COVID-19: An Online Marketing Survival Guide


COVID The stock market has been tumbling. In China, five million people lost their jobs during January and February. As of March 14th, 18% of American adults reported that they had been laid off or had their work hours reduced. 25% of people making less than $50,000 a year said that their hours had been reduced or they’d been let go.


And keep in mind that this poll was run on Saturday—before President Trump recommended that people avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

Clearly, even if this all blows over soon, COVID-19 will have long-term repercussions. Will there be a recession? Maybe. Will more people lose their jobs? Probably. Will businesses close…possibly forever? Almost certainly.

So, how do we respond to all of this? What do you do if you’re a local business with no customers? How do you market in the current socio-economic climate? Should you even market? How do you get value from your employees when they’re stuck at home? Is it time to close your doors…or should you hunker down and try to ride out the storm?

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We don’t claim to have all the answers to these or the many other questions businesses are struggling with, but while a lot of this situation is out of your control, there are a lot of things that you can control. This pandemic will affect your business, but much of how it affects your company is up to you.

Marketing During a Pandemic

The world is not the same place it was 6 months ago. Heck, it’s not the same place it was 6 days ago. Governmental and expert recommendations seem to change by the hour, people’s opinions and predictions are constantly changing, and it’s almost impossible to plan for the future.

I mean, a run-on toilet paper? Who saw that coming?

As a result, now is not the time to put (or leave) your marketing campaigns on autopilot. Strategies that worked even a few weeks ago may not work today. Those social media posts you spent so much time crafting weeks ago will make you seem insensitive and out of touch.

It isn’t “business as normal”—even if your business is largely unaffected by the Coronavirus. Your audience has changed. People who were happy to spend money on impulse buys are now worried about their financial futures. Customers who idly scrolled through their newsfeeds are now agitated and engaged…and much less likely to pay attention to your ads.

Rethinking Your Marketing

While this crisis brings a lot of challenges, it also offers opportunities for savvy marketers and business owners.

Your audience’s interests and pain points might be different, but there is also a good chance that they’re stuck at home. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe they’re looking for relief from all the stress they’ve been feeling. Maybe they simply have more free time to spend on projects.

As a business, it’s your job to figure out how to market to your audience in any situation—including a global pandemic. People might spend most of their time thinking and talking about COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean that their other needs have gone away. There’s plenty of opportunities to be had—especially online—if you are willing to go back to square one and think about your audience like a marketer.

So, instead of ignoring the Coronavirus, take a step back and re-evaluate your marketing.

Some ads may be fine. Other campaigns may need to be reworked and some might need to be paused. New ways to appeal to your market may appear. But, you’ll never figure out how to effectively market in the current situation if you don’t take the time to rethink your strategy from the ground up.

For example, if you sell ladders and tools online, now might be an ideal time to run an ad along the following lines:

Stuck at home? It’s finally time to knock out that to-do list! Click below to get the tools and supplies you need—delivered right to your door!

A campaign like this is much more likely to get results than a standard, “Check out our tools ad” because it directly addresses a very real pain point for many people right now: figuring out what to do when they’re not supposed to leave the house.

In fact, the blog post you’re reading right now even falls in line with this approach. Marketers and business owners like you (our target market) are in a tricky situation right now. Offering relevant, timely insights is a great way to provide value and prove that we know what we’re doing—which will all hopefully help businesses get excited about working with us in the future.

Smart marketing addresses needs. Right now, the needs, pain points and problems of your audience have changed. Your online marketing needs to change, too.

What Not to Do

As you rethink your marketing strategy, you’ll want to be careful about how you handle the whole COVID-19 situation. For years, when something is trending, marketers have been quick to jump on the bandwagon.

This is not the time to do that.

Unless you have something truly meaningful to contribute, hijacking Coronavirus to market your business is a good way to get burned. Everyone has an opinion about the current situation and there is no clear right or wrong.

To make matters worse, people’s lives are at stake. If it’s obvious that you’re trying to use concerns about COVID-19 to make money, you can expect a massive backlash. A pandemic is not a marketing gimmick. If you do get involved in the conversation, do so in a respectful, careful way that contributes value.

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The trick here is to keep a close eye on the needs and emotions of your customers. This is always an important part of marketing, but when people are dealing with something as emotionally charged as a global pandemic, it’s absolutely critical.

If you’re not certain what to say, the best course of action is to say nothing. If you feel like you need to say something, keep the following rules in mind:

  • Don’t make accusations.
  • Don’t make blanket statements.
  • Don’t create fear.
  • Don’t diminish the situation.
  • Don’t mock others.

No matter what your opinion is right now, odds are that you’re at least partially wrong. This is a complex situation with many factors you don’t fully appreciate, so taking a strong stance will almost certainly backfire. Don’t let how you handle COVID-19 today become a problem for your business in the future.

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