No matter where you live or what kind of business you’re in, it’s almost certain that the COVID-19 epidemic has impacted your life in some way. There is a lot about the pandemic that we still don’t know, but we can be sure of one thing: the world is going to be affected by this for a long time to come, and as marketers, we need to find ways to connect with our customers in a world with COVID-19.
In particular, bans on large gatherings are radically changing the ways that we can connect with our customers – by this point in the pandemic, you’ve likely had a trade show or conference get cancelled, and you may be wondering how to move forward without any of these events in the near future. But it’s vital that we find ways to adapt. Trying to use pre-pandemic methods to connect with customers in a post-pandemic world is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: those methods just don’t fit anymore, and we need to find new marketing strategies that make sense right now.
So instead of being frustrated and upset that our old methods are no longer possible, we need to use this time effectively. That starts with asking ourselves some important questions: Why? Why were those old methods effective, and what did we get out of these events? Who are our customers, and what do they need? What might they need in the future? What is our brand, and what do we stand for? Now is an excellent time to revisit the basics, so that we can move forward into this new world understanding who we are, and why we do the things that we do. Knowing who our customers are and what they are going to need – now and in the future – lets us figure out how we can reach those customers, no matter what is happening in the world.
This is a pivotal moment, and the companies that use this time wisely will survive, and even thrive. Those that don’t are unlikely to make it through.
So how can you adjust your marketing strategy for a world with COVID-19? There are six core principles you need to keep in mind when you are adapting your marketing strategies for the “new normal”. These six principals will give you the framework that you need to be adaptable and ready to take on the challenges that your business is likely to face, and they include:
Although most of us are sitting at home right now, our lives have more background noise than ever. Not only are we dealing with the external noise of non-stop news broadcasts and thousands of people vying for our attention online, but we’re also dealing with a lot of internal noise right now; all of us are trying to figure out how to keep our lives moving in the middle of a pandemic, which is no easy task. Your customers, like you, are dealing with an absolute tidal wave of information about hand-washing, home-schooling, grocery deliveries and mask-wearing right now, and it’s more difficult than ever to make your message stick.
So how do you stand out from all the noise? Repetition. Repetition, repetition, and more repetition. In a post-COVID world where more people are turning to online marketing than ever, you can never be too present or post too much. Remember that social media algorithms will only show your posts to a fraction of your audience at a time; even if you are posting a hundred times a day and you’re worried that you might be “spamming” your audience, you will always have customers who don’t see your posts at all! The more you post, the more of your audience you capture. It really is that simple!
- If you have an email list that you’re current reaching out to once per month, bump up the frequency to at least once per week – inboxes are overflowing right now, and sending four emails per month makes it more likely that your customers will open one.
- Remember that you still need to be putting out high-quality content for your customers: don’t post for the sake of posting if you have nothing to say!
This is not a very polished time in most people’s lives right now, and customers appreciate seeing that reflected in your marketing. For the first time in history, many people are getting an uncensored glimpse into the lives and living rooms of their business associates – for better or for worse! There is something very human about watching your co-workers take video calls in their jeans and wrangle fussy toddlers during an important meeting, and we’re all getting to see a side of each other that we would otherwise never get to see at the office. Real life is raw and messy right now, and that means that now is a good time to really leverage that, and build a stronger connection to your customers than ever – just by being yourself!
- Video content is an excellent and low-cost way to show authenticity right now. Film in your home, have employees and their children star in videos, see if anyone on the team has any musical talent to contribute – have fun with it, and don’t overthink it too much!
It’s not enough to get your customers’ attention – once you have their attention, you need to have something to say. A customer always needs to feel that giving you their time and attention was worthwhile, so it’s important to think carefully about what your message is and how it’s relevant to your customers’ lives. It’s not enough for your content to be eye-grabbing and frequent if it isn’t engaging your customers or addressing their needs in some way.
Try to think about the way that your sector or market may be changing, and anticipate how that is going to impact your customers. What do your customers need right now, and what are they going to need as the world slowly returns to a “new normal”? What questions or concerns might they have, and how can you address those? Remember, you’re competing with some pretty important information about vaccine trials and stay-at-home orders – customers need to feel like your content matters to them in some way!
- Embrace fluidity. The world is shifting so rapidly right now that trying to make anything is like building on sand, and it’s important to be able to embrace that. Be ready to adapt to changing needs at a moment’s notice.
When you’re creating content, it’s important to ask yourself: am I making this as short and compact as it can be? Could this article be a Tweet? Could this ten-minute video tell the same message in one minute? Long-form content isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it can be done well in some circumstances, but on the whole, audiences are looking for content that gets to the point quickly.
As we’ve already discussed, there is a lot of noise out there right now, and people may only be able to give you their attention for a moment. People are juggling work-at-home jobs with being full-time parents and long lines at the stores: time is a precious resource for them! What’s the most important thing that your customers need to know? Have that information front and center, and lay out your message as quickly as you can.
- Aim to post short content more frequently, rather than posting long content on an irregular basis.
- Think about the medium you’re using – are your customers going to click that article you posted on Twitter? Or can you get the relevant information into the Tweet itself?
Realistically, it’s going to be a very long time before people feel completely comfortable having physical contact with strangers again. Even if your state or country is relaxing public health guidelines and allowing businesses to open again, it’s important to remember that customers aren’t likely to feel comfortable going back to the way things were before. The more sensitive you can be to public health guidelines and customer anxieties, the more likely you are to earn your customers’ trust and help them feel safe doing business with you.
So find ways to keep your distance. Strict cleaning regimens are important, but they aren’t enough – look for ways you can take human contact out of the equation. What parts of your browsing and ordering process can be moved online? How can you design payment and item pickup in a way that’s both convenient and touch-free? Keeping a safe distance not only creates a better experience for your customers, but it also keeps employees safe, and keeps your business running smoothly.
- If you’re a restaurant in a post-COVID world, do customers want to be handed the same menu that dozens of other hands might have touched? Or is it easier for everyone if they can access your menu right on their own phones?
- Think about the physical space your business occupies, and the way it’s set up. How can you use that space to minimize contact, and maximize distance? Are your lobby, your aisles and waiting areas optimized for low contact?
A strong collaboration with a like-minded business or content creator can be just as important – if not more important – than traditional marketing right now. People are making some important and creative things to cope with the global situation right now, and partnering with someone who is sending a great message can be just as important as putting out a great message yourself! Think about what your brand is, and who might closely align with your values – it’s a great time to branch out and get creative in your partnerships!
For a real-life example of collaboration working in a company’s favour, look at the partnership that Pepsi has been able to create with actor John Krasinski of The Office fame. Pepsi have backed Krasinski’s YouTube show “Some Good News”, a homemade internet show created by Krasinski to spread good news in an otherwise bleak time. Backing John Krasinski’s show – and the charities he has been promoting – has been a great opportunity for Pepsi to remind customers of the values their company stands for, in a fun and creative way. Not everyone can collaborate with a beloved sitcom actor, but there are plenty of organizations and individuals out there doing important work that you can get involved in.
- We live in an age of the social media influencer – look for influencers that share your target market and have a persona that reflects well on your company!
- Don’t be afraid to approach influencers and personalities to talk about possible partnerships – collaboration is a win-win situation for both of you!
Although we are living in uncertain times, you can be confident about reaching your customers and keeping up with the changes if you build your marketing strategy on these six crucial principles. With the right mindset, this can be an exciting time to re-focus your energy and refresh your brand’s image – you can bring your customers closer to you than ever, while still keeping six feet away.