It goes without saying that it is so important right now to be sensitive to your customers and the world we’re all living in. Brands and marketers need to strike the right balance between promoting their business and being aware of the current needs and mindset of audiences. So how do you ensure that your marketing strategy is as sensitive as possible in the age of COVID 19?
1. Reassure your customers
Your existing customers are so important to your business: they’ve helped you get to where you are today, and they’re likely to use your service again in the future. In a time where everything is so uncertain, your customers will appreciate your reassurance that you’re not going anywhere. This is especially important for industries such as hospitality and events: if a customer has a holiday or wedding booked, they will be seeking reassurance that their money is safe and their plans can go ahead in the future.
One of the easiest ways to communicate with your customers is via email updates. Create thoughtful and reassuring content that informs your customer and lets them know you’re there if they need you. Your customers will appreciate the updates and your sensitivity to the situation.
Secondly, post regularly on social media to keep customers up to date. Following government announcements, explain how the latest updates will affect your business and your customers. And ensure that you respond promptly to any replies or questions: being visible and communicative is reassuring in itself.
2. Strike the right balance with your content
As we’ve discussed previously, it’s currently so important to strike the right balance between promotional and informational content. Now is not the time to be blatantly self-promotional: it feels tone deaf and is unlikely to engage your customers (and may even irritate them). Instead, good content focuses on your customer: what do they need right now, and how can you help them?
When you’re planning your content, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would you want to hear from a business? Think about the human beings on the receiving end of your content: the best thing you can do right now is be honest, genuine, empathetic and thoughtful.
3. Be visible without being pushy
As with your content, you may want to err away from any form of marketing that could be perceived as “pushy”, and that’s where SEO comes into its own.
In response to the pandemic, Vistaprint launched a new line of face masks, an entirely new product for them. But rather than launch the masks via PPC, re-marketing, or Google Shopping, Vistaprint focused all their efforts on organic search.
Emily Shirly, GM at Vistaprint UK and Ireland said “We very specifically decided not to be pushy about it… we didn’t think it was appropriate to be pushy.” Instead, Vistaprint did a lot of work with search engine optimisation to ensure the masks were easy to find for anyone who might be looking for them.
Vistaprint realised that at a time of such economic uncertainty it could be seen as inappropriate to be openly profiteering off an item of PPE. Their SEO-focused “gentle sell” was a more sensitive way of gaining visibility and ensuring their product appeared to those who were actively searching for it.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that a recent study by Marketing Week found that “more than half of marketers believe that SEO is more important during this time.”
4. Tread carefully with outbound prospecting
Often seen as the height of pushiness at the best of times, outbound prospecting is one aspect of B2B marketing which is a minefield right now.
During the pandemic LinkedIn has been full of complaints of sales emails and connection requests sent by salespeople, many of which are automated and therefore completely tone deaf. In the current climate there is a need for businesses to demonstrate genuine thoughtfulness and compassion: a much more human approach to marketing. This needs to come through in outbound communications, and automation definitely isn’t the way to achieving the right approach. Instead, salespeople need to consider using a well-researched approach and tailored, relevant messaging.
5. Consider supporting charitable causes
Continuing with their sensitive approach, Vistaprint made the decision to donate 6% of their face mask proceeds to the Young People Relief Fund in recognition of the impact that the pandemic has had on many young people and their prospects.
They are by no means the only business supporting charitable causes at this time. Companies ranging from small SMEs to large corporations are helping charities in their coronavirus response. Most of the leading supermarkets are donating food and money, primarily to food banks. And Barclays Group announced a £100m package to support communities throughout the COVID crisis.
6. Focus on health and safety
It’s no surprise that health and safety has become a key part of brand experience in the COVID-19 era. Brands must adapt to offer consumers peace of mind, whether that’s by enhancing their online experience to avoid customers having to visit stores, or by reassuring customers that they’re taking safety and cleanliness seriously in their physical locations.
Airbnb have added a Covid Safety section to their site and encourage all their hosts to send health and safety messages to guests prior to arrival:
Hotels are also using email and social media communications to reassure their customers that a stay with them will be as safe as possible:
Health considerations are impacting brands that wouldn’t usually market themselves in that space, such as bricks-and-mortar retail, beauty, rental cars, and vehicle repair firms. All have had to adapt to prioritise health and safety messaging that reassures their customers.