COVID Marketing Strategies: Adjusting Course for Q4 2020

A lot of my conversations these days surround the topic of COVID-19, business recovery and strategic planning. At the end of almost every call reconnecting with a client we had the chat: How are you doing and how have things changed for you?

I think we all are genuinely interested in how COVID-19, quarantine, economic shifts and the rapid nose-dive into the digital revolution has influenced different industries.

I get the pleasure of speaking with clients across a wide array of industries and services.  Government, non-profit, manufacturing, service industries, none of them has gone through this pandemic unscathed. During our conversations, I am always amazed by how these leaders and teams changed, adapted, and overcame everything 2020 has thrown at them. Some businesses have already come out on top; others are on the journey and some are only now getting to see how COVID-19 will affect them long term. But across the board, I have a strengthened and renewed confidence in the business leaders of our community. I am left in awe of how great this community’s businesses are. We are blessed in West Michigan with some of the best leaders.

In these conversations, I’ve seen great leadership in how they’ve adjusted their business plans, and experienced their leadership first-hand in their openness to adjusting their communications plans. Every one of our strategic plans was influenced by COVID-19.

Afterall, you can’t hand out brochures at a tradeshow that doesn’t exist. You can’t visit an office with no people in it, and if you tried to host a large event right now, you might have a much bigger problem on your hands. Don’t even get me started on the fate of business cards.

Though COVID will change many tactics forever, that doesn’t mean your whole strategic plan is trash. It just means we need to adjust.

So when we take another look at our strategies for Q4 and beyond, we need to go back to the basics. We need to start with the rules of any successful marketing campaign.

1. Know Your Audience

Marketing can be really fun. There are so many different cool ways to reach people. From Google Ads to Tik Tok, from websites to parties, there are a lot of fun tactics that fit under marketing. But it is so easy to get drawn into the excitement of the next cool tactic and miss the practicality of it all. It doesn’t matter how good you are at doing the latest TikTok dance challenge, if your customer still thinks we’re talking about a breath mint or a clock.

We have to know who we’re speaking to. Identify your audience. Develop personas of your decision makers and stakeholder groups, and use them in every marketing decision you make. We need to understand their motivations, goals, and what makes them tick. We need to understand how COVID-19 has influenced them and their business.

2. Be Where They Are

Part of knowing your audience is knowing where they are. Have they ever been on LinkedIn? Do they read the newspaper? What sources do they trust?

We need to have a plan to show up where they are.

The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted a lot of your customers’ activities. Your ideal customer might have been in his office every day before quarantine, but now he’s tucked away at home. How else has their day changed? It is time to reevaluate your personas if you haven’t already.

3. Tell them why they should care

People love stories! We talk about this all the time. [See Vince’s latest blog for all the storytelling best practices.] But even though people love stories, if they don’t resonate with any of the characters they will quickly focus their attention elsewhere. People want to relate to the characters in a story. Don’t forget to make their character the hero. In all of your marketing tactics, tailor your message to your audience.

4. Make It Clear

I strongly believe that most of the world’s problems come from miscommunication. In fact, I bet my career on it. One of things we do best at Boileau is taking complex ideas and creating clear communications. We pride ourselves on creating understanding. 

We need to boil down the facts into a clear, honest explanation. It’s our natural drive to talk about the nuance and intricacy of our products and services, but in reality, very few of our audiences need every detail right away, and those that desire it [I see you, engineers.] will always read the small print.

This is especially important in a time when so many of the messages we receive are murky. Political messages are laced with inaccuracy. COVID-19 communications are contradictory by source. As marketers and professional communicators, it’s our job to make sure that anything we put out is clear.

COVID-19 has been quite the ride, and it’s not over yet. We’ll need to create our plans with flexibility and nimbleness as we head into Q4 and 2021. But as we continue to reevaluate, adjust, and plan, we need to keep these four basic marketing goals in mind.

Shameless Plug

Want to connect and talk about how COVID has impacted your business and next steps for your marketing strategy? I’d love to meet up for coffee or beer and a chat.

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