Nothing about this time is normal. From our entire team working remotely to figuring out that many of those meetings could have actually been emails (who feels that with us?), marketing during COVID-19 has shaken up our traditional strategies and ways of working in more ways than one.
And we know we’re not alone. Companies across the world are learning and adapting, figuring out new (and maybe even better) ways to do business alongside changing rules and regulations.
In this unprecedented time, we have had to do a few unprecedented things. But those things have taught us more than we could have ever imagined—and we want to share those thoughts with you.
Here are the 5 things we learned about marketing during COVID-19:
- Customers prioritize authenticity
- Marketers need to see the bigger picture
- Customers want real—not curated
- Community is the #1 goal
- Being dynamic is key to success
Let’s discuss these insights more in detail.
Importance of authenticity in digital marketing
Now more than ever, people are seeking support and comfort from others—including brands. Sending out blanketed messages that could be just as timely today as they were last year is, well, insensitive. And wrong.
Customers’ attention is being pulled in 100 different directions. And while the goal of marketing is to grab that attention, the way to do it has shifted during the Coronavirus epidemic.
Customers want to feel taken care of. They want to know that the brand is on their side. They want to feel like their time and money is being spent in a way that aligns with their personal values.
Sticher Radio understood this idea when they sent out a promotional email. While the CTA was still ultimately one that promoted their product, they did it in a way that felt authentic and empathetic.
In one semi-short email, they promoted their employees, mentioned their reach, shared their mission, and hit on the emotions everyone is feeling right now. AND announced a weekly newsletter out of it as well. Talk about a perfect example of marketing during COVID-19.
Phew … that’s a lot of things packed into one email. Yet they still managed to feel genuine and caring throughout the entirety of it.
In marketing, the goal will always be to sell. No pandemic will change that. But, authenticity makes that selling seem a little less desperate or annoying to customers (or as VP Analyst for Gartner Augie Ray put it: Outright greed). Instead, it makes the company feel a little more like a partner or a friend—someone who has the same values and wants the same outcomes.
Key takeaway: Be empathetic in your future marketing messages. Listen to your audience and find a need that you can help with, then engage them in a meaningful way.
Taking a step back is always a good idea
Hitting pause on marketing during COVID-19 (and life in general) has given our team the space we needed to actually take a step back and look at the work we were doing. Most small businesses like ours understand how big of a blessing this space can be.
Instead of continually being on the go and turning around projects on the fly, we have had the opportunity to take a real look at the work and our client satisfaction to see if we were doing the best possible work that we could.
In this space, we were able to return to the basics of marketing in order to find ways for our clients to stay engaged now and through the future. One way to do this was to build out forms and subscription models that allow customers to stay in touch with our clients while building a list of people to reach out to post-COVID-19.
Sometimes, marketing companies and other small businesses can get too into the weeds of the work they’re doing and forget to look at the bigger picture (or the marketing basics). Hitting pause gives you the ability to check your progress on your goals and see where you fell short in a way that allows you to do more with what you have.
Key takeaway: Strategically pausing marketing work gives companies the ability and opportunity to recharge and reset. In this pause, progress can be reviewed, goals can be redesigned, and plans can be re-outlined.
Customers want real—not curated
Even before COVID-19, the digital marketing industry had started to see a rise in popularity of more low-quality (or less altered) photos on Instagram.
Customers are starting to respond to uncurated, candid imagery that feels natural. They want to feel like they’re looking at something true and in-the-moment; they like imagery that doesn’t feel like it took an entire team to create.
Celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Selena Gomez have traded their high-quality photos for a more “realistic” approach with lo-fi vintage filters that captured the true essence of home before we all had to #stayathome.
It’s not just photos. With marketing during COVID-19, customers want to see behind the lens—to see that the company they’re working with is full of real people who live real lives; people who are experiencing the same pandemic that they are.
We expect digital and influencer marketing post-COVID is going to look a whole lot like these vintage posts: candid. Even after we can all leave home again and have access to amazing photographers and scenery, realistic imagery and content is, and will continue to be, a viable option for many companies and marketing teams.
Key takeaway: The future of marketing photography is lo-fi vintage. While it shouldn’t be your only type of marketing, it can be a creative outlet for your team that makes an impact.
Community is more important than nearly anything else
If there’s anything that we learned during COVID-19, it’s that community is absolutely crucial. Personally and professionally, having a strong community leads to happier and more positive outcomes for everyone.
People are prioritizing local experiences right now in whatever capacity they can—and we expect that to extend through the next year.
In Kansas City, the hashtag #ShopLocalKC accumulated over 90,000 posts on Instagram since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. This hashtag, created to inspire customers to support their community during COVID-19, and its reach show how engaged people are with our community during this time.
Through paying attention to our community and their reactions during this time, we’ve seen the importance of being connected.
Customers want to see how their dollars are being spent in relation to their community. Marketing, especially marketing during COVID-19, should highlight the company’s impact in the community, like by partnering with other local businesses or nonprofits to expand reach and build community connections.
Moving forward, it will be more important than ever for marketing to make valuable connections with consumers, not only so that they choose to spend their time and money with them, but also in order to build connection and rapport that lasts through whatever happens next.
Key takeaway: Social media gives companies the opportunity to host digital conversations and build relationships within their community that extend far beyond the confines of a physical space.
Being dynamic is key
This pandemic impacted everyone in unique ways. Some of our clients had to shut their doors for a short period while others saw business booming.
As our day-to-day marketing efforts shifted, one thing became clear. In the words of Ross Gellar from Friends, we needed to:
Since the beginning, we’ve had to pivot multiple times—sometimes multiple times in one day—as customer behavior, SEO best practices, Google algorithms (which seem to change every minute, am I right?), and the like changed. Pivoting is in our DNA.
But we weren’t prepared to pivot on such a large scale. With multiple clients all needing new materials and strategies in a short amount of time, our team learned really quickly how it felt to be Ross Gellar. We were probably all virtually yelling PIVOT from our couches and beds as we tackled new projects and marketing efforts that felt uncomfortable or challenging.
What we learned from our experience with marketing during COVID-19 is that being dynamic is less about hiring more people to do different work and more about entrusting your team to think bigger and do more with what they have.
We couldn’t have in-person brainstorming sessions. We didn’t have time to really learn about certain facets of marketing. We didn’t have a massive budget to play with to figure out what really worked.
All we really had was trust and patience—and that was enough.
We now understand that trusting one another and being patient as we learned together was the key to our success during the Coronavirus. It provided a sort of flexible framework that we could all work from and experiment with together.
Ultimately, it allowed us the freedom to throw caution to the wind in order to get the work done.
Key takeaway: While unexpected change can’t be predicted, it can be planned for. Building a foundation for flexibility is crucial for small businesses to be able to pivot when the situation demands it.
We hope you enjoyed reading our insights and takeaways related to marketing during COVID-19. We can’t know what’s going to happen next in the Coronavirus outbreak. But, we can learn from it. If you’re looking for a team that can turn water into wine no matter the situation, we’re your team. Book a free strategy session today to see what we can do for you.