Marketing In A Pandemic: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned

There is no recipe book for Modern Marketing. These days customers don’t just buy products or services, they buy experiences. The landscape is constantly changing, with great pressure on companies to keep up as well as accelerate. As Stephen Hawking famously said, “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” — and in this landscape, you are perpetually adapting or getting left behind. It’s chaotic, but also exciting in its own way. Little did I know this chaos would be amplified 100-fold once COVID hit. But this adversity came with two options: paralyze or thrive. If you work towards the latter, which is also my plan, you realize this adversity is another opportunity to grow, and prove your dedication to your clients or customers. So the key question is: what has this pandemic taught me about Businesses and Marketing? Let’s get right to it!

1. Create Content That Answers Customer Questions

Your Business has probably changed in more ways than one. Whether that’s your product offerings, operating hours, or even your phone number; your customer shouldn’t have to message you to find out. When they click on your website or social pages, this information should be readily available for them. Take some time to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, think of all possible questions they could have, and create content to answer those questions.

If a customer still messages you regarding that question, instead of simply answering it, share that piece of content with them. This shows you’ve done your research and anticipated their questions, making the customer feel like you care about their experience with you. And that goes a long way.

Top tip: We have switched back to bigger screens! Before the pandemic, we were very mobile-friendly given our active lifestyles, but now we’re spending more time at home so ensure your content is also desktop, laptop and big screen friendly.

2. Re-Evaluate Your Customer Journey

If you’ve seen a notable decrease in customers, it might be worth going back to your Customer Journey Map. This outlines the sequential steps and experience your customer goes through when interacting with your brand. I have designed a simplified version to give you a peek into what it looks like. While each company has different definitions of the various stages, the underlying sentiment remains.

Data from mid-2020 culled by McKinsey & Company shows buyers are exhibiting extreme caution when it comes to spending discretionary incomes. This could have a direct impact on your business. The people who were receptive to your marketing efforts yesterday simply have other pressing concerns today. However, it could also simply be an algorithm issue wherein they don’t see your posts anymore, which can be solved by increasing your ad spend or tweaking your frequency. In this case, you would be focusing on — Awareness — and exploring all venues to increase it.

Do your customers buy from you once and never return? That’s when you examine your “Retention” stage. This is where you follow up with customers, ask for feedback and acknowledge their loyalty.

These are some situational reasons why it’s worth going through the map and seeing at which stage customers are falling out — and trying to improve from there. This also means taking a more holistic view. Perhaps it’s time to introduce some new products or services? You might have done this at the on-set of the pandemic, but it could be time to consider more options given your customer’s current expectations.

3. Bridge The Gap Between C-Suite & Marketers

Cash is king — but data is power — and Marketers have a lot of Data about your customers. Want to know COVID’s most-current impact on your industry? How your customers *really* think you’ve adapted? Your social team probably has the answer to that.

I personally have had the favorable experience working in companies where the C-suite is actively involved with Marketing, and have seen the benefit of that first-hand. However this isn’t always the case, and it’s mainly due to a lack of shared knowledge between the two teams, coupled with the fact that Social ROI can sometimes be hard to measure. However, it’s also an indispensable business platform so companies go ahead with social efforts without placing trackers to quantify ROI.

I’d recommend CMOs or Marketing Heads to act as unifiers between the two teams, making sure the CEO understands exactly how Marketing is driving growth, understanding your customer’s evolving needs, and contributing to the company’s broader goals and vision. Adopt the language and psyche of the C-suite executives — and articulate how Marketing can help meet the C-suite’s and company’s needs.

4. Invest In Purpose-Driven Marketing

Your customer wants to know how you’re contributing to the betterment of your community in these difficult times. If your business is catering to millennials and Gen Z’ers, understand that this generation grew up in a world advocating for issues such as sustainability, climate change, and cyber-bullying. Nielsen Report on Social Responsibility even back in 2014 stated that, instead of donating money directly to causes they care about, shoppers under the age of 40 prefer to give back through where they shop.” and this holds true even today. So ask yourself this:

It is more important than ever for your customer or client to be able to say that the business they engage or partner with, reflects their values. Addressing pressing concerns no longer feels like a choice, but your corporate responsibility to use your platform for good and to help bring about change. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer reveals that trust in a brand to do what’s right is a deal-breaker or deciding factor in their buying decision for 81% of the participants.

5. Customers Trust You With Their Data. What You Do With That Data Matters.

Being a Marketer, I am sometimes astonished (and even a little scared) by the amount of customer-data we hold. But what we do with that data, matters. Unfortunately, not many conversations are being had about this issue. I am a huge advocate of “Social-For-Good” and building a healthy digital ecosystem. However, I wouldn’t be a decent Marketer if I didn’t address the whole other side of Social Media that tackles fake news, privacy breaches, and even manipulation. The main issue is that social is such a huge part of our lives; if you’re not on it, you’re missing out and it might even hinder you from progressing at work or in life. Therefore: I’d recommend Marketers and companies, to take a step back, and ensure you’re actually using social media to deliver value through your product/service that you genuinely believe will enrich your customers’ lives. In these chaotic times, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the data, numbers, and techniques to convert. You might even end up using this data in a way that manipulates your audience, without even realizing you’re doing it, just because you have the ability to do it in the first place.

At the end of the day, you’re using social media to connect with your audience, on a level no other platform allows. But it’s sad to see such a powerful tool intended for connection, sometimes being used for manipulation.

I was watching The Social Dilemma recently, and the former VP of Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, raised an important point:

“we get rewarded in these short-term signals, such as hearts, likes, thumbs ups and we conflate that with value…but it’s really just fake brittle popularity…and it forces you into this vicious cycle.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’m not saying these metrics don’t matter, because they do, but authenticity eats it for breakfast every time. Let’s stop chasing after vanity metrics — and instead focus on genuine connections.

Disclaimer: I have contributed this article in my personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and are not shared, supported, or endorsed in any manner by another organization, company or employer which have been, will be, or are associated with me in a professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.

Thoughts on Marketing in a Pandemic? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to drop it in the comments down below or reach out to me via Twitter!

ɪɴᴅɪᴀ ✈️ ᴘʜɪʟɪᴘᴘɪɴᴇs ✈️ ɴᴇᴡ ʏᴏʀᴋ ᴄɪᴛʏ // Digital Marketer, specializing in Social Media & Community Management

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