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Marketing in time of crisis

Things are not good right now for small businesses. Let's not sugarcoat it. These days, we are hit with news of coronavirus every hour and the news is not good. People are not in the mood to consume, they are worried about their health. And small businesses are worried about survival. As a marketer, I have been thinking about this.This is certainly not the first time the US has been hit with crisis in our lifetimes - think back to the attacks on 9/11 and the financial meltdown of 2008.  While this one may be different, the fundamental issue is the same - you want your business to survive, but it's very hard to market right now. What do you say, and how do you say it? Here are some tips that may help:


Address the situation. Right now, anything that talks about anything other than COVID-19 seems tone deaf or extraneous. Don't pretend it doesn't exist when communicating with your customers. I've seen ads for cruise lines and got an email saying "Spring is here! Now is the time for strappy sandals." These communications give the impression of being insensitive or out-of-touch. Not the message you want to convey right now.


Show compassion. You may not be able to see your customers in person, but you can show you care about them. Reach out and ask how they are doing. People remember that extra touch. Don't try to sell them anything in the first communication. Just lend support and a helping hand. Do you know why people remember every single person who came to a loved-one's funeral? It's because they were in an emotional crisis and they got support.  Your initial communication to your customer base should be to show that you care.


Don't come across as opportunistic. Your first marketing communication may be daunting. It's hard to try to get your customers to support your business, when people may be confused and afraid. So it's important to show that you are not using the situation for opportunistic purposes. Show how you can help. A perfect example is an internet security firm that told their customers that they could help set up their security system from home. Zaniac (a coding camp for kids) sent an email giving online coding classes and offering one-on-one coaching.  No strings attached. So my advice is - reach out and remind customers you're there. Be creative in how you can help.


Everything right now is online. Many businesses can't meet one-on-one with clients or customers. Many are working from home and must turn to online interactions. So, if you haven't already, switch as much as you can to online or virtual. Have a training class? Make it a gated online class. Ramp up your digital presence, and do a bit more marketing of your e-commerce website. Maybe now is the time to focus on your digital presence.


Please let me know if you need help brainstorming these ideas. I've been through many crises and business downturns and would be happy to help you weather through this one.



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