If there was ever a time of uncertainty, now seems to fit the bill. With a pandemic working its way across the globe and virtually everyone social distancing, businesses everywhere are feeling the burden. Clearly, we’re in uncharted territory. While this seems like a perfect opportunity to simply batten down the hatches and ride out the storm, and certainly some are doing that, it is also a time to think differently.
For businesses, dealing with this calamity has proven to be a full-time job and has shifted priorities. This is particularly true with respect to marketing. Brands rightfully understand that the collective consciousness, generally speaking, isn’t in the buying mood unless you happen to sell toilet paper or Purell. That means that many brands are waiting for better days, but that doesn’t mean that their marketing must cease. Rather, it means that marketing must change to reflect the times.
If the health crisis has taught us anything it is this: we’re all in this together. For many, the notion of collective wellbeing has never been more top of mind. For me personally, this experience has given me renewed gratitude for my friends, family and community as well as a desire for togetherness – and I’m not alone in this sentiment. This means that brands have an opportunity to connect with their customers in ways that feel particularly germane. It gives them the chance to focus on the customer and move away from brand-centric marketing.
Businesses can reflect their relevance and fill consumer needs. They can create calm in a period of stress. They can foster community when we need it most. In short, now is the ideal time to use marketing for good. It’s true that traditional marketing used to started with asking what the customer needed, but that question largely gets answered by new features and gadgets. In this these unsettling times, consumers need assurance, inspiration and connection more than ever before. As marketers, we can deliver an experience that does this and more. Feeling overwhelmed just thinking about it? Here are a few ways that brands can do more than simply promoting their products and services:
Using video chats to connect with consumers is a great way to stay virtually connected whilst staying apart. Brands can use video chatting services to host parties and events that focus on creating community. Beverage brands can offer virtual tea parties. Service provides can provide virtual training services to encourage peer to peer learning and foster community. Think of fun events that bring a bit of levity, Trivia Night anyone? The list of potentially engaging and socializing opportunities that brands can offer their customers virtually (or would-be customers) are endless.
Make the Leap to Ecommerce
Now is the time to rethink your distribution model and consider developing a direct to consumer approach. While that may sound daunting, creating ecommerce sites has never been easier, with platforms such as Shopify and others offering cost effective stores. The truth is that your brand should consider adding ecommerce functionality to your website even if the bulk of your business comes from retail partners, because sooner or later you will want to build a direct relationship with your customers. Plus, the ease of ecommerce affords additional convenience for your consumers and provides protection for your business should similar circumstances arise in the future.
We live in an age where younger generations think that everyone is an expert on something. It is no longer necessary to have a list of credentials or even a robust number of followers. Now is the time to see if your best employees, executives or other brand advocates can begin sharing interesting and real videos on who you are as a company. Developing a personal brand along with your business brand is a great way to show the behind-the-scenes of your brand while also capitalizing on an audience who is largely online. It is also ideal content for social media. Step out of your comfort zone and share a day in your life – and encourage your audience to do the same. This allows you to gain user-generated content while reminding your customers that you’re just like them.
If your business hasn’t been negatively impacted by the health crisis, instituting a cause marketing program is an excellent way to reflect your brands commitment to good. Communicating that your business supports charities such as Food Banks and other resources in need reflects unity and reinforces that your brand cares about something other than profits. It also shows that your brand represents something larger or has a higher purpose. Today’s consumers will appreciate the effort and are more willing to support brands that use their resources to address social needs. Find a cause that you care about and invite your community into the discussion.
In times of uncertainty, marketing budgets are often the first expenses to be cut. The thought process is essentially, why lose the money? The truth is quite different however. It is the companies that allocate money to marketing in times of woe that come out the other side stronger, and this situation is no different. It just requires the ability to create customer-centric marketing that is sensitive to the sentiments of the day and is focused on the greater good. If this isn’t enough for you then let the words of Shannon Adler be your guide, “One of the most important things that you can do on this earth is to let people know that they aren’t alone.”