7 Tips for Pivoting Your Marketing Strategy During COVID-19

COVID-19 Marketing Strategy Pivot

If you’re like so many other business owners, just a few short months ago you were probably looking forward to rolling out your marketing plan for Q2, with high hopes for the results you expected it to deliver.

Then March hit and, suddenly, everything changed.

Schools and businesses closed their doors. And life, as we knew it, took a pause.

Today, we’re gradually returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic normal, but there’s a key question on everyone’s mind: where do we go from here? 🗺️🧭📍

We know that the pandemic – along with its impact on our businesses and lives – won’t be in the rear-view mirror at least until after there’s a vaccine available, so we’re not going to be able to just pick up where we left off with the hope that our pre-pandemic plans stand a chance in the face of the current reality.

That said, I think that many businesses can experience recovery provided they do two things:

  • Accept that things are different now – and that they're going to continue to be different for the foreseeable future
  • Pivot your marketing strategies to make sure they reflect the limitations and opportunities (yes, there are opportunities) of our current reality

As a side note, I also think that businesses must prepare for the possibility of a second wave – and prepare for the implications that that may have on our businesses.

That said, here are seven ways that your business can tweak your marketing for Q2 — and beyond — as we all learn to navigate the “new” 2020.

Manage Expectations

Over the last couple of months, you’ve probably received many emails from companies you’ve done business with, updating you on their COVID-19 response.

And while they may seem like more 📥 inbox clutter, they serve an important purpose.

As this situation continues, supply chain disruptions have gone from possibilities to inevitabilities. Some companies may have to alter their business model significantly in order to stay competitive in a changing market.

If your customers face the possibility of shipment delays, longer than usual response times, or interrupted service, notify them in advance.

And don’t just rely on email for customer communications.

COVID-19 Customer Instructions

You also need to share the message on your website (perhaps in the form of a persistent notification bar with a link to a page that outlines what’s going on with your business – including possible delays and interruptions) and your social media accounts.

Get the word out 📣 📣 📣 everywhere you can so your customers know what to expect.

Under challenging circumstances, people can be very forgiving – provided they are not left in the dark.

Double Down on Content Marketing

Although some regions are slowly reopening restaurants and other businesses, others are still in lockdown mode. And as people adapting to the “lockdown lifestyle,” they’re spending more time online than ever.

Some are turning this situation into an opportunity to learn new skills and increase their industry knowledge.

Netflix on Mobile Phone

Others are just looking for connections or entertainment (hello Netflix).

But no matter what people are looking to accomplish, in the first quarter of 2020, people were already spending 20% more time using their favorite apps, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, among others.

And Facebook reports that traffic from their platform to other sites has risen over 50%.

This translates into an opportunity to capture the attention of your audience by giving them more of what they’re already looking for.

So you should definitely invest time and effort into creating useful and entertaining content and promoting it across search, social, and email.

You’re bound to enjoy an increase in brand recognition as well as website traffic. And over and above any near term benefits you may gain, your investment of time and effort today will pay off when the economy stabilizes.

Focus on Building Leads for Future Sales

While it might not feel like an opportune time for selling, you’re going to feel the sting if you simply wait for things to get “back to normal” before you work on filling your sales pipeline.

There won’t be a day, week, or even month where everything just reopens and we go back to business as usual. The return to normalcy will be a gradual process, undoubtedly with some bumps in the road.

And, of course, there’s also the possibility that there may be resurgences that may require us to return to our homes.

So you need to prepare now for future sales opportunities and focus on lead generation.

And you also need to think outside of the box.

So if you’ve historically captured and nurtured leads through email, you should expand your efforts to include Facebook Messenger (consider a Messenger bot, which would allow you to automate 🤖 communications), live 💬 chat, and 📳 SMS.

Double Down on Social Media

Even if your business is currently closed to customers, you need to stay active on social media because 🦗 silence 🦗 is not an option – especially now.

You need to keep your brand in front of your customers to maintain awareness and to let them know what’s happening with your business during these challenging times.

This is particularly important, of course, if you’re still able to provide some level of service to your customers (online ordering, delivery, curbside pickup).

Free Delivery

Consistent sharing will not only maintain brand awareness with your audience, it could also help you grow it.

Here are just a few ideas that jump to mind:

  • Throwback posts about previous 🎟️ events, launches, or news
  • Buzz-building posts about future 📅 projects
  • Personal stories from 🧍 employees, team members, and customers
  • Industry 📰 news and educational resources related to your business

A cocktail of useful and entertaining content will help keep your followers engaged until you’re ready to get back to your normal content.

Consider Investing in Paid Promotion

In uncertain economic times, many companies cut back on expenses – including, commonly, their ad spend.

And while it might seem like a sensible thing to do – after all, the market has contracted – it also means there is less competition.

And this also translates into 📉 lower 📉 costs.

Take, for example, Facebook ads.

In April of this year, Facebook’s global CPM (cost per thousand impressions), fell to an all-time low of $1.95. That’s 36% lower than the average over the past two years. And Facebook PPC (Pay Per Click) costs fell from $0.11 per click in January year to $0.09 in March.

Bear in mind that these figures represent overall averages.

Some industries haven’t seen the same changes, so you’d need to do a little research on trends in your specific industry before investing the ⏲️ time and 💰 money into paid promotions.

But for many businesses in many industries, the fact that there are fewer companies competing for the same audience means there’s a better chance of getting that audience’s attention – at a lower overall cost.

Offer Education

If you’ve ever thought about launching an online course, either for revenue or to improve your industry authority, there’s no better time than now.

LinkedIn Learning professional development courses saw a 3x increase in time spent on courses in April vs. January. 📈 ⚡ 📊

And Cornerstone Learning, which offers employee training to a variety of companies, saw a 75% increase in course registrations in March.

Many people are using the time they have during this lockdown to learn new skills.

Online Learning

Can you think of some useful education that you can organize – and deliver online – around your products or services?

  • Restaurant owners– how about putting together some cooking classes for some of your more popular meals?
  • Florists – can you teach people how to create some basic floral arrangements?
  • Auto repair shops – what can you teach people about saving money on basic automobile repairs?
  • Mortgage brokers – do you have any tips on what people can do to improve their credit scores so they can increase the probability of qualifying for a mortgage at better terms?

And don’t give in to concerns about making yourself expendable. You’re actually making yourself invaluable to people at a time when they need a break the most.

There are many options for publishing a course these days – from your own website to video sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo and learning management platforms like Teachable and Thinkific  – so you have a lot of options at your disposal.

Mind Your Message

Consumers don’t mind that companies are advertising and marketing right now.

In fact, according to a survey by Kantar, only 8% of respondents said that they think companies should stop advertising.

That said, marketing messages during a crisis need to be carefully considered to avoid coming across as tone-deaf, insensitive, crass, or even outright 😠 offensive.

Stay away from messaging about activities that may be limited – e.g.,

  • Travel
  • Sports
  • In-person events
  • Exploration

And be sure to apply the same sensitivity to images by avoiding any images that may feature anything that's frowned upon (or outright forbidden) during the current crisis.

Even if the messaging is just meant as a metaphor, people are particularly sensitive right now and it’s important to take their concerns seriously.

Instead, you should focus on how you can relate to people and provide help during this difficult time. Provide encouragement and support for your audience. Instead of aiming for the sale, try to connect with your prospect.

If they’re not ready or able to buy today, they’ll remember you when things “get back to normal” and they are ready and able to buy. 💰 😃 🚀

Final Thoughts

While these challenges times may make it seem like a good idea to simply cut back – on your marketing budget, on time and effort invested in marketing – businesses that continue to invest in their audience and in capturing and nurturing leads will be the ones positioned to bounce back much more quickly as the situation improves.

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