Marketing in Difficult Times: Focus on Content that Reaches and Assures

Businesses all over the world had to pivot their entire structure when the pandemic hit. Being forced to shut down offices and premises and move to a remote working model is difficult enough, but the downturn in the economy also meant that revenue fell sharply for many. Now in a reopened America, gas prices are high and paying wage remains the same in most states. How does one successfully market during tough times?

Some businesses responded to this threat by reducing expenditure wherever possible. The marketing budget is often one of the first to be frozen, deemed as an “unnecessary” expense in uncertain times.

However, not all brands froze in fear. While a certain amount of juggling figures and adjusting budgets is inevitable, other businesses have invested in strengthening their brand position in anticipation of the more prosperous times ahead – even when they couldn’t know when.

The Digital Marketing Institute says:

“No matter what kind of digital marketing you engage in, you’re going to need great content. Great content doesn’t involve plugging your products endlessly. Instead, it offers real value to people – and most importantly, it serves a purpose.”

This remains true even in crisis, your purpose just has to adapt to what kinds of content people need right now.

Even without direction when your production, sales, and services may be limited, content marketing can deliver ROI in any market and set your business up for better days.

Here’s a quick video about how we marketed during the pandemic from the Harvard Business School:

Quick Takeaways:

  • During difficult times, all businesses should make time and space in their budget and schedule for content marketing.
  • Investing in content marketing now can win the loyalty of an audience who will become customers later.
  • This is not the time for self-serving content: Always aim to provide as much value as possible.

Content Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

When there’s less money coming in, it’s a natural reaction to hold onto what you have and not spend any more of it. But axing your marketing budget isn’t always the wisest spending decision.

When crisis ends, your customers will still be there. But will they remember you? And more importantly, will they remember how your company acted during this time?

Crisis is certainly not the time for pushy advertising. Nobody likes being sold to, particularly not during a global health crisis and economic crash.

It’s not the time for conferences or trade shows either. Advertising on billboards and around public transport will go unseen. Physical newspapers were abandoned in favor of online news through social media platforms.

Marketing teams all over the world are finding it necessary to pivot and find new ways of attracting customers and reaching their goals during times of crisis.

Content marketing has always been an affordable and highly effective method of marketing for businesses of all sizes and in all industries, and when stuff  hits the fan, it’s more important than ever.

During COVID, millions of people were confined to their homes, many with extra time on their hands as they were  unable to work. Naturally, this led to more content being consumed then ever before.

Pageviews for news publishers went up about 30 percent. While it’s natural that people would be consuming more news at the current time, other content thrived too.

Social media networks were buzzing, YouTube views were up, and people were looking for content to comfort and uplift them, provide important information about health and finances, to learn something new, as a distraction and as entertainment.

In short, crisis is an excellent time to double down on your content marketing to reach new customers and strengthen relationships with existing ones.

Content Ideas for Economic Uncertainty

You may well be worried about the future of your business, but now is not the time for self-serving content. Companies aggressively laying off staff, forcing them to work in unsafe conditions, or profiteering from the COVID-19 crisis have been rightly criticized for their actions. Those who produce poor-quality clickbait content or thinly-veiled sales messages will face the same criticisms, and they’re not likely to be forgotten in a hurry.

Now is your opportunity to really serve your audience in any way you can. The type of content that will help you to do this will depend on who they are and what industry your business is in. But, there is almost certainly an opportunity for you to produce valuable content at this time.

Addressing Customer Concerns

Almost every business has been affected in some way by the current climate, and it makes sense to explain to your customers exactly what changes have been put in place and how you are protecting their interests and those of your workers.

This might include explaining your distance work policy or protections, such as supplying hand sanitizer, masks, and physical distancing of employees at work during a pandemic.

Image source: BrightView

If you have to shut down operations temporarily, explain this to your customers, with the reassurance that you’ll be back up and running as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.

Showcasing Generosity

Many brands responded to the crisis by doing good deeds, such as offering subscriptions for free or producing medical equipment to be donated to hospitals.

If your business is in the position to do something similar, this not only helps you to contribute in a positive way but also makes sure that people will remember your brand for doing good.

And these activities don’t necessarily have to be 100 percent altruistic. If your business and others can both benefit, it’s better for everyone. For example, a company offering a free 2-month service subscription to help other businesses struggling to manage their remote workers may well find that many choose to pay for their subscription at the end of the free period.

Whatever good deeds your company or your employees are taking part in during this difficult time, make sure that everyone knows about them. Take advantage of your blog, social media, and your email list to produce content that will improve your brand reputation and encourage sharing.

Helpful Information for Coping with the Crisis

Brands in certain industries may be able to produce content directly related to economic uncertainty for people who are searching for this information. This may include:

  • Information on staying healthy amid COVID-19
  • Tips and advice for working from home and managing remote teams
  • Advice for new homeschoolers and parents trying to juggle it all
  • Mental health resources for those who are struggling
  • Advice for businesses facing financial problems

Offer Escapism

Not all content has to be strictly useful or educational during this time. People are also looking to be distracted and entertained from real world problems. Remember way back to the beginning of the pandemic? Just look at the huge success of the Netflix documentary Tiger King for a great example of this!

Many people are growing weary of the doom and gloom of reading the news and are looking for more uplifting content and “good” news. Even the BBC created a new section on their site to meet the growing demand for uplifting stories.

Wrap up

Marketing your bussiness during a time of unrest is no easy task. Besides understanding what’s appropriate and what’s timely, these things are impacting you directly as a human too! It’s important to look inward and think about what you want to open your phone to see. As long as you can create something that people want to watch or read, keeps them entertained, or makes them smile, you’re onto a winner!

Do you want to use some of the marketing strategies seen here on MIG’s site but need some help or advice? Marketing Insider Group has a team of 35+ experienced writers ready to produce content for YOUR business. Check out our weekly blog content service or schedule a free consultation.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.