April 21, 2020

Marketing In The Pandemic: A Short Guide To Being A Human

Written by

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed working lives for most of us in the marketing business.

While our office location has moved into the guest bedroom or kitchen table, for many of us the work hasn’t changed or let up. Most B2B sectors of the economy are still running, and some industries have even managed to pick up as their products cover newly essential functions.

While things may feel somewhat normal for B2B marketers, times are changing quickly for our customers—especially those in B2C industries like retail, hospitality, and education.

While we should stop and express gratitude for continuing to have good business to attend to, we should also take a few moments to consider how these changes have affected our business practices and what steps we can take to bring more empathy into our processes.

Use these four new rules to bring a little more humanity to marketing in a time of crisis.

1. Have empathy

Throw away your expectations of how people are supposed to act, who else might show up in the background of a call, and what you expect their budgets, timelines, industry targeting, and any other business concerns are. Instead, take this opportunity to get to know your contacts a little better.

While you may know that this person lives alone, makes a high wage, and their industry hasn’t been affected by the shutdowns, you don’t know what their mental health is like. Assume that we’re all operating under a cloud of fear and anxiety. Those feelings are perfectly valid (for you and your contact), but they do make completing tasks a little bit harder.

Begin your phone calls and emails with empathy:

  • Ask about existing timelines and potential delays
  • Offer to postpone contact until a better time
  • Work with internal and external teams to build some flexibility into deadlines
  • Consider reaching out to a valued client without an ask, but as a friend

2. Ask more questions

Listen to today’s problems.

Things are changing, and the best thing you can do right now is listen to how those changes affect individual priorities and the business as a whole. The more you know, the more you can adapt to their particular situation and become a partner during this pandemic—not just a marketer or a salesperson.

Questions you may consider clarifying with your contacts:

  • Is this number okay for me to call, or is there another you would prefer?
  • Would you rather use phone, email, or video call to communicate?
  • What is a good time to call and are there any restrictions on the times you’d like to be contacted?
  • How have you noticed your customer needs changing in the last few weeks?
  • How can we help you that may be new or different than before?
  • I’d like to be a resource for you. How has your own role changed in the past few weeks?

And the natural addendum to this: listen to the answers. Not only will you find better ways to be a partner to your contacts and customers, you may also learn more about the trajectory of industry changes that you can use with other customers.

3. Be polite

We’re all under a lot of strain, and it’s not just because we have to settle for Nespresso instead of our daily Starbucks run. It’s easy to get annoyed with cancelled orders, delayed payments, missed phone calls and emails, or other circumstances that would normally frustrate our abilities to reach our KPIs.

Ask whether you can call their cell phone. While many people have implemented call forwarding for their office numbers, the fact is that, now more than ever, we still need to be respectful of others’ personal space. If your contact now works from home, remember that their office is their home, their cell phone is their office phone. While they now have their office phone on them at all times, it doesn’t mean that you should reach out at all hours.

Watch your words in your own emails and phone conversations. Stay away from passive aggressive responses or follow-ups like “per my previous email.” Cheerfulness—even if you have to fake it—in emails and on phone messages can go a long way to smoothing over unnecessary frustrations.

4. Be flexible

While it’s tempting to try to keep everything the same in our new normal, take your change of location and new way of communicating with your contacts as a cue for you to remain flexible. Instead of asking “How did I do this in the past?” consider how you can adapt to the current circumstances.

Many things have changed in the market: the times that individuals are online, the types of questions they’re asking on search engines, and even how some products and industries contribute to the marketplace. What will really save us at this point is our ability to maintain contact with our human nature and become more flexible and adaptable.

We’re here to help you market better

Our purpose is to create opportunities. That means providing the best in media and marketing products, but it also means providing support and guidance in this time of change. We know that many companies are cancelling in-person events, meetings, and conferences that drive valuable customer conversations. We can help you shift your marketing budgets to pandemic-proof sources of outreach with our media and marketing products.

We partner with the best technology companies in the business, which means we have our ear to the ground as to how societal changes affect business and industry. We can provide quality advice and tools for growth on top of our leading media products. Let’s talk about how TechnologyAdvice can help you.