31 Experts Share Their Advice On What Marketers Should Be Doing During the Coronavirus Outbreak
This article is part of Raydiant’s Coronavirus Small Business Resource Center which aims to provide actionable insights, ideas, and resources to business owners struggling due to the current Coronavirus outbreak.
We’ve collaborated with different executives, business owners, and thought leaders to crowdsource insights and expertise that will ensure this content is as actionable, timely, and helpful as possible.
If you are a business owner looking for a specific question to be answered or if you an expert and would like to have your insights included, please email Emilia@Raydiant.com.
What should marketers be doing during this challenging period?
Jeff White, head of marketing at Clipboard Health
"B2C businesses should be testing right now. So many people are at home right now instead of physically at work, spending more time on the internet during the day than they normally would be doing. This is the perfect time to engage with customers and to test the market for potential campaigns you could be running. We’re finding it easier and faster to get results on test campaigns than we have in a very long time. If you’re not taking advantage of your customer’s face time with the internet at home, then you’re missing out and likely lagging behind the competition."
B2B businesses should be planning and trying to engage potential individuals that might be easier to reach for a conversation right now than they previously have been when they are physically at work. Without an admin to screen calls, or with decision-makers having more time to spend online without in-person meetings, you might find a lot more success making connections and having key conversations that could lead to business after everything gets back to normal. At the very least, you should be planning for how you’ll attack the market in a month or two, assuming your industry allows growth at that time.
Jamie Taylor, founder at Taylored Media Group
"Connect with your community in non-traditional ways."
During times of crisis is a great way to connect with your community in ways that are beyond transaction. An example would be getting involved in a charity to help families who need food during this challenging time. Your community might feel refreshed at the leadership of wanting to help as well as be a recipient of that help.
Another example would be to provide non-traditional content to help people stay connected. Perhaps you are a restaurant and know more people will be cooking from home; go LIVE on Facebook and do a cooking tutorial. You will be surprised how this new, fresh content will connect your audience with your business in an organic and engaging way. If you are a local gym and closed for a few weeks, how excited will your members be if you create a Facebook Community with at-home work-out videos? Your customers and clients will remember your professionalism and dedication to them when the situation passes.
Jayson Demers, CEO, Emailanalytics
"Many forms of advertisements are considered tone-deaf, so you need to be careful with how you approach your marketing strategy. But there are two forms of marketing that go hand-in-hand which won’t run the risk of making your business look tone-deaf: SEO and content marketing. As a tech or SaaS company, you need to maximize website traffic and leads, and there’s no better way to do that than through an organic SEO and content marketing campaign."
First, you need to review your website from a technical SEO perspective and ensure that it’s optimized to send organic traffic your way. You can use a site auditor tool like Ubersuggest to help with this.
To further boost your SEO rankings and traffic, adjust your content marketing strategy to leverage the immense demand for content around the COVID-19 crisis. Write and publish blog posts, infographics, and/or Youtube videos that are coronavirus-related and relevant to our business and provide value, help, and advice to your target audience.
You’ll see more traffic to the website as a result, and you’ll help people who can use the advice right now. It’s all part of a strategic content marketing campaign, which goes hand-in-hand with SEO.
Deb Gordon, former health insurance CMO and author of The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto
"Marketers must proceed with caution. Do communicate with customers, but do so with authenticity and compassion. Acknowledge the situation and what your company is doing about it. Are you adjusting or suspending operations to protect your staff and customers? Can you flex your policies to show grace to customers who are struggling? Are you continuing to pay workers? Share ways your loyal customers can support you and your staff. Your voice now will determine how you fare later."
Christoffer Sørensen, founder and CEO of Virtualvisibilitymedia Inc
"With the challenges we all face today, there is great sympathy and willingness among most people to support and act for the benefit of small and medium businesses. The important aspect is empowering our clients to reach their audience with a clear message focusing on enabling their community to purchase from and support their local business community."
For example, many have reported success in offering pre-purchase packages for businesses in the spa and wellness industry.
Similarly, offer added value to your offerings highlights that the business appreciates that people have financial concerns today.
This could include discounts or adding additional products or an additional dollar value per $X amount spent.
Lonny Kocina, CEO of Media Relations Agency
"Beefing up publicity efforts is a quick way to replace some of the face to face contact that will be lost with the lack of personal selling. That’s one place you can still reach the big groups. Publicity as a sales tool is underutilized by most companies and it is relatively easy to ramp up. Putting your best salespeople in front of reporters and producers who have a big audience is always a win. Plus, unlike expos and trade shows, your competition isn’t right there beside you. I see a lot of trade show money shifting toward publicity and media coverage."
Also, as the coronavirus spreads, there’s going to be a market for stories that take people’s minds off their troubles. Instead of worrying about protecting themselves or when toilet paper will be available again, people will seek out fun, interesting stories as a means of relief. As people get burned out and begin to turn away from the bad news, the media will be looking for ways to change the narrative so they can hang onto their audience share. We’ve arranged tens of thousands of product new stories over the last 30 years so we’ve seen this demand for good news stories to offset the bad ones many times before.
Alexa Kurtz, paid Media Specialist, Webtek
"Replace the ‘sell, sell, sell’ mentality with ‘help, help, help’! In a time as urgent and sensitive as this one, pushy sales techniques, even low-key sales techniques can come across as not only unrealistic, but disingenuous. While businesses may be short on money for the time being, what they need from us marketers is advice, not another invoice to pay. By helping small businesses for a discounted rate or for free, you can establish a trusting relationship with them so that once things level out again (and trust me, they will!), they can start paying for your services."
Eloah Manzoli, Head of Marketing at Shophysio
"Marketers should work with their company to ensure they’re communicating to their clients in a calm, reassuring manner, and that they display compassion and empathy to anyone that is currently struggling."
Whilst it’s a trying time for everyone (businesses included), you should be mindful not to spread further unnecessary panic or worry. People should be recommended to follow advice from officials and be wary of believing all that they read on the internet.
Any social media messaging or PR exercises should be reviewed to ensure they aren’t tone-deaf or insensitive to be sharing.
At the same time, businesses that are struggling to maintain regular sales during this period should check to see if there may be financial support available to them, as well as running an assessment to determine whether they can adjust their service offerings to cope with any barriers. That might mean offering a virtual service (where possible), or finding some other way to generate a revenue stream for the business.
Wendy O'Donovan Philips, CEO of Big Buzz
"We are revisiting our SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with a particular focus on opportunities."
Our clients have different needs now than they did even a month ago, and we are fully focused on uncovering those new needs with programmatic surveys then identifying from that data opportunities we have for meeting those needs. This approach will both help us more readily hit our revenue and profit projections and will also help our clients do the same.
Morgan Hennessey, Manager, search marketing at Electric Enjin
"Creating content is the most actionable, budget-friendly way of staying relevant during this challenging time."
Have your business’s experts write blogs for your website and create video content for your social media accounts, as video has a much higher engagement rate than photos. Educate your audience and give them unique content to indulge in – it’s also great for SEO and bringing new users to your site.
Sarah Assous, CMO of Zoovu
"Marketers working for small-to-medium-sized brands should be looking for easy to implement solutions that will guide and support their customers during this period of unprecedented time of stress. The last thing a consumer needs is a stressful search experience as our lives are being turned upside down. Conversational search supports businesses and marketers who are looking to provide effective assistance by simplifying the search experience on digital channels. Rather than having a customer land on your website to only be overwhelmed by options, a digital assistant helps narrow down choice and guide the consumer to the right product for their needs. These solutions can be up and running in days for smaller businesses."
Laurel Mintz, CEO and founder of Elevate My Brand
"Marketing and advertising is probably the last thing on any small businesses mind right now, but here’s why it’s important."
Double Down on Digital Spends – A lot of businesses are scared, and they should be. Because they’re scared, they’re questioning their marketing and advertising spend. Now is the best time EVER to double down your dollars so that you can capture more market share. It may sound a bit callous, but we saw the same thing happen in 2008/2009, and the smarter companies that survived and thrived turned a challenging time into an opportunity to grow. It will be good for you long-term and is the right thing to do to keep the economy going.
Get More Social Online – Social media usage is up 30% so now is a great time to start or increase your social media content. Talk to your community through your social channels. More than just talking at them, start a dialogue and use these challenging times to truly engage your community in honest conversations about what you’re doing to support them and how you’re working towards business as usual. Make them feel the love even if it’s only online.
Jonathan Abramson, President and founder, Bluetone Marketing and Public Relations
"My advice is to try to position clients into the 24/7 coverage and not try to fight it and just carry on as business as usual, because it’s not!"
It’s also important for marketing and PR firms to read the room and be sensitive at a challenging time like this and not push out content that is not directly related to what’s going on right now, everything needs to be dealt with delicately.
Katie Childers, founder of Smart Girl Digital
"In the midst of any crisis, it is important for businesses to communicate how the changes are impacting their clients and/or their operations. Your marketing messages in a crisis should be relevant and valuable to your audience segments."
While it may be easy to pull the plug on marketing in an effort to save money, now is not the time. Adjust your messaging. Pivot your offer to providing more value. Avoid being overly pushy. As long as you are showing up in a positive and proactive way, continuing to market will keep your business top of mind during these fast-changing times.
Geoff Hoesch, CEO of Dragonfly Digital Marketing
"One strategy businesses could implement right now is highly focused on Google Ads targeting. The instinct of a lot of businesses during a downturn like this, especially businesses with poorly performing Google Ads campaigns, is to pull out of Google Ads altogether. Google Ads is an auction, so that means fewer people will be bidding on phrases, and in theory costs per click should decrease as a result of decreased competition. Pick 10 to 20 highly specific phrases for which you want to be found, make them exact match (put  around them), and run ad groups for each set of keywords related to certain phrases. You don’t need a huge budget to do this, maybe just $5 a day, but it can help capture some of the traffic that’s out there, however limited it may be."
Laura Mahaney, Marketing Director for Bluberry Creative
"You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find you and work with you. Make sure you have moved everything online you possibly can. Sites like Wix and Squarespace are fairly user-friendly and can help you get a website up and running quickly."
Take advantage of every press opportunity you can – especially if you can piggyback on a larger moment. Make sure there is a story behind what you are communicating. Right now, people are looking to build a connection with anything so you have a really good opportunity to build connections to your brand.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO, Mavens and Moguls
"The biggest change for me, my team and my clients from the virus is the shutdown of all networking events, travel and conferences. Spring is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. And now everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead. I have had more Zoom and Skype calls with clients and colleagues in the past 15 days than the prior 6 months! This is a great time to connect with everyone you always say let¹s catch up/grab coffee/a drink but never have or make time to do. Well now there is no excuse! If small groups on the team want to talk through specific issues (managing anxiety, kids, parents, etc.) virtual coffee meetings online have been helpful too. A few colleagues have even met online after work for virtual happy hour/beer/cocktails as well when they had more time to chat. It is starting to feel like the new normal by leveraging technology to build and maintain my relationships."
Anthony Mora, President and CEO of Anthony Mora Communications, Inc.
"Develop stories around how they are creatively helping their customers during this time. For example, a restaurant can present stories in unique new ways they are serving their clients and customers now that they are no longer a sit down establishment but a take out restaurant. There are a number of creative ways that story could be presented. A gym could develop at home and online workout routines. Highlight new ways you are servicing your clients. Become creative. It’s a scary time, but don’t be afraid to have fun with it. If you can bring a smile with your message, all the better."
Brad Buchanan, co-founder and CEO of Handwrite.io
"Focus on customer retention. During challenging times, your best opportunity to generate business is relying on your existing customer base."
These are people that already have a relationship with you, are familiar with your product or service and your best shot at trying to generate revenue with consumer’s limited available spending.
Jeroen Minks, Digital Marketing Specialist, Vazooky Digital
"Keep a very close eye on all the data from your marketing campaigns. There’s a big difference in how the current crisis affects each industry. Some industries will see a decrease in demand, while others actually see an increase in demand."
It’s always important, but even more important during a crisis: make sure you know the ROI of your advertising campaigns. If you need to cut costs, this will help you to make decisions on which marketing campaigns you can pause without affecting the overall sales too much.
Emily Carroll, Marketing Coordinator, Drive Research
"With the rise of social distancing due to increased health concerns, there are more eyeballs on social media than ever before."
Take this time to push out relevant and compelling content (blogs, videos, client spotlights, etc.) This is a free and impactful way to tackle powerful SEO keywords and increase site traffic.
Nicholas Benedict, Managing Director, King, Edward, First LLC
"Remember, search engine listings come from machines and algorithms, not from people."
For 98% of businesses, Google’s servers don’t know that there’s a health crisis. Keep publishing and optimizing.
Jason Lavis, Managing Director, Out of the Box Innovations LTD.
"Marketing is no different to other sectors where our daily schedules tend to be driven by short term goals. We have reports that need to be made, targets to hit and processes to follow. Bosses or clients drive these."
Right now, we have a time of clarity and fewer outside influences. Some tasks will provide long-term benefits, that get pushed aside by daily noise. We should focus on some of these tasks, the non-urgent, high impact ones.
Cathy Reisenwitz, Head of Content for Clockwise
"Never let a crisis go to waste! People are looking for information on COVID-19, immune system support, working from home, the future of the economy, the future of work, and more."
If you have anything new, interesting, or important to say on any of these topics, now is the time to say them. If your company has relevant data, now is the time to clean it up and publish it with some analysis.
Jakub Kliszczak, Marketing Specialist, Channels
"Marketing and sales are two departments that will be highly and strictly tested during these tough times. That’s because anything that doesn’t bring tangible profits will be cut, immediately. Thus, marketers should find out 2-3 things that work right now, even if it requires testing, and double-down on them."
It’s obvious that every company will be cost-cutting everywhere they can, therefore you have to find what brings in money.
Shana Harris, COO of Warschawski
"It is important for marketers to stay relevant. Find ways to stay connected to your clients and key audiences in a meaningful way. Share tips on how to handle a crisis, be flexible in how you structure relationships and make sure you are adjusting your communications appropriately."
Take a hard look at your target audience to ensure you understand them and their needs now and re-evaluate your approach.
Mudit Singh, Director Product Marketing and Growth at Lambdatest
"For most type of businesses, there is not much to be leveraged in this crisis. However, this crisis is a boon in disguise for services/products/platforms working on the medical industry, team collaboration products, and cloud-based platforms."
The most important advice here is to not blatantly market your product. That’s the quickest way to get trolled and this is the worst time to get in a PR crisis as nearly everyone is glued to social media. The best course of action is to show empathy for the crisis. Spread education about the virus and show how much you care about your users. You can also highlight how your platform/product can help them in this time of need.
Nikolay Kurayev, CEO at Sciencesoft
"Marketers should think about opportunities. What customer segments or sales channels can grow? What product/service modifications do we need?"
How can businesses benefit from digitalization? I am sure marketers can find surprisingly many opportunities!
William Chin, SEO Consultant, Pickfu.com
"Coming up with strategies to generate traffic and interest at low cost will be a welcomed idea in any organization."
I’ve advised some of my clients to build Quora and Reddit business profiles and reach into those vertical adjacent industries (to their own) and answer some questions and create some clout in sub-threads of Reddit. This will help drive some free traffic to their site and drum up some E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness), for their business and Google.
Andrei Vasilescu, CEO and Digital Marketing Expert, Dontpayfull
"COVID-19 virus outbreak has condemned the whole world and people have locked down themselves at their homes. Almost everyone is spending most of their times with their mobile phones surfing the social media networks. So, during this lock-down period, marketers should fully concentrate on social media marketing to reach their target audience more effectively. Create the most engaging promotional content and post those multiple times on every social media platform. Rest assured that each of your social media content will be able to achieve much higher marketing targets than before."
Per Ohstrom, CMO at Chief Outsiders
"Now is a good time to take half a step back and take a fresh look at the business. Look at what others are doing, collect some market and competitor intelligence, are there new ideas out there? Are you losing share?"
Trim unprofitable products, try to promote more profitable products and find new customer segments. Also, take a hard look at the web site, make sure it is up to date, and clearly communicates a strong value proposition.