly scrolling the news feeds builds an impending sense of doom that can feel hard to shake. As a result, bad business decisions happen and we have to accept we’re not always going to get it right.
So, take off your judge-y pants and give each other a break while we’re figuring this crazy situation out. Yes, some marketing that’s popping up comes across inappropriate. It feels a bit crass. Irrelevant. But, scroll on, it probably wasn’t intentional.