Marketing in the Time of Social Distancing

by on March 20, 2020

Amidst quarantines, social distancing, travel bans, and event cancellations, you may feel like we’ve all fallen into the same shared fever dream. With all the uncertainties you’re facing as a business owner, there is one thing you can safely bet on: digital marketing in the time of social distancing is a must. To help you put your best foot forward, the digital marketing experts at VitalStorm are here with some tips!

The Distancing Domino Effect

Social distancing is in full effect for most cities, leaving in its wake widespread closures of local businesses and restaurants. Even companies that have remained open for business have had to implement a work from home mandate to keep their employees safe. Depending on the industry, some businesses, like grocery stores, have already experienced an uptick in sales. However, as more of us begin to hunker down in the coming weeks, the uptick will swing the other way in favor of businesses and services conducted online. (Think about businesses like Door Dash, Amazon, and streaming platforms.) Regardless of your industry, there are measures you can take now to fortify your company in the face of social and economic distancing.

Bracing for Impact

In the coming weeks, there will be many shutdowns – but your business doesn’t have to be one of them. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can nurture your brand, business, and customers while still practicing social distancing. Before you enact a social distancing order for your company, here are some important steps to take:

1. Plan Your Message

Marketing in the time of social distancing is all about effective communication. Although it’s impossible to predict the unpredictable, it’s wise to have a team in place to manage your company’s messaging to the public in the event of an economy-altering situation. This team should ideally consist of a few executive members and marketing or PR pros. If you do not have an in-house marketing or PR team, now may be the perfect time to seek help from a marketing agency. Once you’ve assembled your team, it’s time to plan the message you want to communicate to those associated with your organization. Furthermore, you will need to decide which platforms will be most effective for communicating your message. During this first step, it’s imperative to leave no stone unturned. Discuss the various issues that may arise and prepare some response modules for these possible scenarios.

*Pro Tip: Consider the situation from all angles. Which questions will your employees have? What about your customers? Do you have any stakeholders, like suppliers, vendors, or investors? What do you think their most pressing concerns will be?

2. Loop in Your Employees and Stakeholders

While your customers should remain a top priority, you must first communicate with your employees and stakeholders. In your initial communication, your overarching goal should be to reassure everyone and let them know you are on top of the situation. If you have already discussed a work from home game plan, loop your employees in on that plan, so they can prepare accordingly. Use the response modules you created to consistently address concerns that arise and remain open for follow-up questions.

3. Reach Out to Your Customers Digitally

Once you’ve thoroughly addressed your employees’ and stakeholders’ questions, don’t delay in reaching out to your customers. Although you’ll want to maintain an open line of communication, this is where your social and e-mail platforms come in handy. If you already have an established social media presence, you have instant and real-time access to your customers – use it! As a part of your initial outreach, have your social media marketing team compose a thoughtful, branded message to post across your social media platforms. This message should be brief, reassuring, and politically neutral. The goal of this initial post should be to assure your customers that they are your top priority, and your organization is and will continue to be there to serve them and answer any questions or concerns. In addition to posting on your social channels, reach out to customers on your e-mail list with the same message.

*Pro Tip: Do not fall prey to the temptation of capitalizing on a crisis. While you should utilize your social platforms to reach out to your customers, it’s ill-advised to conduct any ad campaigns that exploit the current circumstances to sell a product or service. Your customers will see through it, and your marketing efforts will morph into a PR nightmare from which you may not easily recover.

4. Create a Communication Plan

So, you’ve reached out to your customers and everyone involved in your organization – now it’s time to batten down the hatches. While it may be easier said than done, the circumstances of the times necessitate a work from home arrangement. To ensure effective internal communication during social distancing, utilize tools like Slack, Wrike, or Zoom. When it comes to effectively communicating with stakeholders and customers, consistency is key. You can create a page on your website for updates regarding the crisis and how you’re managing circumstances as they progress. To ensure this information is made readily available to your people and the public, include a back-link to this page in all of your social media posts. In addition to regularly posting updates on your website, you should always post about any updates directly on your social channels. Another way you can effectively keep your customers informed is through e-mail newsletters.

5. Adjust Your Content and Listen to Your Audience

Social listening is an invaluable tool for creating relevant, conversation-worthy content. It can also be incredibly useful in navigating your messaging in the current climate we are facing. While some inevitable adjustments will need to be made to your social media content calendars, it can be a daunting task figuring out what those adjustments should be. Now is the time to utilize your social listening tool to keep your finger on the pulse of the public. Pay attention to the conversations happening among your customers and proactively respond to questions or concerns being raised. Furthermore, seize the opportunity to invite feedback from your customers. Ask them what they need and want. This will not only inform your content and marketing strategy, but it will aid in product development.

6. Prepare Deliverable Alternatives

We’ve already driven the point home about the importance of communication. However, when marketing in the time of social distancing, flexibility is just as vital. While conducting your social listening efforts, you may discover some alternatives to delivering your services. It’s wise to remain open to online shopping, especially in light of the current circumstances. Even if social distancing has limited your ability to deliver in-person experiences, there are plenty of opportunities for online engagement and e-commerce that are worth exploring with your team.

7. Create a Marketing Contingency Plan

Regardless of the industry in which your business resides, consumer behavior isn’t always predictable. Especially during times like these, sudden fluctuations are a given. So, how can you ensure your company is prepared for what you can’t foresee? Well, unless you’ve been holding out on us and you have a magical crystal ball that predicts the future, there is no fool-proof plan. However, you can create a contingency plan to carry out when the market demands that you alter your marketing efforts. Essentially, your contingency plan boils down to creating short and long-term goals based on short and long-term market behavior. In order to predict future market behavior, closely evaluate the current climate and the possible ripples the present crisis could create. In the short-term, you may find that you need to reallocate your marketing budget to different activities.

Adapt and Thrive with the Right Marketing Team

Ultimately, marketing in the time of social distancing means staying nimble, flexible, patient, and informed. While we’ve highlighted some first steps you can take to manage your marketing efforts during this tumultuous time, it often takes a village to see these actions through. Our digital marketing team is here to carry our clients through the best of times and the worst of times, and we are ready to help you thrive!

Are you in? Ride the wave of social distancing with our dedicated team – visit our site or give us a call today at 1-877-311-5695!