Marketing in Turbulent Times. Don’t Give Up the Ship.

Marketing in turbulent timesI first wrote a version of this article, after 9/11. After that fateful event, times got tough, and companies began cutting back. Sometimes they let employees go and stopped there. Other times, they eliminated their marketing – afraid to spend marketing dollars.

Today, in this COVID19 environment, we know it’s more than letting employees go – businesses are being required to shut their doors to customers. Yet many realize, despite the crisis, it’s important for them to maintain a presence in the marketplace.

Totally eliminating your marketing in turbulent times is not your best move. Every day I open my inbox there is an onslaught of messaging that seems to start out as compassionate, but quickly turns into an aggressive sales pitch. Have you experienced it?

Look, I get it. We have bills to pay, families to feed and need incomes to support ourselves.

It’s a fearful and stressful time, but as sales and leadership expert Meredith Elliott Powell suggests, you can “Recognize, admit and embrace the fear.” And her colleague, leadership coach Mike Staver adds, “Embrace the suck (i.e., accept the reality of the circumstances).”

You can keep your message out there and stay top of mind, but do so with authenticity and compassion. Help people solve problems in the moment. As PR professional Wendy Marx explained, “People are panicking right now. It’s no time to focus on your needs. Look for ways to put your audience in first place and address their needs and concerns.”

For instance, Colorado-based Sunshine Plumbing, Heating & Air offers video plumber services. Their website says, “One of the things that makes Sunshine Plumbing, Heating & Air unique is our ability to diagnose plumbing issues without even having to enter your home—this is especially convenient as we practice social distancing. We proudly offer video plumber services that enable us to video chat with our customers and provide them with diagnoses. Customers can reach us through FaceTime and Facebook Messenger.”

What can you do to help your clients and/or prospects get through this?

First, remember my philosophy on marketing: Marketing (like life) is about building and nurturing relationships.

Compassion MarketingYou can nurture your relationships by putting out valuable information while building your reputation as someone who serves.

Offer what author Gay Hendricks calls your “zone of genius.” A zone of genius is the state in which you get into ‘flow,’ find ceaseless inspiration and seem to not only come up with work that is distinguished and unique, but also do so in a way that excels far and beyond what anyone else is doing.”

On his website, Mike Staver offers a video on “How to stay calm and productive in times of crisis.” In visuals, he shares five ways to stay productive and five things to think about everyday. You can also download tips on staying productive.

You can be someone who serves by creating content that addresses what’s happening in the marketplace and:

1. Present it in a webinar and/or podcast. Share tips that relate to the current situation that your audience finds beneficial (and helps alleviate their fears and anxiety).

Here’s an example shared by Wendy Marx on “If you are a financial institution, you might produce content that addresses ways that your audience can save money during this time or how their small business can adapt to decreased customer numbers and purchases.”

Australia-based Annemarie Cross, The Podcasting Queen, offers several podcasts: Industry Thought Leader, Women in Leadership and The Christian Entrepreneurs.

1a. Don’t host your own webinar or podcast, and don’t want to? That’s okay. Reach out to like-minded professionals, people who serve a similar audience, and inquire about being a guest on their program. My colleague Deb Krier offers a free report on how to boost your credibility and increase your exposure with podcast interviews.

I recently recorded a session about LinkedIn on The Business Power Hour, a show hosted by Deb. Annemarie Cross used to have a podcast called “Ambitious Entrepreneurs.” She invited me on to speak about copywriting. For April, in addition to speaking to students at the Leeds School of Business virtually, I’ve been invited to present two webinars (one about LinkedIn and one based on strategies from my book, Millionaire Marketing on a Shoestring Budget) for the Boulder Small Business Development Center.

If you don’t know where to begin, check out resources such as Radio Guest List – a site that shares interview opportunities – and see what opportunities exist for your area of expertise. Of course, you can always search Google as well.

2. Repurpose the webinar content into an article. Post it on your blog first and then, after 4-5 days post it as a long-form article on your LinkedIn profile. Reach out to a local, trade or national publication to see if they’d like to post it on and/or offline.

3. Share your content on social media. Create an uplifting, inspirational meme or take a short tip from your article, tweet it out, post it on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. When your followers respond (be it a “like,” comment, or share), please be sure to acknowledge them with a reply – even if it’s just two words, “thank you.”

3a. Consider video clips, Facebook Live or Instagram Live posts. My friends at the International Spa Association (ISPA) have offered Instagram Live yoga class sessions with Svati Patangay, Zenoti’s Chief Wellness Officer. In addition, they’ve posted videos in their Instagram feed (and in their stories) with Wednesday Workouts – leading viewers through fun and simple workouts with past chairman Todd Shaw from Technogym.

They’ve shared images on Facebook and Instagram directing viewers to their YouTube page to listen to ISPA contributor Petra Kolber speak about resilience. On their Facebook page, they shared a video from Turning Stone Resort Casino’s Director of Spa and Environmental Services, Shane Bird. Shane shared advice for creating a spa-like experience at home and reminded viewers to take deep breaths.

Likewise, Canyon Ranch Tucson has shared video clips on both Facebook and Instagram offering pointers from Stephanie Ludwig, Director of Spiritual Wellness, about “how to find peace in this storm.” Their fitness expert Mary Stauder demonstrated some family-fun strength training moves with an animal theme for adults and kids to enjoy together.

4. Reach out to your existing clients – not with a hard-core sales pitch but with a sincere offer to help. It can be a simple, “I’ve been thinking of you during this challenging time.” However, before doing so, do what Meredith Elliott Powell suggests, “Check your intention before you reach out. Make sure your intention is pure.”

As a professional speaker, I wanted to reach out to some of the meeting professionals I had contacted prior to COVID19. However, meetings/conferences have been cancelled so I felt uncomfortable contacting them to follow up. After some encouragement from colleagues, I did reach out, but not with a sales message. Instead, I sent a video email acknowledging that these are tough times we’re going through and that I wanted to check in to see how they were doing. Genuine, honest, and brief.

“Keep working on contribution,” says Mike Staver.

Don’t give up the ship

I started my copywriting business in Boulder, Colorado in 1989, when times were also tough. The reason I went out on my own was because people were getting laid off at all the agencies I approached. I was caught in the Colorado recession and repeatedly heard, “Sorry, we’re not hiring. We’re laying people off right now, but if you start a business as a freelancer, we’ll retain your services.”

So I took this as a “sign from above” — it was my opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and start my own business. The Write Direction was born on January 1, 1989.

Despite lean economic times, I was able to break ground . . . make an impact . . . find clients . . . establish a successful business. It happened because of a concerted effort to market myself and keep marketing.

Marketing in turbulent times.
Image by Daniel Büscher via Pixabay
Don’t give up the ship. You can do the same without breaking the bank. Pick up the phone, write an article, invite clients or colleagues to a Zoom call, send out a video email, etc. Ask people what they want and need during this time.

Think back to 9/11. After 9/11 many said they’d never get on an airplane again. Things eventually calmed down and returned to “normal.”

I believe we will get through this. We will navigate to smooth, clear waters, though it will be a new wave of normal. Of course, the big question is, “When?” Whenever we do, if you remain visible, when your competition is not, your compassionate marketing efforts now will keep you top-of-mind later.

What have you been doing to be a compassionate marketer? Please share your thoughts here because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks a million. Be safe, happy and healthy. #spreadhope is my new mantra.