Marketing During a Pandemic – Should it be Done?
Businesses across the globe, from small independent boutique shops and markets to multi-million-dollar companies, are probably wondering if it’s okay to market their services or products during the COVID-19 pandemic. And if so, they might also be wondering how much and what the right message is to send during a time that is uncertain and challenging for what could be a large portion of their consumer base.
The answer is, it depends.
Retailers who rely on foot traffic, pushing people to your store is not going to happen. For years we have seen a shift in buying practices to online shopping, yet even now, people are most likely counting their pennies as millions are facing unemployment and questioning if they will have a job in the next few weeks or months.
But this doesn’t mean businesses can’t share other messages that show they care for their consumers during the pandemic. Businesses and their brands have the ability to connect with people and there is an opportunity to do so, with genuine concern and supports, as the nation is under lockdown from COVID-19.
In the long run, sharing your messages may not bring in immediate business or attract consumers to make any new purchases, but it can build a revamped or new reputation and brand loyalty once the quarantine is lifted. These messages can be shared in emails, newsletters, on social media, or even via your staff if your business, such as a grocery store or hardware store, remain open.
How a business can market itself successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic is shared below in a few key recommendations:
Share Updates on Changes to Service
First and foremost, consumers should be made aware of any changes taking place with your business due to the coronavirus. This could include closing physical locations or reducing hours, limiting the number of people who can enter your facilities, requirements for hygienic practices when entering a building, if employees are still available for assistant (either in person or remotely), and more.
It is also recommended to share with consumers how your organization is responding to COVID-19 and what steps you are taking to ensure the health and safety of your employees.
Don’t Sell, But Tell a Story
Though some are if they have the money to spend, but most customers probably are not looking for the best deals. For businesses to market discounted items and services, this tactic may not generate as much revenue as expected.
What could be more beneficial is to tell a story to your consumers, and what that story is depends on you. A few simple options could be sharing how COVID-19 is affecting your business and how you are working with your employees to manage the new challenges, or talk about the services your organization is providing during the pandemic – maybe you’re providing support to medical professionals, donating food and money, or even making masks.
There are a variety of ways in which you can tell, not sell.
Show Genuine Concern for Consumers
It is important for businesses to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic will not affect everyone equally. Some people will lose a job, get sick, or unfortunately, lose a loved one to the illness. We have seen so far that the virus does not discriminate and anyone could be impacted.
Based on this fact alone, there is an opportunity for business to share messages of support and care to the public. For example, a video message from the CEO of an organization that speaks of understanding the obstacles that lay ahead and how they will be overcome together, could go a long way towards strengthening your reputation and brand loyalty.
Utilize Social Media
More than ever people are gathering news and information from social media, and organizations have the ability to reach millions of people in a matter of moments with their messages.
If you’re already on social media, this could be a good time to review how you use it and your messages to ensure they are telling the story you want. If you’re not on social media, this could be the time to get on a platform, like Instagram, to start sharing the story you want to tell.
And as an FYI, gaining followers and likes on social media is a great example of how businesses can build their brands and attract support during quarantine without pushing consumers to stores or online. Regular content that reflects the goals of overcoming the pandemic, together, can allow for an organization to shape its future once we move forward.
For additional information, recommendations or questions on staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Xenophon Strategies’ COVID-19 Crisis Communications Response Team webpage at: https://xenophonstrategies.com/covid-19-response.
Getting Back to Work is an ongoing series on health and safety regarding COVID-19 from Xenophon Strategies, in partnership with Dr. David Hamer, a professor at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine with more than 30 years of experience in epidemiological diseases. Through the partnership Xenophon is working with Dr. Hamer to provide science-based recommendations and guidance on how employers, employees, and families should best respond to and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.