Funny old world right now, isn’t it? I can honestly say that I’ve never known anything like it in my 43 years on this earth and that I will be happy if I never have to know it again. Crises like the current coronavirus pandemic make weaknesses, whether they are in our business, the economy, or wider society, painfully obvious. But while they bring out the very worst in some, they bring out the best in the rest. I hope that you are experiencing positivity and hope alongside any undesirable side effects.

What the coronavirus crisis has shown for us in business, is how fragile our economic system can be. We are all intertwined with one another and it only takes a small drop in consumer spending to have repercussions up and down the supply chain. Yes, we have been hit as a business. While some clients are continuing to market throughout the crisis (and time will tell whether this was a good decision), many more have decided to suspend social media marketing due to not really being able to find relevance in the current environment, or have stopped indefinitely due to them losing their own businesses. It could be a while before support service businesses like ours get back to where they were in 2019, though the ongoing farce that is/was Brexit was already having an impact in many sectors.

Should I market my business during a crisis?

You will see many marketing “gurus” and self-proclaimed experts telling you that you absolutely should be marketing your way through a crisis. You need to stay front and centre of the consumer so when they are ready to spend again, they think of you first. It’s also a good idea if your competitors have decided to stop marketing; the competition for consumers just opened up and you will get more value from the marketing that you do. Also, as the pandemic has shown, some crises mean more people are online now than before, so you have more noses to get under. In theory.

In practice, this isn’t always possible. I’m much more of the mindset that you should take a view on it in respect of your own business. If your business is relevant to the audience and can find a way of keeping relevant during a crisis and not make itself look like an insensitive twonk, then you should keep marketing. But it’s often a fine line to tread and it’s academic if your business is going down the Swanee and it’s taking all your efforts just to keep afloat. We understand if racking up bills for marketing support is not top of your list right now.

But then, if you’re a business owner you might right now be finding yourself with more time on your hands. With work dropping off temporarily you can do two things…..

  • …..take the time to give yourself a bit of a break, spend time with your family, and get your life in order (Lord knows we all don’t get anywhere near enough of a break from running our businesses)
  • or…… get proactive and start building in the background so we can hit the ground running whenever the time is right to get back out there, whenever that may be.

(Currently, I’m treading a path between the two!)

Creating a crisis marketing plan

Having a marketing plan in place is always a good idea but you also need a contingency plan. What do you do when something unexpected happens? Inherently, it’s hard to know what form an unexpected event will take. But what you can do is have a plan for what steps you should take whatever it is that happens.

3 steps in a crisis marketing plan - via @Socialbods #marketing #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet

Step one

First things first – whenever a crisis hits, and they can hit at very short notice, you need to review (and fast) any marketing that’s already out there. Do you need to pull a few tweets that could now look insensitive? Do you need to look at what’s scheduled for Facebook and reword or delay publication? Do you need to recall your leaflet drop, or cancel that radio ad?

A crisis can change the current paradigm quickly and significantly making any content you have in whatever form it exists look out of date, or worse, insensitive to the current situation. Take stock of what’s out there right now and take action.

Step two

Once that’s done, you need to revise the marketing that’s been planned. How can you now make your brand relevant in the new climate? You may want to stop using Instagram altogether and focus on sharing local stories on Twitter. You might want to double down on efforts to promote your local delivery service and worry less about how cool you want to be in the long term.

It might take a while to work out what to do for the best in the short term. You might want to take a breather while you assess the lie of the land, or take a break altogether from certain marketing activities. What you should almost certainly do is keep an eye out for opportunities for your brand to contribute to the conversation. Can you become a local radio expert? Maybe get yourself on the BBC Breakfast sofa? If you run a business that’s relevant to the current situation, then getting yourself out there differently to what you would normally be willing and able to do could be a shrewd move. But don’t rush anything. Take stock and think.

Step Three

Step three is the longer term part of your marketing plan – you’re now looking at what you can do to reap long term rewards, especially if you have time to spare and would rather not market your brand right now.

Here are 10 things you could do with some downtime that would be beneficial in the future…..

  1. Increase the amount of content on your website. Create blog posts that are relevant no matter the wider circumstances. ‘How to’ guides are good, for example. See our post on content marketing for business for some ideas of what you can do.
  2. Strengthen the content on your website. Look through old posts and update them where necessary. Add internal links to any new content you’ve created since.
  3. Create ‘sneeze pages’ to help reduce your bounce rate. If you’ve got a lot of posts on a similar theme, can they be brought together on an index page? See this advice from The Blog Surgery on why sneeze pages are important and how they work
  4. Update your graphics. Have a look at all the graphics you use on all of your digital and non-digital assets. Can you make them more attractive? You could have graphics on…..
    1. your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
    2. your website and blog posts
    3. your business cards, company brochure, and leaflets
  5. Write social media content for the future. Get yourself ahead by creating posts for social media that you can use any time. Scratting around on a Sunday night to sort your social media for the week ahead is never the best idea. Get working on some winning content now and store it up for when the time is right.
  6. Upskill yourself. Can you learn how to do a podcast, or how to shoot video, or take better photographs? Video especially is doing very well at the moment so if you can get confident in making your own videos, that will pay dividends.
  7. Widen your database of influencers. Look at influencers who are getting the tone right and add them to your database for future campaigns. You might not want to use them now but having your own database to tap into when you want to do influencer marketing can save you a wad of cash on agency fees later.
  8. Write an ebook or a white paper. An ebook is a great way of widening your reach and capturing leads. In fact anything you can do to build up your email marketing list legitimately is always a good use of time.
  9. Create some case studies. Businesses looking to engage a new supplier, especially a service business which doesn’t have standard products, love to see a case study or two. Check out this post from Neil Patel on how to make a good case study for your business.
  10. Build up your backlinks. Look for publications, both online and offline, which take guest posts and see if you can make your brand message fit. Search on Google for “Write for us” and see if you can turn up some potential hosts for pieces of content either in the short-term or in the longer-term. Start working on your relationship with them now!
10 things you can do to market your business during a crisis - via @SocialBods #marketing #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet

I’m no crisis management expert (though I did navigate the company I was working for at the time through the Y2k issue and they’re still trading 20 years later!) but I do know that, right now, you should be doing whatever you need to survive as a business. If you need to move to a D2C delivery service for your products, then do so. If you need to change your target customer altogether, then do so. If you need to focus on essential products and forget the more lucrative luxury products that no-one’s buying for the time being, then do so.

Survive with style and do it with a focus on what’s important. The best marketing for your business is always great customer awareness with a huge dollop of integrity. It’s true that some businesses will come out of this current crisis with a lot more respect from consumers than others. Those small businesses that have gone above and beyond will be remembered and supported going forward. Those that have put staff in danger, or sacked them off without warning, or opened up un-necessarily will be rememembered and boycotted. No amount of ‘good’ marketing will paper over cracks created by a senior leadership team who didn’t give a damn about humanity – whether in the form of consumers, staff, or both.

Which side of history will your brand be on when the crisis has passed and we’re all back to normal, whatever that normal looks like?

Joanne Brady of Social Bods

Joanne Brady is chief bod at Social Bods. Her specialist topics are technology, business, travel, and transport. She is a busy mum and in her spare time she…just kidding, she doesn’t have spare time.