Marketing during COVID-19: What messages do your buyers need right now?

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Contributor, Sell to Win

The COVID pandemic is the time to remind your audience that, now more than ever, we are all in this together.

If your inbox is like everyone else’s, you’ve undoubtedly received tons of emails with the subject line “We’re All in this Together.” Businesses are using the COVID pandemic as a time to blast emails to anyone who will listen. Maybe you’ve even sent one of your own; hopefully it was tactful.

The emails did get one thing right: As cliche as it may sound, we are all in this together.

The feeling of uncertainty during COVID is everywhere. Not knowing how to proceed, and having little idea what the future may hold is a genuinely horrifying thing. Despite what your gut may be telling you, spending your day wrapped up in a blanket burrito is not the best use of your time. Now, more so than ever before, is the time to take action on behalf of your business.

It’s always a good time for growth, even during COVID

Businesses are finally getting around to doing things they couldn’t do normally, and so should you. Now is a perfect time for taking care of those backburner tasks, like writing that blog post you’ve been thinking of, or redoing your marketing funnel.

Most people are currently substituting social interaction with digital, which means that content creation is a tremendous strategy right now. In fact, by the end of March, internet usage was already up 70%

Even if you are not “open for business,” you should still be nurturing and building your audience. As any social media guru knows, pageviews and Facebook likes don’t always equate to an increase in sales—but they will bring an increase in brand recognition, which is a great thing to focus on right now.

Connecting with your audience

Even though you’re not able to see your customers in person anymore, they’re still very much around. Since the shelter in place orders, people’s lives have become much more digitized, with virtual meetings and online video communication becoming more commonplace. To keep connected, you’ll need to be digital too.

What are people purchasing during COVID?

Since most people are stuck at home, most industries have seen a huge spike in online sales in the last month. From E-Commerce businesses to food delivery services, the increased amount of transactions being made online has most businesses diverting their attention to digital revenue-drivers.

Of course, digitizing your business is easier said than done. Many businesses affected by the COVID pandemic have no other means of making revenue. So what can be done?

Gift cards

Gift cards are a great way to generate revenue during these down periods for any form of business. The idea behind gift cards is that you can secure the revenue now for products and services that you can provide at a later date. It’s almost like getting a micro-loan from your customers to float you through this time. 

Certain charitable organizations like A2 Helps are designed specifically to keep businesses afloat during the COVID pandemic by purchasing and then donating gift cards from local businesses to frontline workers. If necessary, setting up your own GoFundMe or another donation service might help to keep the lights on if that’s what it takes.

Virtual meetings and consultations

Providing over the phone or web-based video chat consultations is also a great way to keep your customers engaged and involved. With these virtual meetings, you can answer questions and even give them estimates for future products and services. This will help fill up your calendar for once things return to “business as usual”.

Training courses and education

Another thing that is being consumed during this time is training courses and educational materials. Your customers likely have much more time on their hands, and we know they’re consuming more content. We also know that people are taking this time to accomplish things they weren’t able to a few months before, like learning a new skill.

If you are a bakery, this could be as simple as providing some great recipes for your customers to try. This also serves as a great way to drive traffic to your site and drive brand credibility at the same time.

You might be hesitant to just hand out all of your trade secrets—totally understandable. However, your clients really hired you because they don’t have the time or the expertise to do what you do. They may be capable of learning what you provide, but they (hopefully) know that you’re the one they can count on to do it better once the COVID emergency is over.

Content and ads

Though there are not as many physical products or services being consumed during this time, people are consuming free content more than ever. Although content requires effort and some serious strategy, there has never been a better time to get started.

Blogs

If you haven’t already, now is the time to start blogging. There are plenty of things within your industry that your audience would love to learn. Not only do blogs provide valuable information to your audience, but they increase your SEO rankings as well.

Vlogs

If writing isn’t your style, you’re in luck—there’s always vlogging (video blogging.) Tutorial vlogs are a great place to start, but you can vlog about whatever you want. To kill two birds with one stone, you can create a short writeup about your vlog content and post that as a blog on your website.

Podcasts

If you have the advantage of having long-form conversations pertaining to your field, podcasting may be right for you. Try recording a conversation and posting it to your website, along with an engaging description on what the podcast is about. The rest is completely up to you. As with vlogs, you can transcribe a podcast and turn it into a blog post as well.

Webinars

Webinars are primarily used as a way to engage your bottom of the funnel prospects and current customers. Explaining in a live video format the new features or updates to your business in a conversational format gives people the opportunity to ask questions and engage with you directly.

Social Media

All of this content can be utilized to effectively grow social media audiences and boost website traffic. Something as simple as posting a funny or insightful image on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter can really go a long way in reminding your customers that you are still there for them. Also, naturally, you should be regularly posting bits and pieces of your long-form content on social media.

Advertising strategies

Since most online ads are priced based on a bid system, online ads are significantly cheaper during the COVID pandemic. Especially combined with a renovated content system, purchasing online advertisements can go a long way in securing brand recognition for your company.

PPC ads during COVID

Email marketing

Another great way to reach your customers is through email marketing. Once someone has signed up for your newsletter, you’ve got them in a great place to continue conversing with them and keeping them warm. This creates brand recognition, but also engagement, as some of your readers will your CTAs in your newsletters.

Your goal shouldn’t necessarily be to gain new business during this time, Marketing to gain brand awareness is useful as well. This strategy has a more delayed return on investment, but can significantly grow your top of the sales funnel.

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Finding the right tone amidst the COVID crisis

Having a loyal and engaged customer base is a sign of a thriving business. If you can prove that you truly care about your audience, they might even reward you with their trust. You, better than anyone, know the language of your target audience and have the ability to speak directly to them. 

Be human

It is important not to spread fear or negativity during the COVID pandemic. The public is very sensitive to any business that appears to be attempting to capitalize on the fear or pain of others. Projecting an aura of selflessness and compassion to the world is something that will attract people to your brand.

Now is not the optimal time to have a big advertising push or roll out a new luxurious product. Unless your new product specifically pertains to helping people navigate the current situation, spare yourself the trouble: You’ll only come off as being insensitive, like someone offering a “COVID-19 blowout sale.”

Have empathy

Just like how we’re adapting our lives to the current pandemic, we’re also adapting our businesses. Be a positive and uplifting distraction to your audience and don’t be afraid to get personal and show your true humanity.

Empathy can be a marketer’s greatest asset. Allow yourself and your business to be authentic and forthcoming. Remember, sometimes customers buy because of the product, but sometimes they buy because of the people behind them.

Image via EdSurge

Have a strategic message

Finding a way to empathize with your audience is the tricky part. Providing a special service or relief package can definitely get their attention.

If you are an accountant, for instance, you could go on a livestream and answer questions about how stimulus checks and unemployment will affect tax returns. This is another way to establish yourself as an authority and build trust by directly answering questions. The return on this investment of time may not be immediate, but next tax season they will be thinking of you.

If you’re a local restaurant, you could deliver meals to local hospitals. Not only is this something you can post on social media, but the workers at that hospital might even give you a shoutout as well.

The bottom line is that there aren’t any shortcuts to empathy. Even if a livestream, tutorial, or donation doesn’t generate new business, you’ve still done the right thing, and possibly even learned a new skill along the way.

It is important to view this adjustment as an opportunity to try something different. New customers will be attracted to a business that continues to spread positivity during this time, so approach your customers with a caring heart. The best thing you can do with this time is to use your business to foster real trust with your audience, so that we all emerge stronger and more connected than ever before.

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Page cover photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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