When it comes to marketing in the current climate, all businesses should be focusing on what we call “the three S’s”: Safety, Sensitivity and (new) Sales channels. We are also seeing a big shift in marketing dollars toward all manner of digital marketing, including increased spends for content marketing and social media, website improvement projects, e-commerce integrations and email campaigns, and more sophistication in online advertising. Both B2B and consumer brands have an enormous opportunity right now to create programs that drive conversation and emotional connectivity with their customers, partners and fans — and, when done correctly, those ties will last well beyond the pandemic, social justice and social isolation issues we all face today.
The levers used, and priority placed, on each of the three S’s differs slightly for B2B and consumer-facing businesses. For retail businesses with a brick-and-mortar storefront, owners and operators need to understand their business well enough to know how and when to reopen profitably. They need to work collaboratively with neighboring shops and restaurants to ensure a lively and worthwhile offering for guests; proactive marketing to let customers know when and how a business (community) is reopening is very important in this stage and should be planned two to four weeks in advance of the determined opening date. They also need to be acutely aware of all local and national regulations regarding their specific business sector to ensure the safety of their customers and their employees. A reopening plan should be created in advance and shared with all key stakeholders and employees. Clear and frequent communication about the safety measures a business is taking to protect human life is mandatory, and proper marketing plays a strong role in this communication, both externally and internally. The role of safety communication and marketing is also critical for companies in the B2B sector, informing a business’s employees and entire supply chain of the measures being taken to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
In addition to the physical health threats of COVID-19, businesses also need to be mindful of socio-economic and mental health issues important to their employees, customers and community. The BLM movement is not something that “is important to other businesses but not mine”; no action can be considered action in itself, and not the kind you want associated with your business. Whether you sell directly to consumers or to other businesses, if you don’t have a Diversity & Inclusion plan, now is the time to create one. Review your marketing language and materials through the lens of inclusivity and make immediate changes where needed. Social isolation is also a big issued right now, and creating marketing campaigns that spark connection and conversation are proving to be extremely successful. This emotive marketing is particularly important for B2B companies whose sales processes often rely heavily on personal relationships and connections typically made in person at industry events, conferences and tradeshows — many of which are moving online or not happening at all.
Speaking of sales, all businesses need to be looking at new sales channels and new offerings that stay true to their brand but allow customers and partners easy interaction and/or purchase paths. If your website is not functioning at maximum speed or you haven’t done a UX audit lately, now is the time to move event budgets to online improvements. For consumer brands, if online sales were not an option or a priority for the business previously, now is the time to invest in those options.
The best thing any business can do right now is stay the course. Stay true to your brand and continue your marketing efforts. The economy is running on all cylinders and people are still spending money. However, people’s habits are different during the pandemic. Make sure to make the right adjustment to your marketing tactics to reach your customers at home. Look for ways to combine physical, tactile experiences and digital connections; our brains will fill in the blanks based on memories to give individuals a fuller, more satisfying brand experience that is unique and memorable.
CEO and Managing Partner