Since the shutdowns began in March, the only constant in the business world has been change. Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and while some are thriving, many more are struggling. 

If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, or even an experienced marketer feeling out of sorts, it’s not wise to pull back all your marketing and go dark.  You also need to be mindful of the marketing strategies and tactics you choose. It’s easy to make costly mistakes when you’re feeling desperate and having trouble paying the bills.  

How to Navigate Marketing When You’re Feeling Desperate   

  1. Focus on existing customers. If your business is struggling, customer acquisition may be difficult or seem impossible. If you’re not able to deliver your products and services in a safe and reliable way, you’re better off focusing on your existing customers. Things may be slow but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage with your customers and strengthen relationships. Keep them posted on what’s happening and what your plans are going forward. Be open, authentic, and transparent. 
  2. Assume that your audience has changed. Right now, there’s a ton of social and economic disruption and people’s routines have changed. They’re working from home, dealing with childcare and financial issues, or may have been directly affected by the virus. Consider the changes your traditional audience may be going through and think about whether a new, more relevant demographic is emerging and where you might find it.
  3. Look for short-term opportunities. Your initial thought might be to focus on brand building. Building a brand is a long-term endeavor — and can be costly in both time and resources. Instead, look for short-term wins like taking your business services or products online, and promoting less expensive items.  Don’t forget about your long-term plans.  Keep them in place and on your calendar. But now is probably not time to launch expensive branding campaigns.
  4. Invest in proven winners. For most businesses, there are certain core marketing strategies and tactics that work, no matter what. That’s where you want to invest your marketing dollars. If email marketing has proven successful over the years, keep doing it, and even more now. For example, recent stats show that for every dollar you spend on email marketing, your ROI will be $42. If your service is worth $500 and you have 10,000 subscribers on your list, there’s potentially $5,000,000 in business on the table. Plus, you own this media channel. 
  5. Don’t become a one-trick pony. Sure, invest in what always delivers results, but don’t ignore other strategies that have been successful. If paid ads or SEO marketing has been a reliable source of lead generation and revenue, stay with the program, just monitor results. With so much in flux right now, you can’t afford to become one-dimensional. 
  6. Focus on your proven target market. Make sure your marketing dollars are going where they reach your big-picture audience. It sounds obvious, but don’t get distracted by opportunities that aren’t right for you. If you’re a B2B business, you may get better results on LinkedIn than Facebook. Not sure? Do an audit on where business is coming from. When you’re feeling anxious, you’re susceptible to try almost anything. Hold back and do your research.  Fight the bright shiny object syndrome! 
  7. Time is a gift not to be squandered. Use this time wisely. If things are slow, it may be the perfect time to update your website, shoot video, create and organize your content (digital assets are key to repurposing for social media) or train your team on new platforms.  Check off those items at the bottom of the to-do list that never seem to get done. You’ll be stronger and better prepared for what’s ahead. 
  8. Help but be genuine. If you’re in a position to help your community, be transparent. If you’re making donations, be 100% clear about what you’re donating and what expenses, if any, will be taken out first. If you’re offering flexible pricing or payment options, don’t suddenly drop them. Be upfront about what you promise and be sure to live up to those promises. Your reputation is at stake. Don’t blow it because you feel off center. 
  9. Recognize that emotions are high. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Be sensitive to what they may be dealing with. Let them know what precautions your company is taking in response to the crisis and how you’re responding. If you offer discounts or promotions, do it in a sensitive way. Communication is critical to keep your channels open and positive. Ask how you can help.

These are unusual times and they call for thoughtful, targeted marketing decisions. If you throw everything at the wall to see what sticks, you’ll not only waste precious resources, but you may also damage all the work you’ve done to get you where you are. That’s not an option. 

How you engage with customers says a lot about your company’s way of doing business and core values. Will you hide out, freak out, or work your way out? 

My hope is for the latter. 



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