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How to Market During a Pandemic: 12 Lessons From the COVID-19 Crisis (Coronavirus)

Marketing during a pandemic is like watching a football game — you don’t know what play is coming next, there are a lot of team huddles, but you just want your team to catch the ball and run with it. The COVID-19 pandemic flipped our worlds upside down. Social distancing, lockdowns, threats of a recession – a very stressful time to be a business owner. Every company has been affected one way or another. If you want to stay in business, you have to adapt and move forward.

Advisors may tell you to cut your marketing budget if you’re struggling to stay afloat — but that’s exactly what you dont want to be doing. Your business needs to remain relevant and connected during this global crisis, and one of the best ways to do that is by engaging with your customers.

A survey from the American Association of Advertising Agencies found that 43% of consumers find it reassuring to hear from brands during coronavirus. Long-term studies find that you should increase, not decrease your marketing spending during economic uncertainty, reports Entrepreneur.

I know how to market during a global crisis. I went through something similar in 2009 and learned that marketing is a vital part of your businesss overall health and wellbeing.

Here are 12 lessons from COVID-19 that will help you market during a pandemic.

1. Consider increasing your marketing budget during a crisis for added impact at a time when others might be pulling back

Your financial advisors are probably shaking their heads at this advice, but Ill share it anyways: increase your marketing budget, especially if your business is in a growth phase.

I learned through experience that it all comes down to the return on investment that you get from marketing and the lifetime value of the client.

You see, marketing is about the customer, not the business. And you should be improving customer relationships so that you increase customer loyalty, which builds the foundation for continuous business.

Dont have the budget? Apply for disaster assistance loans for small businesses affected by COVID-19. These loans can help cover payroll and avoid layoffs.

Some local governments are rolling out individual small business relief packages to help local businesses cope with the impacts of COVID-19. Have a look through state and local financial resources for small business owners. The application deadlines for some of these relief packages may have passed, but its worth reaching out to your county or state government to check for updates.

FYI Facebook grants are available for small businesses! Only small businesses with between 2 and 50 employees are eligible for these grants. These grants are for established businesses that have been serving the community for over one year. You can check the application process here.

2. Circle back to marketing 101 and segment your customers during a pandemic

After increasing your marketing budget, its time to go back to basics. Marketing 101 teaches us that the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.

So, who is your customer?

Are they struggling financially during the pandemic?

Can you satisfy a need or create a need during lockdown?

Be proactive in monitoring consumer behavior and purchasing needs.

A clear understanding of your customer or client will help you market during coronavirus.

Once you understand how to target your audience during a pandemic, you can position your product or service and move forward. (This is where you catch the ball and run with it!)

3. Communicate changes about your company to your customers during COVID 19 (Coronavirus)

Im sure youve heard that the key to any *strong* relationship is communication.

Marketing during COVID-19 starts with communicating with your customers. They want to know if your business is still offering services or products, how those services are different, what safety precautions youre taking, and how to book your service.

Be an open book and tell them your side of the business.

Are you offering new products?

Are you offering a contactless service or delivery?

Are you offering gift cards in place of a person-to-person service?

Are you changing your hours of operation?

Are you going virtual?

Let your customer know!

Real estate agents are adapting to virtual tours, dance studios are pivoting to online classes, spa services are selling products and gift cards, and independent grocery stores are delivering items with robots (!!).

Your business should have a game plan that you can effectively communicate with your customers. Let them know how they can continue using your services or products!

4. Be able to solve a problem for your customers, even during Social Distancing or Lockdown.

Understand your market and stay up to date with industry news, so you know how to solve a problem for customers.

Its best not to capitalize on the global crisis (this may incite fear or panic), but rather emphasize how your business will help your customers.

For example, do they need a haircut? We worked with Hair By Katy Salon to help spread the word that their business is taking appointments during Floridas COVID-19 re-opening phase. They sent postcards to residents in their neighborhood, letting them know about new low prices on their services and implementation of safe COVID-19 prevention practices.

They got 45 new clients after that direct mail campaign!

Many small business customers are probably hurting financially, so let them know if youve lowered your prices and how you can provide a safe service.

Its all about communication!

5. Communicate using increased low-cost outreach to let existing customers know youre still a viable option

Sorry, not sorry for sounding like a broken record — but while Im on the topic of marketing communication, lets talk about how to implement it.

Phone calls, emails, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and direct mail are all low-cost marketing tools to help spread the word about your services during a crisis.

For instance, if you have a Facebook business page (you should, it’s free!), use the business manager tool to run ads that reach 68% of U.S. adults on Facebook. A cool part about Facebook ads is that you can run them on Instagram too!

Better yet, pair these ads with a direct mail campaign for increased eyes on your message!

Not sure how to match a direct mail campaign with Facebook and Instagram ads? The marketing experts at PostcardMania can help you get started! 

Send postcards to announce that you’re back in business!

Postcards are an effective, easy, and low-cost way to gain new customers. (Hey, hi, hello, we’re here to help!) We track campaign results to learn what works and how to best target your specific market and customers during COVID-19.  

Email is another low-cost way to market during the pandemic. Gain leads and subscribers by encouraging them to sign up for your email list on your website. Bonus points if you can offer them a discount in return for their contact information!

But how do you convert email subscribers into paying customers? Follow up, follow up, follow up.

We offer automated drip email marketing to communicate with customers and turn leads into sales.

See? Marketing during a pandemic works when you implement the right strategies!

6. Learn how to communicate with new customers

Consumers are trying new products during the pandemic. Research shows that 36% of Americans plan to continue using new brands theyve tried after COVID-19.

If you dont know where your leads are coming from, how can you know the value of your marketing? Or the return on your investment?

Convert new leads into repeat customers by staying engaged with your target audience and letting them know how you can continue to help them during the pandemic.

You can do this by optimizing your digital channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, website blog, email), and increasing virtual outreach. Not sure where to start?

  • Send direct emails to your entire customer list to let them know youve pivoted online
  • Explain how and where they can continue to engage with and support your business
  • Once you have a few people tuning in, ask them to subscribe to your businesss page to receive updates
  • Ask your customers to help spread the word by sharing a few posts and inviting their friends to spread the love as well

Repetition is the key to response and results in marketing.

Keep emailing your list, keep hosting virtually, keep asking people to share, and dont give up just because your numbers are low at first.

7. Create content thats valuable to your customers

Make sure the content you share across your digital channels is valuable to your customers.

Create content that answers specific questions for your target audience.

Are you offering overnight delivery?

Are you open at half capacity?

Are you regularly sanitizing your store or doctors office?

You should also let them know you are there for them during coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures. It may even be a good idea to evaluate the imagery and language used when youre creating content to market during the pandemic. 

For example, if youre a store or restaurant, avoid posting images where people or crowds are touching. Instead, focus on an item or a particular employee whos wearing a mask.

Refrain from using marketing language that may infer person-to-person contact. Instead, use keywords such as contactless,” “virtual,” “sanitized,” “social distanced,” or masks” to improve how to market during coronavirus.

Customers want to know how they can continue to use your products or services while staying safe.

8. Tell authentic and relevant stories in your marketing messages

Once your customer knows the safety precautions your business is taking, relate to them.

Tell a story that hits all the feels and lets customers know youre on their side and support them in a crisis.

A really great example of this is Doves commercial called “Courage is Beautiful.” It features pictures of frontline workers with visible marks on their face from masks and protective gear. 

Dove shines a light on healthcare workers, and the audience empathizes with that.

As a small business, you can communicate empathy in your marketing messages by showing your support for healthcare workers, encouraging social distancing, or thanking customers for wearing a mask.

9. Show how youre helping the community during the pandemic

Research by the American Association of Advertising Agencies found that 56% of consumers like knowing how brands are helping their communities during the pandemic.

How are you giving back?

Its not only about donating money but also:

  • Hosting virtual events or fundraisers
  • Handing out lunches to kids who rely on school meal programs
  • Encouraging support for other local businesses
  • Making and handing out masks
  • Eliminating subscription fees to your service

When you show how youre giving back in your marketing message, it drives customer loyalty.

Plus, its the right thing to do.

10. Offer virtual gift cards

If your business is a service that heavily relies on person-to-person contact, such as a spa or hair/nail salon, consider offering gift cards for products or future services.

We can help you promote gift card sales by creating a webpage to make purchasing gift cards fast and easy. We can also write an email to send to your clients. Well customize all of the copy, design, and programming so that you can focus on connecting with your clients.

Instagram even added a tool thats valuable for encouraging sales!

If you have a business profile (its free with a Facebook account!), you can add a button to your Instagram profile and spread the word on your Stories using interactive stickers. These tools allow users to directly purchase gift cards or place a food order, helping you stay connected and reach new customers!

Pro tip: Add a geotag to ensure more eyes on your Story or Instagram post.

 Learn how to use the new feature here.

11. Send a postcard to let customers know youre thinking about them

You may be in an industry whose customer base is not actively online, such as senior care, dental services, or hearing aid technology. The best way to reach them is with a postcard campaign.

Let your customers know how youre adapting to the global crisis and that youre thinking of them. Share an easy way for them to continue to support your business during the pandemic by offering a discount or announcing that youre open.

Add a personal touch by including their name!

I recommend sending postcards during quarantine so that your message stands out. Your customers can hold on to a tangible piece of mail. Theyre 70% more likely to remember you from your direct mail.

Plus, half of all Americans look forward to checking their mail!

Email inboxes, on the other hand, are daunting and already flooded with COVID-19 responses. Dont rely solely on email for outreach because it may be challenging to get your customersattention.

Postcards are powerful marketing tools that will help you market during the pandemic.

12. Collect data about whats working

Most of whats learned about how to market during a pandemic comes from data.

After learning how to market during the covid crisis, collect data by reviewing consumer behavior to your COVID-19 marketing message.

You can do this by:

  • Tracking calls
  • Tracking impressions and clicks to website
  • Tracking customer reviews
  • Tracking customer service response
  • Most importantly, tracking return on investment

My team can help you collect data when using PostcardManias services!

Keep in mind that the response rate is not an end-all-be-all measure of success for your marketing push. Its all about return on investment. This means that a marketing campaign can produce a lot of revenue, but not produce that many individual responses.

Our marketing experts know how to market during a pandemic. Call 800-628-1804 to book a free consultation.

Best,

Joy

FREE DOWNLOAD: 7 Deadly Sins in Small Business Marketing

 

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