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 don’t 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 business’s 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 I’ll 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.
Don’t 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 it’s 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, it’s 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)
I’m sure you’ve 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 you’re 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.
It’s 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 Florida’s 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 you’ve lowered your prices and how you can provide a safe service.
It’s all about communication!
5. Communicate using increased low-cost outreach to let existing customers know you’re still a viable option
Sorry, not sorry for sounding like a broken record — but while I’m on the topic of marketing communication, let’s 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!
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 they’ve tried after COVID-19.
If you don’t 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 you’ve 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 business’s 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 don’t give up just because your numbers are low at first.
7. Create content that’s 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 doctor’s 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 you’re creating content to market during the pandemic.
For example, if you’re a store or restaurant, avoid posting images where people or crowds are touching. Instead, focus on an item or a particular employee who’s 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 you’re on their side and support them in a crisis.
A really great example of this is Dove’s 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 you’re 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?
It’s 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 you’re giving back in your marketing message, it drives customer loyalty.
Plus, it’s 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. We’ll customize all of the copy, design, and programming so that you can focus on connecting with your clients.
Instagram even added a tool that’s valuable for encouraging sales!
If you have a business profile (it’s 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 you’re thinking about them
Let your customers know how you’re adapting to the global crisis and that you’re 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 you’re 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. They’re 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. Don’t rely solely on email for outreach because it may be challenging to get your customers’ attention.
Postcards are powerful marketing tools that will help you market during the pandemic.
12. Collect data about what’s working
Most of what’s 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 PostcardMania’s services!
Keep in mind that the response rate is not an end-all-be-all measure of success for your marketing push. It’s 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.