What’s Trending: Marketing in Troubled Times
March 27, 2020
It’s safe to guess that your life right now is different than it was just a week or two ago. We’ve gone from “Don’t change your whole routine, but take precautions,” to “Stay at home as much as you can.” I’m writing this from my home office, and odds are you’re reading it in yours.
When the world’s turning upside down, it seems strange to think about work. Can we keep working the way we used to? Should we? What do we owe to ourselves, our community, and our audience?
There are considerations both philosophical and practical. These questions will have different answers for every business — perhaps every individual.
Instead of our usual roundup of marketing content for “What’s Trending,” I went looking for guidance that marketers can use this week, and the many strange weeks that are still to come. (Note: I also found something closer to home, a new Customer Resource Hub from LinkedIn with advice and tools on how to communicate in these times).
Read on for thoughts on how marketers can best serve their audiences right now, and practical advice on how to market from a safe social distance.
TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden tackles one big question B2B marketers are likely asking themselves. Should we stay quiet until the crisis passes? Can we still provide value to our audience, and if so, how?
“While there will be a period of adjustment, these changes do not mean the work stops. It doesn’t mean companies don’t need information, solutions, support, products and services,” Lee says. He observes that, “the evolving environment we find ourselves in presents new challenges and opportunities to be even more relevant and useful for clients.”
Clients and prospects alike are adjusting to their new reality. They certainly have new needs that we can meet and new fears we can help address. Lee concludes, “We still need to do our jobs and provide useful information, we just need to do it differently.”
I agree with Lee that marketers can and should continue to produce content during this crisis. But it can be tricky to find the right balance between addressing a societal issue and overstepping your brand’s boundaries.
If you ignore the crisis, the brand can sound tone-deaf, either oblivious or deliberately avoiding the elephant in the room. But go too deep into the topic, and you risk becoming irrelevant to your target audience. Another key is to avoid coming across as opportunistic. Strive to be helpful.
“Unexpected bad news may not directly affect your brand, but it may affect your audience. That means you need to critically evaluate – and consider adjusting – your perfected content marketing calendar,” says Ann Gynn, Principal Consultant at G Force Communication.
In her article for CMI, Ann offers a system you can use to determine how much the news should affect your content, based on your audience personas and the news’ relevance to your brand’s offering. Her biggest takeaway: Create a plan you can use to deal with any crisis in the news, not just the current one. “Don’t wait to prepare. Start by customizing the process I’ve suggested to fit your brand, content marketing team, and audience. It’s much easier to react to the news (and the internal question ‘what do you think we should do?’) when you have an approved assessment process in place,” she says.
It makes sense to keep publishing content and running ads during the current crisis. But there are certainly forms of marketing that simply aren’t possible right now. The lack of event marketing is certain to put a hole in most B2B marketers’ campaign strategy.
As a frequent keynote speaker and marketing consultant, Michael Brenner has been directly affected by the spate of event cancellations. Here, he shares tactics that marketers can use to help fill the void. “The hard costs and opportunity costs won’t likely be recouped, but there is still a chance to engage virtually and ensure that your reputation isn’t upended by not being communicative or transparent,” he says.
This comprehensive piece can help you create a communications strategy to keep event attendees informed, as well as help you explore virtual alternatives to a physical meet-up. “Most importantly,” Michael says, “stay empathetic to your attendees and sponsors and work together for the best outcome.”
Speaking of virtual events: While a webinar can’t fully substitute for an in-person meeting, this type of video marketing is still more engaging and interactive than plain-text content. “In my 12+ years of experience in B2B marketing and sales, no other type of content has been able to move the needle in the sales process as much a webinar can,” says Digital Marketing Consultant Shane Barker.
Shane offers a 10-step, comprehensive process, starting with the planning stage and continuing all the way through post-webinar nurturing. If you’re new to webinars, or want to make your existing webinar plans more strategic, this article can help. So can this webinar guide.
Stay Safe, Healthy, and Engaged
It’s hard to fathom how much our lives have changed in the past month, and how different they might be a month from now. But for marketers, the work goes on, and there’s value in the work. We can educate, engage, and entertain as we always have — and we can do it ethically and with heightened empathy.