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Marketing in Times of Uncertainty

It's a tough time for all of us. The world is in a state we've never experienced in our lifetime. We are worried about our family and friends. We are concerned for our jobs.

As an entrepreneur, small business owner or business leader it's challenging to balance the feelings of concern and fear with employees and revenue.

The economy is in a downward spiral and we don't know from day to day when this Coronavirus pandemic is going to end.

We are doing our part to quarantine and keep ourselves safe and healthy. But I can't help but feel the success or failure of my business lingers in the unknown.

Is it wrong for us to continue marketing when there is so much uncertainty among us?

This question has been asked for the past couple of weeks: Should I be marketing right now?

The short and simple answer is "Yes". BUT with a caveat.

We recognize this is a hard time for us, our families, our employees and our customers. Some people are having a really hard time with the changes and the changes happening so quickly.

Going from working in an office to working at home. Going from being surrounded by employees and leaders to your significant other and kids. Going from in-person meetings to online meetings with the dog barking in the background. For some, it all happened within a day. That's a lot of adjusting.

As employers and leaders, it is our responsibility to help ease the anxiety, stress and uncertainty of those around us - family, friends, employees, customers - as much as we can.

That goes for our internal to external communications, including our marketing messages.

Is this a time to be marketing and selling? Yes, but do so with empathy, understanding, kindness and with intent to serve and help.

Although we are in a time of crisis around the world, we need to keep the economy moving as much as we can within our control.

We need to do that with class, courtesy, kindness and service.

Here are 5 questions that may have crossed your mind but you aren't sure how to respond. Please reach out if you need help or have questions. I hope these are helpful to you in adjusting your marketing messaging to accommodate these uncertain times. Always keep empathy, kindness, helpfulness and serving in mind as you move forward...

  1. Should I continue promoting my business? Yes. As long as you aren't leveraging this unfortunate time as a way to make money, then you should continue promoting your business. If you haven't been using social media or you weren't active on social media, now is the time to re-energize your brand, content and marketing plans. Show how you can help others. Leverage the digital resources you have access to in order to keep the business running as much as possible. Keep in mind that empathy, understanding and being of service to your audience is the best action you can take. Be sure to find ways to incorporate these into your promotional efforts (paid and free) to maintain brand integrity.

  2. How can I use online platforms to better serve my customers? If you weren't selling online or serving your customers online before the Coronavirus pandemic, now is the time to make that change. Transitioning from offline to online can be difficult if it's completely new so be sure to reach out to resources for help. If you don't have resources to help it may be an even bigger challenge to keep business running online with all the changes, stress and anxiety associated with this. I can help you with that - no strings, no fees - just my innate need to help others. Contact me and we'll work through this together.

  3. Should I revisit my marketing strategy? Yes, now is the time to revisit your marketing strategy. It's important that you re-evaluate your plans and modify (even if temporary) to accommodate the change in our environment. It's important to maintain goals and tactics to achieve those goals but modify to correspond your new (permanent or temporary) setup. The plan may look a little different between now and when we can resume our 'normal' lives - but it may also pave the way to a new direction for conducting business in the long term. Adjust your plans based on the current situation. If you need to cut expenses, watch this video first to get a complete view of your situation. Also, be sure to identify in your tracking reports what's happening to business during this time. You'll remember for awhile but you'll want a visual indicator on reports as to the changes you've seen in your business and the causes.

  4. What should my tone be in my marketing efforts? Always show empathy and understanding. Even if you are still adjusting to the changes, your customers and target audience may be struggling with it. Any voice of comfort, reassurance and helpfulness shows understanding. Offer support and help however possible and however you feel comfortable. Have your communications reflect your business and personality. In other words, don't look like you've become a new business or started something new as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It might be perceived as greedy or inappropriate so be sure the changes align with your marketing strategy and business goals.

  5. Should I offer discounts or free services? This is a decision only you can make. I can be persuaded in both directions: offering discounts and free services. I recommend looking at your business and services to determine 1) if you can financially afford to temporarily provide discounts and 2) the longer term impact on your business if you do. My thoughts: if the discount creates financial issues for you in paying your team and paying the bills (you may experience higher customer churn at this point) then don't discount. If you can discount without jeopardizing your business, then I recommend you do. You'll want to make sure any offer to new customers doesn't jeopardize relationships with existing customers. So it does require some thought and reason it's important to revisit your marketing strategy.

This is a time of stress, discomfort and uncertainty. Those who are in leadership positions to influence change to help others should do so.

If you need help with your messaging or help transitioning from offline to online, please reach out to me. If I can't help you, I can help you connect with someone who can.

Don't forget about taking care of you! Take a walk, listen to your favorite music, play a board game, get out a deck of cards, create an in-home spa you're taking care of others, don't forget about taking care of yourself as well.

Vicki O'Neill is a fractional CMO in Ohio with over 20 years of marketing leadership experience. She's the founder of KenKay Marketing, a marketing solutions company founded in 2011. Vicki hosts Connect the Dots a marketing and sales educational podcast for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. She recently launched a new podcast with her Gen Z daughters, The Power of 3X, to help individuals who want to learn about the youngest generation. You will find Vicki on most social media platforms but you'll find her mostly on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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