Marketing During a Pandemic

Smart Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our team extends our heartfelt wishes and thoughts to everyone negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Times are certainly tough. If you’re responsible for marketing at your B2B business and wondering how to proceed during these uncertain times, read on. This post is for you.

You’ll find a number of recommendations, but also real-life examples of how you can respond to the crisis in creative and useful ways.

Things You Can Do Right Now

At a high level, here are a few ideas for you in general:

  • First of all, be helpful. What does your audience need right now? It may have nothing to do with your products or services. Help them! That’s the core tenet of marketing, and it’s more important that you execute in line with this principle now than ever before.
  • Communicate openly with your customers, prospects and partners. Cut the BS. There’s no time for that.
  • Treat your existing customers like absolute GOLD. It’s always important to be marketing to new prospects, but take a step back and realize just how awesome your existing set of clients are. What more can you do for them to help them weather the storm during the global emergency? As an example of how effective a strategy this is, look no further than Salesforce. When battling a high churn rate back in 2005, Salesforce adopted “customer success” as one of its core values to help turn things around. The company then increased revenue from $497 million in fiscal 2007 to nearly $1.1 billion in 2009 in the face of the 2008 financial meltdown. Customer focus, customer centricity, customer obsession – all fantastic practices any time, and especially at the current time.
  • Consider moving more of your offering to a digital structure. Launch a new website with a digital-only business model.
  • Finally, if your industry has simply been decimated, brainstorm how you can pivot part of your business to an area that needs you right now. For example, could you productize your expertise, consult other businesses or change up your manufacturing facility to make N95 masks?
  • Tap the brainpower of your employees. If you’re confused what to do next, ask those on your front lines. They’re likely to have creative ideas that will blow you away, as they are closest to the customer.

On a more granular level, here’s some advice specifically for your marketing during the crisis:

  • What’s the one thing you can offer right now that would help those suffering during the crisis? Offer it. For example, Stratabeat offered a free marketing and website consultation to five B2B businesses suffering from the COVID-19 crisis.
  • How can you help other businesses not only weather the storm, but come out of the crisis stronger? Make them aware how you can help them increase revenue or reduce expenses right now. Immediately.
  • Focus on relationships. How can you strengthen your relationship with those in your network? How can you help them?
  • Similarly, how can you engage with everyone in your database? What emails would they appreciate right now? Next week? Next month?
  • Along these lines, reach back out to accounts you may have lost in the past. If you didn’t win a bid a year ago, follow up, see how they’re doing, ask how you can help in any way and gently explore if your solution is a better fit now.
  • Monitor and respond quickly to shifts in the news and customer behavior. Increase the frequency of internal marketing discussions to see how you may need to shift any of your messaging week to week.
  • Revisit all of your messaging. Make sure it’s sensitive to the struggles that many in your audience may be facing.
  • Don’t be tone deaf. Now is not the time to be pushing hard for sales.
  • Partner with complementary businesses to help each other. What creative offers can you put together?
  • If you’re looking to conduct a product launch, reposition it. Make it free, or at least offer it free to anyone who’s suffering.
  • Repurpose content. See what you have in your stockpile, slice and dice it or repackage it into different formats that people would find helpful in this WFH environment.
  • Do more with less. Be creative and reduce your marketing expenses while still aiming to have the same reach. For example, the conversational marketing company Drift is working on publishing a new Drift Insider course, using content from an event from February.
  • Share personal stories. Your audience could use the human connection.
  • Activate your personal accounts in LinkedIn. We’ve found that text-based posts in personal LI accounts gain 10X-20X the reach of corporate posts. So get your executive team cranking out the posts. Just make sure the posts are genuine and sincere, and not something overly packaged from the PR department.
  • Be human. Almost everyone is WFH. Be open and laugh about the funny instances of your three year-old removing all of the keys on your laptop when you were in the bathroom, or when your dog jumped on you in the middle of a conference call. One of our team members shared that she was in pajamas during a Zoom video call with a client. Everyone laughed. We’re all human, let’s act like it.
  • Redeploy marketing dollars. Don’t pay for advertising, for example. Hunker down and offer amazing value to drive organic traffic, which will help you drive traffic not only today, but will compound over time. Even after the crisis is behind us. Do you typically rely on live events for your marketing? Consider moving it online, or hosting a series of virtual roadshows.
  • Use video. It’s now easier than ever to produce videos even just using your phone. Post videos online, even if you’ve never done it before. Plus, it’s effective. We’ve found that videos on LinkedIn generate 3X the engagement of regular posts.
  • Look for new opportunities. Amid all the chaos and uncertainty, how can you find (or create) a silver lining? What can you be doing now? What would be bold? What would be ground-breaking? What would be fearless? Keep the budget as small as possible and get creative. Brainstorm marketing ideas with your team and narrow it down to one massive new initiative you can focus on to move the needle and potentially transform your marketing.

Examples of Companies Doing Extraordinary Things

We tip our cap to these companies, responding to the crisis in creative, positive and impactful ways:

  • Loom, a video recording service, has made Loom Pro free for teachers and students at K-12 schools, universities, and educational institutions.
  • LinkedIn is opening up 16 of its learning courses, which provide tips on how to stay productive while working at home, for free.
  • Apple is now making face shields to protect healthcare workers.
  • Apple supplier, Flex Ltd., is transitioning some of its capacity from computer manufacturing to building respirators – targeting the production of 30,000 per month.
  • Microsoft worked with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington to create a series of data visualizations that aim to predict the virus’ peak in each U.S. state and gauge its strain on health systems.
  • SAP has opened access to some its technologies that help employees, companies, communities, and governments continue to move forward. In addition, SAP has established a €3 million COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support the needs of the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC Foundation, and smaller nonprofits and social enterprises serving local communities in crisis.
  • Rev.com, a transcription service, is transcribing coronavirus-related news conferences and more (the transcriptions are being used by almost every major news outlet). Rev.com is also working with Zoom to provide free live captioning services for K-12 students who are learning from home.
  • Salesforce donated $1 million to UCSF’s COVID-19 Response Fund and $500K to the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund. Through its Health Cloud, Salesforce will provide free access to technology for emergency response teams, call centers, and care management teams for health systems affected by the coronavirus.
  • Cisco donated $225 million to global relief efforts including direct funding as well as free access to Webex and other Cisco products for healthcare facilities and governments.
  • Talkspace, which offers confidential, affordable online therapy with professional, licensed therapists, will donate 1,000 months of free online therapy to medical workers all over the U.S. who are helping respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Timberlane, a maker of custom exterior home shutters, with its sales down 75% due to the crisis, was looking at furloughing 60 employees. Now about 50% are making masks, intubation cases, soon 100% plus hiring more. Revenue is about $50,000 a day.
  • Audible made hundreds of titles free to help during the crisis.
  • Canva created a series of COVID-19 awareness templates for social media to help #StopTheSpread.
  • JetBlue is helping to bring medical personnel to New York, offering free flights to medical volunteers heading to the state.
  • Lyft announced plans to deliver critical medical supplies to those in need, expanding their existing medical transportation services for people who need to get to critical healthcare appointments, and delivering meals to seniors and students.
  • Hotels.com is running an ad with Captain Obvious practicing social distancing. They end the ad by boldly stating, “Just Stay Home”.
  • Google pledged to donate $800 million and 3 million face masks to support businesses and health organizations fighting the coronavirus.

Eager to Help

Our team members have helped a 50-person software company grow to 250 employees in two years, and have grown traffic for market leaders such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard and UnitedHealthcare. Our CEO, prior to Stratabeat, helped the agency iProspect grow from an 85-person firm to more than 700 employees right through the financial meltdown of 2008 as its Director of Digital Strategy, and helped a software localization firm triple revenue during the dotcom meltdown of the early 2000s.

We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we’re eager to help you through this crisis. If you have a B2B branding or marketing question we can answer, please drop us a line and we’ll offer our advice.

Stay safe.