Where does marketing fit in right now, during a pandemic, a shaken stock market and record unemployment claims?

As this conversation plays out in real time on social media, I see two general sentiments about continuing marketing efforts at this moment.

The first: “Don’t do it!” It’s not hard to find screen-capped examples of tone-deaf sales folks trying to solicit people, or unfortunately-timed campaigns, scheduled well in advance, that are stepping on rakes because they no longer address our day-to-day reality and needs.

On the other hand, there are many who say marketing shouldn’t pause, because the livelihood of their businesses matter to the economy right now and the products and services being marketed could very well help people get through truly unprecedented times.

I absolutely agree that marketing is still crucial, but your go-to-market strategy can’t look like it did a few months or even weeks ago. Right now, marketing isn’t about products or services.

It’s about people.

Doing my job as a Chief Marketing Officer during this crisis means taking everything I know about marketing execution and business goals, and examining it in the light of what our country and our people are enduring. Here’s what I’ve learned.   

Review everything
Step one for marketers is to go over everything they’ve planned with a fine-tooth comb. Every tweet in the pipeline, every piece of campaign collateral or communication with your audience needs to be checked for tone. What is still relevant and timely, and what should you put on hold? Something that would have seemed assertive and upbeat before the pandemic might come off now as opportunistic and crass.

Your empathy has never been more valuable than it is now. Let it guide you: what is your audience dealing with right now? What are they feeling? Does your content exploit their emotions, or relate to them?

Focus on value, not growth
This is a time for building relationships, not chasing sales. Again, empathy should be your guide. Think about what your audience is going through, and how you can help. In my world, that means generating, retooling, and making accessible resources to assist our users in engaging with their own clients and prospects about market volatility. For an independent advisor, that might be something as simple as helping a client set up a food delivery service.

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