7 ways marketers can stay relevant during a pandemic

The promo show must go on–even amid COVID-19 chaos. Here’s how to tastefully sell with tact and empathy.

How to sell amid COVID-19

No product sells itself without help–not even in the best of times.

So how is your business supposed to market itself when, as they say in “Hamilton,” “the world turned upside down?”

On the marketing and PR front, everything has changed. Ads from “the before time” featuring large crowds or one-on-one interactions can be downright triggering. Regular marketing and PR cycles have been disrupted, and seasonal trends that worked last year just don’t make sense now.

What’s a marketer to do? It doesn’t seem right to try to get people jazzed about your product when the world is so very different than it was mere months ago.

Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines to help you keep your company’s brand as stable as possible, despite this most unusual and difficult time.

​1. Speak to the new need.
People still have needs, though those needs are decidedly different for many than they were before self-isolation. Take a step back from your traditional marketing and PR efforts and ask yourself: What keeps your customers up at night, and what your product can do to help?

Look for ways your product fills some of your customers’ most important needs. Even if your product offers only a little consistency or relief for your customer, that’s still something people need. If your product can help them with bigger problems, even better.

​2. Connect with a cause.
If you haven’t already, dedicate a portion of your revenue toward a cause that is helping people get through this pandemic. Don’t pick a small, obscure project that your customers won’t know or relate to. Pick something that helps those directly impacted by the pandemic.

If you can, tie it into something related to your business. For example, if your business makes exotic decorative collars for cats, consider donating to a cat rescue that is rehoming animals from people who are no longer able to care for their pets. If your business makes an education app for kids, donate some proceeds to an organization working to help parents get the support they need through the pandemic.

​3. Look for complementary partnerships.
This is a good time to think creatively about companies that you can partner with. If your company addresses a need that people have right now, what are some other companies you could partner with to expand that reach? Whether it’s an article exchange on your company blog, social media boosts or inclusive stories for the media about how multiple companies are coming together to help people, there is a lot of room for opportunity when you think creatively.

4. Be respectful.
Don’t assume everyone who normally does business with you is in the same place they were a month or two ago. This is not business as usual. Read the room and retool your messaging and campaigns accordingly.

​5. Don’t bother your customers.
Don’t join the trend of sending emails reminding people how things have changed, or how difficult life has become, and that your company cares. This is the time to show customers what you are doing to improve their lives. If you can’t do that, and you don’t have another good reason to reach out, don’t reach out at all. Just stop.

​6. Don’t bury your benefit.
Don’t lead with COVID-19, even though everyone else is doing it. It’s tacky.

Your email should get to the point quickly. How quickly? In the subject line, and then again in the opening paragraph, and don’t forget that call-to-action link. If you’re offering your customers a discount or a no-cost trial, lead with that. No one wants to read paragraphs of fluff. Life is short. Get to the point.

​7. Accept your new customer base.
The demographics of your customer base may change radically. Accept that some of your customers can no longer afford to be your customers. Empathize with them; they’re going through hard times. These are real people (remember, no one thinks of themselves day-to-day as a customer of anything). Some customers might just need to pause until their lives get back to normal. But some customers may need your product more than ever, and it is your job to find them and help them.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to get creative and look for new ways to help people with the problems they are facing today. What you do today matters. Figure out how to connect with your customers in meaningful ways. This will help, not only your brand, but also your chances of being a company that survives and thrives.

Jennifer L. Jacobson is founder of Jacobson Communication. A version of this post first appeared the Jacobson Communication blog.


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