Our team recently sent out a survey to gauge how marketers have been experiencing COVID-19. We wanted to learn about marketing challenges and opportunities across industries, locations, and business sizes. We reported on the findings from that survey here, but we wanted to dive into one of the questions separately. That question was this: “From a marketing perspective, my best advice about navigating COVID-19 is ______.”
While this was an optional question, we received exactly 100 responses from marketers wanting to share their wisdom with others. And, with the exception of the one respondent who responded with “give shorter surveys,” every response we received contains advice that is both insightful and actionable.
We pulled some key themes from these responses in our survey analysis, but now we’re going deeper. We’re going to share many of the rest of the responses we received, along with our own interpretation of why the advice may be useful and how to put it into action. Let’s jump in!
1. Be Positive
This came up repeatedly in our responses. Positivity is often referred to as essential for leaders in times of crisis, as it reassures audiences—in this case, employees, partners, and customers—that the challenge in question will subside. While it’s important to also be authentic and honest in your communication, err on the side of positivity. You don’t need to be overly-optimistic, but dwelling on the negatives doesn’t help here either.
Positivity may also have internal benefits, with studies suggesting that “positive emotions in the aftermath of crises buffer resilient people against depression and fuel thriving.” So, even just from a productivity standpoint, you may benefit from remaining hopeful.
2. Stay the Course
Another response that came up frequently? “Stay the course.” Our respondents highlighted the need to hang in there as long as possible, with one person saying specifically, “Stay open if you can in any way. Those who do will be the survivors.” While we’d caution against staying physically open if you can’t strictly abide by social distancing guidelines and any local safety measures, we feel that the key wisdom here is to do what makes sense for your brand to persist through this time.
If that means you need to pivot your business strategy, consider doing that. If it means you need to change your product or service offering to resonate with customers, consider doing that. At Lemonlight, we had to shift from in-person productions to productions focusing on animation, user-generated content, stock footage, and remotely-shot footage. This isn’t how we typically operate, but making this choice was what allowed us to continue meeting the needs of our audience at this time.
The challenge here is that restructuring in these ways can be complicated, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. Some companies might be tempted to just shut down temporarily instead, but our survey respondents feel strongly that the smarter move is to stay the course as long as possible.
3. Keep in Touch
Another theme throughout the advice was to communicate with your audiences. Depending on the nature of your business, you may have customers waiting for orders, employees wanting company updates, or even just subscribers looking for a dose of wisdom to get them through this time. Giving thoughtful, relevant, and honest updates to these parties is important.
While communication during this time is important, be careful not to over-communicate. We all know the feeling by now of opening email after email containing updates about this “unprecedented” and “uncertain” time. If what you’re communicating isn’t adding real value, reassess until it does.
4. Plan for the Future
Our next piece of advice focused on looking ahead. While it’s impossible for any of us to know exactly what the world will look like a few weeks, months, or even years down the line, it can be helpful to map out different scenarios to understand how your company might react in each case.
Texas grocery retailer H-E-B did this as early as January for its stores and supply chain, and because of its proactivity in simulating various outcomes and planning for them, it was in a much better position to weather the initial COVID-19 grocery rush than many of its competitors. This is just one example, but it proves the value of the exercise.
The outcome-simulation process is also useful because it adds an element of control back to the equation. In our survey, one question asked respondents to share questions they had about marketing in the near future. An overwhelming amount of responses wanted to know what to expect in the coming months, asking questions like, “When will this be over?” and “What will Q3 and Q4 look like?” We can’t know the answers to these questions with any real certainty. What we can do is prepare a contingency plan for a few probable alternatives to remove some of the guesswork if any of those scenarios ring true down the line.
5. Stay Nimble
Our next consistent tip from respondents was to stay nimble/flexible. Several people gave this advice, illustrating the importance of adapting to the rapidly-evolving situation that is COVID-19. In a climate where habits, trends, and best practices are changing on a daily (or even hourly) basis, it’s essential that marketers remain agile and prepare for last-minute changes.
This can apply to everything from flexibility about the brand’s overall positioning and operating capacity to smaller examples like flexibility about the language in a social post caption or the timing for releasing a blog post. As the old adage goes, the only constant right now is change, so brands that are ready to pivot will likely fare better than those that are not.
6. Lean on Partnerships
Next, respondents urged their peers to lean on partnerships with other brands, agencies, and freelancers. Whether you have existing partnerships or can use this time to seek out another entity to fill in a gap you’re experiencing, combining forces can be a great way to maximize the value you create during this time.
Partnerships are valuable for two primary reasons, among others: You expand your audience to include your partner’s distribution network, and you lessen the burden on your internal resources. This is especially true for content-based partnerships. If you co-write an eBook with another brand and distribute it to both brands’ audiences, your content reaches more viewers with less of a constraint on your team.
Other examples of potential partnerships include co-hosting a webinar, launching a joint contest, or even sharing data or strategies to help navigate COVID-related uncertainty. Don’t underestimate the power of multiple brands’ assets coming together!
7. Prioritize Digital
When it comes to execution advice, many respondents said they’d recommend a digital-heavy presence. This is consistent with the data analysis from the rest of our survey. Consumers are spending more time in digital spaces (especially since physical spaces have been largely off-limits), creating an opportunity to engage a captive audience.
If your brand has been lagging on the digital-first trend, now is the time to commit. Whether you push digital written content, amplify your social media presence, share branded videos, increase your ad presence, or invest in your SEO strategy, prioritizing digital channels is essential.
8. Be a Resource
Some respondents chose to focus on how to communicate with consumers during this time, emphasizing the need to be a resource for your audience. While many companies need to continue to solicit business during this time to keep themselves afloat, being overly self-promotional was not recommended by our respondents. Instead, they recommend that marketers understand their audiences’ changing needs (and questions/concerns/desires) during COVID-19, and make a concentrated effort to meet those needs.
By taking this approach, when you communicate with your audiences, you’ll be delivering clear value and showing that you understand the complexity of this time. This element of humanity in understanding your audience as distinct people with real human needs and emotions—and then being a resource in addressing those needs and emotions—is important.
9. Think Creatively
Another piece of advice pushed by our respondents was to be creative. The novelty of this experience creates an opportunity to think outside the box and market differently than you might be used to. Use this time to test the limits of your creativity and innovation, and encourage your team members to do the same.
No idea is too big! When you remove some of the parameters from these brainstorming exercises and scrap preconceived ideas of what your brand can and can’t do, you might stumble upon something great.
10. Don’t Pause
Finally, respondents touched on a piece of advice we’ve covered repeatedly in past articles: Don’t pause your marketing efforts if you can help it. While we understand that budgets are tight for many companies right now, marketing is often assumed to be the first place to slash funds, and it shouldn’t be.
If nothing else, use this time to prioritize content marketing and digital marketing efforts. This includes the same suggestions we referenced regarding digital channels earlier, including working on written and video content, digital ad campaigns, and SEO efforts.
Thank you to the great marketers who participated in our survey and shared their wisdom! We’ll be looking for ways to incorporate their advice into our own tactics, and we hope you will too.
Get the Rest of Our Survey Insights
See the results from other questions in our survey for more COVID marketing tips.Learn More