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Heading into Month Two of the worldwide economic lockdown, it’s obvious that the coronavirus pandemic is completely changing the way business gets done. Name-brand businesses are laying off or furloughing workers by the thousands, face-to-face meetings are out of the question, and entire swathes of the economy – such as travel, hospitality and tourism – have been decimated. Given this new economic reality, how can marketers and business adjust and adapt?
Offer tools and resources to help people in a time of need
By now, you’ve probably received countless emails and other digital updates from businesses, describing what they are doing to counter COVID-19. In some cases, they are offering unused capacity and resources to healthcare professionals and first responders. In other cases – as in the case of financial services providers – they are reaching out to customers, and letting them know about new payment options and offerings that can help. Fashion and clothing brands have been offering advice on how people can make their own DIY cloth masks. Even local cable TV providers are getting into the game, unlocking free “premium content” for customers stuck at home all day.
As a small business, you can follow a similar type of game plan. Instead of messaging customers about new deals and promotions, message them about your response to COVID-19. Even better, look for ways to unlock content, tools or resources for people WFH (working from home) or for parents trying to home school their kids. At the very least, offer to reduce pricing on premium product offerings to make them more affordable for people experiencing financial difficulty. When the recovery finally arrives, people will remember these small steps and reward your brand with their loyalty.
Develop and promote new online-only offerings
If customers aren’t going to be visiting your physical business location, you need to bring your business to their online location. In other words, you need to develop and promote new online-only offerings. Think about the way that K-12 schools and universities are adapting to online-only learning environments, or about the way that arts professionals are finding new ways to perform “live” for patrons at a time when all of their concerts, shows and theatrical productions have been canceled for the next few months. Even “SNL” got into the act over the Easter weekend, with a coronavirus special (“Saturday Night Live At Home”) hosted by Tom Hanks that was patched together without a live audience or any studio production teams. Instead, you had a lot of comedians trying to be funny in front of their computer while locked down at home.
Don’t be seen as prioritizing dollars over lives
As a word of warning: businesses need to tread a careful line here. Given the current situation, you don’t want your business to be seen as prioritizing dollars over lives. Yes, we all want the economic lockdown to end as soon as possible, but not at the risk of a second wave of the coronavirus hitting even harder than the first wave. And you certainly don’t want your business to be the subject of a mean-spirited Internet meme that goes, ahem, viral. (Like the meme recently shared by Elon Musk on Twitter showing an astronaut on the moon reacting to a raging fireball destroying Earth: “Oh God, the economy!”)
At the end of the day, the coronavirus pandemic will affect every business, regardless of sector or niche. In a best-case scenario, you might only experience a slight dip in organic Internet traffic and lower online conversion rates. But for everyone else, it means pivoting quickly to an entirely new digital marketing plan that recognizes the changing economic reality.