Ever hear of the French stuntman who successfully walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers back in 1974? Well, marketing your business during a crisis is a lot like that — a careful balancing act.
Luckily, just like the 1,350-foot-high tightrope walk, it is possible to be successful.
When the fabric of society changes, it’s easy to begin tiptoeing on social media and hesitate before moving forward with a marketing plan. It’s a tricky conundrum — you don’t want to seem insensitive, but you also don’t want to allow your business’s growth to halt.
We recommend that you aim for the sweet spot in the middle. To help, here are our top do’s and don’ts of marketing during a crisis:
The Do’s Of Crisis Marketing
Overall, we recommend that you don’t put your foot on the brake with your marketing, but rather switch gears.
Do Employ Empathetic Marketing
While empathy should always be a component of your messaging, during a crisis it should be at the forefront of your strategy. You want to avoid alienating your audience by seeming insensitive to what’s going on.
Empathy-based marketing is understanding the emotional needs and motivations of your customers and aligning your plan to meet them.
During a crisis, you and your team are likely experiencing the same exact things that your customers are, so there’s no need to imagine walking in their shoes. You probably know exactly how they feel. Consider what content you want to see from brands you follow. What language would you find insensitive? What offers would you like to see from a business you support?
This is exactly how we approached a new marketing strategy for one of our multifamily clients recently. Rather than continuing to promote their online reputation management tool, we decided that property managers — their target audience — would find positive stories about acts of kindness between properties and residents to be most beneficial. These are examples of tactics that property managers can implement at their respective properties. We titled this campaign “#CommunityKindness,” and since its launch a month ago, our client has experienced a 58% increase in email subscribers and a 112% increase in the likes, comments and shares of their social content.
Do Share Business Updates
Even during times of crisis, it’s important to update your customers about any changes to your business. Whether it’s a change in operating hours, shipping times, product offerings or purchasing process, it’s important to let your audience know.
As well, we encourage you to share anything your business may be doing to support consumers, especially those directly being affected by the crisis.
Do Offer Specific Deals
When it comes to holding sales during a crisis, it’s all about the consumer’s perception. Obviously, the goal of making a profit will likely always be clear to your audience; there’s no hiding that. However, if the consumer can perceive your offer, sale or deal as helpful rather than simply a ploy to push product, then that’s a success.
If you are holding a sale or offering a discount, don’t talk about it in all of your messages. During a crisis, there may be people in your audience who are looking to make purchases, but there may also be many who are struggling with their finances. It is important to maintain balance.
The Dont’s Of Crisis Marketing
The main aspect of traditional marketing to stay away from during a crisis is frequent product/service promotion. The general rule of thumb we follow with our clients during a crisis is 20% promotional content and 80% helpful or relevant content.
Here are a few other don’ts for crisis marketing:
Don’t Fall Into Copying Others Or Using Cliches
Feel free to follow good examples that other businesses are setting with their marketing, but be sure to take your own approach for your brand and your distinct target audience. Over the years, you’ve probably conducted research into your target audience. Use that knowledge, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your customers to learn more during this time.
If you simply copy what other brands are doing, it will likely seem insincere to your audience.
Similarly, resist using cliche language that many businesses fall back on during times of crisis. These cliches, such as “In times like this” or “We’re all in this together,” are often vague. Instead, use language that conveys what your business is doing to help others, and be more direct.
Don’t Ignore The Situation
Being completely silent is not the answer and neither is continuing with business as usual. Your audience will probably notice this, and it will leave a sour taste in their mouths when they think of your business in the years to come. Most consumers remember how brands respond in times of difficulty. In fact, in a recent GfK survey about how COVID-19 could affect buying habits, 73% of respondents said that “the way companies conduct themselves during the crisis will impact whether they do business with those brands or retailers in the future.”
It is important to address the current situation and show your understanding yet also push forward.
There’s No Perfect Solution
When it comes to marketing during a crisis, there is no perfect solution or perfect strategy. If you make a mistake with your strategy and messaging, don’t hesitate to apologize for it. The quicker you do, the quicker you can continue to engage with your audience on a positive and productive basis. The goal of marketing during a crisis is to build a good rapport with your customers so you can continue to grow for years to come.
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Author: Jon Simpson, Forbes Councils Member