Apr 22, 2020

How to Market with Compassion During a Crisis

This guide will help you make the most of your marketing dollars during the crisis.

Browse through LinkedIn or any other social channel feed and you’ll see every marketer urging you to “keep advertising” during challenging times.

And they do have a point - studies like the one from Harvard Business Review show that progressive businesses who focused on both prevention and promotion saw post recession revenue and earnings shoot up by over 12%.

Marketing during a downturn may produce only modest immediate benefits, but has been shown to add substantially to sales and profits after the rebound.

Still, this is no time to be wasting any of your marketing dollars. Advertisers are being cautious -  a recent IAB survey estimates that digital ad spend is down 33% and traditional media spend is down 39% as a result of COVID-19. There’s an old adage about wasting 50% of advertising money - but not knowing which half. If there was ever a time to stop waste in spend it’s now. 

Don’t Waste Your Budget on Tactics that Won’t Work

So, how do you know what will work? Where should you invest your limited budget to get the best return?

In Harvard’s study, the progressive companies that did well after the last recession stayed closely connected to customer needs. This becomes a powerful filter through which to build your digital strategy and make investment decisions.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to spend any dollars on tactics that will just not work today. Consumers’ consumption of media has changed, with viewing habits dramatically shifting to online channels and social media usage exploding. Tactics like out-of-home (OOH) are being left out in the cold. So it makes sense to shift your strategies to measurable online channels and addressable TV/OTT.

Watching-OTT-Streaming-TV-hand-with-remote

Given the increase in engagement (CTRs are going up for most major US advertisers) and lower CPMs, we see there’s a big opportunity for brands to spend on branding in digital marketing today to gain share of voice - there’s more online engagement than ever and ad rates are 40% off on average.

Not sure what’s working with your marketing? Discover The 6 Metrics That Matter To Your Bottom Line

Stay Connected to Your Customers with Digital Marketing

What are your customer’s concerns nowadays? Unless you are in the healthcare field, you probably can’t genuinely address their health worries. But what about their other needs? Right now people need security, guidance, a sense that the brands they have been loyal to are now loyal to them. That means staying connected through social media, blogs and thoughtful content.

How can you assure customers that you are committed to serving their needs in a way that is true to your brand and does not come off as “salesy” or self-serving?

‘Thoughtful’ is the operative word here. You must be careful with your content and social media posts. You don’t want to make the same tone-deaf mistakes like many companies. For example Pure Herbals’ sponsored post on Instagram featured an image of a woman wearing a surgical mask - distasteful to say the least.

negative-example-of-COVID-19-marketing-masked-woman

The examples aren’t always so blatant - almost any attempt at connecting your brand to the crisis can come across as profiteering.

Be careful about running promotions or sales. If you are able to extend discounts or new terms to your existing customers, let them know right away. But “sales” or “special discounts” to the general public can come off negatively. Use your ad space, your social media and your blog content to address the situation and how your brand is handling it. How you show up will speak volumes about what your brand stands for.

During times of isolation, people feel a need to connect - one example is restaurants that are closed giving out their most popular recipes in social media, another is museums and national parks posting virtual tours. Here is a lovely example from Velas Resort - they have created a series of blog posts under the #BetterTogether tag with ideas for “recreating” the resort experience at home.

Velas-Resort-Blog-Better-together-positive-experiences

Of course there are numerous examples of companies giving back to their communities. If your brand is in a position to donate or support those in need, this is the time to do so. Again, this should be done in the spirit of helpfulness, not as a publicity stunt. This article from PRWeek provides a good overview of how brands are doing responsible marketing, as well as a few epic #COVID-19 fails.

Still worried about how to craft your message? Here is a solid article on the types of visuals and wording to avoid in order to create responsible digital marketing messages during COVID-19.

Maximize Your Email Database and Website

One of your most valuable assets is your own email subscriber database. Now is the ideal time to communicate with your best customers and deliver relevant messaging, offers, and experiences. Again, be cautious about what you send out. If someone bought one sock from you two years ago, they will not appreciate being called part of “your community” - but if you’re giving away a pair of socks to healthcare workers for every purchase, then you’ve got a decent angle.

A positive email example comes from Uncommon Goods - their kind email to customers detailing what steps they are taking to keep staff and customers healthy and inviting recipients to join them on social media to share how they are doing.

While most non-essential brick and mortar stores are closed for foot traffic, online stores are still open and need promoting. The key is to do it thoughtfully. Find ways to provide customers what they need now. Kay’s Fine Jewelry extended a feel good offer to help their customers stay healthy and positive and also give back to the community.

Kays-Fine-Jewelry-Ad-No-Kid-Hungry-Bay-with-Sandwich

This is a great time to build your audience and increase your subscriber lists. Video is a great tactic to accomplish this. It does not have to be fancy - one company we work with created a 3-part series of Facebook live videos to demo their product and promoted it with a minimal spend (remember that Facebook ads costs are down as low as 40%) - they were able to increase their subscribers by 3x with minimal budget and effort. We also recommend adding 1-to-1 videos to your prospecting emails - we’ve seen increases in open rates as high as 40% using this simple tactic. Here’s a free tool from Vidyard to help you record these videos off your laptop or phone and easily add to your emails.

Measure and Optimize Everything

Finally, one of the best marketing investments you can make right now is in SEO and conversion rate optimization (CRO). If you are cutting back on paid advertising, increase your chances to be found online and make the most of the traffic you do get by reducing any friction slowing down conversions. Conversion Optimization is about getting the most value from every visitor to your website. It’s important to offer relevant content, and at least one Lead Magnet that will entice qualified visitors to share their name and email address. When the economy begins its inevitable recovery, the people on your list will be well-qualified future customers. Soon you'll be looking forward to creating effective marketing campaigns to drive business.

As you adjust your marketing plan, it’s more important than ever to measure every tactic and campaign. Review your analytics to determine where you should stop spending and where you should double down. For eCommerce, see what is moving and maximize profits on the inventory you have. Focus on the tactics that will demonstrate the ROI of every marketing dollar, like people-based search, programmatic, and advanced television. Make sure every campaign has a spending cap, then measure and optimize quickly.

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