To Market or Not to Market During This Time: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself 

By James Kwon

In March 2020, our worlds changed forever. What we’re all living through will impact us and mold us for years to come. As a marketer, I keep getting asked one question over and over again.  Should I keep marketing during this time? That’s such a good question to be asking right now. And my answer is, that it depends…   

…on your heart.

This may seem like an odd marketing answer, but it is really the only right answer. This is a time that will reveal our true character as marketers, more than any other time. There are so many people who are fearful, struggling, sick, lonely, out of work, and/or hungry, right now. This is not a time to take advantage, or be perceived as taking advantage, of this situation. Instead, it’s a time when we can build people up and help them become primed to start again when we are free to move around and do life together. This is a time to show the best of who we are as true P2P [people2people] rather than hiding behind B2B or B2C. 

I find where your heart is depends on what definition of marketing you subscribe to. If you think marketing is strictly a tool to sell people things, then this is NOT a good time for you to be out in the market. People will feel that and their response will do irreparable damage to your brand and business. 

However, if you believe marketing is about offering value and connection to customers, clients, partners, and society at large, we need to hear from you now more than ever. 

So yes, the answer is it depends on your heart.  

Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself as you check your heart on this.

1. Do I see my clients and prospect as humans or numbers?

This is a time to grow and deepen relationships. One of the most effective ways to communicate today is through emailing and calling your clients, vendors, and partners to simply see how they and their loved ones are doing. What challenges are they facing? How has and how will COVID-19 impact them and their business? This is a time to listen and provide encouragement and support. Personally, I’ve been so encouraged by the many more personal conversations I have had with clients–finding out more about their families, their lives outside of work, and their faith. It will be one of the great silver linings of these times for me. 

For many people, a phone call, email or video meeting to ask ‘are you okay?’ could mean the world right now. Using this time to evaluate the wants and needs of your clients and communities will not only make a difference to morale, but reinforces the message that you genuinely care. 

We also know that now is the time for authenticity. And a part of authenticity for some of us is staying in business. We know how important getting your message out there, to stay top of mind, is to the health of your business. Consider reaching out to your audience via email, social, etc., with a complimentary offering, service, or learning that’s related to a service you provide–a free webinar, a step-by-step guide, maybe even your CEO is willing to get on camera and speak to the audience directly. Whatever you send out, remember your audience is going through everything you’re going through right now. So stay authentic, kind, and loyal–stay a friend. Here’s some additional advice if you want to reach out to your wider audience via email during COVID-19, Campaign Monitor.

2. Do I, or can I, offer something people need right now to help them through this crisis?

There are many products and services people still need. If your business’ services can help meet those needs, why not provide them? It’s not only the right thing to do right now, but it’s the business savvy thing to do. You’ll probably end up with more loyal customers in the end. Even better if you’re able to offer these things at discounted prices–or even for free–to help those who may need your services more than ever, but are financially struggling through this time. The kindness that businesses are showing people today is heartwarming and moving. I am hearing story after story of the amazing selfless acts people are doing right now. If you’re able to be one of those businesses during this time, you can provide hope for so many. Showing the human side and personality of your business and brand will impact people in ways traditional marketing could never do. 

Many businesses have been faced with working under new rules and guidelines during COVID-19. Dealing with the loss of revenue is not only stressful for businesses, it can be confusing to know what action can help businesses to stay afloat during this time. Accountants and Advisory firm PKF O’Connor Davies provided their community with access to current information about the CARES Act to help their clients make sound, fact-based decisions during this time. Health Revenue 360, LLC, a healthcare revenue cycle management company, is providing a fast tracked three-month free trial to help health providers pivot their healthcare services towards telemedicine during the crisis.

3. Do I offer a product or a service for the people who are swamped helping people today?

You may not be able to help someone deeply impacted by the virus today, but you may be able to help those who are on the frontlines. Is there something your business does that could help our first responders, medical teams, grocery store and pharmacy employees, restaurant workers, CPAs, financial planners, mail carriers, delivery companies and truckers, the National Guard, teachers, and other essential workers. Can you do something for those who are out fighting the battle every day?  

Airbnb has introduced frontline stays for COVID-19 responders. The service offers healthcare staff and first responders places to stay that allow them to be close to their patients—and safely distanced from their own families. Many companies have donated their supplies of masks to frontline workers, while shoe brands Allbirds, Crocs, and Clove have donated their comfy footwear to nurses and other frontline workers. Whether your business offers a physical product, an experience or a service, companies from all over America are stepping up and giving back to the real heroes in this crisis.

4. Can I provide a product or a service today that can help businesses hit the ground running or be stronger than they were before?

Karin Kimbrough, the chief economist at LinkedIn, analyzed data from both China and Italy that showed that after the virus ran through their countries they saw a resurgence of hiring. Today, after weeks of falling, China’s hiring numbers are beginning to move in a positive direction. It’s likely that America will see a similar turn around. But, in order to get our economy back on track, we need to stay positive and be proactive in our preparations for reopening. Ideally, businesses would be using this time to get prepared. Does your business have a product or service that can help people or companies get ready for that time? If yes, then now is the time to get the word out. Reach out to your community with information on how you can help them prepare and how long it will take to get their businesses ready to go. 

POS software provider Toast, showed how both short-term and long-term solutions are needed to help businesses stay afloat. And they did it by championing their customers, rather than their own services. Toast created a campaign in 72 hours encouraging patrons to buy gift cards in support of their favorite restaurants called Rallying for Restaurants. After the 72 hour sprint to get the campaign up and running, they didn’t stop there. They then moved towards creating a longer-term solution by providing updated, current resources and advice to help owners navigate managing their restaurants during the crisis. Many businesses have adapted their services and prices to help keep their customers during this time. Here at Figmints, we created a 60 Day Challenge to help anyone create a great digital marketing strategy via our free online class to help companies be in the best position possible when they return to a more “business as usual setting.”

5. If I don’t have something my customers absolutely need right now, can I offer any value in communication?

We are living in uncharted territory right now. There are so many firsts for all of us. So knowing how to navigate all the change can be overwhelming. At the same time, many people are finding that reading and being surrounded by negative news stories every day only adds to the feelings of stress and overwhelm. What can be helpful is sharing stories that make us feel more connected, provide advice on adjusting to our new ‘normal,’ or just serve as a welcome distraction. Many people are craving a sense of normalcy right now. Supporting local businesses gives them the chance to do just that. Reach out to your community to show how you appreciate their support, and are how you are thinking of ways to serve them. 

You don’t have to have all the answers, nor do you need to provide any, but you have a genuine voice that you can use to help others pull through during this time. 

Do you have knowledge that can help people with what they are facing today? If yes, reach out to your people, clients, and prospects and share your thoughts, try to make people smile (or better yet, laugh), inspire and encourage people, comfort people, tell a great story, share some good news–anything! Have some fun offering up a look into your daily life, offer tips and tricks on working from home, get your followers interacting with you and share the results on your social media channels. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles have shown a creative way of connecting with their audience while creating genuine engagement — by challenging their social media followers to re-create famous artwork at home.

Maya Angelou famously said “People may forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If there was ever a time to make sure your marketing lifted people up–now is that time. We can make our communities feel connected, cared for, and supported during this difficult time through our marketing. Because now is the time to lead with authenticity. Leave some of those planned marketing initiatives for another day (when we can actually leave our living rooms) and try something new. 

After you answered those questions, it’s still time to look within your heart and ask yourself the ultimate question– “Should I be marketing right now?” If your answer is yes, don’t feel bad about it! This is the time to connect with your audience (customers and prospects) and support one another through this crisis. If you’re a company who is still able to continue operating, please continue! Helping the economy in any way possible right now is vital.

60 Day Marketing Challenge