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How to Handle Marketing During Uncertain Times

For many businesses and individuals, the past few years have been positive and included opportunities and avenues for growth. With the current COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading across much of Europe and the Americas, the present and future have become very uncertain. The clear focus now should be on taking care of those who are ill, protecting those who are high-risk for infection, and staying healthy.

In the U.S., many businesses large and small are taking preventative measures to take care of their employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. Enabling remote working when possible has been demonstrated to be a good business continuity plan that puts the health of workers at the forefront. However, many businesses and business leaders who have taken steps to protect their workers are still experiencing much uncertainty about what comes next.

While business as usual is not an option, especially when it comes to marketing, there are several things to keep in mind during this pandemic. Below, our marketing team shares their thoughts on how to approach marketing as we cope with this global crisis.

Accept the Uncertainty but Don’t Panic

As humans, we are wired for fight or flight and panic can be a very real, normal response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The first thing that business leaders and marketers (and all individuals) should do is to accept that uncertainty will be constant for the near future, but to not panic. It’s important to know that while there are many uncertainties and China has not fully recovered from the Coronavirus outbreak, the country was able to disrupt the outbreak and change the course of the spread. While this won’t change our present, it should provide hope for the future, that recovery is imminent if we act appropriately now.

Read more:  China shows COVID-19 Coronavirus can be ‘stopped in its tracks’

For marketers and business leaders, this means we can’t continue as normal, but that we need to adapt. You may be tempted to panic and stop all your marketing activities. While you may want to pause some activities to be sensitive to those who are ill or experiencing loss or hardship, it’s important to be strategic. While it may seem best to pause all your marketing activities, that will absolutely hurt your business in the future and may hinder your ability to recover.

Be Realistic, Not Pessimistic

In many ways, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yes, we need to fear COVID-19, but for many B2B businesses, demand for your products and services is still there. If we go too far down the track of negative thinking, it will negatively affect employees, partners, clients, etc. Negative thinking can actually be more contagious than COVID-19 in a virtual workplace.

With marketing, be realistic about the impact COVID-19 will have on your business. Yes there will be dramatic effects on certain businesses (restaurants, bars, air travel, etc.), but there are other B2B businesses where it is business as usual, the only difference is sales and customer service will be done via Zoom, phone, or email. The quantity and quality of service will really not be affected.

Do not go down the path of negative thinking for no reason. Most B2B businesses can survive and actually thrive using alternative communication and service delivery platforms.

Be Thoughtful and Intentional

Over the past week, we have seen business leaders and marketers acting thoughtfully and with intention. Changing business operations to include “social distancing,” mandating that all workers able to work remotely do so, moving as much work online as possible, and limiting the amount of in-person interaction possible. These decisions are all thoughtful and intentional choices that demonstrate concern for individuals.

Marketers should be continuing to be thoughtful and intentional in their efforts. It’s ok to still post blog posts as long as the topics are worthwhile to the audience. It’s ok to send an email newsletter if the content is sensitive to the audience and offering value. Remember that many folks are taking their additional time right now to improve their skill set or expand their knowledge. They are focusing on the future and your content or materials will help to educate them while also letting them take their mind off the uncertainty surrounding them.

Avoid Being Opportunistic or Predatory

There is a clear line between an entrepreneurial spirit and using an opportunity to provide value. Because toilet paper hoarders are selling rolls for $10 a piece out of their cars, it’s essential to state that marketers and business owners absolutely MUST avoid being opportunistic or predatory.

If you are seeing an increased demand for something like IT services to set up remote workers or conference call software (both real demands now), be very careful about how you market these services. Make sure you understand the true need behind what is driving these trends and speak to the concerns of the end-users or business units.

Adapt for Now, Plan for the Future

We don’t know when the COVID-19 pandemic will be slowed, or how far it will reach, or what the final impact will be. But, based on recovery rates being published, it’s likely that much of the population will survive. For marketers and business leaders, it’s important to be flexible and adapt for now, but to continue to plan for the future.

We are all in this together and we will pull through.

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