The global pandemic presents a challenge for nearly every type of business. Even essential services that are thriving struggle to balance marketing with keeping up with demands. Other industries had to come up with unique ways of reaching customers during unprecedented times.
A government report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows a loss of 3.3 million active businesses from February to April. Although there were partial rebounds in April, companies are still scrambling trying to figure out how to best serve customers and offering new services. One of the biggest challenges is marketing aggressively without coming across as insensitive to people’s needs and concerns.
According to Digital Third Coast’s report, 68% of marketing agencies claim they changed the way they operate their business due to COVID-19, from changing the services they offer to altering the prices of the existing services. Even those who haven’t changed their services added some nuance to the way they are delivering services to accommodate the new circumstances and be more mindful of the challenges customers are facing these days.
Fortunately, savvy promotions show you aren’t tone-deaf to the everyday issues your customers face. You can grow your brand image and customer base without being a shark.
You’ve probably noticed how many businesses released emails and statements about what they’re doing to protect their patrons from COVID-19. One of the best marketing tactics right now isn’t a trick. It is simply showing your customers you care about their well-being and highlighting the actions proving so. For example, Pizza Hut advertises their contactless delivery and how they’re working to keep your food safe.
Hang up signs indicating you test employees’ temperatures daily, or you’d like customers to wear masks. Explain advanced cleaning or limited interactions you’ve instituted. If you’re an online business, share what you do to ensure packages go out safely and how you protect staff.
Collaborate With Non-Profits
Find a non-profit to collaborate with. Perhaps your hours are shortened, but you could pay employees to volunteer at a local charity. Fund a cause matching your core mission and donate a percentage of your profits to the organization. Corporations gave about $21.4 billion to non-profits in 2018. Without those donations, many wouldn’t be able to operate.
Although you shouldn’t help a charity just for the exposure, most return the favor by naming you as a sponsor. If you host an event, they will explain you’re a sponsor. Others who care about the cause will see you as a proponent of it and are more likely to buy from you than one of your competitors.
Swap Out Ads
If your current advertising shows people hugging one another or shaking hands, swap out those images for ones promoting social distancing. Companies such as Hershey’s have changed their ad campaigns.
In a time when everyone is urged to stay at home, showing clips of a huge family wedding or a sporting event is something that stands out as insensitive. People are not participating in those events right now and being reminded of what they’re missing out on may leave a bad taste in their mouths. Review your ads for similar issues.
Respect Fears and Emotions
Some communities and people are harder hit with the coronavirus changes than others. There are families who’ve lost loved ones, first responders who are working endlessly and people whose lives haven’t changed much. Think about your target audience and how your message resonates.
Celebrities learned this the hard way as they decided to release digital content that seemed a bit insensitive to the average person’s concerns. People like Jennifer Lopez posted online videos telling the public what they should do from their vast estates. The videos and photos were insensitive, and there was a monumental backlash against many of the celebrities.
Others were able to tap into people’s needs and release valuable content, such as free online concerts. They put themselves in their fans’ shoes and instead tried to come up with something to make them feel a little better rather than shaming them into doing what they say. Think about your messages and make sure they aren’t hurtful to anyone.
Get Feedback from Multiple People
Emotions are already running high. America’s six-week shutdown has been going on since March. People are tired of not seeing family and friends while others live in daily fear they or a loved one might catch the virus. Now is a time to be hyper-vigilant about the material you release.
Get feedback from staff with different perspectives and from various generations. The more feedback you get before releasing marketing materials, the less likely you’ll make a costly marketing misstep.
Shannon Flynn is a technology writer with experience in IT, biztech and cybersecurity. She’s also managing editor of ReHack Magazine. If you’d like to read more by Flynn, visit ReHack.com or follow ReHack on Twitter.