I know it’s a time when a lot of us – businesses included – are just hunkering down and waiting this thing out. Or hoping we can. As business owners we’re trying to keep things going, but there is no doubt that business is NOT as usual. Are you wondering, is it even an appropriate time to continue to do any marketing of your business?

I know a lot of us are struggling. Anxiety is running very high; people are worried and scared for any number of good reasons. We’re worried about our health and the health of our family, friends and colleagues foremost, but we are also worried about the economy and our businesses. For those of us running businesses, it’s a time to stop and question – what should I be doing? When it comes to marketing, I think the initial response is to pause. Marketing in this environment seems a crass, or your cashflow is taking a hit that warrants putting a stop to “unnecessary” spending. I hear you because I am thinking the same things!

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks writing updates and protocols for my clients in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Emails, blog posts, social media posts, and other communications letting their customers and their staff know what the company is doing while the world is in turmoil. Updates about how their delivery of products and services have changed, and how they are keeping their employees, their customers, and their communities safe as they go about attempting to continue to serve their customers.

Be sensitive, but continue to communicate with your audience.

It is very important to remember that everyone handles this level of stress and fear in their own way, based on personal history and experience that we know nothing about. When you reach out to your audience, you really don’t know what they are going through or how your communication will be received.  I believe there is a lot of good that can come from effective marketing at this time. It might help to think about reaching out less as marketing in the traditional sense, and more of it being about staying connected and helping where you can.

Here are some tips for marketing during this unprecedented time:

Don’t be silent.

Communicate to your clients that you’re operating as best you can in these times, and let them know what you’re doing to take safety precautions. Let them know about your personal and office/site cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and how you’re monitoring people you are interacting with. Develop screening questions (see the end of this blog for a sample) and safety protocols if you are a business still working with the general public, and communicate them clearly so your customers know what to expect should they need you.

What should I say to my customers?

  1. Show concern, empathy, support
  2. Describe how your business is handling COVID-19, how business has changed (remote contact options, new hours, safety precautions)
  3. Let them know you can keep them safe and still be helpful (remote contact options, digital services or resources, free advice and assistance you can give)
  4. Tell the truth and be yourself. People can tell when something is canned, and those are the emails everyone is hating. Be authentic with your own struggles and fears (within reason).
  5. Be reassuring – we’re in this together, we’re here to help anyway we can. As businesses, we are community leaders, so it’s important to be strong and comforting.

Reach out to your database.

While a hard-sell marketing message would be totally insensitive right now, what people do appreciate is care and concern. Genuine, authentic interest. One way to stay in touch with your customers is to simply reach out in the spirit of “How are you doing? I’m thinking about you and your family. Is there anything you need.” And, of course, mean it.

Think outside your business box.

Think beyond your usual demographic, geographic area, or “typical” customer – people’s lives, needs and habits have changed. People who once said they are too busy, are stuck at home. People who used other in-person resources may now be missing those services you can provide remotely. You might have new customers that are looking for you!

We’re in a time of doing business NOT as usual.

Continue to do marketing.

While it must be done sensitively at this time, marketing your business is still very important. If this pandemic passes in a few months, you will have maintained your connection to your audience and will be top of their mind when they can resume “normal” activities. If this global pandemic leads to a recession, there is a lot of history supporting that certain businesses see growth during the hardest of times. The businesses that continue to market their benefits, and stay in touch with their network and audience, have the greatest chance of revival. Marketing remains critical to keeping your doors open (so to speak).

Invest in marketing to your demographic, don’t assume people will find you. If you have expanded services or products that speak to the current situation, let people know about it. Work to get web exposure in areas you would like to work in, even beyond your normal area. Now is an opportunity to reach a broader audience while people are isolated and stuck at home.

This too shall pass.

As businesses, we have survived 9-11 and severe economic downturns such as in 2008, and what we know is that people, businesses and the economy recover. Many times stronger than ever. Be part of supporting other businesses as you can in your community, especially local businesses, and partner or share resources when there is an opportunity. If you are feeling isolated, hop on a Zoom meeting with colleagues or suggest your networking group meets virtually. We need to come together so that we don’t fall apart.

Bonus Resource:

If your staff is still out in the field working with the general public, here is a sample of a script for them to use to protect themselves from unnecessary exposure: