What do businesses, especially those closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, need from us right now? A relevant advertising message that addresses the new reality of closures, quarantines, business not-as-usual. At minimum, the information businesses need to provide is:
I. What they’re doing to serve their customers’ needs while they’re closed or restricted? (“We’re doing things differently for a while.”)
- Are they working at the store/shop/office, even though closed to the public?
- Are they working from a remote location?
- How can customers connect or interact with them while they’re closed?
- Phone? (Voice, text, what numbers?)
- Email? (How often checked?)
- Can customers shop online? (Is website chat available?)
- What additional help/information is available at their website?
- For all of the above, what’s the target or estimated wait time for a response?
II. Offer a personal message of encouragement to let customers know that they’re not alone in this, preferably in the advertiser’s own voice and words. Share some good advice or a personal anecdote. Examples:
- We realize this situation is unprecedented, inconvenient, difficult, and frustrating. But we’re in this together, so let’s work together to help each other, as neighbors and fellow citizens.
- Share stories, especially ones that offer humor, cheer, inspiration, or edification. Maybe a favorite Bible verse, poem, or anecdote from your own experience. Anything to make a connection and engage in a positive way.
- Remember that “sheltering in place” doesn’t mean complete isolation. Use your phone to stay in touch with friends. Make an extra effort to reach out to seniors and others who may be living alone.
- Resources are available to help with personal, financial, and physical, mental, and spiritual health issues during the crisis. (Even if others are providing this information, it doesn’t hurt to share it yourself.)
- If you’re unable to work and looking for something to do with your time, consider volunteering, making yourself available for delivery or some other needed service. Call your local hospital, school, or nonprofit and ask how you can be of help.
III. This is not a time to be silent but to be present, in touch, and actively engaged with your customers and community.
- Don’t go dark.
- Don’t stop communicating.
- Eventually, things will return to normal and the businesses that maintain (or even increase) their share of voice will see their share of market rebound, as well, as has been abundantly documented* in previous downturns in the economy.
- Remember, having an online presence is one thing. Getting people there is another. Use intrusive mass media to drive traffic to your website. Radio + Website is uniquely powerful, and in both cases, YOU control 100% of the message, without distraction or dilution (or, heaven forbid, malicious reviews and comments).
*a small sampling of articles on marketing and advertising during a recession. If you know of one that should be on this list, please share it in the comments below or email it to me.
THRIVE IN A RECESSION. HOW TO. (The Monday Morning Memo for 12-3-07)
WHEN A RECESSION COMES, DON’T STOP ADVERTISING (Forbes 9-5-19)
HOW TO MARKET IN A DOWNTURN (Harvard Business Review 4/2009)
ADVERTISING DURING A RECESSION (WARC publishes case studies of marketing excellence from all over the world. An excerpt from this article follows.)
More importantly, the data also reveal that a moderate increase in advertising in a soft market can improve share. There is a substantial body of evidence to show that a larger share of the market generally leads to higher return on investment.9
For the aggressive marketer, the data suggest that a more ambitious increase in expenditure, although reducing short-term profit, can take advantage of the opportunity afforded by a recession to increase market share even further.
THE EFFECT OF RECESSION ON ADVERTISING (The Conversation blog)
ADVERTISING IN A BAD ECONOMY (The Balance Careers 7/25/19)