The current economic and social climate are demanding that we do business differently. Not only is it forcing us to work remotely, restrict physical contact, and deal with a tremendous amount of stress, it’s also forcing our clients and their customers to alter every aspect of their lives to adapt to the threat of the Coronavirus. Many have even lost their jobs or scaled back their businesses. It’s a scary time for many.
As a nation we are tightening our belts and trimming down to the bare minimum. So right now, it is not appropriate to continue sending out traditional marketing and advertising messaging. The goal of marketing right now is not to make sales (though yes, many businesses need to). Instead it is to ethically market and position your organization as a resource, to support your clients and their customers in whatever way you can, and to use the tools of marketing to find new solutions and needed products and services that can help us get our nation up and running quickly once this storm passes.
Many view marketing simply as a means of selling goods and services. But really, it’s about heart, intelligence, adaptability, and communication. Each of those aspects are critical in a crisis and can help a business meet the traditional goals of marketing while fulfilling their moral obligation to their stakeholders.
As a business and as professionals, our first duty is to serve with integrity and compassion. Call it the triple bottom line, conscious capitalism, or whatever buzzword you like. The crux of the matter is that a business should always serve its customers, its staff, and the community it operates in. The first question we must answer right now is how can we be of service? How can we as a business help our customers, employees, vendors, and neighbors get through this crisis? It may or may not be related to your actual business but looking for opportunities to serve is your first priority. No ulterior motives. No sales pitch in the cue. Just a helping hand.
In a time of crisis, intelligence is key to making smart decisions about your business and about your customers. Intelligence includes understanding the economic environment, understanding people and their needs and who they are, and using data and insights to make informed and timely decisions about the business. Marketing professionals are trained to monitor economies, technology, media, finance, and other factors that impact the business and influence demand. We have the tools to identify holes in the market, uncover key pain points that impact customer’s lives, and to shape solutions that enhance and improve customer’s lives and eradicate problems. Right now, the world needs insight. They need solutions. Marketing is the means that businesses can use to uncover opportunities to better serve the customers and stakeholders, especially in challenging times, and the tools to deliver information and resources directly to people who need it most.
That same intelligence discussed above helps the business adapt to new conditions in order to better serve a customer’s current needs and to preserve the business. Things are changing daily, even moment to moment. We have to scan the horizon, identify obstacles and opportunities and move quickly to respond to the best of our abilities. Right now, we are all doing the best we can and that is all we can and should expect from ourselves. It’s not a time to stick to rigid marketing and business plans. It’s a time to be nimble and flexible in both our response and our expectations. Which is why we need to grant ourselves a great deal of grace. Its mentally and physically exhausting navigating a global pandemic and the economic and social impact. So, adaptability also means knowing when you need to adjust your expectations for yourself and your colleagues and give yourself and your team a break.
At its core, marketing is just about communication and connection. It’s about connecting tools and resources with people who need it most. Right now, marketing should be about helping people find the programs, information, communities, and services they need to keep their families and staff healthy and safe. Some of those things need to be free right now because entire cities have been shut down and left many with little to no means of providing for themselves. Although it’s important to give without expecting anything in return, the rule of reciprocity, which is a basic human trait, is that people will give back to those who helped them. The brands that take care of their customers during this time will have customers who will take care of them when they are allowed to get back to work. They will remember the folks who supported them in their time of crisis and as soon as they have the means to do so, they will return the favor.
Bottom line, right now we should be taking care of each other without expecting anything in return. It’s a crazy time, but like everything it will end. Its best to come out the other side proud of how you handled yourself. If you do, you will find your colleagues and clients still standing beside you, ready to celebrate brighter days ahead.
In the interest of providing valuable resources, I recently came across two articles that really drove home this concept of ethical marketing during the pandemic. I hope you find them as insightful and inspiring as I did.
HEART framework for maintaining customer relationships in crisis