Appropriate Marketing in a Time of Crisis
As a self-employed professional, should you be marketing your business right now in the middle of a worldwide crisis? The answer is probably yes. But the approach you take to marketing will need to be tempered with thoughtfulness and empathy.
Here are five critical factors to consider in choosing how to best market yourself over the coming weeks.
1. To know how to market, know why you’re doing it.
If you need new clients or projects ASAP to replace lost business or income, your “why” for marketing at this time will be obvious. In this circumstance, actively pursuing business is the right course of action.
It’s also appropriate and necessary to let clients know if you are working differently due to stay-at-home orders. Are you offering services by video or phone that you used to provide in person? Providing a different range of services than you normally do because of travel restrictions? Have an offer uniquely suited to the current environment? All these are valid reasons to be marketing and selling now.
But what about “stay in touch” marketing with no urgency or significant change driving it? Should that continue during this crisis?
Here’s what PR and social media consultant Michelle Garrett suggests: “Having you there is reassuring to your audiences. It’s a reminder that although a lot of things have changed, you’re still there. It brings about a sense of normalcy in a time when many things aren’t normal. If you disappear, that may be the worst thing you can do.”
One scenario where you may want to hit the pause button on marketing completely is if you had a blitz planned for a new service, program, or product. This is probably not the time to promote anything new, unless it’s directly relevant to present conditions.
2. Take an appropriate tone.
It’s not business as usual for anyone right now, and your marketing needs to reflect that. Delivering marketing messages that are unchanged from those you might normally use is a bad idea, in most cases. Especially if your usual style is sunny, breezy, or light-hearted.
Small business consultant Karyn Greenstreet advises: “preface your communications with some empathy. Tell your audience that you know many of them are going through a difficult, confusing time right now. Then go ahead and explain how your products and services can support them, and how important it is for them to continue to focus on the positive results they want to create…”
Most important is to demonstrate that you understand the challenging circumstances your clients may find themselves in, and that you care about their wellbeing.
3. Offer to be of service.
The work you do helps people, right? That’s what needs to be front and center in any marketing you do now. What facet of your services would be most useful to potential clients at this time? Identify what your target audience could benefit from the most, and build a service-oriented marketing and sales approach around that.
When you make a sincere and considerate offer to be helpful, it will strike the right tone and won’t be construed as taking advantage of the situation.
If you’re not in need of more paying business right away, consider offering complimentary resources or reduced-price services that will help your clients and those they care about get through the next few months. Consultants and coaches are offering free or low-cost online classes, musicians are performing at free online concerts, and caterers are organizing meal boxes. This, too, can serve as marketing.
4. Don’t fret if someone objects.
You may hear from someone who thinks you shouldn’t be trying to promote or sell anything while this crisis is going on. If this should happen, don’t take it to heart. That person is probably scared or under stress, and it’s fueling a negative reaction on their part.
If you’re following the guidelines above, it’s no more wrong of you to be marketing now than it would be for an unemployed worker to be seeking a job. You still need clients and many of your clients still need you.
5. Remember this situation is temporary.
There’s no question that this is a difficult time for you, your clients, and everyone else. But it will come to an end. How you choose to market yourself now will have an impact on how well your business does afterward.
If you continue reaching out to potential clients and keep yourself in business, you can weather this storm financially. If you make sure your marketing is appropriate and focus on being of service, your clients will think well of you, both now and when this crisis is over.
And, remember to be gentle with yourself. You may have much more on your plate than usual right now. Do what you can about marketing, while allowing self-care and looking after your family to come first. As a self-employed professional, you are the business. Taking care of yourself and your loved ones is an essential part of seeing your business through this crisis.