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Managing Marketing in a Crisis

GRAYBOX recently participated in a town hall with one of our association partners, Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition (PNDC). We presented on the topic of marketing effectively in a crisis like what we’re seeing nationally with COVID-19.

Overall, there’s no silver bullet to getting through a crisis like this, but we tend to look at it optimistically as an opportunity for businesses. You should ask yourself what is it that you’re best at that will separate your company from the rest now and when this is over?

With this in mind, here are a few areas to think about as potential avenues to pursue in the next few weeks and months:

  • Focus on the Fundamentals - It’s during times like these where the foundational elements of being a good marketer are really important. Make sure you understand your audience. Think about the ways to communicate with them that will resonate. Measure results: focus on strategies and tactics that are very tangibly measurable. We use a scale to evaluate initiatives called “impact and effort” to help break down items and force prioritization. You can’t do everything all at once.
  • Look for Opportunities - Don’t lose sight of the things you should invest in or have been on the back-burner for a long time. Too reliant on traditional marketing? Lean into digital marketing channels as traditional channels like trade shows have dried up.
  • Take Stock in the Market (pun intended) - We’re seeing opportunities for investment in digital marketing channels as demand has shifted. For instance, online search volume (i.e. through search engines like Google or Bing) has understandably caved in the last few weeks. Since the cost of most advertising is based on supply/demand, we’re also seeing the cost of paid advertising drop in many sectors. This is all to say that now might be a good time to dip your toe into trying online advertising if you haven’t already.
  • Talk to Customers - Just as you have been impacted, so have your customers, perhaps in the same or different ways. We recommend engaging directly with them and to show your support in their time of need. If you haven’t checked-in for a while, now is a great time to do it. As long as the communication is genuine and you have empathy for their situation, they’ll appreciate it.
  • Content is [Still] King - While it’s always a good idea to review your content — even evergreen content — every few months or annually, we definitely recommend taking a look at everything now to make sure it isn’t tone-deaf to the times. For the next few months people will be much more attuned to what they’re seeing in your marketing materials. By far not an exhaustive list, but we recommend thinking about the following:
    • Avoid photography with people touching
    • Don’t be alarmist in your copy
    • Avoid bragging about how great you are
    • Create useful content for your market → be a resource
  • Plan for When this is Over - This crisis will be over at some point, and it’s worthwhile to think about and plan around sooner rather than later. We recommend that you start developing a marketing plan for the post-crisis world when people start going back to work and life returns to normal. Will your plan be different than before? How? Think of ways to position your business in a way that will capitalize on the potential. Businesses that plan for the future won’t be caught flat-footed when things begin returning to normal.

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