Marketing in Times of Crisis – I

“Survive today, plan for tomorrow”

Part I — Survive today

We’re all, now, in a business, health and maybe even personal crisis that probably none of us have experienced before. No telling how long it will last, and even when we get back to “business as usual” we’re probably looking at a new definition of “usual.”

Businesses need to act, and we’d suggest you think of it in two-steps: first, what you need to do right now to survive, and then second what your actions will be to move forward when business ramps up again, perhaps even to thrive.

Today we’ll talk about what you need to do, now, to survive. 

(We know you have sources of advice on your financial, production and personnel fronts; our focus is on marketing and sales.)

First – You already know you must be laser-focused on your current customers, so this is NOT the time to stop your customer marketing communications.

The fundamental rules of sales and marketing have not gone on hold, but have magnified. Focus communications more than ever on being:

  • Respectful
  • Generous
  • Honest, transparent
  • Educational
  • This is not the time, however, to be selling per se, but by “being there” in a genuine way; if people want/need to buy what you sell, you’ll be on the radar

Second – look at the timing/rhythm of your existing marketing plan/com schedule (as it was “pre-CV”) and keep to it as much as you can; while the content/message needs to be adapted you don’t want to just go dark, ostrich-up with fear.

Third – on the “adapted message,” three thoughts:

  1. Remember that your customers are people, and businesses/organizations, just like you and yours. As such they are just as unsettled, unsure, fearful as you are.
    • Tell them how you are coping–and yet continuing to serve customers
    • Give them concrete examples, if possible, of how you are reaching out and helping relief efforts. For example:
      • Honeywell’s Phoenix Engine site has added production capability to produce N95 masks for the Department of Health and Human Services while creating 500 new jobs in the process;
      • Piper Aircraft has tasked a portion of its capabilities to making face shields for hospital workers;
      • Duncan Aviation is hosting informational webinars on disinfecting aircraft
    • Such actions can have a terrific payoff, both from the obvious humanitarian but also business perspective: in a just-published study by Edelman Public Relations, people are looking for businesses to take an active role in relief efforts, with 65% of them saying a company’s response today will positively influence perceptions of that brand in the future.
  2. Present yourself–even if you haven’t already–as the expert in your product or service niche. As the expert, where do you see the most critical aspects in your niche that must be attended to now? Be as positive and confident as you can be.
  3. What not to say:
    • Don’t say “we’re here to help” unless you also offer up concrete specifics of value
    • Don’t talk about “keeping your employees safe by sending them home” unless you are also paying them

Fourth — On a tactical level:

  1. Communicate broadly, via your normal media channels, but for your most important customers, pick up the phone!  Let them know you are thinking of them, wish them well, ask what you can do for them.  Promise to visit them (as appropriate) once travel restrictions are lifted.
  2. Do you hold customer conferences, seminars, etc.? In addition to rescheduling such events, many of them lend themselves to video conferencing or at least a shortened, very focused form such as topic specific seminars.
  3. Get ready to come out strong–Downtime like now is a great time to clean mailing lists and social media followings, freshen brand messaging, update websites and social media communications. 

Fifth — Monitor your competitors

  1. What are they saying and doing?
  2. Is there something you should emulate, or
  3. Better yet is there something they are not doing that you can do to add value for your customers/prospects that will enhance your brand

Tomorrow, we’ll address marketing for the future, once the pandemic subsides and plans for “normalcy” take precedence.

Mark Ryan & Chris Pratt

April, 2020