The coronavirus pandemic forces organizations to have a flexible marketing strategy, allowing you to pivot quickly during this pandemic. 

There are two major challenges around the economic impact of the coronavirus that marketers must keep in mind – it’s unprecedented and it’s unpredictable. The fact that this pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever dealt with before means that we can’t reference a time where other people solved this same problem. There is no case study we can look to. And because the pandemic is unpredictable, it makes it incredibly difficult to plan your marketing strategy around it. 

We don’t know how long this will last or what will happen next month, let alone the remainder of the year, so your marketing strategy needs to be flexible. You want a long-term plan, but you need to be able to pivot your marketing strategy quickly. 

Jen Spencer, VP of Sales & Marketing at SmartBug Media, implemented a daily stand-up meeting for her marketing team after the pandemic started. She did this to open communication, keep everyone on the same page, and consistently revisit the marketing strategy and brand messaging

Jen Spencer headshot “We used to do a 60-to-90 day plan and work towards it with quarterly goals,” Spencer said. “But what I know is that we have absolutely no idea what the market is going to look like in June, or honestly even at the end of May. We don’t have enough information. We are breaking down our sprints into smaller bites...and week-by-week we are responding to what is happening now, gaining as much information and feedback as we can from the frontline of Sales and Client Services.” 

The daily stand-up keeps SmartBug’s marketing strategy current. Is the plan from last week still the right thing to do? Has something changed that gives reason to adjust in any way? The marketing team can use the daily meeting to revisit these questions as it navigates through this unprecedented time. 

Every Organization Must Adjust

Another unique aspect of this pandemic is that it impacts everyone. If your organization is not directly feeling the pressure from the economic impact of the coronavirus, most of your customers certainly are. If your customers aren’t doing well, it will trickle up to your organization. 

There are many businesses that are in survival mode, especially those in travel, events, retail, restaurants, hospitality, and more. We’re seeing some of these businesses adapt to this pandemic and changing their offerings, but this is an unproven model for them. 

There are some industries that are seeing growth, including e-learning, telemedicine, e-commerce, and digital communications. But if their existing customers are not doing well, it forces them to adjust. Furthermore, some businesses in these industries might not have the tools or processes in place to manage a remote workforce, which presents another challenge. 

Because these industries are all impacted and are dealing with different problems, your organization needs to adjust your marketing strategy towards these businesses. 

Get Back to The Basics

How should you adjust your marketing strategy? We know that everyone is impacted by this pandemic, there is no timetable on when it will end, and there’s no past plan that someone else came up with. 

You have to start from square one and make adjustments at your most basic levels. This includes making short-term adjustments to your original buyer personas.

What are the goals of your buyer personas right now? What new challenges are they facing? What’s stressing them out right now? How are they rewarded? And how are they compensated? You have to know these answers because it will impact your content and messaging going forward.

“You have to revisit the type of content, messaging, and the appropriate type of delivery of that messaging at each stage of the buyer’s journey,” Spencer stated. “You cannot assume that your buyers’ journeys have not been impacted because they 100% have. You’re going back to basics because you can’t assume you’re playing on the same gameboard.” 

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Your Messaging Must Be Empathetic

At all times, but especially during this pandemic, you want your customers and potential customers to know that you understand their challenges, and you’re here to help them through this time. 

You do this by identifying their problems granularly and relaying your understanding through your messaging, but you have to do it in an empathetic way. 

Right now there are people in both marketing and sales who are going about this the wrong way. For example, they’ll take a phone call with a customer or potential buyer, and they’ll start out by asking how the person is doing and reference the tough times we’re in, but then they’ll go into their typical pitch. That has to change. 

“Being empathetic is truly understanding what problems your buyers are dealing with and what problems they’re trying to solve,” Spencer said. “How has this company specifically been impacted by COVID? How have its customers been impacted? Has this company had to adapt when it comes to remote work? Where does its internal team need the most help right now? Addressing the answers to these questions through your communications is truly being empathetic in this environment.”

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How to Handle Event Marketing

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the events industry by forcing the cancellation of all events and conferences for the foreseeable future. Many events are postponed until later this summer or fall, but we simply don’t know for sure if they will be able to happen this year at all. 

Many organizations that had to cancel their conference are trying to cut their losses by hosting virtual events, resulting in a flood of virtual events and webinars. But virtual events aren’t always the answer. 

“People go to events for more than just for sitting in a session,” Spencer said. “There’s more that’s involved. Don’t just say, ‘let’s just take this live event and do it online,’ because there was probably a reason you were going to do it in person in the first place.”

Events are helpful, but they should not be the core of your lead gen or marketing strategy, and should instead amplify work you’re already doing digitally, Spencer added.

SmartBug, HubSpot’s highest-rated Elite partner, hosts a monthly webinar, SmartTake: What’s New With Hubspot, that is designed to help people get a better understanding of HubSpot and solve granular problems they might have. From a marketing perspective, it is not set up to be a lead gen strategy as much as it’s helping existing users. 

If conferences were a big part of your marketing strategy going into this year, you need to have a backup plan. You should have a versatile marketing strategy that uses different tools and channels of marketing. Of course, webinars and virtual events are an option, but you can also lean heavier into social media marketing, content marketing, paid ads, organic search, and more. Look to other areas that typically perform well, and experiment with different campaigns you might not typically run. 

What you do going forward needs to make sense from an ROI perspective, and it needs to incorporate appropriate messaging. But you should always be ready to make adjustments and expect small and large changes to your marketing strategy will be needed before this pandemic is over.

How to Approach Brand Messaging During The Pandemic