Coronavirus Effect on Marketing

coronavirus effect on marketing

The full effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are still very much unknown. In the marketing world, we’re grappling with conference cancellations, budget re-allocations, supply chain or logistics issues, and working remotely among many other hurdles. The Coronavirus effect on marketing is quite unprecedented.

In times like these, it’s important to know that you’re not alone as a marketer.

We have curated a list of advice on how to manage marketing during this unprecedented time from veteran digital marketers. As they weigh in on the potential impact of the virus on businesses and agencies, a powerful narrative emerges; COVID-19 will bring fresh challenges and opportunities for marketers.

We’ll continue to add to this blog as more advice is received. If you want to contribute some advice – you can do so here.

Here is what top marketers have to say About the IMPACT of Coronavirus…

UPDATED: APRIL 8, 2020

Alejandro aguilar, liberty express

“Go back to the absolute basics. Talk to your customers. Call them on the phone.

In these times, a kind word makes a lot of difference for most people. Ask them how they are, genuinely talk to them.
Ask them if you can be of service. Remind them of what you do and how it may be something they need, but don’t make any offers. We took anyone who was in a customer service position and gave them scores of phone numbers to call our customers one by one. The appreciation we’ve got is incredible. Some have thanked us, some have done business with us. Most have told us they will do business as soon as the uncertainty calms down a bit. I can remember one or two persons complaining, but they are the absolute exception.
With news, memes, and content volume out of control, getting your brand in front of customers is harder than ever. CPM went through the roof in what I assume is people not interested in seeing or interacting with advertising, instead looking for news, advice or some sort of information to make sense of what’s happening.
At this point, with the exception of some very focused display/re-targeting campaign, all paid advertising was put on hold, and we are focusing on Human to Human interactions.”

Josh Wagner, Stratosphere sales

“Now more than ever you should be planning and executing humanistic digital marketing strategies. Most likely your decision makers are home in a digital work environment or at least spending less time at their plant and spending more time in front of a screen. How are you engaging them? How are you making then feel safe and that you are there to help them? Here are 3 simple ways you can provide value, security and keep the pipeline filled.

• Transparent, humanistic and frequent communication – Through email campaigns, tell your customers (how) you’re open for business. Tell them how you are protecting your employees, your customers and the community.
• Host a Webinar – Webinars are a great way for sellers and service providers to show thought leadership on solving critical issues, providing real value and boast case studies and ROI of their product sand services. Plus webinars are a great lead generation tool!
• Surveys – Ask your customer base how they’re responding. Find out what they need most from you during the pandemic. This will give you great insight that may lead to new products or services and creates a customer loyalty connection knowing that you care for their needs.”

JOdi Navta, Molo solutions

“During these challenging times,, it’s imperative for B2B marketers to stress the importance of internal and external communication.Taking the time to understand how your organization can add value in stressful situations, can help you create authentic and relevant messaging for your B2B audiences. Tough times tend to uncover the true character of an organization.

Here are some tips to create relevant messaging:
External Audiences:
Higher Accountability. Hold your organization more accountable than ever before. Deliver on promises you make. Do what ever it takes to help customers. What you can do now, in tough times, shows what you are truly capable of at other times. Make sure you know what promises are made and how your organization is keeping them or going above and beyond during this time. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.
Internal and External Audiences:
Celebrate successes. Just because times are tough doesn’t mean we are not allowed to celebrate. In fact, it’s more important than ever to show your organization’s true character. That means storytelling about people within the organization and how they rise to the occasion. Your customers will appreciate the grit and selflessness they see your organization operating with.
Internal Audiences:
Enable your leaders to lead. No one can do it alone. So many organizations go into panic mode. Leaders get stuck in the day-to-day survival mode. While this is necessary and totally normal, help them get outside of their comfort zone and lead, even if it’s for 15 minutes a day. Give them talking points, remind them about the successes they can share within the organization, encourage leadership to post on social media. Leaders can shine during tough times – help them do that!
Internal and External Audiences:
Be flexible. For many organizations, their 2020 marketing strategy has been turned on its head due to the pandemic. Understand the importance of reacting to the immediate needs of both your customers and employees. Determine what is needed now – while the stay at home orders are in effect – and then predict what is needed for the long-term. What better time to be in communication with your customers and potential customers trying to understand their needs? Everything from how they want to be communicated with to what they think the future holds for their organization. Don’t forget to put family first! Ask how everyone is doing. Be human. Build on the relationship you have and make sure they know you are here to help. Take the information you learn and bring it to the sales and marketing organization to develop a plan that supports the needs expressed by customers.
Most of all stay safe! Show gratitude for the rock stars you are surrounded by. Be respectful of everyone around you. Many people are silently struggling, and communication is key during this time.”

christy marble, visier

“Focus on your people first.

That means putting your own employees, your customers and your community –Influencers, partners, analysts and experts — first. This is the ecosystem in which your brand thrives. So, start by asking yourself, “how can you help that community – with no strings attached?”, “What one or three things can we do to make a difference?” Then activate your team and your company. That act of helping in the way that is unique and authentic to your brand, will provide the collective inspiration and shared purpose that the people on your team need to lift each other through the hard times.
Secondly, know that focusing on people means doubling down on the experiences you create in every human interaction. Here are a few:
Web Experience – B2B & B2C marketers are all alike in this #safeathome era, your website is now your only storefront. It is not just your first impression but often your only impression. Double-down on the content, the story and the experience that you deliver to customers, partners and not-yet-customers.
Social Experience – Does your post-crisis messaging still resonate with your audience? Is it top-of-mind for people now? How are you helping? Right message, right audience, right time? Focus on sharing what people need now, or next – things are different. Times have changed.
Customer Experience – Do you have an opportunity to help your customers right now? Carpe diem! Even if you think you don’t, you might. Virtual open forums, happy hours and online communities are a great way to connect customers and experts to share challenges, ideas and solutions. Why not facilitate one? People are feeling isolated. This is new for all of us, it is human nature for people to help each other in times of need.”
UPDATED: March 30, 2020

Raj khera, Wealth Engine

“This is an unprecedented time in modern history. With markets falling dramatically and lock downs and social distancing affecting the country, the full economic impact of COVID-19 remains uncertain. It is no longer business as usual. In the 2008 recession, organizations that focused on their return on invested capital came out ahead. Those who retreated faltered.What can you do right now to minimize the risk of your 2020 goals slipping?

The answer starts with getting back to the basics: know your donor, know your customer.

Follow this proven 3-point strategy to keep your momentum in the midst of economic instability and uncertainty due to the coronavirus, COVID-19.

1. Engage with Your Community, Focus on Impact

Historically, during economic downturns, organizations that use this time to create stronger relationships come out ahead.

Being there for donors and customers gets you closer to them. The more you do for your community, the more goodwill you generate. This builds your brand and tightens your relationship with your audience.

To connect with your audience, share stories about the impact you are making on others during this difficult time. You will get attention by touching people’s hearts.

2. Stay Top of Mind, Don’t Retreat

Staying top of mind is a critical element in maintaining momentum during an economic downturn. Those who retreat will lose market share.

While your first instinct may be to reduce your investments, retreating from activity can make your situation worse. Again, it’s not business as usual. How you approach your prospects to build bonds will influence their lifetime value with your organization.

3. Strategize for a High Return on Invested Capital (ROIC)

The stocks deemed as winners in the 2008-2009 recession had one thing in common. All of them had a high return on invested capital (ROIC) that outperformed their peers. The Financial Times reports that organizations who prioritized ROIC generated 15-20% growth whereas those who retreated lost 15% or more.

History will repeat itself. Inaction now will hurt your organization in 2020. Optimizing your invested capital can make or break your year.

The key to success is to make your outreach as efficient as possible. That’s why getting back to the basics, knowing your donor or customer, is so important. Wealth and lifestyle insights about your audience empowers you to craft your message in ways that your competitors won’t.”

Rick Ramos, Health joy

“COVID-19 has made this a crazy time for marketers. For many companies, no matter what you do, your customers aren’t buying, or they are delaying their decision. If you find yourself in this situation, focus on long term goals and away from demand generation. Work on long-form content, pillar pages, ask for reviews from existing customers, guest post, and work on getting testimonials. Work on those projects that you know will benefit your business but never seem to have time for.
If you still have demand for your product, review your present tactics. Review all your email drips, ad copy, website, etc. to make sure you aren’t insensitive to the new reality.
At HealthJoy, we quickly created a new process called QuickLaunch to enable companies to deliver telemedicine services within two business days. It felt like a month of work that we completed in less than a week, but we knew it was a way we could help potential customers in these trying times. We’ve shifted almost all marketing to this initiative. We’ve written countless blog posts, new emails, email campaigns, and we’re even putting on a webinar in record time.
I would say that marketers need to ask themselves is if there is anything they could do to help. How can you change or market your product differently? People will remember how companies acted during these times in the future, how they treated their employees and customers.
Microsoft is giving away Teams to help remote employees continue to work. Disney released Frozen 2 early so kids could be entertained for a few hours. Linkedin is giving away free educational courses. Starbucks has extended its mental health benefits.
People want to feel safe, want to be productive, want to be entertained. Marketers need to take the lead and see how their companies can make a difference.”
UPDATED: March 26, 2020

Grant Johnson, emburse

Adapting Marketing to the Work from Home World

Many organizations are now into the second week of working from home. Week one was focused around “how can we get our employees to effectively work from home?” Now that’s (hopefully) been largely achieved, marketing teams need to assess how to adapt strategies, tactics and programs to sustain and succeed in a prolonged period of remote office work and a more digital, virtual world.
I’m happy to share ten examples on how the global marketing team at Emburse is adapting our approach now and into the uncertain future.
  • Events: shift from physical to Virtual – Emburse had scheduled a 10-city tour and it’s now virtual. We experienced increased registrations for our first Los Angeles virtual event on 3/25.
  • Webinars: whether or not your company has an active Webinar program or series, consider expanding topic to encompass thought leadership, customer success, solution demos and industry specific content
  • Messaging: Don’t put COVID-19 in your headlines. Instead, message more empathy, less sales. Certain subject matter and topics will just be tuned out, so be sensitive promote and communicate.
  • Content: Create relevant content for the times. In our case, we’ve launched a series of Work From Home content on social channels. Shift to content propagation and syndication vehicles that continue to perform well during this time
  • Social: focus on being more helpful and highlight what your company is doing to help customers and employees, rather than the more typical product or offer-focused messaging
  • Solutions: if your company has any unique solutions or offerings that can assist customers in adapting to a work from home world, bring to market rapidly and communicate broadly.
  • Digital: continuously monitor and adjust based on: cost per click (some competitive words may become more affordable), reach, response and results (e.g. cost per lead)
  • Segmentation: be sensitive to the most affected vertical market segments, e.g. retail, travel, entertainment, etc., consider pausing marketing until some level of recovery occurs
  • Alignment: Most successful B2B companies have tight coordination between Marketing, Business Development (BDR/SDR) and Sales organizations. Maintain and enhance alignment strategies to create a connected and circle of communications consistently delivered
  • Team: During these challenging times, incorporate daily check-ins, “stand-ups,” and/or virtual happy hours, communication and collaborate and ensure your team feels and is truly supported
Be agile, stay safe and take good care!”

Adele Nasr, Aventon Bikes

“These are unprecedented times for marketers all over the world. We have never been faced with something this worldly that is not only dividing us physically, but also bringing us together mentally and emotionally – we are all feeling a lot of feelings, and talking about them helps.

As marketers and brand advocates, it is our job to reassure and comfort our supporters. This means we have to talk about it, talk about the impact this is having on our employees, our company, and our customers, and provide helpful information to aide them during this time, but also confirm that we are doing our part as a brand advocate. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend this isn’t happening. Brand advocates & customers want to know what we are doing about it, and how we are handling it – TELL THEM.

Here are a few ways to open the conversation in an authentic way:

  • Your Database: You have a database of people that have expressed interest in your brand and your products at one point or another, make sure you are communicating with them authentically and with empathy. Tell them what you, as the brand owner, are feeling, i.e. what does this mean for your employees, how is your brand doing their part to minimize the spread of the virus, and what your brand can do to help them during this time.
  • Your Social Fanbase/Followers: These are people that are interested in your content and what you have to say on social media, make sure you are addressing them the same way. Be authentic, tell them what this means for you and what you wish for them as brand advocates. This is not meant to be a sales pitch! For example, we sell bikes, and what we focused on in our message, is reinforcing their love of riding and encouraging them to get outside more to help combat cabin fever during this self-quarantine, social distance phase we are in.
  • Your Website Visitors: People are taking the time to come to your site, make sure that you are also addressing the topic at hand by writing a blog that is featured on the site addressing the topic. Provide them reassurance of key elements like, “we are still shipping” at this time, as they may not know depending on the business and what operations are still intact or not intact. And if you are facing shipping delays because you’ve upped your protocol to battle germs, TELL THEM! They will appreciate the transparency.”
UPDATED: March 23, 2020

Mark Coronna, Chief Outsiders

“As the COVID-19 virus spreads and causes economic disruptions and unintended consequences in almost every industry, here are 10 marketing programs could you implement with little investment, short time-to-market, and an ability to generate additional revenue:

  1. Refresh the company Web site and value proposition. 
  2. Review your commitment to trade shows and industry conferences.
  3. Shift longer-term marketing spend to shorter-term. 
  4. Complete a marketing assessment and sales pipeline audit.
  5. Act now to better understand your current market and customer portfolio. 
  6. Develop your current customer portfolio. 
  7. Get rid of “lame” marketing practices.
  8. Improve your competitive intelligence and win/loss performance. 
  9. Prune your product portfolio. 
  10. Protect your intellectual property assets.

Ryan Ruud, Lake One Digital

“Keep focused on adding value. Now isn’t the time to take advantage of a situation. I’m seeing a lot of really odd sales and marketing activity blatantly trying to hijack the eyeballs around Covid-19 search and social traffic. If your organization legitimately has a product, service or content that can provide value during this unpredictable time by all means – share it. But otherwise rethink what your pushing into the ecosystem. Also, now isn’t the time to see how clever your copy-writing is – don’t make light of the situation. I’m seeing ads and social content playing on viral, contagious and other terms – just don’t. Give the moment the respect it deserves.”

John Arms, Unified Funnel Metrics

“The market retraction will favor low cost suppliers. Budgets are already being cut or reduced, causing companies to seek two things. First, higher accountability to revenue from all expenditures and second, lower cost suppliers for critical sales generating activity. My advice is put all of your activity for clients through the lens of sales for them. If you can’t connect the dots, or if they simply don’t connect, know that your service fee is at risk. If they do, be sure to bring your clients a dashboard this week showing sales impact as well as where adjustments can be made to increase sales.”

UPDATED: March 19, 2020

Madeline Blasberg, Leadpages

“In times of widespread crisis, it should be community over company. How many emails do you have in your inbox right now with a subject line that says ‘we’re here for you?’ How many that summarize ‘what we’re doing to help’ but fail to say anything substantial?

“Using crisis as a vehicle for communication is nothing new for marketers, but I think we can do better. Unless your adaptations (honestly) affect your customers, I recommend staying silent over sending a flurry of copy-cat communications.

“With people practicing self-quarantine and spending more time at-home, of course their shopping habits are changing—as is their attention share. That presents a true opportunity for inbound marketers & advertisers (regardless of what your revenue model is). Already, we’re seeing increased app engagement and browsing behavior, so we’re increasing upper and mid-funnel efforts to get in front of prospects who may not have had the time to consider us in the past.

“It’s also crucial that marketers address this situation with integrity and empathy. No COVID coupons or calls to “shop, shop shop.” Think first about how this situation is impacting the lives and businesses of your customers and find a way to sell through acts of service. Here’s how we’re making that tangible:

  • For folks spending more time at home, we’re providing resources and free training courses that will help them build their businesses and get more value from our product.
  • For at-risk customers who may cancel their subscriptions as a result of financial hard-ships on their small businesses, we’re offering account credits to lesson the burden.
  • For our employees, we’re working from home and manning the customer-support lines like it’s business as usual.

Turbulent times have a way of revealing the character of both people and brands. It’s an opportunity to live out your brand promise—and, of course, monitor your metrics, because these are unprecedented times. Stay safe out there!”

March 17, 2020

Lindsi Gish, gish&co.

“The concept I keep coming back to: We’re all in this together. All of us. That statement has been used before but it’s never been more true than it is now—and it’s helpful to remember. Every single industry and human being is being affected one way or the other.

“Event-centric organizations are losing (or postponing) significant chunks of revenue.

“The service industry is scrambling to figure out what non-physical delivery looks like, for an undetermined amount of time.

“Ecommerce businesses are seeing an influx in orders while navigating staff shortages and general panic.

“Nonprofits are struggling as people pull back on their donations out of fear of layoffs, cuts or other financial impacts.

“But we’re all in this together. Eventually, the ship will right itself. We won’t go back to normal, but we’ll go back to a new normal, and we’ll all be figuring out what that means, together.

“As much as marketers can stay true and steadfast to what they know is right, evolve tactics to fit the moment (hey Southwest, maybe pause your social ads—nobody’s interested in vacay right now), and support their employer or client with appropriate services for the time—we’ll all be okay in the end.”

Jules Taggart, Wayward Kind

“Now that everyone is using video conferencing for business development, two types of marketers will emerge – those who treat video as a way to talk with people and those who treat video as a way to listen.

“Think of it like a coffee date. Make time for small talk and ask the same questions you would ask someone if you met them in person right now:

  • How are you doing?
  • How is this impacting your business?
  • How can I help?

“The companies that find ways to create a deep human connection using digital tools will come out of this better off.”

Josh Werner, Calabrio

“Events are being canceled and who knows how long that will last. Rely on webinars for engagement over the comings weeks and continue to push your digital strategies.

“With people social distancing and being locked up at home, there is more research time available – and it’s all going to happen online.”

Derrick Turner, Augurian

“The impact of COVID on digital marketing is going to vary significantly across industries. For several industries, we are seeing dramatic surges in search volume.

“For nimble marketers, there is tremendous value in reacting quickly and being flexible with budgets to capture current demand.

“Other industries that depend on travel or luxury should consider reducing spending in the short term on low funnel tactics, and reallocate to higher funnel tactics that can pay off in the long term after the demand disruption stops.”

J.J. Slygh, Total Expert

“We’re still adjusting to this disruption to the way we work. But, it’s important to understand that each person has their own level of concern about what is going on.

“Marketing should be focused on maintaining communication with customers to add value to your relationship with them and that you’ll be there when they need you. Lead with empathy and sincerity.

Alex Hultgren, Customers 1st Marketing

“I think the biggest immediate challenge is that businesses are unsure about what their future holds in both the short- and long-term. As such, a lot of purchase decisions are being scrutinized or placed on hold.

“Here are the five best things we can do as marketers (and leaders) to keep in mind (and potentially communicate with customers).

  1. This is temporary. We don’t know how or exactly when this will end, but things will get back to normal at some point. But we totally understand the caution – validate your customers.
  2. We sell solutions to problems (it doesn’t matter what your product or service is, if it doesn’t solve a customer problem it isn’t long for this world anyway). So let’s use this time to have some really good conversations with customers about what can be improved with their status quo (prior to COVID-19) and what they would like to do for growth once this thing subsides a bit.
  3. If there is anything we can do to help any of our clients/customers during COVID-19 — particularly as they are moving operations to remote workers, etc, do everything and anything you can to provide value and assistance. Even if it means doing a little work for free or at a wildly reduced rate in the short term, people remember others who helped them in a jam — and business will always be about relationships.
  4. Get stuff done. You are a professional, and there are always more things to do than hours in the day. Structure your day as if none of this was happening, and build in time for things that are important but not urgent. It will be both productive and a good distraction.
  5. Stay positive. Uncertainty breeds fear – don’t succumb to it. And back to #1 – this is temporary. A bit weird to be sure, but temporary. And look forward to that first drink you can have with a friend or a client when the establishments open again!”

Lydia Andresen, Augurian

“I think that lead gen businesses should take this time to explore and nurture the higher parts of their marketing funnel. This part of the marketing funnel (outreach, awareness, etc) is often overlooked in the lead gen space as a result of limited time and budget constraints.

“This will ensure that you’re having a dialogue with important players in your industry, and when there is room for economic growth, getting those leads down the funnel will prove to be a much lower lift!”


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As news develops around COVID-19, we’ll continue to cover ways digital marketers can manage strategies, and even thrive, during this uncertain time.

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