Resonating with Customers in the Age of Social Distancing
It’s a clichéd term at this point, but there’s no doubt that COVID-19 has disrupted marketers’ plans for 2020 in extraordinary ways.
In fact, a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau survey reports that nearly 25% of brands hit “pause” on all of their paid marketing efforts by the end of March.
And yet further research indicates that buyers are still hoping to receive information and derive comfort from trustworthy brands, indicating that there’s room for marketers to create and disperse content if it’s useful, thoughtful, and infused with genuine compassion.
During this pandemic, content must actively address the current climate and strive to engage prospects if it’s going to resonate best. This is no easy feat, but there are ways to maintain brand integrity and attract interest.
Here are just a few:
Be a citizen of the world
As a marketer, you have a platform from which to share ideas. Now is the time to use it for good.
Buyers want to know what your company is doing to lend a helping hand as a member of your community.
Being an active force in the fight against COVID isn’t just the right thing to do — it also establishes trust, which can forge meaningful positive connections between you and your buyers.
These connections can become lasting relationships that generate continued sales in the long run.
Start by creating content that showcases company efforts to alleviate suffering on a local, national, and international level. Be aware: tone here is key.
It’s best to steer clear of self-congratulatory grandstanding and focus on the work you’re doing. Examples include:
- narrative-based content that follows a company representative as they contribute to the global fight by sewing masks, picking up groceries, or reprogramming proprietary software to offer SMS alerts for citizens living in COVID hotspots.
- comprehensive reports or infographics that depict company-wide donations or volunteer hours to inform customers of your commitment to “progress before profit.”
Don’t forget the smaller picture
Choosing to be a force for good in the age of COVID means you’re taking part in the macrocosm of the global pandemic — but don’t make the mistake of ignoring the microcosm of your niche buyers.
While the pandemic has placed every customer in the same boat in terms of anxieties about health and safety and general uncertainty about the future, different buyer segments will want and need different things from their brands.
For certain pieces of content to hit home, they’ll have to be specialized according to buyer segments. Some solutions for delivering the right messaging to the right customers include:
Track buyer engagement via a robust sales enablement platform and stay on top of what types of content are being read, played, responded to, or downloaded during the pandemic.
Engagement data will give you a clearer sense of what content to surface to buyers and when.
Be sure your strategies for sales and marketing alignment take priority.
Feedback from sales will still be essential in determining what kinds of messaging and materials are getting through to buyers and what content gaps you may be facing.
Leverage data to personalize content sent to buyers wherever you can. This will help you cater your content assets to each segment of your audience so none of your buyers will be burdened with unnecessary or unhelpful material during the crisis.
It will also help you reach the right buyers via the right channels and drive your messages home.
As Rock Content has already observed, no one’s likely to be inspired by an aggressive short-term marketing push right now. It’s important to centralize a good portion of your messaging around the months and years to come instead.
To do this, try reimagining your ultimate goal as a relationship rather than a sale. A strong bond with your buyer today can result in a lifetime’s worth of purchases once the dust settles.
You can improve such relationships by providing buyers with information that displays an innate humanity. Examples include:
- Regular email check-ins with updates regarding your company’s general climate (“How have you been doing? Here’s what we’ve been up to during quarantine…”). A well-crafted email that’s tailored to the unique concerns and pain points of a buyer persona can help mitigate feelings of isolation during this tough time.
- WFH employee profiles that offer tips and tricks for getting through the workday at home. (Think: “Advice for Designing Your At-Home Work Station” or “Ideas for Filtering Out Distractions During the Day”).
- Detailed longer form assets that highlight useful areas of company expertise and demonstrate how your organization has been arming itself — and, by extension, its customers —against the coronavirus challenge. (For example: Many theaters have converted their costume shops into houses for PPE production and design. This is exactly the type of action buyers might find appealing).
Getting through to buyers will always be a primary marketing objective, no matter the situation. Still, the stressors of COVID-19 mean strategies for effective communication must be recalibrated in order to rise to the occasion.
In the marketer’s struggle to remain resonant and relevant during the coronavirus, it’s crucial to find a balance between your broader role as a member of the human race and your more narrow function as a brand with ongoing responsibilities to its consumers.
A helpful way to achieve this equilibrium is to visualize your marketing efforts as a marathon and not a sprint.
Remind yourself that, for your messaging to be effective in the age of COVID-19, you have to demonstrate to buyers that you’re in this for the long haul. When in doubt, put away those quarterly reports and let compassion be your guide.
If you want to know more about the impacts of coronavirus in marketing, see our white paper on “Past, Present, and Future: 3 marketing leaders share how Covid-19 changed their 2020 plans“.
About the author
Eleni Hagen is a content strategist for Highspot, the industry’s most advanced sales enablement platform, which helps organizations close the loop across marketing, sales, and customers.