Most global crises blindside us. Very few people foresaw the 2008 US stock market crash, which resulted in massive job loss and home foreclosures.* By March 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped by more than 50%.** The US economy and millions of its citizens were devastated.
When calamity strikes, it’s crucial for marketers to know what is at stake and adapt accordingly. In times of crisis, we are not dealing with the audience we normally market to. Every individual reacts differently to crises—some with fear, others with anger, etc. This change affects decision-making and buying behavior—customers may become more cautious and cancel or postpone purchases. When communicating with our customers during a crisis, we can’t rely on usual best practices, buyer personas, and established processes and KPIs.
Yet we must still do our jobs. If we take a step back to evaluate our marketing efforts, we may even notice that difficult times remind us to communicate with more empathy, authenticity, and focus on building lasting customer relationships, not on the number of transactions. Disruptions happen all the time, but that doesn’t mean that as marketers we should panic and stop all activities. On the contrary, this is the time to reinforce company values, get creative, and think long-term.
Thinking of long-term results rather than short-term gains empowers us to navigate a disaster zone while maintaining a competitive edge. That means aligning our efforts, communication tone, and marketing strategy with the situation at hand. As marketers, we are best positioned to lead companies through this temporary shift and prepare for what’s next.
So here are seven marketing tips to help you navigate the marketing landscape in times of crisis.
1. Place current KPIs and short-term objectives on hold
Adjust your lead generation goals. In some cases it might be prudent to put them on hold altogether. Review performance over a certain period of time and then decide what makes the most sense for your business and team.
2. Communicate with empathy
There is a significant opportunity to prove to the market that your brand cares about more than making money. Show customers you care about them, their wellbeing, and the health of their business (in a B2B case).
How can your products and services solve problems for your customers during a crisis? Are your customers aware of these solutions? Team up with your customer support team to reach out to customers with personalized messages and to help them solve new challenges and get more value from your products and/or services.
If you are in B2B, have a casual conversation with your customers to find out their unique challenges and how you can help them keep their heads above the water. Show your human side.
If you plan and execute properly, the long-term benefits will more than counterbalance the temporary loss of revenue.
3. Become part of the solution
If you don’t have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) action plan in place, this might be a good time to start. If you do, then see if you can focus your attention on the timely solutions and areas where you can be most effective. It could be making monetary contributions and matching your employees’ donations to nonprofit organizations working on the issue(s) at hand. Or, maybe your company has other resources, including technology and specialized skills, to build solutions or alleviate negative impact in some way.
Many CSR tactics produce tangible benefits during a crisis. They can increase customer loyalty and improve your brand reputation immensely.
4. Share your results
It’s critical that you share the results of your social responsibility efforts in a tasteful and appropriate manner. If you were able to raise funds with the help from your employees and customers, let people know where the money went. Send an email. Blast it on social media. Focus on the cause/issue and the efforts to solve it, not your company or brand.
Avoid publishing a press release or using this as a promotional opportunity. Instead, thank everyone involved and remind them of the importance of making a difference, especially in times of crisis.
5. Do discuss your product in the right context
Let’s use Insightly’s unified customer relationship management (CRM) solution, which includes built-in marketing automation (MA), as an example. The Insightly team uses the system to align sales and marketing teams and manage outreach and projects at every customer touchpoint without losing momentum or slowing down operations during a crisis. The Insightly team also continues to reach out to their customers with tips to help them leverage their own Insightly CRM instance and minimize the impact on their organizations. What unique features or benefits do your products and services offer customers that could help them right now?
You can also publish how-to articles and guides on using your products to navigate through a crisis. Maybe it’s about managing remote work. Or, how to use the slow time to prepare business for the crisis aftermath. Even if your products/services don’t fall into the most relevant category, engage your customers with original or curated content that will be of use to them.
Don’t focus on selling, but rather educate, support, and help your customers’ businesses to survive the downturn and figure out their next steps.
6. Stay positive
Optimism is important. It helps us to get through tough times and stay hopeful. Find and share stories of human perseverance, creativity, and innovation in times of crisis. If you have customers who are making a difference in some way—tell their stories. Crisis is a temporary situation. Staying positive not only helps to weather the storm, but also to prepare for what’s next.
7. Don’t let routine administrative processes fall through the cracks
Even in crisis mode, you must still maintain a clean marketing database with up-to-date customer data.
It’s purely coincidental that this is the last point on the list. Clean and up-to-date customer data is a particularly important and essential aspect of keeping the lights on at any time. Be sure to continue to execute daily administrative tasks that you’re responsible for and encourage your team to do the same.
If you take away one lesson from this article, it should be to practice empathy while marketing through a crisis. Everyone is experiencing and reacting to the situation in their own way. Put the hard sell aside for now.
During a crisis your marketing strategy should focus on relationship building, brand reputation management, and customer retention.
Marketing through a crisis is tough. But if you’re an adaptable marketer and put a few pieces of advice from this article into action, you’ll come out on top in the long run. Remember, the darkest hour is just before dawn.
Explore more best practices and stories on the Insightly Blog.
*Foreclosures up a record 81% in 2008, CNN Money, 2009
**The Stock Market Crash of 2008, The Balance, 2020