As this conversation plays out in real time on social media, I see two general sentiments about continuing marketing efforts at this moment.
The first: “Don’t do it!” It’s not hard to find screen-capped examples of tone-deaf sales folks trying to solicit people, or unfortunately-timed campaigns, scheduled well in advance, that are stepping on rakes because they no longer address our day-to-day reality and needs.
On the other hand, there are many who say marketing shouldn’t pause, because the livelihood of their businesses matter to the economy right now and the products and services being marketed could very well help people get through truly unprecedented times.
I absolutely agree that marketing is still crucial, but your go-to-market strategy can’t look like it did a few months or even weeks ago. Right now, marketing isn’t about products or services.
It’s about people.
Doing my job as a Chief Marketing Officer during this crisis means taking everything I know about marketing execution and business goals, and examining it in the light of what our country and our people are enduring. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Step one for marketers is to go over everything they’ve planned with a fine-tooth comb. Every tweet in the pipeline, every piece of campaign collateral or communication with your audience needs to be checked for tone. What is still relevant and timely, and what should you put on hold? Something that would have seemed assertive and upbeat before the pandemic might come off now as opportunistic and crass.
Your empathy has never been more valuable than it is now. Let it guide you: what is your audience dealing with right now? What are they feeling? Does your content exploit their emotions, or relate to them?
Focus on value, not growth
This is a time for building relationships, not chasing sales. Again, empathy should be your guide. Think about what your audience is going through, and how you can help. In my world, that means generating, retooling, and making accessible resources to assist our users in engaging with their own clients and prospects about market volatility. For an independent advisor, that might be something as simple as helping a client set up a food delivery service.
During these unprecedented times, marketers are bound to go beyond the call of duty to identify the new challenges their target audiences are facing, and respond with compassion, not opportunistically. Advisors struggling with the transition to remote work may resent someone leaping to make a sale. But they will appreciate a helping hand, which could take the form of complimentary offers, free tutorials or webinars.
Focus on solutions, not problems
Like a lot of CMOs out there, I embrace my competitive nature. It keeps me from resting on my laurels and it drives me to turn disruption into an advantage for my firm’s marketing efforts. But this is a time to tap the brakes on the winner-take-all hustle. It’s important to be humble about the problems we’re facing, because we’re all facing them. At my firm, we’ve shelved campaigns we would have executed in a heartbeat in different times – especially ones that focus on problems or pain points in the industry.
If your marketing efforts are pointing out troubles that are already self-evident to your clients or prospects, it looks like you’re rubbing it in their faces – or at best, trying to capitalize on someone else’s misfortune. Instead, focus on how you can help.
Whatever form your marketing takes during this time, be realistic about the response. A lot of businesses are reeling from the economic and human impact of the pandemic, even those lucky enough to make a seamless transition to remote work. Right now, people might not be able to implement everything you do or use the full extent of your services. But brighter days will come. When they do, your audience will remember the difference between the folks who offered a helping hand and those who just wanted to make a buck.
Don’t think about people in terms of the money that can be made off the back of a crisis. Right now, just ask yourself how you and your company can help.
Look for the next installment of this two-part series, coming soon.