When the first known COVID-19 cases emerged at the beginning of 2020, many then thought the crisis would be over by back-to-school time. But, it looks as though we may be living with the virus and its consequences for quite some time. And while that has repercussions across the economy, it has some particularly tough implications when it comes to marketing your business. Owners are faced with a challenge: how to balance the COVID-19 crisis while still marketing your product and services. The answer may be as simple — and as complex — as listening to your customers and paying attention to their behavior. Here are three ideas to help you evaluate whether to mention COVID-19 in your marketing.
1. Evolve your messaging
At the start of the crisis, content or marketing that mentioned COVID-19 saw higher traffic and more engagement. People were eager for information on the virus and how businesses were working to protect them. But as people become more comfortable with life during COVID-19, the bar for mentioning the virus may be higher. While people are still searching COVID-19, those searches now tend to be more about the virus itself than how businesses are handling it. If what you’re marketing isn’t directly related to the crisis — for instance, you’re running a sale or you’re introducing a new product — mentioning COVID-19 isn’t likely to help.
Action tip: Only mention COVID-19 when it’s relevant — if you’ve updated your safety plan, for example.
2. Know your audience
How your customers and potential customers respond to mentions of COVID-19 may be highly circumstantial. If you operate in an area with relatively few cases, your customers might be burned out on hearing about COVID-19 constantly on the news or in ads from big brands. In these cases, go back to your pre-COVID marketing plan and the action tips discussed in section one. However, if you’re in an area that was deeply impacted, your customers may be eager for updates and looking for mentions of COVID-19 to assess how you’re addressing any ongoing issues. To get a better sense of how your customers are feeling, it will remain important to listen to them and pay attention to any nonverbal cues. Are people in your area diligent about mask use and social distancing? If so, you may want to keep COVID-19 a part of the conversation.
Action tip: In addition to monitoring your surroundings, keep an eye on local and national news, neighborhood message boards, small business owners in your network, and social media to get a better sense of the overall conversation.
3. Pay attention to context
While COVID-19 is still a major issue for many of us, it’s not the only big news story with the potential to affect your business or your customers.
We are seeing ongoing protests in support of civil rights, for instance as well as significant unrest. Which is all to say your customers, vendors, or partners may be paying close attention to current events beyond COVID-19. If your messaging is focused too heavily on the health crisis, you may miss an opportunity to address the issues that are most important to your clients.
Action tip: Let relevance and safety drive your message. Pay attention to the dialogue in your community and don’t be afraid to add your voice to the conversation.
As you start to think about marketing going forward, there’s no one-size-fits-all playbook. At its core, marketing is about selling your products and services. To do that well, you need to “read the room,” so to speak. The best messaging will balance COVID-19 and current events alongside products and services in a way that feels natural to your clients. To help you get the best possible read on your customers, we’ve created a worksheet. Use it to help you better understand where your customers are and create a personalized marketing plan.