Marketing during a crisis: Put the customer first

Ashley Sava

It’s no secret: Marketing during a crisis is hard.

Most marketing teams are doing everything they can to keep their companies afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. While outstanding marketing is just as important now as it was before this all came into play, it’s important to remember to be human when creating messaging, content, and strategies. As award-winning author Jonah Sachs once wrote, “Good marketers see consumers as complete human beings with all the dimensions real people have.” Customer-first companies understand this most of all.

Customer-centric for the win

With that in mind, consider the damaging effects this is having on businesses, families, and economies around the world. Nonessential businesses are closed. Public schools might not have students back in their desks until this fall. Families aren’t able to travel to visit one another, and friends can’t gather. Attitudes, mentalities, outlooks, and emotions are in a totally different place than at the start of the year.

Strong customer relationships drive sales, sustainability, and growth, but it’s tough to maintain those relationships if you are pressing forward as if nothing is happening. It’s especially critical for marketers to be present, relevant, and to add value. In fact, new approaches to marketing during a crisis are welcome. They say nothing begets creativity like constraints, so now’s the time to let creativity take the driver’s seat. 

Flexibility is essential for marketing during a crisis

Your marketing during a crisis plans need to be adjusted with existing economic conditions and consumer behaviors leading the way. Previous strategies simply won’t work as anything that was effective before the pandemic won’t be now. As things continue to evolve, so should your marketing. Employment rates, income indicators and GDP are some factors to monitor. Just don’t marry your plans in this unpredictable era. In a few weeks, things might change for the better—or worse. A survey from Advertiser Perceptions said about half of advertisers have either pulled a campaign or delayed the launch of a campaign because of the novel coronavirus. Platforms such as Tethr can help with strategy enablement so you can acquire the insights necessary to fine-tune your customer experience during this uncertainty. 

Retention, retention, retention

Lower-funnel marketing initiatives should take the backseat. A focus on customer retention is the safest place to be. Provide value to your existing customers by making your products or services as irreplaceable as possible. Collaborate with the sales team to hear what customers are saying, fearing, and dreaming of, and go from there. Brainstorm ways to get strong customer loyalty or referral programs in place. Promote relevant blogs and share content regularly. In your conversations and messaging, be sure to sound empathetic and not opportunistic. Consumers are worried about losing their jobs, are juggling children and work, feel trapped indoors, and are fearful of getting sick. This is not the time to push sales tactics that will come off as cold and sleazy in an economic downturn slated to be worse than the Great Depression. 

Branding at its finest

Start amplifying your brand. U.S. consumers are observing how companies are handling the pandemic. Consider moving some of the budget to upper-funnel advertising initiatives to propel brand awareness. Clients and prospective clients need to see that you’re truly there for your employees and your customers when things are rough. With that being said, be careful not to exploit the crisis for business gain. The choices made now will be remembered long after COVID-19 ends. Outstanding marketing during a crisis can turn customers into long-term brand ambassadors.

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