Are you a small business marketing during Coronavirus? If so, tread lightly. During this time, people are more sensitive to marketing messages. Here are some major dos and don’ts related to marketing during the Coronavirus.
With dwindling sales and closed “physical” doors, businesses are trying to do whatever they can to stay afloat and boost their bottom dollar during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Marketing during a global pandemic changes the game as we know it. As a solopreneur or small mom-and-pop shop, it’s especially essential to shift messaging to make it relevant to what’s going on in the wider context of the world.
While customers are staying at home and practicing social distancing, businesses need to reshape “what” and “how” they communicate with customers. Let’s be honest—there’s a fine line between annoying, and encouraging...and all too often businesses get it wrong.
Marketing during coronavirus takes a balanced, tactful, responsible, and ethical approach.
Learn strategies to finesse your messaging during this sensitive time, including the following tips:
- Focus your messaging on health and wellness
- Don’t be a “generic Eric”
- Tickle their funny bone
- Don’t try and sound like you’re capitalizing on the crisis
- Pause or pivot marketing channels or messaging
- Increase personalization
- Focus on digital channels
Let’s dig into each of the suggestions...
1 - Focus your messaging on health and wellness
At this time, people are re-thinking how they operate their lives on a daily basis, including how health and wellness factor into it. As we hear the media blast the importance of handwashing, developing a strong immune system, and making use of free time to get our hearts tickin’, health messages are at the forefront right now.
So, can you somehow incorporate this into your marketing during the Coronavirus messaging? Even if you are not a vitamin supplement online retailer, is there a way your business impacts the health of an individual? Think about these questions:
- “How does my product/service better the lives of individuals?”
For example, are you in personal coaching or fitness training business? If so, how can you communicate your end-game—or how can you improve the life of a client? The more you convince them of your value, the less they will care about a dollar amount.
- “How am I changing my process to accommodate for the health and wellness of others?”
Case in point: real estate agents nationwide have shifted their game to provide virtual walk-throughs, consultations, and touch-bases. While dine-in restaurants are closed in most areas of the country, many restaurants have taken to contactless curbside take-out to protect the health of their clients and employees. If you’re a business who has in any way reshaped how you operate, let people know about it!
And wellness is not limited to physical. If your business offers a user benefit of mental wellness, make sure that message is at the forefront of all marketing materials—like your website, email newsletters, social media channels, landing pages, and even ads.
Here’s an example of ad copy from BetterHelp.com:
2 - Don’t be a “generic” Eric
If you’ve turned on the television, you’ve probably noticed a surge of very similar COVID-19 response ads that include the following phrases:
[Cue somber music]
- “When we first opened our doors,...”
- “Since then, we've been impacting many lives…”
- “Now more than ever...”
- “During these difficult times of uncertainty and these unprecedented times...”
- “While we have to stay apart, we can all stay connected...”
- “We’re here to help...”
- “You can count on us...”
- Together we can do it...”
While we commend companies for quickly producing ads, are they producing actual results?
The verbiage above is taken from dozens of commercials from big-named corporations. As we hear the same messages on repeat from every industry and company out there, they lose their impact.
Beyond this, many generic ads don’t say anything at all. Saying, “We’re here to help” or “You can count on us,” but not specifying how does nothing for your business. Answer these questions...
- Are they changing their business practices?
- Are they improving their products to be more relevant to the health situations we’re in?
While most small businesses don’t have a budget for prime time ads, it doesn’t matter. The point is this: the channels you DO market on, avoid the phrases above, and actually get to the core of how you can help customers.
Remember: emphasize empathy and authenticity. We're hard-wired to smell a fake a mile away, so show up with active compassion.
Here’s an example of an authentic message from Shutterstock, with practical advice on how to make the most of your quarantined time:
3 - Tickle their funny bone (If it’s a part of your brand)
During this time, people need something to laugh about. As long as you’re not poking fun at the crisis, humor can and should be used. Think of ways to sparkle a little humor in your marketing messaging, whether it’s social media messaging, a short video hosted on your website, a landing page, or even display ads!
Need an example? Take, for instance, this Burger King ad, which promotes its delivery app and staying home during the pandemic. The "Stay Home of the Whopper" encourages consumers to be "couch po-tat-riots" by staying on their couch to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Not only does Burger King inject humor by calling people “couch po-tat-riots”, but the company also specifies exact ways they are changing the game; by offering waived delivery fees on orders over $10, and the donation of thousands of Whoppers to nurses through the American Nurses Foundation.
Yep, this is all done within 30 seconds.
One word of caution: don’t play around with humor if you’ve never done it before. This is not the time to A/B test your brand voice. If your existing voice is lighthearted, funny, and relatable, then go for it!
Here’s another example of a small business implementing funny messaging.
The beer distributor Kunda Beverage is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in King of Prussia, PA, but made a funny joke about it.
Photo credit: Tim Tai, a staff photographer at the Inquirer
4 - Community > company
“When tension is high, the risk of appearing insensitive in your communication is, too,” says Inc. contributor Katie Burke. Put the needs of your community over yourself, otherwise, you’ll be perceived as trying to capitalize on the crisis.
Along the same vein of being generic, you equally don’t want to come off like you’re taking advantage of people when they already feel “knocked down.”
What does this mean? As we live in a time of fear and uncertainty, don’t be “that business” who scares people into purchasing something. And, while it's worth it to inform your customers about how the pandemic is affecting the business, don’t spread panic.
There’s a cost, too, by sounding profit-hungry. In a recent Edelman report based on 12,000 people worldwide, 71% of respondents said that if during this time “they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.”
Here’s a great example of how a local government website modified its messaging to show it’s support for the virus:
5 - Pause or pivot some messaging
Many businesses plan their marketing months, if not quarters, in advance. With few people predicting the Coronavirus outbreak hitting the U.S. with such force, small business owners may have planned and posted marketing campaigns that may not be relevant to today’s “climate”.
Let’s be honest—your marketing during the Coronavirus can’t be on autopilot at this time. With that being said, evaluate all images and language you use in all marketing materials and make changes accordingly. Here are some examples of some actions you could take:
- Swap out visuals. Have images of people touching, in a crowd, at a public event, holding hands, or kissing on your marketing materials during the Coronavirus? Change them out.
- Re-imagine your marketing copywriting. Make sure you’re being sensitive to the fact that people are able to connect with others outside of their immediate family.
- Adjust the frequency of emails or social posts. You want to balance not being radio-silent, but also telling a story. “DO send out updates as often as is needed to convey important information. If something has changed, and audiences need to be aware of it, it’s time for an update,” says Adroll. Many people are overwhelmed at the moment with life, loss, and fear, so make it desirable for them to consume your messages.
- Pause sales-heavy marketing messages. “Stressful times are not prime for promoting sales, as efforts are not likely to achieve as much as they would during less uncertain times,” says Target Marketing Magazine. It is, however, a great time to tell stories about your brand, your employees, your community causes, your vision. Take this time to be uplifting, again, where appropriate.”
If you're not sure how to proceed—stick to the basics. Now is not a time for wild experimentation—but it's also not necessarily a time to pull all your ads down. There's an abundance of attention available, you just have to capture it in a strategic way.
In this example, Water4 re-positioned its email newsletter to focus on Coronavirus. It provides a good template of how you could pivot your messaging to relate to the virus:
6 - Increase personalization
Many people are at home feeling the weight of isolation. Many individuals are feeling down or alone. Capitalize on this fact, and speak to customers like they’re real people.
Practical eCommerce suggests the following strategies to meet the needs of each customer:
- Increase personalization for the needs of each customer.
- Inquire about customers’ well-being, such as “How are you holding up?”
- Set realistic expectations for shipping and delivery.
- Offer flexibility in order methods, delivery, and payment.
Here’s an example of improving personalization from one of our own Leadpages templates:
… And another example of a customer-centric and empathetic blog post from Utah Jazz:
7 - Focus on digital channels
With everything going virtual, now more than ever you should focus your efforts on your digital presence. People are looking for information online. They want to pass the time, so they are increasing their digital usage. Capitalize on this!
“We’re all glued to our computers and phones looking for updates within our community,” says Thrive Agency. “We’re also looking for entertainment and ways to pass the time. For many, that includes shopping online.”
Here are some ways to go fortify your digital presence:
- Are you a small business without a website? Create a website in a weekend.
- Are you a restaurant? Make sure customers can order online.
- With so many searches happening right now, make sure your website is SEO optimized so Googlers can find your webpages with simple keyword searches.
- Use the downtime to tackle digital marketing tasks like:
- Pruning your email list
- Review your website analytics
- Start a content marketing plan
- Take e-courses to brush up on your skills
Hang in there…
While life as we know it will never be the same, things will eventually go back to working order. Quarantine orders will lift, a vaccine will surface, and better treatments will become available. And businesses will soon thrive again.
But until then, leverage the strategies above to rise above the clutter of blase, or ineffective marketing messages. Your marketing messages now could determine how quickly your business bounces back in the future.
Have we missed any strategies to market during Coronavirus? Add them in the comments below!
Wondering what to read next?
Here’s what we suggest:
→ Grow Your Small Business During the Age of Social Distancing
→ 10 Ways to Crisis-Proof Your Small Business in Uncertain Times
→ Permanent Pivot: How the Pandemic Forced These Three Businesses to Change—For the Better