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Marketing During A Pandemic

Marketing During a Pandemic: Are You Up to the Challenge?

Aug. 31, 2020
Five strategic opportunities for manufacturers

Even before the impact of the coronavirus hit, the manufacturing sector was bracing for a challenge. A survey by the National Association of Manufacturers conducted in early March found that 78.3% of member companies anticipated a financial hit to their businesses. Over half also cited likely changes in operations, and 35.5% expected supply chain disruptions.

Six months later, the industry has adapted. Many supply chain disruptions have eased; elsewhere, companies have identified alternative vendors. Rigid health and safety protocols have been put in place to keep workers safe. And companies that could do so retooled production to produce critical supplies from commercial bleach to personal protective equipment (PPE).

But from a marketing perspective, this new normal is fraught with challenge. Much traditional advertising sounds tone-deaf or worse at a time when masks daily remind us everything has changed. And consumer fatigue and skepticism with “we share your pain” messaging means that what you say must be reflected in specific proof points about how you’re actually responding.

Where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. Here are five ways manufacturers can effectively market themselves in the COVID-19 era.

Reintroduce yourself.

Even if you’re a household name, do people know what you stand for? This is a time when Americans are focused on values. This period offers a rare opening for companies to retell their stories. One part of this is your COVID-19 response: health and safety protocols for workers, supply chain continuity and so forth. But it’s also about finding the stories that reinforce that your corporate mission and values are more than just words on a page. This is also a great time to solicit authentic employee testimonials that will tell your story for you.

Strengthen your employer brand.

While your corporate brand is how buyers and the broader public perceive you, your employer brand reflects whether and how much people want to work for you. Marketing during a pandemic offers a hidden opportunity to take a fresh look at your HR recruitment and retention messaging to ensure that it accurately communicates your company culture. This is not limited to how you are keeping workers safe, but the health of your working conditions, whether or not there is a crisis. To attract and retain top performing talent, you need to have a strong employer brand that you can promote externally.

Strengthen your community goodwill.

Where we work is also where we live—and often, where our roots are. We need community more than ever, and now is the ideal time to communicate how your company is a valued community partner. Whether you’ve ramped up production of vital supplies, donated resources, or have employees volunteering at a local food pantry, it’s important to find ways to communicate what you’re doing.

Boost your online presence.

McKinsey’s July 2020 COVID-19 briefing note highlights the growing use of digital channels across a range of industries, for consumers and business decision makers. This accelerates a trend that’s been growing for over a decade: potential buyers doing their homework – and making decisions about whether to even reach out – before they pick up the phone to buy.

Now is the time to ensure that you’re giving prospects a steady stream of thought leadership articles, blog posts, and data-driven information they can use to vet your company’s smarts and the value of doing business with you. As you plot your content strategy, don’t forget that different people consume information in multiple ways and across different channels. So maybe this is the time to incorporate a podcast series into your marketing mix or to add more visual content—from socially distanced photos from the factory floor to people’s pets as they work from home.

Invest in virtual events.

With most trade shows cancelled into the foreseeable future, virtual events offer a fresh way to get your team in front of prospects. Identify opportunities to speak at virtual conferences or create your own conference or webinar. For example, can you bring together industry leaders for an online conversation about pandemic lessons learned? Can you turn your latest trends research into a webinar for prospective buyers? Take advantage of the intimacy of the small screen to talk to your key audiences.

How to Get It All Done

Review your current marketing plan and concentrate on the areas that will deliver the highest return. Once you have identified the key activities, do them consistently. Measure your results and keep refining to improve.

If your internal teams are overwhelmed due to the pandemic, partnering with an external team can give you access to new and emerging skills that can benefit your marketing efforts.

COVID-19 has changed the landscape, but don’t let it furlough your marketing activities. Doing so can put you at risk of losing momentum and dollars.

Karen Swim is a national expert on solopreneurs and the future of work. She’s the president of Solo PR Pro, a 10-year-old national industry membership group, and founder and CEO of Words For Hire, a strategic PR and marketing consultancy.

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