Tips for Marketing and Communications During a Crisis
By Jamison Gosselin
Businesses, their employees, and their customers are scrambling to figure out what the next week or month looks like while we are all in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. While daily routines are upended in the short-term, businesses are grappling with the wild ride in the market that will likely impact our economy. During uncertain times, a natural reaction by businesses is to reduce risk and impact from whatever comes their way.
According to Forbes, businesses that keep their marketing machines humming and healthy during a crisis or recession typically come out on top. Leaders should look to their marketing team, especially in times like these, to stabilize the business and reduce risk to the top line and the bottom line. While your marketing team has been executing on their plan for months, now is the time to shift priorities to help your community or property pull through these tough times.
Well-known as the demand and lead-generating machine, marketing serves three main purposes during a crisis:
- Provides proactive and timely updates to your customers
- Builds trust by showing your customers and the community that you are here to help
- Maintains your brand presence to keep your business top-of-mind
Here are tips to help you keep a cool head and market successfully through a crisis.
Take care of your current customers. With their health and livelihood at risk, many of your renters and residents are uncertain of what’s to come. The inconvenience of being kept at home coupled with the panic being felt throughout the country means that your renters, residents, and their families will have many questions for your staff. Relieve some worry by assuring them that you will communicate any policy changes or updates quickly. Ensure that your staff is equipped to provide empathy and answers when questions arise. Ongoing check-ins with your staff to evaluate their well-being and to discuss any updates are crucial for supporting your community.
Use your marketing channels to stay in touch with your customers and the community. As a crisis situation evolves, your renters, residents, and their families will look to your website, online listings, and social media channels to find the latest information. The quickest way to get updates out to the community is through your social media channels because you can post news and updates in real-time. Be sure to follow any updates sent on your social media channels with updates to your website. Many communities and properties include website banners and content stripes that call attention to important updates. Consider using your blog as a venue to provide information about closures or changes to amenity use, deliveries, rental payments, and visitor or social gathering policies. As always, update the hours and Q&A sections on your GMB listing.
Don’t arbitrarily slash your marketing budget. When hunkering down during tough times, many companies make cuts to their marketing budgets. Marketers know the long-term impact such a brash move can have on the business. Instead, find opportunities in your budget to make wise decisions. For instance, updating the negative keyword list for your digital ads with words related to the crisis can help stave off unwanted clicks from people who are searching for crisis-related information. You might choose to slow down the pace of your marketing, but completely cutting off advertising and marketing will result in an empty lead flow after things settle down. Advertising costs typically drop during a recession, allowing those who maintained their budgets to stay top-of-mind. Reprioritize dollars into channels that you can control closely — whether easily increase or decrease budgets or move budgets among locations.
Evaluate your marketing data now. Now is the time to re-evaluate your marketing goals for the rest of the year, knowing that you might have some ground to make up later. Take a look at website traffic and ad performance to understand what people are currently interested in and determine how you can respond through marketing. If patterns have changed since the start of the crisis, you’ll know to adjust your messaging or tactics accordingly.
Re-think your message and timing. A great marketer once said that you need to think like your customer. The fact is that, during times of crisis, most people are not in the buying mood. They are trying to figure out how to survive in the short-term and plan for their welfare in the long-term. What can you offer now that will ease their minds and provide a solution to their problems now? Be mindful of your message and how the message will be interpreted by your prospects — and plan to adjust it to be sensitive to what they are experiencing. Consider providing a simple convenience to your current renters and residents that can go a long way for them, like sending out coupons to food delivery services.
Learn how to market with a reduced workforce. The fact is that some or all of your staff will have to stay at home due to the risk of catching or spreading illnesses. With added pressure to contain and lessen the impact of this new virus, many businesses are asking workers to work from home. This means that marketers will need to leverage technology to lighten their load and be more efficient. Automating workflows can reduce paperwork and manual tasks, freeing up staff to focus on more strategic moves for your community or property.
What happens after? The COVID-19 emergency and its impact is nothing like we’ve seen before. The marketing goal should be to do no harm and drive sales. A location that has a database of qualified leads is much more likely to perform better coming out of this situation than one that has shut down lead generation activities for a few weeks. You don’t want to start from scratch.
Remember that marketing can work to your advantage, especially during and after a crisis. You may need to adjust your plans now, but maintaining a steady presence will ensure long-term results.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamison Gosselin is vice president of senior living strategy at G5. As a leader in digital marketing optimization, G5 turns marketing into move-ins for senior living communities through its scalable lead generation strategies, emerging technologies, and AI-based solutions.