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Marketing your business well during challenging times

With the COVID-19 outbreak all over the news, these days are truly unprecedented. While that's true, one thing shouldn't come as a surprise - there will always be challenges to your business.

Unfortunately, we will always see political, economical, climate, social and health-related circumstances that damage lives and businesses.

While the human cost of these challenges will always come first, business is important and affects real individuals - so think about how you do business, and how you market yourself in this context. 

Be prepared

To weather storms, you need to be prepared. If you're able to build up reserves during better times, this will help see you through.

By making sure your marketing is a priority in good times, and not just when you need new customers, you'll help your future self in more difficult times.

Keep going and keep growing

Be determined to see growth in all seasons, good and bad. Track your sales growth and be aware of any shortcomings during better times, and consider the hit sales could take during harder times.

If you're able to adapt your business and market yourself wisely, you can even see some small growth during hard times, and if you can grow during hard times, you can be certain you'll excel in better times.

In New York Times Bestseller, Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing, George Cloutier puts it quite clearly, "Whether your enterprise is large or small, or you are operating in an economic boom or a recession, there should always be profits, and you should always be aware of what is on your balances sheet, and adjust costs accordingly. But you still have to invest in your business."

Don't capitalise on crises

You should never capitalise on any crisis in your marketing - it's just not right.

Don't use fear-based marketing to twist a national or global crisis to your own benefit (but if the world can benefit from your services during a time of crisis, step up).

Remember that good marketing is all about building trust and maintaining good long-lasting relationships with your target customers. Don't run the risk of damaging those relationships.

Understand the context

While you shouldn't capitalise on events, you do need to understand them and market your business within their context.

For example, there's little point focusing on the benefits of overseas travel and foreign holidays while global travel is restricted and countries are in lockdown.

During this Coronavirus pandemic, people's focus and attention are not where it might normally be. Make sure your online communication reflects this in tone, and that the topics you'd normally cover at this time of year are still appropriate and will still engage your audience.

Be appropriate

While it depends on your brand identity, sharing low-quality third-party content, memes, jokes and GIFs through your social media channels is usually a bad idea, and may be considered poor taste in a time of crisis.

Change tact

It pays to take a little time out and have a broader think about your business.

During the earlier days of the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been anecdotes of UK holiday-goers hoping to visit the Italian lakes instead staying within the UK and booking in the Lake District.

Be aware of these changes in customer behaviour and adapt to make the best of the situation. For example, a tour operator may now focus their marketing resources on UK staycations instead of overseas travel.

By understanding and adapting to such changes in customer behaviour, you can provide viable alternatives to customers and make the best of a bad situation.

Be reassuring

While it can be a difficult line to tread, as you don't want to inadvertently raise alarm, you may want to put out messages reassuring customers during a time of crisis.

A lot of sales & marketing is about objection handling. Before someone will book in with you, they have a number of questions and concerns that need answering before they'll commit.

This is even more true during a time like this - people will undoubtedly have concerns about hygiene, business continuity, travel restrictions, cancellation policies and more.

A reassuring post addressing some of these points can help deal with those concerns. While the content will differ from business to business, the tone should be appropriate, reassuring and positive. 

You may even want to create a specific Frequently Asked Questions page on your website answering specific concerns.

Be kind

Overall be kind in your digital marketing. You need to maintain good relationships with your audience, and a positive reputation.

If your business is able to help others during a time of crisis, use your digital channels to put this out there.

Be positive

We can make it through tough times if we work smartly, and work together.

Remember that while crises and downturns have a real impact, they do pass. Use your digital channels wisely to maintain business, not just during the downturn, but keep that ball rolling for when we get to the other side.

Rather than using your digital marketing output to spread panic and negativity, stay positive and confident, and focus on your unique strengths.

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