In times of crisis, people look towards their leaders and institutions for information, reassurance and guidance. Marketing sits at the centre stage of most business operations, thus making it the primary duty for marketers to channel communication. They set the tone for how customers perceive the business during a difficult time.

The current COVID-19 crisis has pushed businesses to reconsider their digital marketing strategies. Marketers need a proactive plan to adjust and adapt how they lead their teams, speak to customers and manage their brands. Here are 5 tips to help marketers create a digital roadmap and navigate these uncertain times.

1. Infuse empathy in your marketing communications

The meaning of quality content and purpose has never been more important than now. Re-adjusting messaging during a crisis is not easy. People are feeling very uncertain, so empathy and sensitivity are critical. If possible, look for ways to make your content more helpful. Use your organisation’s core values to remind yourself what your brand stands for. Let your brand’s core principles set the tone on how you will connect and speak to your audience. Adapt your content to help people get through this difficult time, whether by providing some much-needed comic relief, or anything in between.

2. Be present in the digital world

Currently, time spent on mobile devices and online platforms is on the rise. People are spending more time on streaming platforms for entertainment; social media for connecting with the outside world; e-commerce portals for shopping, and so on. Although COVID-19 has disrupted marketing and advertising initiatives, marketers need to keep their plans fluid and tweak their ad spend to reach customers where they are.

For example, innovative brands have tried to identify and pursue opportunities in the online sphere. Recent research shows that 61% of marketers are reworking their short-term strategies to adapt, while only 9% are making long-term changes.  

3. Effectively leverage social media

Your customers will primarily turn to your social channels to communicate with you, check for updates and provide timely information. Make sure your business is accessible and responsive. Update your social pages, post any relevant news, and maintain quick response times. Just as with your organic social media content, strive to re-word your messaging so it truly speaks to the difficulties your audience is facing right now. Also, use this time to build a stronger community and foster deeper relationships with customers, peers, and even competitors.

4. Be creative and find new ways to deliver on your promises

If you are an events agency, is there a way you can turn conferences into a virtual experience, allowing your clients to continue learning and enjoying their hobbies while following social distancing best practises? If you are a homeware company, can you double up on your digital presence and continue delivering from your e-commerce site?

Your customers will remember how you went the extra mile to provide for them in their darkest hour. These are the kinds of actions that will be remembered after this crisis is over and help create loyal customers for life.

5. Listen to changes in customer behaviour

Use social listening tools to monitor customer discussions about health concerns or information needs relevant to your brand. Marketers must support customers and protect customer relationships while staying transparent about what the company can and cannot deliver at this time. Using analytics and monitoring tools can help you fully understand customer preferences and behaviours. This way, you can gain vital information that will allow you to develop your digital marketing strategies.

None of us know when we will be able to return to business as usual. Resilience, agility and empathy should be a marketer’s top tools. Taking the right action can be challenging, especially in a fast-changing situation, but we can do our best to operate with integrity and trust even as we come under pressure from a swiftly evolving situation.

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