Keep calm. But don’t just carry on…
In a crisis – whether it be financial or social – people and companies have an understandable reaction. Fear – Freeze and caution. Cut costs and focus on ‘business-critical’ operations. CFOs get nervous and look at ROI. Then they reach the same (easy) conclusion – cut marketing budgets. But ask yourself this: if customers aren’t ‘business-critical’, then what on earth is?
This seems like a very simplistic approach to a complex issue. It has to be more strategic. It can’t just be about budget cuts; it has to be about smart budget reallocations. We have to find the balance between the real-world impact of events canceled, closed down leads with clients and prospects, and reduced customer budgets with the long-term survival of our business and what we need to invest to achieve it.
In any crisis it’s human instinct to go into damage limitation mode. But in the words of one global player who has survived a few crises, it’s time to ‘think different’.
Events canceled? Move them online. Meetings called off? Go virtual. Loss of physical engagement? Double-down on digital marketing campaigns. Reach your customers where they are, rather than worrying about where they’re not.
It’s a balance. The one thing you don’t want to be (or to be seen to be) is opportunistic or profiting from a tragic situation. You need to strike the right tone – helping your customers to keep their business alive and in the process keeping yourself relevant, visible, and viable.
With the right messaging, your customers will see you as an ongoing, stable partner at a difficult time. They might not make any purchasing decisions right now – they might not be able to – but when the storm passes (and it will pass), they need to remember you.
So, where to place your bets?
Whatever your business, budgets are going to be scrutinized more closely than ever. So, where should you spend your money? With all your customers and colleagues operating in an increasingly online, virtual world, two things are probable – more of your customers will be online, potentially exposed to your message….but more of your competitors will be competing in the same pool.
This means more noise, more distraction, more competition in an ever more crowded communication channel.
So take a breath. Now might be the one time that you can take a step back and reassess your company’s marketing strategy, position, branding and messaging. Most of the time, we don’t have the time for this – we’re too busy just keeping up and running, making things happen. This could ironically, give us the opportunity to think and redefine our brand – to come back stronger than ever.
Okay. But how?
With a crowded digital marketplace, build the bold, brave brand that will give you an edge. Take a moment to take a look at your company. What do you stand for? What makes you different? Are you talking to the right audience? In the right way?
Become a thought leader people need
Once you’ve reassessed where you are – look at where you want to be. With so many people now engaging purely online and consuming content at a greater rate than ever, now is a better time than ever to position yourself as a thought leader, to create interesting, valuable content that engages, interests, and drives traffic. You’re not trying to sell something, or take advantage of a situation – you’re just building credibility, so that when the crisis ends you can come out of it stronger than ever, ready to re-engage with your target audience.
Build your community
You’ve built relationships with customers and prospects. Talk to them! Support them with their challenges, engage with them in a helpful way. Un-gate content, offer free trials, open up services. Regard everything that you do to keep your community happy and engaged not as just the morally right thing to do – now – but also as a long-term investment in the future. Stop seeing people as leads that you have to lurk into your pipeline. Think about people who can benefit from your knowledge, share, discuss, become the catalyst for a discussion.
Prepare for the day after tomorrow
It’s a cliche that every challenge is an opportunity, but it’s also a positive way to view the current situation. Take the time away from the office, from constant meetings, from hitting the standard quarterly targets to take a step back, review your brand, and build the foundation of a stronger business.
Now wash your hands.