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Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus is the talk of the world. Ignoring it is impossible; coffee shops have bottles of hand sanitizer sitting out for public use. I’m reading posts on Facebook about other songs to sing while you wash your hands if you’re sick of the “Happy Birthday” twice routine. The headlines are constant. 

Of course, the travel industry is getting hit hard, which has then impacted their advertising and marketing budgets. China and Italy are on lockdown; the NCAA is banning spectators at basketball games, and just this week, European travel is banned. I’m hearing some of my conferences may be moved to online-only, and I keep seeing headlines about companies encouraging employees to work from home. No matter what your business, Coronavirus will probably affect you economically in some way or another. 

Business during times like these isn’t easy (unless you sell hand sanitizer, I guess.) A Raleigh restaurant was on the news after word spread Wake County’s one case of Coronavirus ate there. As a business owner myself, I feel bad for them. How do you deal with the stigma, even after your restaurant is clean and given the stamp of approval from the health department?

Marketing during Coronavirus — or any challenging times — seems odd in some ways. After all, you don’t want to seem insensitive. The beer Corona, which was reportedly already suffering from problems, put out an ad for a new product that is “coming ashore soon.” They received a lot of flak for it, given the timing. (Read about it.)

Corona beer ad to demonstrate Marketing during Coronavirus

So uh, don’t do that. 

But you’ve still got to make a living and find new customers — especially if you’re losing some. Here are some thoughts about marketing during Coronavirus.

Keep doing business. Experts are expecting a drop in revenues, and not just from travel ads. People seem to want to lie low, which makes sense. But while you may not want to advertise, you have to keep going, like all of us do, to earn a living. While it may seem self-serving, we’d argue most companies should continue their marketing during Coronavirus, at least in some form. Marketing is constant work, and often if you take a timeout, you lose ground that then requires time to get back, especially your SEO efforts.

Make adjustments to your messaging. “Keep going” doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments based on your business. As Corona has taught us, it’s time to take a hard look at your messages to make sure they don’t clash with the current concerns. If you are paying for advertising, posting on social media, or sending out newsletters, make sure your words and images fit the context of today’s headlines. And don’t forge to check any scheduled social media posts!

Focus on helping your community. It’s not about, “How can I sell more hand sanitizer for a higher price?” Instead, your message should be about helping people during this time — in whatever way your business does that. 

We’re not going to pretend we have all the answers. If you were in business during the SARS epidemic, perhaps you can draw on that experience as you consider marketing during Coronavirus. We hope all our friends, colleagues, and clients remain healthy, physically and economically! Support local, shop local, and help your fellow business owner.