9 Things Marketers CANNOT Do During a Pandemic

May 4, 2020

Let’s start with one of the toughest questions marketers and business owners are asking right now. Can you successfully advertise your product/service during something as serious as a global pandemic?

With COVID-19 infecting millions and many thousands losing their lives over the last few months, we shouldn’t have to even be thinking about things like a business right now. While it’s a bit difficult to focus, we must continue for the good of ourselves, our families, our employees, and our community. But we must do so responsibly. The world is a different place and there are things you can and can’t do as a business right now.

Here’s my list of 9 things marketers cannot do during a pandemic.

1. Panic!

Everyone, stay calm! Paranoia will tell you that, “Everything is done for! The markets are crashing and “normal” doesn’t exist anymore.”. While we don’t know how long this pandemic will last, we do know the one constant in life — is change. 

Over the last hundred years, there have been dozens of moments that change everything. Some good and some bad, after they happen it just seems the rules of life are rewritten. While it has been a bit since we’ve seen one of these great shifts, it was inevitable. There have been many of these in the past and there will be many in the future. Now is not a time to panic. Certainly, take a moment, stop any campaigns that may be insensitive, but then adapt quickly.

No, it’s not business as usual… But really, a growing business is never usual. Usual shouldn’t be a KPI for any company.

2. Keep using your old persona.

While you probably shouldn’t completely change your target audience, everyone has been impacted by this virus in some way or another including your audience. Since your persona should be influencing any content that you create, making some edits and updates to your persona is crucial right now. 

It’s a great time to take a step back and talk with your audience about how they’ve been impacted. Chances are, they’ve changed quite a bit over the last 2 months. THose changes should be reflected in your persona.

3. Stay away from emotions.

Unlike politics, it’s pretty easy to take a side on this war against COVID-19. And while you should NEVER create a generic message, it’s especially important now to make people feel something. While it’s incredibly important to be sensitive to what’s happening in the world, It’s still ok to make people laugh, it’s ok to make people hopeful and it’s even ok to make people cry. But the overall message and branding should match that feeling your content creates.

This is an area where many brands are choosing to go the sad or somber route. It’s even gotten to the point where all the commercials are starting to feel the same. Remember, empathy doesn’t just mean making people feel how they’re already feeling. Empathy is about understanding what they’re going through and being able to talk to them as a friend would.

4. Don’t try to be a leader

In times of shock, an opportunity to move past competitors and then lead opens up. Leaders are decisive, they take quick action based on their knowledge and experience. Leaders are not erratic and they are trusted by their community.

There are essentially two groups of people in times of crisis: Those who do nothing and those who run into the fire to save as many people as they can. With many choosing to sit on the bench until the pandemic is over, it’s almost like communication is on sale right now because it’s getting a more focused audience on many platforms than just a few short months ago.

5. Freeze your marketing budget

While it makes sense to slow a budget during these crazy times, now is a great time to explore low-cost forms of marketing like podcasts, vlogs or even user-generated content. 

Without a budget, a marketing department cannot try new things. In times of crisis, creativity is the thing that will get companies through this is a better position than when they went into it.

6. Focus on getting new customers

Signing a new client during a pandemic is incredibly difficult, in some cases it’s impossible. When looking at the sales funnel, you should never forget rewarding loyalty. It might not be a good time for a big ask right now, but providing your current customers with valuable content may be the difference between them choosing to lower their budget with you or keeping things the way they are.

To put it simply, retention may be more fruitful than seeking new customers right now. Spend some of the time you’d normally spend on getting new clients to talk with current or past customers. Work to understand them better and how your company might be able to assist during this time. Even if it costs you money in the short term. 

A great example is what many car insurance companies are doing right now. Many are refunding money to their clients since not many people are driving right now. A great awareness of how they can help their customers to retain their trust.

7. Ask for the big sale.

With over 20% of the U.S. now finding themselves unemployed, it’s a pretty safe bet that your customers are currently not interested in spending a lot on anything until things start to calm down. So, to ask for “the big sale” right now may damage the trust that’s been built up with your audience. Sure, “big”, is relative, but use your judgment. It’s obviously important to keep making sales, but timing is more crucial than it was just a few months ago.

As with content marketing, your aim is to build relationships and get people to a certain place in the sales funnel BEFORE asking for something big. Right now is a great time to continue building interaction on social media and the trust of your company overall.

8. Selling facemasks or sanitizer at a crazy high profit… 

Yeah, don’t be THAT guy.

9. Forget how you help people.

If you have a hard time personally pushing your product or service right now. Remember that it SHOULD be helping people in some way (If it’s not, then quit immediately. You must believe in what you do to market it successfully.). If we value what we do for others, we should honestly believe that the product or service we provide to them will help them do SOMETHING better, even during a pandemic.

Creating content during a pandemic is by no means easy. What’s acceptable to say right now can feel like it’s been narrowed too much. It will take some extreme empathy and maybe 3 tablespoons of creativity, but years from now, you may find that the best work of your career was done during this moment in time.

I sincerely wish you luck and happiness.

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